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Preventing Biological Threats: The role of scientists

Published: Tue 15 Dec 2015

The University of Bradford's Disarmament Research Centre is launching two books to help scientists prevent the hostile misuse of their work

The books are primarily aimed at undergraduates studying life science courses and their lecturers, but it is hoped that the material will be useful to scientists at any stage of their career.

The new books produced by disarmament experts at Bradford and from around the world will help scientists understand how their important, benignly-intended work may be misused by others in a hostile way, and give them advice on how they can prevent this.

The first book provides an overview of the potential biological threats from States and sub-State groups and what States, organisations, scientists and the international community as a whole are doing, and can do, to deal with such threats. The second book seeks to facilitate the dissemination of training content by offering guidance on how to run Team-Based Learning seminars, in order to involve groups of scientists at all levels in discussion of these issues and what can be done to prevent the potential threats.        

The two books ‘Preventing Biological Threats: What you can do’ and ‘Biological Security Education Handbook: The Power of Team-Based Learning’ have been produced by an international group of experts and practitioners over the last year with funding from Canada and the United Kingdom under the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction and will be available free online in early January.

The two books will be launched together at a Side Event, on December 15, chaired by the UK Ambassador, Matthew Rowland, at the Meeting of States Parties to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Dr Simon Whitby, University of Bradford, who has led the project, said: “We hope the books will provide valuable material for scientists and assist in raising awareness and education around the world about biosecurity.”

The Side Event will further feature the Executive Director of International Federation of Biosafety Associations (IFBA), Ms Maureen Ellis, who will be presenting the International Certification Programme in Biosecurity, which will be launched in early 2016.

A pre-publication version of the Guide is available now, with the full version available free online from January.

The publication of the books is timely, given the upcoming Eighth Review Conference of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention in late 2016. The value of biosecurity education and awareness-raising has been acknowledged by the States Parties to the Convention throughout the current intersessional programme.

In late November, the European Union adopted “Council Decision (CFSP) 2015/2096 on the position of the EU relating to the Eighth Review Conference of the BTWC”. The Decision emphasises[1] the importance of building consensus and promoting “awareness-raising among relevant professionals in the private and public sectors; training and education programmes for those granted access to biological agents and toxins relevant to the BTWC; promotion of a culture of responsibility amongst relevant national professionals and the voluntary development, adoption and promulgation of codes of conduct.”


[1] See Council Decision (CFSP) 2015/2096 of 16 November 2015 on the position of the European Union relating to the Eighth Review Conference of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (BTWC), available at

http://www.unog.ch/80256EDD006B8954/(httpAssets)/D0A11B6E285166E1C1257F030058310E/$file/eur-lex.europa.pdf (accessed 8 December 2015).

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