The ethics of disseminating dual-use knowledge

TitleThe ethics of disseminating dual-use knowledge
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsKuhlau, F, HÖGlund, AT, Eriksson, S, Evers, K
JournalResearch Ethics
Date Published2013
Publication Languageeng
Keywordsdissemination , Dual , H5N1 , INFLUENZA , LIFE , Pharmaceutical , precaution , PUBLIC , research , SCIENCE , SCIENTISTS
AbstractIn 2011, for the first time ever, two scientific journals were asked not to publish research papers in full detail. The research in question was on the H5N1 influenza virus (bird flu), and the concern was that the expected public health benefits of disseminating the findings did not outweigh the potential harm should the knowledge be misused for malicious purposes. This constraint raises important ethical concerns as it collides with scientific freedom and openness. In this article, we argue that constraining the dissemination of dual-use knowledge can in certain cases be justified because, for example: scientists have a responsibility for potentially harmful consequences of their research; the public need not always know of all scientific discoveries; uncertainty about the risks of harm may warrant precaution; and expected benefits do not always outweigh potential harm. However, the constraints in question are not absolute but can be both temporary and partial. We propose three core aspects for an ethics of dual-use dissemination: dual-use awareness, precaution, and acknowledgment of conflicting values. Additionally, to help scientists understand when constraints on dissemination may be justified we suggest three corresponding conditions that prompt scientists to recognize dual-use material or research, consider the potential impact of dual-use knowledge dissemination, and acknowledge and respond to external dissemination concerns. 
NotesKuhlau, Frida Höglund, Anna T Eriksson, Stefan Evers, Kathinka; Source Info: Mar2013, Vol. 9 Issue 1, p6; Subject Term: RESEARCH -- Moral & ethical aspects; Subject Term: SCIENCE -- Periodicals; Subject Term: PUBLIC health; Subject Term: SCIENTISTS; Subject Term: INFLUENZA A virus, H5N1 subtype; Subject Term: PHARMACEUTICAL research; Subject Term: LIFE sciences; Author-Supplied Keyword: dissemination; Author-Supplied Keyword: dual use; Author-Supplied Keyword: H5N1; Author-Supplied Keyword: life sciences; Author-Supplied Keyword: precaution; NAICS/Industry Codes: 424210 Drugs and Druggists' Sundries Merchant Wholesalers; NAICS/Industry Codes: 325410 Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing; NAICS/Industry Codes: 541710 Research and development in the physical, engineering and life sciences; NAICS/Industry Codes: 414510 Pharmaceuticals and pharmacy supplies merchant wholesalers; NAICS/Industry Codes: 541712 Research and Development in the Physical, Engineering, and Life Sciences (except Biotechnology); NAICS/Industry Codes: 525120 Health and Welfare Funds; Number of Pages: 14p; Document Type: Article