Skip to 0 minutes and 9 secondsWhat is dual use research? Dual use research is all research. I think that's the easiest way to start thinking about this issue.

Skip to 0 minutes and 20 secondsVery often, when people start thinking about security issues around science and technology and around life science research in particular, there is this thought that, well, hey, I'm doing good, so therefore, I don't need to be worried about all of the bad and negative implications of my work. But that actually is the absolute wrong way to think about it, in a way. Very often, when we talk about dual use research, there are different ways to carve it up. You can carve it up as research being used for good or bad. You can carve it up as research that is legitimate versus illegitimate, research that is for civilian purposes versus military purposes.

Skip to 1 minute and 3 secondsAnd it's a concept that's used throughout areas of science and technology, not just in the life sciences. So the biggest thing that I could say is, at the start of projects, we need to be understanding that any research can be dual use. And the question of what to do, how to think about your research as first, causing the least harm, and then second, how to make it do good in the world, I think, is a much better mindset to think about than saying, dual use research is something that bad people misuse, for instance. I'm doing it for good. Other people can use it for bad. It's a lot more complicated than that.

Skip to 1 minute and 55 secondsAnd it's a lot more of a mindset of saying, my research could be dual use, of course. What is the dual use dilemma? The dual use dilemma is the idea that all research is dual use. And it's very difficult to understand what research could be used for good and what could be used for bad. I mean, at the crux of it, that's the dilemma, that if we think of all of the different ways that research could be misused or used for malevolent purposes and what that research is, it's very hard to draw a very clear, bright, and perpetual line around things that are and are not of security concern in the life sciences.

What is dual-use research?

The concept of ‘dual use’ concerns the inherent duality of all things - tangible and intangible - to be used for both beneficial and harmful purposes. The concept has traditionally been discussed in relation to the overlap of civilian vs military technology and encompasses all areas of science and technology from materials science to nano-electronics, to IT, photonics, automation, the life sciences and beyond.

In the realm of the life sciences, discussions on dual use research focuses on things that are intended for benefit, but which might be misapplied to do harm. While discussions focus predominantly on research, the concept of dual use applies equally to equipment and materials, scientific publishing and communications, and other intangible knowledge.

The videos over the next few steps explore the idea and security implications of dual use life sciences research in more depth.

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Next Generation Biosecurity: Responding to 21st Century Biorisks

University of Bath