Public Release: 

Disagreement among experts over bioweapons threat

American Association for the Advancement of Science

This news release is available in Japanese.

Amid continued difficulties around assessing bioweapons threats, especially given limited empirical data, Crystal Boddie and colleagues took another route to gauge their danger: the collective judgment of multiple experts. The experts' opinions on bioweapons-related risks were quite diverse, the Policy Forum authors say, adding to the challenge around developing a regulatory system for legitimate dual use research. Boddie et al. explain how they employed a Delphi Method study to query the beliefs and opinions of 59 experts in order to assess the bioweapons threat and the potential for misuse of scientific research toward bioweapons development. Among questions asked of the experts, Boddie et al. queried them about the most likely actor or agent to be used in a biological attack, the ability of the intelligence community to anticipate such an occurrence, and the appropriateness of biodefense experiments. The participants' experience and expertise varied, and so did their opinions; for example, those trained as biological scientists perceived a lower likelihood of bioweapons use than other participants, in many cases. And experts older than 50 years of age believed the likelihood of an attack was greater than did Generation X and/or Millennials (21 to 49 years of age). The results portray the disagreement among authorities over the threat from biological weapons.

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Article #1: "Assessing the bioweapons threat," by C. Boddie; M. Watson; G.K. Gronvall at UPMC Center for Health Security in Baltimore, MD; G. Ackerman at University of Maryland, College Park in College Park, MD.

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