The Balance Between Research And Security

This time last year, I was sitting in my Health and Security class at university. One of the activities us students engaged in was to assume that the world was at risk of an infectious disease spreading rapidly that had emerged in Asia. Us students were designated as researchers, government officials, doctors, the defense force, World Health Organization staff or scientists. We each had to determine the best course of action for life moving forward, to ensure that Australian shores would not become penetrated with the disease.

Just a few months later, this very situation emerged in real life. It was as if we in our class predicted and prepared somewhat for events that occurred in the New Year. The advent of the Coronavirus Pandemic not only raises concerns about infectious diseases and physiological health, but also of research that can be conducted which explores the creation of viruses or pathogens, which present great risk to human life. Research is fundamental to the betterment of society, but it must not occur at the compromise of security.

Dual-use research of concern (DURC) constitutes of tools that allow for the potentiality of such multi-use. Any piece of research that could be replicated, recreated or reinvented within a home environment, absent of advanced scientific materials to do so, that could threaten the life of one through biological meals, should be the bear minimum criteria for what is classified as DURC.  Ease of replication is enhanced through international exchange of information, the Internet, globalisation and formation terrorist networks.

Educational and informative research is too often manipulated for malicious purposes. We can no longer rely on international standards such as the Biological Weapons Convention, as transformation of powerful research is at the hands of the dedicated that wish to convert it into harmful weapons. The wide availability of these resources comes with the need for regulatory measures to ensure strong security for the public, government and society at large. A balance must be met between allowing explorative research to occur, so as to encourage innovation and enrichments, which are critical to our essence as human beings.

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