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Jonas Sandbrink and I have been researching open science practices and how they might influence biosecurity and biosafety risks. This post shares several outputs: a preprint, evidence submitted to a UK parliamentary committee, and a short talk. 


We just posted a preprint titled "Open science practices and risks arising from misuse of biological research" (available here). Any feedback on the preprint would be appreciated, either in the comments here, or, if there is any concern that the feedback might represent an information hazard, directly via email to james.smith2@ndorms.ox.ac.uk and jonassandbrink@gtc.ox.ac.uk (err on the side of email if in doubt).

The abstract is copied below:

The proliferation of open science may inadvertently increase the chance of deliberate or accidental misuse of research. Here, we examine the interaction between open science practices and biosecurity and biosafety to identify risks and opportunities for risk mitigation. We argue that open data, code, and materials may increase risks from research with misuse potential, despite their general importance. For instance, increased access to protocols, datasets, and computational methods for viral engineering may increase the risk of release of enhanced pathogens. For this dangerous subset of research, both open science and biosecurity goals may be achieved by using access-controlled repositories or application programming interfaces. The increased use of preprints could challenge any strategy for risk mitigation that relies on assessment at the publication stage, emphasising the need for earlier oversight in the research lifecycle. Preregistration of research, a practice promoted by the open science community, provides an opportunity for achieving biosecurity risk assessment at the conception of research. Open science and biosecurity experts have an important role to play in enabling responsible research with maximal societal benefit.

Evidence to parliamentary committee 

We also submitted evidence to the UK inquiry into reproducibility and research integrity, which is much shorter and can be read here.

Short talk 

Shorter still is a 5 minutes talk I gave at a metascience conference on this topic:

Many people have already provided useful input and feedback - thanks again to all of them and to Effective Altruism Funds (Long Term Future Fund) for financial support. 




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