Biosecurity in an age of open science

Authors : James Andrew Smith, Jonas B. Sandbrink

The risk of accidental or deliberate misuse of biological research is increasing as biotechnology advances. As open science becomes widespread, we must consider its impact on those risks and develop solutions that ensure security while facilitating scientific progress.

Here, we examine the interaction between open science practices and biosecurity and biosafety to identify risks and opportunities for risk mitigation. Increasing the availability of computational tools, datasets, and protocols could increase risks from research with misuse potential.

For instance, in the context of viral engineering, open code, data, and materials 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. While preprints accelerate dissemination of findings, their increased use could challenge strategies for risk mitigation at the publication stage.

This highlights the importance of oversight earlier 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.

URL : Biosecurity in an age of open science

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3001600


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