The US federal government announced a new program yesterday (March 4) designed to prevent bioterrorists from seeing cutting-edge research results they could turn into weapons while still ensuring open communication among researchers.

Using a voluntary, guideline-based approach rather than laws or regulations that impose punishments for noncompliance, the new National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) will become the nation's monitor of so-called “dual-use” research, whose potential applications can either save lives or destroy them.

“We must take the needed steps to improve biosecurity measures for this type of research,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson at a press conference announcing the plan. “But in so doing, we must protect our open process of scientific discovery that has been the linchpin of our research success.”

The board will advise researchers, publishers, funders, and others whether certain research projects should be moved into high-security labs and whether some...

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