Assessing the Risks and Benefits of Advances in Science and Technology: Exploring the Potential of Qualitative Frameworks

Katherine Bowman, Jo L. Husbands, Daniel Feakes, Peter F. McGrath, Nancy Connell, Kara Morgan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Continuing rapid advances in science and technology both pose potential risks and offer potential benefits for the effective implementation of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). The lack of commonly accepted methods for assessing relevant risks and benefits present significant challenges to building common understandings that could support policy choices. This article argues that qualitative frameworks can provide the basis to structure BWC discussions about potential risks and benefits, reveal areas of agreement and disagreement, and provide a basis for continuing dialogue. It draws on the results of a workshop held in Geneva during the 2019 BWC Meetings of Experts. A diverse group of international experts were given the opportunity to apply 2 qualitative frameworks developed specifically to assess potential biosecurity concerns arising from emerging science and technology to BWC-relevant case examples. Participants discussed how such frameworks might be adapted and put into action to help support the BWC. They also began a discussion of how a comparable framework to assess potential benefits could be developed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)186-194
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Security
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • Biodefense policy
  • Biological Weapons Convention
  • Risk communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Safety Research
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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