Carnegie Mellon Researchers Show that the USA PATRIOT Act and the Bioterrorism Preparedness Act Have Measurable Impacts on Scientific Research
|Carnegie Mellon researchers found that two post-9/11 U.S. counter-bioterrorism laws, the 2001 USA PATRIOT Act and the Bioterrorism Preparedness Act of 2002, had measurable effects on the study of some of the world’s most dangerous biological agents and toxins. The researchers analyzed the publication record of research on Bacillus anthracis and Ebola virus, before and after the passage of the laws.
Carnegie Mellon’s Elizabeth A. Casman, M. Beatrice Dias, Leonardo Reyes-Gonzalez and Francisco M. Veloso, report in the May 10 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science that, in addition to creating restrictions on international collaborations, the laws resulted in a systemic loss of efficiency. “What we found was an approximate two- to –five fold increase in the cost of doing select agent research as measured by the number of research papers published per millions of U.S. research dollars awarded,’’ said Casman, associate research professor in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon. Dias and Reyes-Gonzalez are Ph.D. students, and Veloso is an associate professor in EPP.
Casman said the research group also found that some predicted negative effects did not materialize. There was no mass exodus of US scientists from the field. Collaboration within US institutions was not inhibited. Also, there is no evidence of the emergence of “gatekeeper” institutions. Interestingly, the US Army became much more collaborative in select agent research after 2002 than it was previously. The team’s analysis is relevant to legislative initiatives currently in congressional committee, as law-makers are still grappling with new standards for laboratories working with weaponizable microorganisms.