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Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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2

Acceptable Limits on Biological Research

Reproducing intensively and colonizing territories, humankind itself creates new possibilities for the reproduction, spread, and variation of infectious pathogens. Nature is the world’s chief bioterrorist. Increasing our joint potential for control of emerging and yet unpreventable infections will provide us with more options for preventing any kind of bioterrorism, be it deliberate or generated by nature.

– Sergey Netesov, Russian leader of NAS-RAS studies and workshops on countering bioterrorism, 20071

When the anthrax fermenter is relegated to the scrap heap and its operator is retired, how do we increase the likelihood that the next generation of molecular biologists and virologists, with much better tools and knowledge, will continue to work for the “good” of their people, their country, and the global community? This is an opportunity for partnerships in the life sciences.

– David Franz, U.S. leader of NAS-RAS studies and workshops on countering bioterrorism, 20142

We believe in the essential need for Russian-American cooperation in the following areas:

  • Epidemiology, virology, and molecular biology studies of COVID-19 and its variants, origins, genetics, and mutations.
Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×
  • Pathophysiological aspects of the coronavirus, methods of diagnostics, treatment, and prevention of this disease and its spread.
  • Mathematical modeling and computer modeling of the global pandemic and its spread around the world.
  • Social economics and psychological effects of the pandemic and methods of assessing, mitigating, and overcoming its negative effects and interconnected emerging humanitarian risks and needs.
  • Strengthening global security from biological threats.

– Joint Protocol on Cooperation Concerning COVID-19, Signed by the presidents of the Russian Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and National Academy of Medicine, September 2020

BIOLOGICAL RESEARCH BECOMES AN INTER-ACADEMY PRIORITY

For four decades, the Committees on International Security and Arms Control (CISAC) of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) have been interested in the dangers of bioterrorism. During the early 1980s, reports began to emerge about the 1979 contamination of the soil with anthrax near a military facility in Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg) far to the east of Moscow. While Soviet scientists claimed that the contamination resulted from the natural presence of anthrax in farmlands where cattle grazed and then spread the anthrax to the population, there were suspicions that the anthrax was accidently emitted from the military facility that was illegally producing anthrax in a form that could be used for military purposes in violation of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). This controversy was discussed at length by U.S. and Russian experts under the umbrella of the parallel CISAC committees. Eventually, violation of the BWC was documented.

Then in the 1990s, as the integrity of the BWC remained of concern, the two academies decided to put a long-term spotlight on cooperation in addressing biological research with potential dual-use implications. While the CISACs remained concerned about violations of the BWC, the new programs that were undertaken and that are the theme of this chapter extended beyond the responsibilities of the parallel CISAC committees.

Programs were initially supported by the Department of Defense, Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DOD/DTRA). Increasingly, other

Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×

U.S. government departments and private foundations learned about the inter-academy program’s influence in facilitating contacts and assessing positive impacts of collaborative efforts in addressing biological challenges. They also turned to the NAS for assistance in mounting programs in Russia.

In 2002, 5 years into the NAS-RAS program, the spread of anthrax-laden letters in the United States and the threat of such letters being sent within Russia heightened concerns about the capabilities of both countries to adequately control dangerous biological agents. These concerns were amplified by questions over the purposes of the Iranian recruitment of Russian bioscientists for employment in Tehran. Also, anxieties about the expanded dimensions of bioterrorism were raised when criminals attempted to contaminate a Moscow marketplace with infected chickens to shift customers to a competitive market nearby.3Box 2-1 sets forth the chronology of particularly significant cooperative activities over two decades that involved the NAS in various ways.

Most of these activities were also supported by the RAS, with a few dependent on direct cooperation with other Russian organizations.

Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×
Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×

OPPORTUNITY FOR ENGAGING BIOPREPARAT

In 1995, the Director General of Russia’s vast biological complex Biopreparat unexpectedly invited the NAS to participate in a meeting with his staff in the organization’s secluded headquarters in Moscow, and a meeting was promptly arranged.4 This director supervised a workforce that during Soviet times had numbered 50,000 specialists and support personnel working at three dozen research centers and monitoring laboratories, and at many production facilities throughout the former Soviet Union.

However, the military orientation of Biopreparat activities was changing. Some facilities had intensified their focus on production of biological pharmaceuticals that could outperform, if not outcompete, locally available health-enhancing products of questionable efficacy. Many products on the Russian market imported from India and several other distant countries were of questionable quality. A number of enterprises of Biopreparat had been struggling for years to find orders for their newly offered products from any source—at home or abroad; and the enterprises continued down paths of uncertainty.

The director was clearly concerned that other Russian organizations, but not Biopreparat, had found significant new income streams from benevolent Western organizations in exchange for access to their facilities in Russia. These Western customers, supported by their governments, apparently made no secret of their interest in redirection of the military capabilities of Russia to a focus on financially lucrative civilian-oriented activities. At the same time, new customers were gaining access to impressive scientific achievements of Russian laboratories and enterprises.

The director of Biopreparat, who was witnessing other Russian organizations respond to such new financial opportunities, was clearly interested in also receiving streams of international funding, whatever the motivations of potential customers. Buyers with cash in hand of any persuasion were welcomed. The director quickly offered a proposal for a meeting to join forces with the NAS along with other foreign organizations that shared his newly founded interest in promoting redirection of Russian scientists and engineers from military to civilian pursuits.

A tour of a few conference and display rooms of Biopreparat headquarters highlighted products intended for the civilian market. The host and his staff underscored that the Biopreparat management team was making progress in keeping its pharmaceutical plants in business, but the research laboratories were having particular difficulties. The director exuded confidence

Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×

that the innovative capacity of the workforce could soon be a lynchpin for market success, particularly if Russian government officials who controlled financial matters found Biopreparat to be a better bet than other Russian companies for realizing profits in the marketplace.

The director then set forth his specific proposal—a jointly sponsored workshop hosted by Biopreparat at a location near Moscow. The 3-day affair would bring together American and Russian officials and scientists to identify opportunities for collaboration. The Americans could learn about the latent capabilities of his research institutions while he learned about interests of potential financial sponsors within foreign governments and within private industry. He undoubtedly knew that the idea of such a meeting was already being discussed in other circles in Moscow, but he wanted to claim some credit for the concept.

Agreement was quickly reached that such a workshop would be appropriate. He would arrange all administrative details—including ensuring that senior Russian officials would participate, while the interested U.S. organizations could enlist the support of industrialists and other financial sponsors of the workshop. He was confident that he could overcome the reluctance of Russian defense organizations to begin to unveil the Biopreparat establishment. He repeated several times that this complex included many activities ranging from research at the lead institution that was located 500 kilometers northeast of Moscow, to testing at closed facilities in downtown St. Petersburg, to analyzing biological samples in the forests of Siberia, to production activities on the banks of the Volga River, to production of pharmaceutical products in small industrial towns within several hours of Moscow. He added that the staffs of these facilities were not accustomed to reaching out beyond the perimeters of their facilities, and therefore the workshop would be a step in letting them know that it was acceptable for the world to be informed of their existence.

In short order, the workshop was held at a modest riverside retreat in the outskirts of Moscow. The gathering involved about 25 Russian and American researchers and research managers with extensive experience in the fields of virology, microbiology, and epidemiology. Several important Russian organizations were represented. Some participants were interested in activities within both production and research facilities. Others had spent their careers developing and overseeing implementation of policies for the handling of dangerous viruses and microbes.

The workshop, which involved formal presentations, barrages of questions, and quiet talks in nearby annexes, proved open and friendly. The

Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×

dinners in the evenings and the walks in the forest during daylight were important opportunities for informal discussions. The event soon became a significant step for convening many subsequent U.S.-Russian events that gradually opened most of the biological landscape within Russia.5

Pathogens Initiative6

A number of collaborative activities that promoted political and scientific rapprochement quickly followed the aforementioned workshop. Congeniality and comradery suddenly became the order of the day as somewhat surprised Russian security and military personnel watched with interest. Many informal and formal events were documented within a landmark report published by the NAS, titled Controlling Dangerous Pathogens: A Blueprint for U.S.-Russian Cooperation. Of critical importance, the challenge for the U.S. government of enticing to the table former weapons-oriented scientists who were privy to long-held secrets throughout Russia’s biological complex seemed to have been solved. The leadership of Biopreparat played a critical role in this transformation.7

Several NAS-sponsored activities following the workshop were of particular importance during the late 1990s, and they are described in detail in Pathogens Initiative. As an early step, the NAS, in cooperation with the RAS and Biopreparat, took the lead in organizing the aforementioned international scientificsymposium in Kirov, where a central Russian military facility for biological research had long been located. Fifty participants, including representatives of 20 Russian organizations along with 15 foreigners, attended. The discussions covered epidemiology, rapid diagnostics, drugs, vaccines, antiviral preparations, and other topics of interest to the attendees and to the global biology community more broadly.

For the first time, Russian military scientists from the research institute in Kirov participated, although silently, in an event attended by 10 Americans and several invited scientists from other countries. In subsequent years, the conference attendees from Kirov assisted in arranging several other bilateral workshops on biological research issues near their home base. Also, alumni of service at the Kirov institute were occasionally encountered in leadership positions at other important research centers within Russia.

One of the most significant activities in opening the closed national security complex, which isolated Biopreparat researchers from western collaborators who were also interested in investigating activities involving highly dangerous pathogens in Russia, was the launching of eight pilot projects that

Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×

were recommended by the NAS. Funding was provided by DOD/DTRA. Seven of the eight projects that are set forth in Box 2-2 produced impressive results given the modest level of funding provided by DOD/DTRA. These seven led to more ambitious U.S.-Russian efforts in expanding the scope of the projects, while encouraging the development of additional projects carried out on parallel tracks.

BROADENING THE SCOPE OF COOPERATIVE ACTIVITIES

Following the successful carrying out of the aforementioned pilot projects, the two Russian research centers where the projects had been undertaken became magnets for attracting U.S. scientists. VECTOR, which was cited in Box 2-2, adopted an open-door policy for some of its previously closed

Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×

facilities, and in the early 2000s, the center became an important stop for many American virologists. Quickly following one another in their airline routes, American program managers—along with scientists and managers from other countries—arrived at the Novosibirsk airport for both long and short stints at VECTOR, where 2,000 employees, including 800 researchers, were at work. The range of their research activities was extensive. For example, they were isolating isolates of hepatitis B and C, developing new approaches in tracking the spread of viruses, developing technologies for manufacturing vaccines, and organizing stock-companies for sales and distribution of medical products.

Located in the heart of Siberia, VECTOR was led from its inception by Academician Lev Stepanovich Sandakchiev, a legendary research leader. By 2000, he personally welcomed visitors to facilities where the Russian researchers had seldom seen visitors from the United States and other countries. As a WHO Collaborating Center for Orthopoxvirus Diagnosis and a Center Repository for Variola Virus Strains and DNA, VECTOR at times hosted occasional visitors from Europe. However, in the early 2000s, such hosting exceeded by far the number of visitors and the openness of facilities than the international engagement in years past.9

The second center in Obolensk, also cited in Box 2-2, was located close to Moscow and had important facilities that American microbiologists from abroad began visiting as soon as the U.S.-Russian commitment to research on potentially dangerous pathogens began to unfold.

However, it did not have the mystique of a little-known isolated community. Of course, its facilities were also housed in secrecy due to the sensitivity of their activities, but as the facility opened up, the attraction of repetitive visits to a somewhat antiquated facility slowly waned.

Meanwhile, as to the feasibility of carrying out broader follow-on programs to the pilot projects set forth in Box 2-2, interest of potential financial sponsors in the United States was crucial. Again, DOD/DTRA immediately became a reliable source of support for transforming pronouncements and promises into reality. Also of significance was the preparedness of other U.S. funding organizations—including the Departments of State, Health and Human Services, and Agriculture—to eventually build on these early successes through cooperative programs on other bioresearch topics that they and additional interested American organizations selected during periodic consultations in Washington, D.C., and in Russia. The financial support by the U.S. government over a decade for developing and implementing projects of interest in Russia is set forth in Box 2-3.

Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×

On the Russian side, financial resources were in short supply. However, as long as program activities were carried out primarily in Russia, the local scientific community was ready and able to mobilize the talent, the facilities, and the enthusiasm necessary to have meaningful partnerships in the biological sciences for more than a decade. Thus, the scientific communities of the two countries undertook more than 200 collaborative projects sited in Russia of mutual interest in the biological sciences. During that period, the NAS received funds from a variety of U.S. government agencies and foundations to help guide and evaluate bioscience programs supported by the agencies. The total support of NAS activities for a decade, including strong support from DOD/DTRA, was about $4 million.

While the U.S. and Russian governments seemed intent on moving forward as rapidly as possible in promoting cooperation in the biological sciences, some observers were concerned about spreading knowledge of and capabilities for bioterrorism too widely. For example, in 2002 a prominent Russian scientist with a background in only unclassified activities highlighted how biological research activities could be used by fanatics or disenfranchised groups for blackmailing or promoting religious beliefs due to the following considerations:

Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×
  • Many laboratories and pharmaceutical facilities had the capability to produce dangerous biological agents.
  • With development of the internet, access to information on the culture of viruses and microorganisms and the production of toxins had become simple.
  • Obtaining a pathogenic strain of a microorganism or a virus is easy.
  • Bioweapons are effective in very small doses, with easy concealment, and could be used on individual targets or for mass infections.
  • Society is neither technically nor psychologically ready for bioterrorism.

Such concerns were far from new. But the Russian scientist apparently believed that the simplicity of spreading deadly biological agents should be widely discussed to gain support for research that could counter the threat.11

As interest in bilateral cooperation expanded, DOD/DTRA asked the NAS to conduct scientific reviews of research projects proposed by Russian institutes for financial support. More than 80 proposals were reviewed, with the average cost for a project if it were implemented being about $300,000. Many were considered by NAS experts to be very promising in contributing to the advancement of science.

At the same time, for each proposal the reviewers had a redline. Did the proposal come too close to providing a technology that would be useful in developing a weapons capability? About 10 percent of the proposals fell on the wrong side of that line and were rejected.

As to the 90 percent, about one-half of the proposals were rejected as not being of particular scientific interest. Most of the remainder were then approved in principle for implementation. However, many required significant modifications and resubmission.

After all this work, DOD/DTRA decided to put aside NAS recommendations and established another process for selecting proposals for implementation. This process began with on-site visits by DOD/DTRA scientists to Russian facilities, where topics for proposals would be discussed and funding decisions would be made. The NAS efforts were not completely wasted, however. They gave DOD/DTRA confidence that there were many ideas among Russian scientists that were worthy of support, and some of the original submissions to the NAS subsequently reappeared as approved DOD/DTRA projects. The DOD/DTRA was the first of several departments and agencies to request the NAS to assess project proposals in the

Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×

biological sciences. Other agencies often relied on the views of the NAS on the importance of projects or the details of the proposals.

As indicated in Box 2-3, many sound proposals received by different U.S. departments and agencies were supported. The appendixes of several NAS reports identified many of the more than 200 research projects that were financed by the U.S. government during 2000–2010 at a cost to the U.S. government of more than $160 million. This was a relatively small, but a significant, component of the $1 billion investment by U.S. and Russian organizations in bio-engagement activities in Russia from 1995 to 2010. The U.S. institutions paid for most of the direct personnel costs, and the Russian institutions covered all of the other costs, including extensive indirect expenses that at times involved providing new facilities for the projects.12

In a broader sense, the following suggestions, which are set forth in the aforementioned 2007 report, proposed four pillars for countering infectious diseases in Russia. These activities had a modest impact on Russian approaches in preventing the spread of infectious diseases.

  • Pillar 1 – Improving Surveillance and Response: Many upgraded State Epidemiology Surveillance Centers for surveillance diagnosis, analysis, and communication of infectious disease episodes at the oblast and local levels were established. Integration of Russia’s anti-plague network into the national public health surveillance system and then into the global system was not achieved. Nevertheless, the information flow between the research centers of the anti-plague network and the other research centers in Russia improved.
  • Pillar 2 – Meeting Pathogen Research Challenges: Financial support was to a considerable degree focused on carefully selected research groups that had the potential to become centers of scientific excellence. Upgraded laboratory facilities and equipment for appropriate infectious disease–related research at selected laboratories became commonplace throughout many areas of the country.
  • Pillar 3 – Promise of Biotechnology: An effective business environment that encouraged foreign and national investment in biotechnology activities in Russia was not achieved. While government procurement policies that favored high-quality Russian products over imported products at times were helpful, many possible market niches for Russian firms were not exploited.
  • Pillar 4 – Human Resources Base: While many postdoctoral scientists were encouraged to remain in Russia as practicing scientists,
Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×
  • mentoring programs that prepared them for positions of leadership in fields focused on control of infectious diseases were not commonplace. Advanced training programs that expanded the competence of specialists in fields related to infectious diseases, particularly fields involving multidisciplinary challenges, were limited.13

In further summing up some of the positive impacts of U.S.-Russian cooperation in the biological sciences, an NAS report in 2013 highlighted the following developments:

  • The adoption of unique research approaches has been frequent, with research findings of joint efforts being significant.
  • Transparency and insights about accomplishments and future plans has increased greatly with a dramatic reduction in suspicions about inappropriate intentions of political leaders in the two countries.
  • Following a long period of hesitation, entrepreneurial investors in the two countries have taken initial steps to develop joint commercial opportunities.
  • Effective approaches have been developed through working together to ensure biosafety when (a) handling dangerous pathogens encountered during disease surveillance, (b) reducing agricultural pests and pathogens, and (c) reducing environmental problems.14

Also, the same report highlighted the importance of easing visa problems in traveling in both directions, effectively addressing tax and customs issues, protecting intellectual property, adopting proper procedures for international shipment of specimens, and complying with export control requirements.15

NEAR-TERM IMPACTS OF THE BIODEFENSE PROGRAM

In 2007, the NAS carried out an evaluation of the impacts of the bio-defense program supported by the DOD/DTRA in Russia. Specific changes in the region—primarily in Russia but also to a limited extent in other former states of the Soviet Union—included the following:

  • Unprecedented transparency at dozens of important facilities with dual-use capabilities that had not previously been open to foreign specialists.
Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×
  • Dismantlement and/or conversion of production and research facilities established to support biological weapons activities, including transformation to civilian activities of more than a dozen important components of the weapons-oriented Biopreparat complex.
  • Redirection to civilian pursuits of hundreds of biological scientists, engineers, and technical personnel who were formerly engaged in defense programs.
  • Attraction and retention of hundreds of younger specialists working in basic science and in the fields of public health and agriculture.
  • Adoption by local institutions of standard international approaches to project management and fiscal accountability.
  • Participation in scientific conferences and training programs abroad by specialists from the region who had not previously traveled abroad.
  • Increased publication by local scientists in peer-reviewed international journals of research findings, which demonstrated their new capabilities to participate in international scientific activities.
  • Enhanced quality of local research projects and technology transfer activities that have taken advantage of the experience and expertise of international collaborators.
  • Improved biosecurity and biosafety at biological research institutions, particularly for consolidation and physical protection of dangerous pathogen strains.
  • Opening and sharing of local databases with international collaborators.
  • Construction and equipping of modern research, public health, and agricultural facilities where activities of interest to international partners are carried out.
  • Development of local regulations and related training programs for the safety and security of biological materials and good laboratory practices.16

LESSONS LEARNED

Lessons learned of interest to governments and managers of Russian bioscience facilities during the preparations and implementation of proposals included the following:

Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×
  • U.S.-Russian cooperation in the biosciences as well as in other areas may at times resemble a foreign assistance relationship but should evolve into a partnership, although equitable sharing of direct costs may be difficult to arrange. However, the goal of sharing direct costs, thereby reducing U.S. dominance in determining project objectives, is important in sustaining long-term relationships.
  • Support or at least acceptance by all concerned government agencies in both countries of the proposed collaboration in a specific area is an important first step in launching a project.
  • The time commitments of key interlocutors, including the project managers and key overseers, should be clear from the outset.
  • Cooperation should build on the mutual strengths of the two countries, and continuing ongoing activities should usually be on solid footing.
  • Importance of up-front planning, including pilot efforts, prior to implementation of significant activities cannot be overemphasized.
  • Development of strategies for obtaining long-term support deserves priority.
  • Narrow nonproliferation objectives are of less importance than building capacity for addressing biological challenges over the long term.
  • Early involvement of users of applied research results in the research planning and implementation is very important.
  • All aspects of equipment selection, use, and maintenance need to be given early consideration when collaboration requires new equipment. Also, compliance with local quality assurance environmental requirements needs special attention.17

Lessons learned by research scientists included the following:

  • Too often interested parties incorrectly assume that government approval of a collaborative project means that financial support will be provided by one or both of the governments until the project is completed.
  • Key collaborators for individual projects should have common interests and capabilities that are well matched.
  • In-person joint planning and review throughout implementation of the project is important.
Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×
  • Open communications that facilitate access to primary data, interim results, and modifications of research approaches are important throughout project implementation.
  • Joint projects are most interesting for both researchers and policy officials when they are oriented toward application of results.
  • If grants are obtained to fund specific research challenges, the activities should be focused on the themes set forth in the grant applications.
  • Special efforts may be needed to involve investigators who are in the early stages of their careers. They may bring fresh insights to projects that might otherwise be stymied by out-of-date concepts.
  • The more institutions involved in a joint project, the more important is agreement on administrative arrangements. One-on-one institutional arrangements may work better and more efficiently than broader arrangements for a single project.
  • There may be requirements for special facilities and procedures to accommodate new lines of research, and these issues must be resolved before the project is initiated.
  • Professional rewards from joint projects can be highly visible, and they may encourage others to engage in international programs.18

BROADENING INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATION AND THE WAY AHEAD

In 2008, at the height of U.S.-Russian collaboration in determining biological research priorities, Russian colleagues reported the following research findings that opened important doors for long-term collaboration:

The commercial breeding of the rare palm civets for their meat was the source of severe acute respiratory syndrome caused by SARS coronavirus in China. The Chinese recently started eating palm civet meat and breeding the animals, and civets frequently carry the coronavirus. Researchers have discovered that a random deletion of an insignificant portion of the gene encoding a key protein (less than 0.1 percent of the genome) and several nucleotide substitutions made this coronavirus infectious for humans. When consumption of civet meat and commercial breeding of the animals were halted, human contact with these animals also stopped, as did the epidemics caused by the coronavirus in question.19

Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×

Given the common interests in coronavirus infections among biological scientists throughout the world, it is not surprising that in 2020, a relatively low point in U.S.-Russian political relations, the U.S. and Russian academies gave priority to related efforts to address the related challenges of the global spread of COVID-19, as indicated at the beginning of this chapter.

Joint U.S.-Russian academy efforts to reach out to biological institutions and scientists in other countries, either within the context of activities of international organizations or simply bilaterally, were repeatedly considered during implementation of bilateral activities discussed in this report.

An important step in the formalization of joint efforts directed to activities in other countries was taken in 2013 when the NAS and the Siberian Branch of the RAS joined efforts to help strengthen biosecurity activities in four countries in Central Asia. Scientists from the United States and Russia carried out separate but coordinated visits to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, where they consulted with leading biological research scientists, biosecurity specialists, and government officials. The Siberian Branch, in cooperation with the NAS, then organized a workshop on the campus of Novosibirsk State University for specialists from these four countries to increase the familiarity of the specialists with recent developments in upgrading biosecurity arrangements. Unfortunately, on the eve of the workshop, the U.S. government, which planned to cover the travel costs for American participants in the workshop, placed a ban on all travel to Russia for political reasons. When the travel ban was announced, the leader of the NAS team was in China, but he was allowed to continue his travel to Novosibirsk. The Russian partners rearranged the program, and they and the American specialist performed double duty for the workshop.

Globalization of travel and trade, emerging infectious diseases, and widening threats of bioterrorism have heighted the urgency of harnessing the scientific and technological abilities of all countries, in a united counterattack on pervasive and persistent disease agents that can wreak human and economic havoc. Clearly, Russia should be on the frontlines of the global efforts along with the United States to help prevent and contain outbreaks of diseases at home and abroad.

As bilateral cooperation evolved and provided the base for outreach to other countries, mistrust on both sides that had hampered cooperation in the biological sciences during the cold war diminished. The importance of engagement activities not only provided a scientific return but also helped build confidence internationally in the importance of collaborative research and related efforts in bioscience and biotechnology between former adversaries.20

Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×

The United States and Russia have different sets of international contacts that collectively provide good global coverage of important research that could lead to significant discoveries in the biological sciences. Many developing countries have few scientists who can address rapidly the emergence of new biological challenges. For them to be able to draw on both U.S. and Russian mentors can avoid waste of time and money and reduce international misunderstanding and confusion.

VIEWS FROM THE FRONTIERS OF BIOLOGY

An American biologist with experience in collaboration with colleagues across Russia underlined the importance of global surveillance as follows:

We must have the will to accomplish the important task of very early awareness and response to naturally emerging and intentional diseases, although we do not know exactly how to accomplish this goal. We must watch the spots where the animals, humans, and bugs collide. We now have the technical tools and know-how to implement the necessary public health infrastructure for surveillance and response nearly anywhere around the globe. The world has become too small and the potential for harm too great to stand idle. Technology allows implementation today. We must not let politics or borders stand in the way. Working together across national boundaries on one of the most challenging and important human security issues of our time will not only protect our citizens from natural disease but also contribute to building understanding and even trust that will reduce the likelihood that intentional outbreaks will negatively impact any of our populations.21

Directly supporting the previous observations is a statement by another advocate of global networking.

In the long term, it is the networks of scientists around the globe that will provide the major payoffs from collaboration at the national, regional, and global levels. It is essential that both American and Russian biological scientists have seats in these networks. Rewards are often measured in terms of research discoveries, development of new products, improved health and agricultural services, and prevention of misuse of biotechnologies. While

Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×

these indicators of success are important, the major payoff from new-found friendships across the ocean, an outcome that can last decades, is the network of scientists who are interested in working together through visits, conference attendance, e-mails, or other means during many years of their professional careers. There is no better assurance than the respect and camaraderie surrounding such friendships that the life sciences will indeed be used for the betterment of the global population.22

NOTES

1. Netesov, S. V. 2009. “Emerging Viral Infections in the Asian Part of Russia,” in Countering Terrorism: Biological Agents, Transportation Networks, and Energy Systems, Summary of a U.S.-Russian Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, p. 93.

2. Franz, D. R. 2014. “Engaging the States of the Former Soviet Union in Health Security, Biosecurity, and Bioterrorism.” Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice, and Science 12(2): 367.

3. NRC (National Research Council). 2007. The Biological Threat Reduction Program of the Department of Defense. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, p. 15.

4. Schweitzer, G. E. 2000. Swords into Market Shares, Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press, p. 189.

5. Schweitzer, G. E. 2004. Scientists, Engineers and Track-Two Diplomacy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, p. 50.

6. NRC. 1997. Controlling Dangerous Pathogens: a Blueprint for U.S.-Russian Cooperation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

7. Op. cit., Schweitzer, Swords, p. 189; NRC, Pathogens.

8. Op. cit., Schweitzer, Scientists, p. 52.

9. State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology “Vector.” Moscow: Ministry of Public Health and Social Development, 2004.

10. NRC. 2013. The Unique U.S.-Russian Relationship in Biological Science and Biotechnology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, p. 213.

11. Morenkov, O. S. 2009. “Bioterrorism: A View from the Side,” in Russian Views on Countering Terrorism during Eight Years of Dialogue: Extracts from Proceedings of Four U.S.-Russian Workshops. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, p. 23.

12. Op. cit., The Unique U.S.-Russian Relationship, p. 2, and Appendix C; op. cit., Biological Threat Reduction Program, Appendix F.

13. NRC. 2006. Bioscience and Biotechnology in Russia: Controlling Diseases and Enhancing Security. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, p. 4–7.

14. Ibid., p. 4.

15. Ibid.

16. Op. cit., Biological Threat Reduction Program, p. 2.

17. Ibid., p. 103.

18. Ibid., p. 104.

Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×

19. Netesov, S. V., and N. A. Markovich. 2009. “Emerging Viral Infections in the Asian Part of Russia,” in Countering Terrorism: Biological Agents, Transportation. Networks, and Energy Systems: Summary of a U.S.-Russian Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, p. 91.

20. Op. cit., Biological Threat Reduction Program, p. 35.

21. Franz, D. R. 2009. “Disease Surveillance and International Biosecurity,” in Countering Terrorism, Biological Agents, Transportation Networks, and Energy Systems: Summary of a U.S-Russian Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, p. 78.

22. Op. cit., Unique U.S.-Russian Relationship, p. 121.

Image
Russian-American Conference on Medical Challenges in Central Asia and Other Similar Areas of Concern held in 2004 at the Russian Military-Medical Academy in St. Petersburg. During the conference the Russian participants praised American General Russ Zajtchuk (ret) of Rush University Medical Center for his long-term support of the Academy.
Source: Photograph provided by the hosts for unlimited distribution.
Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×
Image
Participants in RAS-NAS Workshop on Biological Safety and Security Held in Novosibirsk, Russia, in 2014 for Specialists from Central Asia.
Source: Photograph provided by Novosibirsk State University for unlimited distribution.
Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Acceptable Limits on Biological Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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During the past 25 years, the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, in collaboration with the Russian Academy of Sciences, have carried out a wide variety of activities to improve understanding of the challenges in containing and reducing ethnic conflicts, violent extremism, and terrorism. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism provides an overview of this cross-ocean program, which has involved American and Russian scientists, engineers, and medical professionals from a large number of government agencies, leading research institutions, think tanks, educational institutions, analytical centers, and consulting and commercial firms in the two countries. This report highlights challenges addressed by the academies over many years that remain of current interest as the U.S., Russian, and other governments continue to cope with old and new forms of aggression that threaten the livelihood of populations at home and abroad.

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