Biosecurity

Describe synthetic biology

Describe gain-of-function research, potential pandemic pathogens

Start with GiveWell’s investigation: http://www.givewell.org/labs/causes/biosecurity

Gain-of-function research may be useful for understanding pathogens, but could itself be very dangerous. No one seems to think that remaining completely ignorant of pathogens is a good idea, but there is disagreement about how useful such research would really be (especially when the risks seem more straightforwardly large).

See opinions of various experts on the following question:

What do you think about scientific experiments involving the creation of novel pathogens that may be transmissible and virulent in humans?

http://safesci.org/

Not many voices against, may not be a very balanced discussion.

FIXME What do experts think are the benefits of gain-of-function research? Are there are safer ways to get the same benefits? On the margin, do we need more research about potential pandemic pathogens (taking into account the increased risk, if any) or more caution?

See the statements of Scientists for Science (generally against more regulation and convinced that benefits are very great) and the Cambridge Working Group (generally for much more caution and not convinced that benefits are that great).

See US government decision to pause gain-of-function research: https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/10/17/doing-diligence-assess-risks-and-benefits-life-sciences-gain-function-research.

See Owen Cotton-Barratt’s market-based proposal to deal with dangerous research that arguably has large benefits: http://globalprioritiesproject.org/2015/02/research-note-requiring-liability-insurance-for-dual-use-research/.

Neglectedness

Who is already working on this?

Is biosecurity “less sexy” as a cause than artificial intelligence safety work?

How beneficial would it be to have more people working on solutions full-time?