In a Policy Forum article in Science last week, the eighteen authors of the article, including employees of the Biosecurity Office of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), call for an innovative approach to biosecurity governance.

Changes in technical, social and political environments and the emergence of natural diseases are testing the system of biosecurity governance. Biosecurity governance is here defined as the processes that influence behavior to prevent or deter misuse of biological science and technology . This is now based on traditional risk management, focusing on what we already know what to worry about, such as risks from existing pathogens.

An experimental approach to governance, in which hypotheses about the relationship between biology, health security and society are systematically analyzed, periodically reassessed based on lived experience, allows for learning across biosecurity communities. Such an approach accepts that not all risks are known or predictable in advance.

Evans S.W., Beal J., Berger K., Bleijs D.A., Cagnetti A., Ceroni F., Epstein G.L., Garcia-Reyero N., Gillum D., Harkess G., Hillson N.J., Hogervorst P.A.M., Jordan J.L., Lacroix G., Moritz R., ÓhÉigeartaigh S.S., Palmer M.J., Van Passel M. (2020). Embrace experimentation in biosecurity governance. Science 368 (6487), 138-140. DOI: 10.1126/science.aba2932