Instead of the Biosecurity Knowledge Day, Bureau Biosecurity organized a webinar on 19 November with the theme 'Biosecurity in Research'. This webinar is part of a series of webinars, two more to follow in 2021. Through these webinars, we work step-by-step and in coordination with experts to increase researchers' awareness of biosecurity and dual-use risks.
The first webinar of Bureau Biosecurity started with no fewer than 100 participants. The webinar, consisting of three parts, started with a short look back at the activities of Bureau Biosecurity and the impact of COVID-19 on biosecurity, both nationally and internationally.
In the second part, questions and aspects were discussed that (biological) safety experts encounter in their contact with employees about biosecurity and dual-use aspects. The aim was to gain more insight into the underlying questions: Is there a need for support? How do we increase biosecurity awareness in the lab, not only among researchers but also among students?
During this interactive session, various statements were presented to which the participants could respond. The results and the questions asked were discussed in a panel consisting of experts Marcel van Bergen (BioRisk Professional Radboud UMC and Chairman BVF Platform), Paul Odinot (Coordinator Biological Safety, Utrecht University), Niels Beenhakker (Safety Officer and board member BVF Platform) and Sicco Koopmans (BVF and board member BVF Platform).
One of the statements showed that more than three quarters of the respondents estimate that researchers are insufficiently aware of biosecurity risks and that researchers are not aware that dual-use risks may arise during the research. A quarter of the respondents indicated that their organization has a system in place to identify dual-use risks in research. Another statement showed that three quarters of the respondents expect employees to know who to turn to in the event of deviant behavior from a colleague. These results indicate that there is still much to be improved in the field of biosecurity and dual-use awareness among researchers.
In the last part, the participants were informed about the Dual-Use Quickscan that Bureau Biosecurity is developing. This web application is intended to gain more insight into the possible dual-use aspects of research in the life sciences. The tool consists of about 15 questions that have been distilled from (scientific) literature and reports, with an explanation for each question based on some clear examples from the literature. The questions focus on dual-use themes such as tropism, virulence and distribution characteristics of a biological agent. After completing the closed questions, the results can be used for consultation about research that may or may not have a dual-use character and how to handle this carefully. The tool is under construction and Bureau Biosecurity would like to develop the tool further together with an expert group, including future users.
Based on the results of this first webinar, Bureau Biosecurity will engage in discussions with (biological) safety experts to obtain information and knowledge about how biosecurity is brought to the attention of their organization. The purpose of this is to bundle information and best practices and make them available. In a next webinar in mid-2021, this will be presented in concept and there is the opportunity to talk to each other and learn from each other.
The third and final webinar in this series will be specifically aimed at the researchers and staff of laboratories and aims to make this target group more aware of biosecurity and dual-use risks.
Afterwards, slightly less than half of the participants completed the evaluation form. The webinar was well received and met expectations according to 85% of the respondents. In particular, the variety of short presentations and statements was experienced as pleasant. More than half of the respondents indicated that there is a need to receive further support when it comes to Biosecurity in the research. Coordination and exchange of ideas with colleagues at other organizations were mentioned by name. In the second webinar, these wishes will be met as much as possible. Naturally, the evaluation also yielded points for attention that we can use when organizing next year's webinars and Biosecurity Knowledge Day.
Save the date – November 11, 2021
The date for the seventh Biosecurity Knowledge Day has already been set and hopefully we can physically meet again on 11 November 2021. The program is still completely open. We keep room for new developments and would like to hear what the participants need. So if you have suggestions for filling in next year's program, or if you have something interesting to contribute: let us know! firstname.lastname@example.org