Carnegie Mellon Researchers Study How U.S. Patriot and
Bioterrorism Preparedness Acts Impact Scientific Research
PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University researchers have found that two post-9-11 U.S. counter bioterrorism laws, the 2001 U.S. Patriot Act and the Bioterrorism Preparedness Act of 2002, had measureable 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 and her research team, 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 and research team leader.
Casman said her research group also found that some predicted negative effects did not materialize. There was no mass exodus of U.S. scientists from the field and collaboration within U.S. institutions was not inhibited. Also, there is no evidence of the emergence of "gatekeeper" institutions. Interestingly, the U.S. Army became much more collaborative in select agent research after 2002 than it was previously, the study showed.
Casman reported that her team's analysis is relevant to legislative initiatives currently in Congressional committee, as lawmakers are still grappling with new standards for laboratories working with weaponizable microorganisms.