Life-Sciences Dual Use Research of Concern, Public Health, and the Doctrine of Unconstitutional Conditions
7 St. Louis U. J. Health L. & Policy (2014), Forthcoming
32 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2013 Last revised: 2 Apr 2014
Date Written: August 7, 2013
Much valuable life-sciences research requires working with biological agents and pathogens that can be harmful to humans, animals, crops, or the environment if mishandled. Communication of the results of this research through formal publication in peer-reviewed journals, or informally in the course of scientific research, is necessary to allow us to reap the benefits of the research. However, if the research information is misused, it can pose a significant threat to public health and national security. Although clearly there is a legitimate need to control the dissemination of information that could be used to harm us, the need to control the communication and expression of such so-called dual use research of concern must be balanced against the First Amendment freedom of expression that attaches to such communications. University and academic settings in particular, where most such research takes place, have been heavily protected by the courts against attempts to abridge free expression through restrictions on speech or publication. This article explores the application of the doctrine of unconstitutional conditions as it applies to government-funded life-sciences dual use research of concern. It reviews the government's current efforts to restrict dissemination of such information, and suggests ways in which the government can continue its efforts to preserve the right to free expression while protecting us from the harm of misuse of scientific research.
Keywords: public health, scientific research, unconstitutional conditions, First Amendment, life sciences
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