Towards a Scientific Advisory Body for the Biological Weapons Convention

Biotechnology & Biosecurity
Via two online meetings, IAP and partners tested a proposed mechanism for the input of scientific advice into the Biological Weapons Convention

On 14 November 2023, IAP in collaboration with the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM), organized two online meetings to test-drive a proposed mechanism for the input of scientific advice into the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC). The meeting served as the open-ended body of a hybrid mechanism that BWC States Parties are currently discussing, and aimed to test the concept of a scientific advisory body by discussing the topic ‘Possible Benefits and Risks of Artificial Intelligence for Global Biosecurity in the BWC Context’.

The two events, scheduled to allow participation across a wide range of time zones, allowed the involvement of more than 75 experts from 40 countries around the world. The diverse backgrounds and expertise of participants fostered a comprehensive exploration of the intersection between artificial intelligence and global biosecurity – two rapidly emerging technologies, both of which can provide benefits, but could also be used for malicious purposes.

The discussions were anchored by prominent figures in the fields of biotechnology and artificial intelligence, including Kavita Berger, Board of Life Sciences, (NASEM), Tshilidzi Marwala, an Artificial Intelligence engineer and Rector of the United Nations University, and Nicole Wheeler, School of Computer Science, University of Birmingham, UK.

The meetings were held under the Chatham House Rule, which ensured free and open discussions on both the benefits and risks of AI for global biosecurity. See the agenda here.

While the discussions that centred around the topic were interesting and valuable from a scientific point of view, the primary goal was to simulate the proposed hybrid science advice mechanism that considers a follow-up meeting with a more narrowly focused question to be deliberated on by a smaller, limited-size body in a second meeting. For the purposes of the project, this second event will take place in Trieste, Italy, in February 2024.

A short report summarizing the key takeaways from the online workshop will soon be made available to all participants. This document aims to serve as a resource, capturing the essence of discussions and providing a reference point for continued engagement and collaboration.

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