Institutional biosafety committees and the public stewardship of bioscience research: an analysis of community membership
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Type of Work110 leaves
DepartmentUniversity of Baltimore. College of Public Affairs
ProgramUniversity of Baltimore. Doctor of Public Administration
RightsThis item may be protected under Title 17 of the U.S. Copyright Law. It is made available by the University of Baltimore for non-commercial research and educational purposes.
Industrial safety committees
Massachusetts Biotechnology Council
Scientists continue to find new applications for recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules, which are often used as biological tools that modify or construct living organisms. These molecules are used principally in the biosciences, in basic laboratory research relating to disease, drug discovery, and clinical applications, including gene therapy. The prospects and risks of moving this science forward, one experiment at a time, fall under the oversight of the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC). The role of the IBC community member is to represent the community's interests in health and environmental matters with respect to this research. This study established a baseline of knowledge about the composition and characteristics of IBC community members and the facilities conducting the research. This research provided a glimpse of how citizens as stakeholders are involved in decision-making and provided insight for rethinking how oversight can move forward with science. Early motivation for the inclusion of outsiders on IBCs was primarily because NIH oversight and government investment in bioscience went hand in hand and public trust declined as oversight policies were not evolving as fast as the science. As we turn the corner with substantive justifications that provide a richer participatory infrastructure; the right mix of policies will open opportunities for public involvement. Specifically, this was formative research that identified the occupational and educational characteristics of IBC community members, the ratio of outside members to inside members, and the types of facilities that conduct NIH regulated research and describes the biotechnology hub in Massachusetts. The study explored the influence of system-wide IBCs and local oversight ordinances on the committee composition and updates what we know about the outsiders appointed to IBCs to provide monitoring and their capacity to bring legitimacy and resources to the facility conducting recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecular research. Results indicate that stand-alone IBCs and facilities operating in areas without a local oversight ordinance are more likely to have IBCs with a higher composition of community members.