New S&T Roadmap Sets Course for Biological Response and Recovery

Today, OSTP released a Biological Incident Response and Recovery Science and Technology Roadmap to help ensure that decision makers and first responders are equipped with the information and tools needed to effectively respond to and recover from a biological incident—whether naturally occurring (such as an influenza pandemic), accidental (such as a laboratory spill),  or intentional (such as a bioterror attack).

A catastrophic biological incident could threaten the Nation’s human, animal, plant, environmental, and economic health, as well as America’s national security. Such an event would demand swift and effective responses in order to minimize loss of life and other adverse consequences or, in the case of suspected criminal activity or terrorism, to prevent additional attacks.

Standing ready to respond to a biological incident requires ongoing data and information collection, data integration and scientific analysis, evidence-based review, strategic decision making, and continuous coordination across government and with nongovernmental partners. In addition, an effective response and recovery process requires the coordination of data and capabilities from several sectors—such as public health, law enforcement, waste management, infrastructure management, transportation, and more. 

The Roadmap released today aims to strengthen these processes by categorizing key scientific gaps, identifying specific technological solutions, and prioritizing research activities to enable government—at all levels—to make decisions more effectively. Key near-term R&D priorities and objectives outlined in the Roadmap include:

  • Develop reliable estimates of risk of exposure for a multitude of environments, matrices, and conditions associated with wide-area release scenarios;
  • Develop reliable estimates of risk to humans, animals, and plants through various exposure and transmission routes;
  • Evaluate population infection prevention measures (e.g., quarantine, isolation, and social distancing) used to reduce incident impact and develop a strong scientific basis for recommending these measures; and
  • Apply insights from risk-communication research to guide dissemination of appropriate messages to decision makers, first responders, and others.

The Roadmap was developed by the interagency Biological Response and Recovery Science and Technology Working Group under the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on Homeland and National Security, and complements the National Biosurveillance Science and Technology Roadmap that was published in June 2013.  

Read the full report here.

Jayne Morrow is Executive Director of the National Science and Technology Council

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