Projects / Past Projects

Arms control through science control? The role of natural scientists in bioweapons programmes of states

Project Period: 2005-2007
Funding: German Peace Research Foundation
Project officer: Iris Hunger

The aim of this project was to clarify the role that scientists have played in initiating, shaping and closing down state-run bioweapons programmes. Out of the nine proven bioweapons programmes of states four were selected for detailed analysis (Soviet Union, South Africa, United Kingdom and USA). The four selected programmes differ in terms of start and end dates, size, political and legal conditions, and the type and availability of sources. For each of the four programmes the effects of proactive steps by individual scientists or the scientific community as a whole – e.g. lobbying for or against the programme – on the development of the bioweapons programme were analysed.

The following conclusions for current biological arms control efforts were drawn. Control measures focussing on scientists are likely to be sucessful if they aim to uncover existing programmes (whistle blowing), to delay them or to close them down. They are unlikely to be successful if they aim to prevent states or non-state actors from starting a bioweapons programme. Moreover, control measures need to ensure that scientists do not get involved in bioweapons programmes because of a simple lack of awareness of the international bioweapons ban.