BIOLOGICAL RISK ASSESSMENT

Currently, there is no methodology for net overall biological risk assessment for policy makers at the national level.  Methodologies currently in use are compartmentalized and generally limited to individual parts of the spectrum of biological risk—naturally occurring events, accidents or deliberate use of biology as a weapon. The lack of methodology for net overall risk assessment not only results in waste of resources and duplication but also hampers international collaboration.  

Pathogens know no boundaries - geopolitical or bureaucratic.  As a consequence, efforts to manage biological risk have to be whole-of-government and international. But effective international coordination of biological risk management requires a common language and common methodologies for a net overall biological risk assessment.  There are several problems with current methodologies for assessing biological risk at the national and international level, and hence with conducting cost-benefit analyses for risk mitigation and management efforts at these levels:

  • Inadequate international coordination, cooperation and collaboration;

  • Compartmentalised risk assessment, so inefficient resource allocation;

  • Inadequate risk assessment methodologies for assessing risks where neither the probability nor the impact of an event is known with reasonable confidence, which is largely the case for bioterror events.

ICLS, jointly with the Royal Society, held an international workshop at the Royal Society in February 2009. It brought together a group of international experts on infectious disease, international security and risk assessment to explore new approaches to assessing the full range of biological risks.