A phoenix of the modern world: the re-emergence of National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity and its implications for scientific partners
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KeywordsNational Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity; United States; NSABB; Life Sciences; Security risks
While there are many mythical stories of various kinds about the Phoenix it retains several features throughout all of them. In ancient Egypt, the Phoenix was the prodigy of the sun god Ra and appeared in the shape of a giant bird of fire, which was one of the most beautiful creatures on earth. It was remarkable in that it could not foster any offspring and at the end of its life would explode in a ball of fire. Out of the ashes, an egg is formed which then hatches the Phoenix again in its young form. The cry of a Phoenix was supposed to be of miraculous beauty. This chapter will explore if the Phoenix is a suitable metaphor for the recent re-emergence of the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), which was tasked with providing scientific expertise to the government on questions of the security risks of emerging science and technology in the life sciences. The analogy to the Phoenix suggests itself because the NSABB, chartered in 2004, had been inactive for over two years and only recently took up its work. The comparison between the Phoenix and the NSABB gives rise to several questions: first, has the re-emergence of the NSABB been met with an equally beautiful cry of joy among the scientists and security experts? Second, what happens when the Phoenix lies dormant? And third, what took place before the Phoenix was created?