Harvard Sussex Program
on chemical and biological warfare armament and arms limitation

HSP Research

HSP research is of three kinds: short-term, longer term, and field investigations.

Short-term research
Short-term research is done chiefly in support of presentations at the regular seminars and workshops organized by HSP or conferences at which HSP personnel are invited to speak. It is also done in support of interventions in the media, such as newspaper op-eds. More privately, research of this type is done in support of less public outreach activities as well, including work for governmental advisory committees and for ad hoc working parties convened by the World Health Organization, for example, and the European Commission. Selected HSP-authored publications and unpublished papers from short-term research are listed here.

Longer term research
The longer term research is aimed principally at identifying possible policy initiatives and realistic ways of taking them forward. It currently comprises the following projects:

CBW criminalization. An investigation of possible contributions of international criminal law to strengthening the existing regime against CBW. From this work, which is currently funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, has resulted the HSP proposal for criminalizing acts of biological or other such armament by means of a new international treaty. This research is being taken forward mainly by Catherine Jefferson, Caitríona McLeish, Matthew Meselson and Julian Robinson.

Future CBW trends and policy choices. A research activity, initiated by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, that monitors the relevant technical background and the principal current national and international responses to the challenge of CBW. This project is lead by Matthew Meselson.

Recently completed research
The following projects have now been completed:

'Non lethal' CBW. An analysis of challenges to the regime against weaponization of disease presented by disabling CBW weapons. For more details click here. Contributing HSP researchers were Daniel Feakes, Caitríona McLeish, Matthew Meselson and Julian Robinson.

The EU and CBW. A study of the role and functioning of the European Union with regard to chemical and biological weapons. This project, which was led by Daniel Feakes, includes maintenance of a webpage The EU and WMD that indexes and links EU documentation on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Biothreat perception and policy formation. An investigation of why and how threats of bioterrorism are being perceived in the ways that are now apparent, and of the influences of such threat perceptions on assessment of vulnerability and the consequent development of public policy for threat mitigation. The main purpose of the project was to ask which of these policies may actually be beneficial, which may be counter-productive, and how the requisite risk assessments should best be conducted. The project was furnishing the principal University of Sussex input into the ASSRBCVUL coordination action and was taken forward by Kai Ilchmann, Caítriona McLeish, Tony Phillips and Julian Robinson.

OPCW/PC history. A project detailing authoritatively how the OPCW was built by its Preparatory Commission during 1993-97. It was funded by grants from the foreign ministries of Japan, the Netherlands and the UK. For details click here. Daniel Feakes, Ian Kenyon and Julian Robinson were the HSP researchers primarily involved.

Dual use in genomics. Initially funded from the Science in Society programme of the UK Economic & Social Research Council, this was an investigation of possible impacts on biotechnology of dual-use controls introduced in order to enhance biosecurity in the UK. For details click here. Caitríona McLeish was the lead HSP researcher in this work, which also benefited from input from Tony Phillips.

ASSRBCVUL. A collaboration in which the University of Sussex joined with five overseas research institutions to assess the vulnerability of European society to radiological, biological and chemical terrorist attacks and to propose and evaluate countermeasures. For details click here. The project was what the European Commission (the sponsoring organization) called a 'coordination action', and the contributions to it from the University of Sussex were provided by HSP Sussex.

Civil society and CBW. Funded from the Non-Govermental Public Action programme of the UK Economic & Social Research Council, this project examined the role and influence of civil society on attempts to eliminate biological and chemical weapons, with particular focus on national efforts within the UK and on recent activities to establish a global civil society monitoring network. Daniel Feakes was the HSP researcher leading this work.

Non-state actors and the globalization of chemical and biological WMD technologies. Funded from the New Security Challenges programme of the UK Economic & Social Research Council, this investigation used recently-validated research methods to conceptualise how heterogeneous non-state actors enrol one another to create, overturn and enforce regulatory regimes that frame and constrain the development of CBW-relevant technologies. For details click here. The project was carried out by Daniel Feakes, Caitríona McLeish, and Julian Robinson.

Field investigations
This HSP research activity is exemplified by the on-site investigation of the anthrax outbreak of 1979 in Sverdlovsk, USSR, organized and led in 1992 and 1993 by the Harvard HSP director, Matthew Meselson. Its definitive findings have been published in the Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences, in the journal Science, and in the book Anthrax: the investigation of a deadly outbreak (University of California Press, 1999) by HSP Associate Jeanne Guillemin. This inquiry followed an earlier HSP investigation of the 'yellow rain' phenomenon in southeast Asia, which demonstrated that the yellow materials at first thought to be samples of a CBW agent were in actuality the harmless droppings of large swarms of wild honey-bees. These findings were published in Nature, Science and Foreign Policy. What both these HSP inquiries revealed was the importance of independent and properly conducted scientific investigation as backstop to the efforts of governments to understand complex events possibly associated with biological or chemical weapons. Since then, HSP has involved itself in preliminary inquiries regarding several other alleged CBW events (in, for example, Iran, Iraqi Kurdistan, Burma, southern Africa, Sudan and Palestine) but they have not yet proceeded to field investigation.

On the basis of this experience, HSP is well suited to pursuing, should occasion arise, 'open source plus' research in which, on very specific matters such as allegations of use or other forms of non-compliance with international CBW agreements, HSP engages in field work aimed at building upon existing published sources of information through interviews, for example, or through sample collection and analysis.