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


HSP research


HSP research falls into three broad categories: short-term research, longer-term research, and field investigations:

Short-term research.
Short-term research is work done chiefly in support of op-eds in the media or presentations at seminars and workshops organized by HSP or conferences at which HSP personnel are invited to speak. More privately, research of this type is also done in consequence of HSP's outreach activities, notably for governmental advisory committees and for ad hoc working parties convened by the World Health Organization and the European Commission.

Longer term research.
Aimed at identifying possible policy initiatives and realistic ways of taking them forward, the projects that currently constitute this category are as follows: [7a]

CBW criminalization. An investigation of possible contributions of international criminal law to strengthening the existing BWC/CWC regime. From this work has resulted the HSP draft international CBW criminalization convention (see the section on this website on The HSP criminalization initiative).

The EU and CBW. A study of the role and functioning of the European Union with regard to chemical and biological weapons.

'Non lethal' CBW. An analysis of challenges to the regime against weaponization of disease presented by disabling CBW weapons. This work will soon result in the publication of an edited volume of contributions by specialists.

OPCW/PC history. A project detailing authoritatively how the OPCW was built by its Preparatory Commission during 1993-97. For further details click here.

Dual use controls and genomic research. An investigation of possible impacts on biotechnology of dual-use controls introduced in order to enhance biosecurity in the UK. For further details click here.

ASSRBCVUL. A collaboration with other European research institutes to work on assessment of vulnerabilities in EU societies to possible acts of biological, chemical or radiological terrorism. For further details click here.

Field investigations.
A third kind of HSP research 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. 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.