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Defining the Boundaries: Homeland Security and Its Impact on Scientific Research

09/23/2003 6:00 PM Kresge
Jerome I. Friedman, HM , Institute Professor; Professor of Physics; Phillip A. Sharp, Institute Professor, MIT

Description: In August 2001, MIT launched a review of the university's commitment to unclassified research on campus. One month later, the events of September 11th gave this review a harsh immediacy, and transformed the discussion. New government policies that constrain the open exchange of information among scientists, Jerome Friedman says, will harm our national security by damaging the very way science is practiced. In particular, Friedman objects to regulations that would prevent MIT from attracting the best international scholars. Phillip Sharp spoke to the issue of security concerns in the biological arena. It is unlikely that terrorists could come up with a monstrously effective bioweapon, he claims, because scientists aren't skilled enough at manipulating infectious viruses and microbes. In fact, the real danger arises from such natural pathogens as smallpox, HIV or SARS. Sharp believes any future biological attack would probably involve the release of a known pathogen. He argues that strong public health institutions serve as our best defense _ the same institutions that now face mounting security limits on researching lethal organisms. By preventing research and censoring publications, we may be handicapping ourselves in the fight against terror.

About the Speaker(s): Jerome Friedman received the 1990 Nobel Prize in Physics for his pioneering work on the inner structure of protons and neutrons in the atomic nucleus. He attended the University of Chicago, where he received his M.A. in physics in 1953, and his Ph.D. in 1956. He worked at Stanford University's High Energy Physics Laboratory, where he began his long collaboration with the late Henry Kendall (with whom he shared the Nobel Prize). Friedman joined the MIT Physics Department in 1960, and served as department head from 1983 to 1988. He also served as Director for the Laboratory for Nuclear Science, and served on the Board of the University Research Association. Phillip A. Sharp received the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Much of Sharp's scientific work has been conducted at MIT's Center for Cancer Research, which he joined in 1974 and directed from 1985 to 1991. He subsequently led the Department of Biology from 1991 to 1999. Sharp is co-founder of Biogen, Inc and also co-founder of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals. He earned a B.A. from Union College, KY, and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana in 1969. Sharp has authored more than 300 scientific papers and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society.

Host(s): Office of the President, Ford/MIT Nobel Laureate Lecture Series

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MIT World — special events and lectures

MIT World — special events and lectures

Category: Events | Updated 10 months ago

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