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How 9/11 affected scientific research

With the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaching, numerous media are reporting on how the country has changed since that infamous Tuesday morning. In today's Scientific American, Eugenie Samuel Reich takes a look at the tragedy's effect on research:

Scientists and science policy experts say the federal government's response to terrorist events in 2001, both the September attacks and the anthrax letters in October, have had a profound effect on U.S. research in areas as diverse as forensics, biodefense, infectious diseases, public health, cyber security, geology and infrastructure, energy, and nuclear weapons. Even the social sciences have been affected by the emergence of "terrorism studies" and the new emphasis on the threat in the field of risk analysis.


Some of the post-9/11 changes have entailed increased regulation. Jerry Jaax, a veterinarian and infectious disease researcher who oversees research compliance at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kans., says that many biomedical fields have been swamped by such new regulations or increased enforcement of pre-9/11 regulations in a bid to prevent researchers and the materials they handle from becoming security threats. He says federal rules on select agents—pathogens that require special facilities and handling—and on imports and exports of biological samples and materials, have slowed the ability of scientists to do research important to public and agricultural health. "Some say we're regulating away our ability to do this kind of research and I think there's some truth to that," he says.

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