A first look at lab accidents

If the United States had an effective system of reporting laboratory accidents, a situation like that engulfing the Wuhan Institute of Virology might be avoided. And, obviously, the ends of public health served. And, probably, more accidents avoided in the first place. But the United States does not have an effective system of accident reporting, and there’s little prospect of the National Institutes of Health creating one.

The potential for accidents, and here I include unintended but potentially dangerous outcomes, is the single biggest reason for the existence of the Guidelines. And the potential for those accidents to have (human, animal, or plant) health, economic, and reputational impacts on the public is the biggest reason for the existence of the Guidelines’ Public Access Provisions.

There are a lot of issues to unpack and discuss about lab accidents and their reporting. This first look is only an overview. This is not a post about any specific lab accident, although you can expect such posts in the future.

Continue reading “A first look at lab accidents”

Good Minutes and Bad “Minutes”

Grab one of these before heading to Northwestern…

The quality of biosafety committee meeting minutes ranges from being quite good (rare) to abysmal (not so rare). In future posts at this website, I will make reference to the quality of disclosure by IBCs in their minutes and other records.

So here at the outset it’s a good time to discuss what IBC minutes should and shouldn’t be. To do that, today’s victims are the University of Texas at Austin and Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

Continue reading “Good Minutes and Bad “Minutes””

Doing it Wrongly: The University of Tennessee

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis doesn’t want you to be able to read its laboratory safety records.

Some universities try to use state laws to prevent release of records under the federal NIH Guidelines. This problem most frequently occurs in states with lousy open records rules. The worse the state law, the more likely the university will try to use it against requests for IBC records.

But state laws have nothing to do with the NIH Guidelines and cannot be used to undermine the Public Access Provisions. That doesn’t stop the universities from trying, however, and they are effectively encouraged to do so because of the NIH Office of Science Policy’s (OSP) extreme reluctance to enforce its own rules.

Continue reading “Doing it Wrongly: The University of Tennessee”