Academic research community should build resilience to disasters

By the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine | Aug. 10, 2017

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Holly Korschun
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hkorsch@emory.edu

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The academic biomedical research community should improve its ability to mitigate and recover from the impacts of disasters, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The consequences of recent disasters, from hurricanes to cyberattacks, have shown that the investments of the U.S. federal government and other research sponsors -- which total about $27 billion annually -- are not uniformly secure.

The report recommends 10 steps that academic research institutions, researchers and research sponsors should take to bolster the resilience of academic biomedical research. For example, academic research institutions should implement mandatory disaster resilience education for research students, staff and faculty. And the National Institutes of Health should convene a consortium of stakeholders to discuss efforts research sponsors can take to enhance the disaster resilience of the biomedical research enterprise.

The report was authored by the Committee on Strengthening the Disaster Resilience of Academic Biomedical Research Communities. The committee included representatives from research universities, medical centers, public health organizations, laboratories, and engineering and informatics organizations.

Alex Isakov, MD, MPH, executive director of the Emory University Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response, was a member of the committee and co-hosted a webinar describing the new report.

"Convening this group of national experts to carefully consider and report on these important security issues is a critical step in protecting our nation's investment in biomedical research and our ability to continue our future work and safeguard our personnel and resources," says Isakov. "I would recommend that every person involved in biomedical research, whether they be a principal investigator or a president, read this report and adapt the recommendations to their individual laboratories and institutions."

The study was sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and National Institutes of Health.  The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. They operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln. For more information, visit national-academies.org.

The National Academies news release is available here.

Download the report at www.nationalacademies.org/DisasterResilientLabs

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