Bioweapons proliferation:: Where science studies and public policy collide

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Post 9/11 concerns about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction have highlighted the importance of understanding the fundamental nature of tacit weapons knowledge and its transfer mechanisms. Existing conceptualizations of tacit knowledge, however, are insufficient to assess the proliferation threat and the development of specific nonproliferation policies. Some would argue that this is particularly true of biological weapons, which involve dual-use technologies that are continually advancing and diffusing. This paper will illustrate the difficulties in applying notions of tacit knowledge to real-world policymaking by examining the development of Soviet biological weapons and the subsequent proliferation threat posed by scientists from a Kazakh bioweapons facility. With the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the subsequent establishment of US nonproliferation assistance programs, new metrics are needed to assess how tacit knowledge possessed by these weapons scientists may erode over time and what implications that may have for proliferation and the development of effective nonproliferation and counterterrorism policies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)659-690
Number of pages32
JournalSocial Studies of Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Biological weapons
  • Bioterrorism
  • Nonproliferation
  • Replication
  • Sociology of scientific knowledge
  • Tacit knowledge
  • Testing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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