Kathleen M. Vogel, "Phantom Menace or Looming Danger? A New Framework for Assessing Bioweapons Threats"

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How do intelligence and national security analysts produce knowledge about contemporary biological weapons threats? How is that analysis used by policy-makers? 

Vogel examines a series of historical and contemporary case studies involving state and non-state actors — Soviet anthrax weapons development, the Iraqi mobile bioweapons labs, and two synthetic genomic experiments — to show how social factors at the laboratory, organizational, and political levels have shaped United States bioweapons assessments since the 1990s and continue to do so.

Drawing on theoretical perspectives from the field of science and technology studies and interviews with intelligence community analysts and policymakers, these case studies reveal important taken-for-granted assumptions and blind spots in how knowledge about biological weapons and proliferation has been produced. These shortcomings have led to failures in how U.S. bioweapons intelligence assessments have been conducted, interpreted, and used for national security policymaking.

To remedy these problems, Vogel proposes a new way of analyzing bio weapons-related technologies and broader WMD threats using a synthesis of technical and social science methodologies.

About the speaker:
Dr. Kathleen Vogel is an associate professor at Cornell University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Science and Technology Studies and the Judith Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies. Vogel holds a Ph.D. in biological chemistry from Princeton University. Prior to joining the Cornell faculty, Vogel was appointed as a William C. Foster Fellow in the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Proliferation Threat Reduction in the Bureau of Nonproliferation. Her research focuses on studying the social and technical dimensions of bioweapons threats and the production of knowledge in intelligence assessments on WMD issues.  Additional information:http://sts.cornell.edu/people/kmv8.cfm


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Ava Roth
  • Created: 09/04/2013
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 10/07/2016

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