Lederberg on his involvment with scientific policy

Well, I sort of prepped into it, starting with being asked to serve on study sections in the National Science Foundation, NIH, that's reviewing applications, and then in the early 60s I began serving on a variety of more policy-oriented committees. When you reach a certain academic position, you have to fight it off, there are a lot of things that need to be attended to, and you then start making choices, which ones you are gonna get into. In the late 60s and early 70s, I became more and more interested in arms control, both nuclear and also, before most people were involved in it, but out of my own discipline in microbiology was very worried about biological weapons, still very worried about them, and I spoke up enough about it, I was asked to be an advisor to the arms control administration of the US Government when they were negotiating the Biological Weapons Convention, so I was in Geneva for a bit between 1970 and 1972. I began to see my way around, how the Department of State works, how diplomacy operates. Thought I'd better learn more about international politics in a more formal way, so I was sitting in at seminars at Stanford in the political science department, and for a little while together with [Sid something and Pete something], two nuclear physicists, who were very actively involved in the nitty-gritty of nuclear arms control, we organized a research center, and an undergraduate curriculum in national security and arms control at Stanford, and I attended that often enough, and got involved on various committee work, as well as the academic critical side, and over a period of 20 years I would say I can claim some expertise in that area as well. I studied it hard. So, I still do that, I'm on the Defense Science Board, I'm on any number of ad hoc groups, same agenda, to one, be sure that we have authentically strong and appropriate defenses, but two, don't get captured by them to where we use them inappropriately, and don't overinvest them when we don't need them, and certainly some of the...if not before, since the end of the Cold War, obviously need a very new image of what security and defense consists of. I am very much concerned about use of chemical and biological weapons, and the kind of thing that happened in the Tokyo subway, and they'll be crazy if they want to do that kind of thing here, and I think we should be in some way prepared to cope with those kinds of emergency, one of my present concerns. Probably impossible to stop them, but at least you have the training and the equipment, and the antidotes, and some people who are trained and exercised to cope with that, maybe we can greatly reduce the damage that will result.