• Article

A role for science in responding to health crises

The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate plays a role in public health that extends beyond biodefense. These responsibilities were exercised as part of the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak, leading to productive and beneficial contributions to the international public health response and improved operations in the United States. However, we and others have identified numerous areas for improvement. Based on our successes and lessons learned, we propose a number of ways that DHS, the interagency, and academia can act now to ensure improved responses to future public health crises. These include pre-developing scientific capabilities to respond agnostically to threats, and disease-specific master question lists to organize and informinitial efforts. We are generating DHS-specific playbooks and tools for anticipating future needs and capturing requests from DHS components and our national and international partners, where efforts will also be used to refine and exercise communication and information-sharing practices. These experiences and improvement efforts have encouraged discussions on the role of science in developing government policy, specifically responding to public health crises. We propose specific considerations for both scientists and government decision makers to ensure that the best available science is incorporated into policy and operational decisions to facilitate highly effective responses to future health crises.


Colf, L. A., Brothers, R., & Murata, C. E. (2016). A role for science in responding to health crises. Health security, 14(4), 272-279. https://doi.org/10.1089/hs.2016.0001

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