This paper outlines how international governance processes reflect and respond to tensions between scientific freedom and security in relation to work involving dangerous pathogens and how responsibility is increasingly emphasised in this work. It incorporates consideration of reciprocal responsibilities of policy-makers and scientists in the development and implementation of governance measures in this area. 

International governance of dangerous pathogens (including biological materials and associated data) is complicated because two distinct issue areas overlap – arms control and disease control. This reflects a key tension underlying debates about scientific freedom in relation to work on pathogens such as potentially pandemic influenza viruses. The need to protect human and animal life and health appears to promote incompatible goals: promoting research on such pathogens for surveillance and response purposes; and suggesting that research on such pathogens should not be conducted if it could readily be misused. Dealing with this problem requires ongoing interactions between scientists and policy-makers, and this paper suggests that there are shared responsibilities in this regard.