HSP research is of three kinds: short-term, longer term, and field investigations.
Short-term research is done chiefly in support of presentations at the regular seminars and workshops organised by HSP or conferences at which HSP personnel are invited to speak. It is also done in support of interventions in the media, such as newspaper op-eds. More privately, research of this type is done in support of less public outreach activities as well, including work for governmental advisory committees and for ad hoc working parties convened by the World Health Organization, for example, and the European Commission.
Longer-term research is aimed principally at identifying possible policy initiatives and realistic ways of taking them forward. Examples of current and recent activities falling into this category include:
Funding for this longer term work has been received from various sources such as the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation of Chicago, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Alfred P Sloan Foundation of New York, the UK Economic & Social Research Council, the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, the European Commission, and the foreign ministries of Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal and the United Kingdom.
This HSP research activity is exemplified by the on-site investigation of the anthrax outbreak of 1979 in Sverdlovsk, USSR, organized and led in 1992 and 1993 by the Harvard HSP director, Matthew Meselson. Its definitive findings have been published in the Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences, in the journal Science, and in the book Anthrax: the investigation of a deadly outbreak (University of California Press, 1999) by HSP Associate Jeanne Guillemin. This inquiry followed an earlier HSP investigation of the 'yellow rain' phenomenon in southeast Asia, which demonstrated that the yellow materials at first thought to be samples of a CBW agent were in actuality the harmless droppings of large swarms of wild honey-bees. These findings were published in Nature, Science and Foreign Policy. What both these HSP inquiries revealed was the importance of independent and properly conducted scientific investigation as backstop to the efforts of governments to understand complex events possibly associated with biological or chemical weapons. Since then, HSP has involved itself in preliminary inquiries regarding several other alleged CBW events (in, for example, Iran, Iraqi Kurdistan, Burma, southern Africa, Sudan and Palestine) but they have not yet proceeded to field investigation.
On the basis of this experience, HSP is well suited to pursuing, should occasion arise, 'open source plus' research in which, on very specific matters such as allegations of use or other forms of non-compliance with international CBW agreements. HSP engages in fieldwork aimed at building upon existing published sources of information through interviews, for example, or through sample collection and analysis.