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Andersson, Tomuzia, Löfström, Appel, Bano, Keremidis, Knutsson, Leijon, Lövgren, De Medici, Menrath, van Rotterdam, Wisselink, & Barker (2013). Separated by a common language: awareness of term usage differences between languages and disciplines in b

Bibliographic details:

Andersson, M. G., Tomuzia, K., Löfström, C., Appel, B., Bano, L., Keremidis, H., ... & Menrath, A. (2013). Separated by a common language: awareness of term usage differences between languages and disciplines in biopreparedness. Biosecurity and bioterrorism: biodefense strategy, practice, and science, 11(S1), S276-S285.‏


Preparedness for bioterrorism is based on communication between people in organizations who are educated and trained in several disciplines, including law enforcement, health, and science. Various backgrounds, cultures, and vocabularies generate difficulties in understanding and interpreting terms and concepts, which may impair communication. This is especially true in emergency situations, in which the need for clarity and consistency is vital. The EU project AniBioThreat initiated methods and made a rough estimate of the terms and concepts that are crucial for an incident and a pilot database with key terms and definitions has been constructed. Analysis of collected terms and sources has shown that many of the participating organizations use various international standards in their area of expertise. The same term often represents different concepts in the standards from different sectors, or, alternatively, different terms were used to represent the same or similar concepts. The use of conflicting terminology can be problematic for decision makers and communicators in planning and prevention or when handling an incident. Since the CBRN area has roots in multiple disciplines, each with its own evolving terminology, it may not be realistic to achieve unequivocal communication through a standardized vocabulary and joint definitions for words from common language. We suggest that a communication strategy should include awareness of alternative definitions and ontologies and the ability to talk and write without relying on the implicit knowledge underlying specialized jargon. Consequently, cross-disciplinary communication skills should be part of training of personnel in the CBRN field. In addition, a searchable repository of terms and definitions from relevant organizations and authorities would be a valuable addition to existing glossaries for improving awareness concerning bioterrorism prevention planning.