How glaring is the difference between virologists grudgingly agreeing to redact potentially sensitive details of their research in the public interest (although it will be available to recognized researchers who presumably promise not to share it with terrorists) and climate hysterics fighting Freedom of Information Act requests and court orders in an effort to hide their data and methodology because “you only want to find something wrong with it“?
Grudgingly, Virologists Agree to Redact Details in Sensitive Flu Papers
by Martin Enserink
Two groups of scientists who carried out highly controversial studies with the avian influenza virus H5N1 have reluctantly agreed to strike certain details from manuscripts describing their work after having been asked to do so by a U.S. biosecurity council. The as-yet unpublished papers, which are under review at Nature and Science, will be changed to minimize the risks that they could be misused by would-be bioterrorists.
But the stricken details may still be made available to influenza scientists who have a legitimate interest in knowing them under a new system the journals and U.S. government officials have been actively debating for some time.
The two papers have both been reviewed at length by the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity(NSSAB), and both have been the subject of intense global media attention the past 2 months. They have also triggered debates among scientists, security experts, and officials within various branches of the U.S. government.
The studies show how certain mutations in H5N1’s genome can make the virus more easily transmissible among ferrets, flu scientists’ preferred animal model—and thus, also more dangerous to humans. An H5N1 strain that transmits well between people could trigger an influenza pandemic with potentially millions of casualties, scientists fear.
This morning, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a statement saying that NSABB has recommended to the authors and the journals that the manuscripts “not include the methodological and other details that could enable replication of the experiments by those who would seek to do harm.”
The team that wrote the H5N1 paper under review at Science has grudgingly agreed to do so, says one of its members, virologist Albert Osterhaus of Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The group received the recommendations in writing on 1 December and sent Science a revised paper more than a week ago—although they completely disagree with NSABB’s verdict. “This is unprecedented,” says Osterhaus, who believes public health is best served by making the information widely available. Science has sent the revised version back to NSABB for another round of review, Osterhaus says. (Science Insider)