WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, CDC
A government biosecurity advisory panel has expanded on its decision to recommend that two manuscripts describing mutations in the H5N1 virus that make it more transmissible between mammals be published in incomplete forms. In essence, the US National Science Advisory Board (NSABB) made the recommendation because the research, if published in its entirety, would contain detailed information that could put dangerous strains of bird flu into the hands of terrorists. "Because the NSABB found that there was significant potential for harm in fully publishing these results and that the harm exceeded the benefits of publication, we therefore recommended that the work not be fully communicated in an open forum," more than 20 NSABB members wrote in a comment published in both Nature and Science.
The authors of the comment also call for "the need for a rapid and broad international discussion of dual-use research policy" regarding the virus, and broach the topic of the scientific community instituting a voluntary moratorium on "the broad communication of the results of experiments that show greatly enhanced virulence or transmissibility of such potentially dangerous microbes."