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Federal Biosecurity Panel Speaks

The US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity explains why it recommended redacting the details of studies reporting on a highly transmissible H5N1 strain.

By | February 1, 2012

image: Federal Biosecurity Panel Speaks Colorized transmission electron micrograph of Avian influenza A H5N1 viruses (in gold)Wikimedia Commons, CDC

Colorized transmission electron micrograph of Avian influenza A H5N1 viruses (in gold)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."

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Comments

Avatar of: agelbert

agelbert

Posts: 50

February 1, 2012

Secrecy is certainly preferable to mendacity, but it still leads to tyranny.

Avatar of: Brian Hanley

Brian Hanley

Posts: 66

February 1, 2012

This has been hashed over elsewhere in much detail. The fundamentals of why the decision is wrong are:

A. It presumes that synthesis is what matters. But, if synthesis is the capability of terrorists, why would they choose such an iffy proposition as this? They could make smallpox, polio, or a host of other nasty organisms. They could engineer nastiness. So if that's the concern, we are already in trouble from that quarter. But, no indications yet that we are. So, while it may eventually happen, no reason to think it will next year.

B. The ferret-flu was not produced by synthesis. And that part is not being held back. Holding back passaging would be silly anyway. But that can be done in tents without fancy lab equipment.

C. We know one group in particular has said they want bioweapons. That's Al Qaeda. There are still some out there, along with related groups. Is there a university in the Western world that could withhold this data from any requesting party on religious grounds? Seriously?

Bottom line, we are withholding information from the science community that could make use of it. We are withholding nothing significant from terrorists who might want to launch an attack.

See other critiques:
www.virology.ws/2012/01/31/the...
www.nature.com/news/don-t-cens...
www.virology.ws/2012/01/03/sho...

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

February 1, 2012

Secrecy is certainly preferable to mendacity, but it still leads to tyranny.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

February 1, 2012

This has been hashed over elsewhere in much detail. The fundamentals of why the decision is wrong are:

A. It presumes that synthesis is what matters. But, if synthesis is the capability of terrorists, why would they choose such an iffy proposition as this? They could make smallpox, polio, or a host of other nasty organisms. They could engineer nastiness. So if that's the concern, we are already in trouble from that quarter. But, no indications yet that we are. So, while it may eventually happen, no reason to think it will next year.

B. The ferret-flu was not produced by synthesis. And that part is not being held back. Holding back passaging would be silly anyway. But that can be done in tents without fancy lab equipment.

C. We know one group in particular has said they want bioweapons. That's Al Qaeda. There are still some out there, along with related groups. Is there a university in the Western world that could withhold this data from any requesting party on religious grounds? Seriously?

Bottom line, we are withholding information from the science community that could make use of it. We are withholding nothing significant from terrorists who might want to launch an attack.

See other critiques:
www.virology.ws/2012/01/31/the...
www.nature.com/news/don-t-cens...
www.virology.ws/2012/01/03/sho...

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

February 1, 2012

Secrecy is certainly preferable to mendacity, but it still leads to tyranny.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

February 1, 2012

This has been hashed over elsewhere in much detail. The fundamentals of why the decision is wrong are:

A. It presumes that synthesis is what matters. But, if synthesis is the capability of terrorists, why would they choose such an iffy proposition as this? They could make smallpox, polio, or a host of other nasty organisms. They could engineer nastiness. So if that's the concern, we are already in trouble from that quarter. But, no indications yet that we are. So, while it may eventually happen, no reason to think it will next year.

B. The ferret-flu was not produced by synthesis. And that part is not being held back. Holding back passaging would be silly anyway. But that can be done in tents without fancy lab equipment.

C. We know one group in particular has said they want bioweapons. That's Al Qaeda. There are still some out there, along with related groups. Is there a university in the Western world that could withhold this data from any requesting party on religious grounds? Seriously?

Bottom line, we are withholding information from the science community that could make use of it. We are withholding nothing significant from terrorists who might want to launch an attack.

See other critiques:
www.virology.ws/2012/01/31/the...
www.nature.com/news/don-t-cens...
www.virology.ws/2012/01/03/sho...

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