Avian influenza A H5N1 viruses (gold)WIKIMEDIA, CDC/COURTESY OF CYNTHIA GOLDSMITH; JACQUELINE KATZ; SHERIF R. ZAKIThe legal battle between Ron Fouchier and the Dutch government is dragging on, with the scientist’s employer, Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, appealing the September district court decision that legitimized the government’s requirement that Fouchier obtain an export license to publish his work. At issue is the potential for Fouchier’s research, which involves mutating H5N1 avain flu to become transmissible between ferrets, to be used by bioterrorists.

Fouchier published his initial report on the work in a June 2012 issue of Science, but only after obtaining an export license from the Dutch government under protest. Prior to the publication, a US biosecurity panel suggested that some of the results in Fouchier’s paper and a similar study from a group at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, should be redacted to guard against misuse of...

Court is exactly where Fouchier ended up after Erasmus MC challenged the government’s insistence that the researcher obtain an export license to publish the paper. But a Dutch district court in Haarlem ruled that the government was well within its rights to require that Fouchier secure such a license, which the researcher and many in the scientific community viewed as an attack on academic freedom.

With Erasmus MC appealing that decision, the case now moves on to Court of Appeal in Amsterdam. Meanwhile, the European Society for Virology (ESV) is throwing its support behind Fouchier. ESV President Giorgio Palù recently wrote a letter to European Commission President José Manuel Barroso voicing his concern, according to ScienceInsider. “This Dutch ruling may have far-stretching implications for research and public and animal health within all EU Member States,” he wrote.

Interested in reading more?

The Scientist ARCHIVES

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?