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.

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob Grant is Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

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Feb 1, 2012

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...

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