The controversy over H5N1 research

Prominent researchers gathered on Feb. 2nd, 2012 for a panel discussion, sponsored by the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS), to discuss the moratorium on H5N1 research. Should researchers publish their studies? Would it be a threat to security if the wrong people were able to use their findings?

As much as academia may think that they are insulated against modern affairs, what they do in their labs and in their field research often is greatly connected to the daily concerns of global citizens. This is normally not so visible through the current system of publishing in high-level peer reviewed journals, which may or may not trickle down through media outlets.

But as much as the general citizen should like to know about their research, this opens up the possibility of good work to be co-opted by less good people. This is where the danger lies. Many folks are concerned that this H5N1 research is too dangerous to publish, because it involved experiments with a strain in a model organism and could lead to “weaponizing” of the virus to infect and transmit between humans easily.

To view the video recordings of the panel discussion, go to the NYAS website.

Should they extend the moratorium? How much should they publish about their research? Would it help or hurt?

This is an interesting issue because never before have we been at this point where we need to know more to understand, but by finding out more we are also creating new problems with security risk. How can we censor science? Should we? To what extent?

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