No consensus reached on keeping potentially dangerous studies from the public

Scientists at a two day meeting recently held in London achieved little consensus concerning whether some potentially dangerous studies should be kept from the public for security reasons.

Bruce Alberts, the editor of the journal Science, told an audience at the Royal Society that it could take years before an international understanding could be reached on whether or not it is appropriate to publish censored versions of scientific papers, according to the Washington Post.

“My fear is that now this crisis is over, nobody will work on this,” Alberts said, the Washington Post reports.

The London meeting was called after the journals Science and Nature agreed to redact portions of two independent studies on H5N1 avian influenza in response to a request by the U.S. government. Both journals recently received a go-ahead to print revised versions of the studies.

The issue touches on the very nature of modern scientific research, its openness, funding, cybersecurity and the regulation of human behavior.

The papers in question described the successful efforts to create a strain of H5N1 that is transmissible in human being through the air.

The U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, a committee that advises the U.S. government on issues relating to federally funded research, made the request. Both studies received money from the U.S. government, according to the Washington Post.

The NSABB recently altered its decision after learning more specific information about why the studies were conducted and what their potential impact could be on further H5N1 research.

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