National Security Council pusing for greater scientific research control

The U.S. National Security Council is planning to push the federal government towards exerting greater control over scientific research that involves highly lethal diseases and toxins.

Those with knowledge of the move say fears are mounting that some research could be used by terrorists and rogue states to develop biological weapons, according to the Boston Herald.

The U.S. government, under the guidance of the NSC, plans to issue guidelines for research grants that would include the right for authorities to delay or restrict the publication of findings they consider susceptible for "dual use" by terrorist groups or enemy states. The new guidelines are expected to be issued within weeks.

Stricter guidelines and an increase in red tape raises the concern of many in the scientific community who fear increases in censorship and the slowing of valuable research that could potentially save lives.

"From our standpoint, it seems unreasonable for there to be approval of our research at every step of the way...and then, once we have completed critically important experiments, to have an outside group conclude we should not publish," Dr. Yoshihiro Kawaoka, a professor of virology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, said, the Boston Herald reports.

Kawaoka is a leader of one of two independent scientific teams that recently touched off the controversy by creating a strain of H5N1 avian flu that is both airborne and transmissible in humans.

"If infectious disease research in this country becomes regulated beyond what is appropriate, the U.S. will not be able to provide the breakthroughs the rest of the world relies on, and public health will suffer," Kawaoka said, according to the Boston Herald.

Currently, government bodies such as the National Science Advisory Board for Biosafety and the National Institutes of Health can only make recommendations to researchers regarding what they publish, not compel them.

The new guidelines would give federal agencies the legal authority to limit disclosures. The guidelines, as currently conceived, would apply to Tier 1 select agents, which include the pathogens and toxins that are considered the greatest threat.

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