H5N1 scientist says he will defy Dutch laws to publish research if needed

The lead researcher of a scientific team that created a strain of H5N1 avian influenza transmissible in ferrets recently announced that he is prepared to defy Dutch laws that have prevented him from submitting his work for publication.

Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus University in Rotterdam said that he is willing to defy government export controls and submit his work, for which he could risk facing six years in prison or a $102,000 fine, according to The-Scientist.com.

In early April, the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity reversed its original finding that Fouchier's team, as well as a team from the University of Wisconsin working independently on similar research, should only publish their work with some of the results redacted because of security concerns.

Although the U.S. government, which partially funded both of the studies, has changed its mind, the Dutch government still has not met to assess the risks and benefits of publishing the research.

The Dutch government plans to meet on April 23 to assess the risks and benefits of publishing the controversial research, but Fouchier said that he plans to publish the work in full, whether or not a permit is required, according to the journal Nature.

A spokesman for the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation said that the government has received no application from Fouchier for an export permit.

"We simply will never apply for an export permit on a scientific manuscript for publication in a journal. We do not want to create a precedent here," Fouchier said, Nature reports. "We might end up in court indeed if they insist on censorship."