NIH responds to internal criticism related to controversial flu papers

The U.S. National Institutes of Health released a response on Friday to internal criticism about how two controversial H5N1 avian influenza transmissibility papers were handled.

Michael Osterholm, a member of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, criticized the proceedings of the March meetings, calling them incomplete, biased and presenting an argument with the intent of getting the two papers published. A previous meeting yielded a unanimous recommendation to redact the papers. The March meeting, which was meant to re-evaluate the decision in light of revisions and additional information, led to a vote in favor of publication, Nature reports.

Osterholm was one of six members of the NSABB who dissented on the publication of one of the manuscripts.

Amy Patterson, an NIH official and the manager of the NSABB, responded to Osterholm's criticism on Friday in a letter dated April 25. She said that the perspectives Osterholm alleged were lacking at the meeting were presented by Osterholm himself and that he did not give recommendations for other experts to speak at the meeting as he claimed he had.

"I do believe that some of (Osterholm's opinions and perspectives) were based in part on a misunderstanding of the facts," Patterson said, according to Nature.

Patterson also wrote that the U.S. government is attempting to find a way to give controlled access to scientific information of a sensitive nature in cases when details have been redacted.

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National Institutes of Health

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