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NSABB Explanation Of Decision To Recommend Censoring Of Bird Flu Research Expected Soon

The NIH is expected on February 1 to release a statement explaining how the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) reached a decision late last year to recommend “that two scientific papers describing research that created strains of bird flu potentially transmissible in humans should be published only if key details are omitted,” for fear “that terrorists or hostile nations could learn how to cause a pandemic,” a New York Times editorial by Philip Boffey, Times science editorial writer, states. 

“The document is unlikely to settle the argument. It deals only with the threat posed by publishing details of the research, not with the even greater risk should the virus escape or be stolen from the laboratory,” Boffey writes, adding, “We believe in robust research and almost always oppose censorship. But in this case the risks — of doing the work and publishing the results — far outweigh the benefits. Scientists and the public need to see how many eminent experts are less worried about censorship than about evildoers using the information to wreak havoc” (1/28).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.