The US government has asked the scientific journals Nature and Science to censor data on a laboratory-made version of bird flu that could spread more easily to humans, fearing it could be used as a potential weapon.
The US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity asked the two journals to publish redacted versions of studies by two research groups that created forms of the H5N1 avian flu that could easily jump between ferrets – typically considered a sign the virus could spread quickly among humans.
The journals are objecting to the request, saying it would restrict access to information that might advance the cause of public health.
After all, the government did pay for the research. Don’t Nature and Science know that government money means government strings attached (or black markers)?
The National Institutes of Health funded the two research labs’ work to see how the virus could become more transmissible in humans, with the aim of getting early insight to contain threats to public health.
The NSABB wants to keep this information from falling into the wrong hands.
The resistance is of course about the power and consequences of government censorship, but also about the availability of the scientific world to react to an actual threat of bird flu. Without all the information, it may be difficult to treat or contain an outbreak:
“It is essential for public health that the full details of any scientific analysis of flu viruses be available to researchers,” the editor in chief of Nature, Dr Philip Campbell, said in a statement.