US government asks journals to withhold bird flu study data
Industry scientists worry about implications for research, data access
Biosecurity experts in the U.S. government have asked two scientific journals, Science and Nature, to withhold publishing key information from two recent bird flu studies, leaving scientists concerned that it may become more difficult to research avian influenza in the future.
More specifically, industry researchers worry that the new biosecurity concerns might stop them from studying how likely bird flu is to adapt to human-to-human spread. The panel of experts that advised the government to object to the studies' publication may also recommend a short-term moratorium on publishing any work about what makes H5N1 viruses more transmissible, say the scientists.
The journals have said that they might be willing to discuss a compromise, as long as a system can be devised that would give scientists and public health authorities access to any withheld information on a need-to-know basis.