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Science Panel Recommends Censoring Bird Flu Papers 126

Posted by Soulskill
from the otherwise-the-terrrrrists-win dept.
Morty writes "The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) has recommended that details of two research papers involving Avian Flu not be published because of security concerns. At least one of the research groups says that their work should be logically reproducible. The NSABB's censorship recommendations do not (currently) have the force of law, but Science and Nature voluntarily delayed publication."
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Science Panel Recommends Censoring Bird Flu Papers

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  • by equex (747231) on Wednesday February 01, 2012 @05:58AM (#38889325) Homepage
    Afaik, this research is also locked down and kept secret in Europe for the same reasons as in the US. These strains of flu viruses are well understood and is probably one of the easiest to modify given the knowledge and research already done. I know little of the subject, but let's say the Stuxnet code was published and all that was needed to make it take down 70% of the nuclear plants in the world at the same time by simply uncommenting a ''Fuxx0rThemAllSimultaneously()' function call. Even a novice programmer would figure that out. Maybe that flu virus is analogous, and requires not much else than a novice fucking around with it to make it uber-deadly. I'd prefer they kept it hidden.
  • by siddesu (698447) on Wednesday February 01, 2012 @06:06AM (#38889363)
    What "starts"? Withholding scientific publications because of various "national security" concerns is most definitely not a new practice.
  • Oh Great. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by headkase (533448) on Wednesday February 01, 2012 @06:51AM (#38889591)
    Anyone who has half-a-background in virology would have had this stroke of inspiration by now. So what has been accomplished with this ban? Well, lot's of attention has now been brought on the matter to alert the quarter-brained ones.
  • Re:Incorrect. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GauteL (29207) on Wednesday February 01, 2012 @06:58AM (#38889635)

    Actually, I was to quick about it and I apologise. Please mod down my parent post as it is nonsense.

  • by oreaq (817314) on Wednesday February 01, 2012 @07:07AM (#38889685)

    [...] but let's say the Stuxnet code was published [...]

    Most of it was decompiled and published here [github.com]. You can find all the binaries online if you're really interested. Hiding the results is just security by obscurity. The Dutch scientist didn't perform some magic trick that nobody else can do. Doesn't make it any less scary though.

  • by Viol8 (599362) on Wednesday February 01, 2012 @07:14AM (#38889723)

    Since they'd kill their own people and snuff out their cause.

    However that still leaves the deranged , which unfortunately there are a lot of on the planet. Though whether they could be deranged enough AND smart enough at the same time to do it is another matter.

  • Re:Incorrect. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by chrb (1083577) on Wednesday February 01, 2012 @07:17AM (#38889745)

    there was no "new strain of the virus", .... here you go, mandatory link to non-brain-damaged content ... http://www.virology.ws/2011/12/06/ferreting-out-influenza-h5n1/ [virology.ws]

    From your link: "A laboratory in the Netherlands has identified a lethal influenza H5N1 virus strain that is transmitted among ferrets."

    The whole argument from your link about it not being as lethal as H5N1 is pure speculation - as he admits, we don't know transmissibility of the strain in humans, because we won't do that experiment. His basic argument is the virulence of the virus in humans is reduced by having the virus be transmitted through non-human hosts. This is not necessarily true - it depends on what species the virus is moving between. If a virus makes the leap from something further from humans (eg fish) to something closer to humans (eg pigs) then it becomes more dangerous to us. His argument may be correct in the case where you have an organism adapted very well to humans and you expose it to non-human transmission selective pressures, then it will probably evolve and become less adapted to humans. But this is not always the situation.

    He also says:

    Nature is far better at producing viruses that can kill – to think that we can duplicate the enormous diversity and selection pressures that occur in the wild is a severe case of scientific hubris.

    Maybe he is right (at the moment) about manually targetted changes - but we are only going to get better at this over time. He has also ignored the practice of laboratory evolution [google.com] (or synthetic evolution), where nature is used in the lab to evolve or enhance certain characteristics of organisms. For a far-out plan, some rogue biologists could expose humans, see which ones are infected and die first, and then infect others with flu samples taken from those bodies. After repeating for some generations, this selective pressure may well produce a highly lethal and highly transmissible variant.

  • false complacency

    are you telling us it is impossible for someone to create something lethal and easily transmissible and release it, by mistake or on purpose?

    if you are going to grant it is impossible but unlikely, do you not grant that the consequences are huge?

    and giant tsunamis will never strike nuclear plants

    and religious fundamentalists will never fly planes into office towers

    there's many kinds of ignorant folly in this world

    read, and educate yourself as to how your psychology and cognition fails you, and us:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_swan_theory [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:Incorrect. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 01, 2012 @09:32AM (#38890949)

    I applaud your ability to admit to being potentially or clearly incorrect. Even if you end up being correct, I see far too many ill-informed people that are quick to take a popular view, without questioning sources AND their own judgement. I believe the deepest levels of learning come from questioning everything and evryone, especially yourself, when considering what one accepts to be fact.

    That low ID looks to be a bit well-deserved.

The reason that every major university maintains a department of mathematics is that it's cheaper than institutionalizing all those people.

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