Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Science

'Nature' Editorial Juxtaposes FOIA Email Release With Illegal Hacking (vice.com) 69

Jason Koebler and Sarah Emerson, reporting for Motherboard: Private emails between scientists working on a controversial genetic technology called "gene drive" were released last week. Obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, their publication has been criticized by some as an attempt to discredit the science community. Gene drives are a genetic engineering approach with huge implications. They're meant to seed genetic traits -- one that stops mosquitoes from carrying malaria, for instance, or hampers invasive rodents' ability to reproduce -- in a population, and with terrifyingly high odds of inheritance. If things go wrong, gene drives could destabilize ecosystems. (So far, they've only been applied to yeast, fruit flies, and mosquitoes in a lab setting.) More ideally, they could wipe out deadly plagues by targeting their vectors, or give threatened species a fighting chance. Like any young technology, there are a lot of unknowns, and stakeholders are hoping to provide clarity at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity next year; the same convention where a proposed gene drive moratorium was rejected in 2016. The emails and other documents reveal details about gene drive's biggest funders, including DARPA, the US military's research agency.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

'Nature' Editorial Juxtaposes FOIA Email Release With Illegal Hacking

Comments Filter:
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Friday December 08, 2017 @01:58PM (#55703021) Journal

    Gene drives are a genetic engineering approach with huge implications. They're meant to seed genetic traits -- one that stops mosquitoes from carrying malaria, for instance, or hampers invasive rodents' ability to reproduce -- in a population, and with terrifyingly high odds of inheritance. [snip]. (So far, they've only been applied to yeast, fruit flies, and mosquitoes in a lab setting.)

    Fiddlestocks! yeast, fruit flies.... yikes!

    Just imagine letting it lose among the terrorists and criminals. No body would object to fighting terrorists and criminals, right? And then, get this Pinky, this is where my genius idea comes in. We just have to mark any one opposed to us as criminals, and wow! We will get the world dominating thing done before the first commercial break!

    But Brain, who would oppose this? We will take over the world, like we always do

    What's the we you are talking about Kemo Sabe? Anyone who might oppose would be next. Any lab rat with less gray matter and more pink skin...

  • Subtitle (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    "One of science's most important publications assumes science journalists don't know how to do their jobs." Having seen what "science journalism" looks like that would be a fair assumption. At least if you assume that their jobs includes counting truth and reality as more important than fear derived sales/attention and interest generating arguments form "balance" between qualified individuals and the cranks presented as their equals.

  • Maybe the humans will win out, maybe the Gillmen or the Molemen or the Centaurs or the AIs. Whatever, it's survival of the fittest.

    Even if the species that wins out isn't humans and is a bit janky in the long run, they'll know enough about how they were constructed to rollback the bad changes in Version 2.0

  • by Luthair ( 847766 ) on Friday December 08, 2017 @02:03PM (#55703057)
    While I understand and agree with FOIA for government and employees of government agencies, does it not seem strange to anyone else that it applies to research scientists in universities?
    • by Gilgaron ( 575091 ) on Friday December 08, 2017 @02:08PM (#55703087)
      My understanding is that it is being used increasingly to harass researchers at public universities since it takes resources from them to respond. Pesky scientists researching the dangers of your new crabgrass spray? FOIA! Hardcore fundy looking to stick one to those evilutionists? FOIA! Of course the poor climatologists get a bunch, sometimes even from GOPs in congress.
      • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        Universities that take public funds have dedicated people to deal with FOIA requests. Just like police forces/services have people dedicated to deal with disclosure of criminal cases to the public but revoking specific "private" information. i.e. informants/information that could jeopardize another case, etc.

        The problem is that there's a lot of money going to some pretty dodgy shit, like studying why teenage girls that weigh 250lbs can't get laid. Or how long it takes for a gay male to ejaculate to straig

        • Ah yes, the cherry-picking of studies to find a very few among what has to be tens of thousands that sound stupid out of context.

          • Yes, most research is above board and is done by qualified people who want to make the world a better place, but there's always going to be some graft, it's pretty much unavoidable. However, FOIA requests are just one way to keep the system honest and to allow people to make more informed decisions. It is their money after all.
          • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

            Ah yes, the cherry-picking of studies to find a very few among what has to be tens of thousands that sound stupid out of context.

            You really have no idea just how much graft is going on in the sphere of public universities and how the current system perpetuates it do you? It's similar to how budgeting works in companies with the dept. of redundant departments. Burn all your budget, and there won't be any cutbacks! And if we're lucky they'll even give us MORE money. Then again considering the absolute shit that goes on at universities in terms of what you can major in? You know like the history of harry potter and twilight with tr

            • You might want to take another look at universities, but first either stopping the hallucinogens or starting anti-psychotics. I've been in academia and seen how it works. Some of it is ugly, but it's not nearly as bad as you say.

              What I most want out of taxpayer-funded research grants is good research. Responding to FOIA requests is not doing research. If FOIA requests take up a significant amount of research time and effort, somebody's wasting my tax money, and it isn't the researchers.

              • Responding to FOIA requests is not doing research.

                It is, however, disseminating the information to the pubic. That's usually a goal of good research.

                If FOIA requests take up a significant amount of research time and effort, somebody's wasting my tax money, and it isn't the researchers.

                That's right, it is the lawyers and administrators who take a cut off the top of any research grant. They're getting their 40% rake, they might as well be doing something productive, like helping let the information out. Otherwise they'd be wasting the money providing safe rooms when any controversial speaker comes to campus, or debating ad nauseum if someone whose name is on a building did bad stuff 150 years

                • A FOIA request disseminates information, which might well be misleading, to one person. A published paper disseminates information that has been carefully considered to a lot of people. I'd have thought the difference between the two would be glaringly obvious. I approve of the practice some public granting agencies are following by requiring publication in a free location within a year. It's my money and I want to see the results. I don't care about the intermediate steps.

                  A FOIA request of a resear

                  • A FOIA request disseminates information, which might well be misleading, to one person.

                    A FOIA disseminates information from the source, which can be further disseminated. FOIA are often how journalists get their information. They're in the business of passing stuff on.

                    If the information is misleading, then the source is being misleading. Blame the source, not the way the information was released.

                    A published paper disseminates information that has been carefully considered to a lot of people.

                    Yes. Did anyone say that FOIA prevents papers from being published? I don't think so.

                    It's my money and I want to see the results. I don't care about the intermediate steps.

                    The intermediate steps are often how the results are arrived at. In fact, I'd say they are ALWAYS how the results

                    • Otto von Bismarck said that those who like sausages and laws should watch neither of them being made. This actually applies to lots of things. Research typically involves highly intelligent and argumentative people who sometimes say things that are misleading out of context. Researchers can be jerks (I've known a few) but that doesn't affect the quality of their research.

                      Therefore, personal emails are irrelevant. If people insist on digging into them, researchers will use private email, and that will

        • Universities that take public funds have dedicated people to deal with FOIA requests.

          One or two, but a lot of the burden is on the researchers.

          The problem is that there's a lot of money going to some pretty dodgy shit, like studying why teenage girls that weigh 250lbs can't get laid. Or how long it takes for a gay male to ejaculate to straight porn.

          Why did you just switch topics from FOIA to your pornhub history?

      • I can't believe that it's so common now that there's an abbreviation for gay old pedophiles.

    • If the research is government funded (which it usually is, at least partially), you can use FOIA against it. If they don't take government money, you can't do it.

    • Publicly funded universities doing publicly funded research.

      Basically, if the taxpayer covers your salary, your work can be FOIA'd.

      That's a good thing.

  • These scientists better hope the Krogan don't find out. They are still mad about the genophage. [wikia.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward

    As one example, a prominent researcher in the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome field continues to make 'harrasment' allegations and veiled claims of threats, even after their university has revealed no threats were reported to them, and failing to bring up those threats when legal proceedings were mentioned.

    Such 'harrasment' included FOIA, and questions being asked in parliament, and 'libelous blogs'.
    http://www.virology.ws/2017/05/03/trial-by-error-continued-my-libelous-blogging-on-virology-blog/

    After continually r

  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Friday December 08, 2017 @02:42PM (#55703273) Journal

    ...I have more fears regarding the consequences of accidental fuckups with these sorts of things than I do of nuclear plants, Donald Trump, DPRK, and climate change all bundled together.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Because science seeks reality, and reality is the number one ennemy of those who seek to control us.

    Looks like scientists are going to have to resort to end-to-end encryption in their communications in order to be able to work in peace.

Just go with the flow control, roll with the crunches, and, when you get a prompt, type like hell.

Working...