The U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NASBB), told two science journals — Nature and Science — to remove a recent scientific finding from each of their publications about a newly created strain of the H5N1 avian flu that could potentially be passed between humans.
The journals claim that two different research labs have submitted papers that detail how to make the virus more transferable to human beings, and the NSBB who is an independent expert committee, wants the information removed, to keep it from falling in the possession of someone with harmful intent.
Science’s Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Bruce Alberts confirmed this in a statement, “The NSABB has emphasized the need to prevent the details of the research from falling into the wrong hands.”
Alberts also added how important it is for virus data to be available for scientists, so they can do further research and protect the public if necessary.
In regards to how Science will now proceed with sensitive virus information being printed, Alberts said, “Our response will be heavily dependent upon the further steps taken by the U.S. Government to set forth a written, transparent plan to ensure that any information that is omitted from the publication will be provided to all those responsible scientists who request it, as part of their legitimate efforts to improve public health and safety.”
Both science journals have shown a willingness to comply with the wishes of NSBB, but say they have concerns about information censorship. “It is essential for public health that the full details of any scientific analysis of flu viruses be available to researchers,” said Dr. Phillip Campbell, Nature’s Editor-in-Chief.
Other researchers who were also privy to the virus data, claimed the information is not unusual and should be made available to the public.
Wendy Barclay, chairwoman in influenza virology at Imperial College London, said, “It is a very worrying idea that information from this type of work may be restricted to those that qualify in some way to be allowed to share it.”