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Balancing scientific freedom and national security
Date:1/19/2012

WASHINGTON, DC -- The U.S. government's request that the journals Science and Nature withhold scientific information related to the genetically modified H5N1 virus because of biosecurity concerns does not violate the First Amendment, say two Georgetown University professors. They caution, however, that a fair, transparent process undertaken by research organizations is preferable to governmental constraints on disseminating scientific information.

Writing in Science, John D. Kraemer, JD, MPH, assistant professor of health systems administration at Georgetown University School of Nursing & Health Studies, and Lawrence O. Gostin, the Linda D. and Timothy J. O'Neill Professor of Global Health Law and faculty director of the O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University Law Center, explore the balance of scientific freedom and national security in their opinion piece published online today entitled, "The Limits of Government Regulation of Science."

In 2011, two research teams genetically modified the H5N1 avian influenza virus. Their work, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), demonstrates the ability to alter a virus in such a way that it could possibly spread rapidly among humans killing more than half who contract it (the research was conducted in an animal model believed to represent human behavior of the virus). The research prompted the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), which advises the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to recommend that Science and Nature redact key information prior to publication. Both NSABB and HHS expressed concerns that published details about the papers' methodology and results could become a blueprint for bioterrorism.

"The NSABB process seems to have worked well in this instance," says Kraemer. "It raised legitimate security concerns while avoiding censorship of the scientific press. But there remain
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Contact: Karen Mallet
km463@georgetown.edu
Georgetown University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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