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Researchers, Experts Debate Publication Of H5N1 Research Amid Updated Studies

“As researchers from both sides of the debate over two controversial H5N1 studies weighed in [Tuesday] on full publication versus a more cautionary approach, two U.S. journals” — the Journal of Infectious Diseases (JID) and its sister publication, Clinical Infectious Diseases — “said they are developing policies to address any future such instances,” CIDRAP News writes. “We are developing policies that address these issues on a case-by-case basis, so that freedom of scientific expression can be maintained without sacrificing individual safety or national security,” JID Editor Martin Hirsch wrote in an editorial, the news service notes, adding, “He also introduced three new JID perspective pieces that discuss the difficult issues” (Schnirring, 3/28). 

In a related article, the Guardian provides a detailed history of the H5N1 controversy and notes that the 23-member National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) is to gather on Thursday for a confidential two-day meeting in Washington to review updated versions of both papers, one of which includes “fresh evidence that [the mutated] virus is not as dangerous as some accounts first claimed.” According to the Guardian, “The NSABB’s final decision, due on Friday at the earliest, will be considered by the U.S. government before being passed to Science and Nature, whose editors have expressed a preference to publish the papers in full” (Sample, 3/28). The Royal Society, a scientific fellowship, is scheduled to hold a conference in London in the beginning of April to “address various aspects of the H5N1 research issues,” CIDRAP adds (3/28).