Saturday, March 31, 2012

Update: Bird Flu Research/HealthMap

Within the last couple of days there have been some important developments in the controversy previously reported on this blog concerning Bird Flu (H5N1) research (See: Bird Flu Research is Too Dangerous to Publish - For Now).  At the center of that controversy was the development that research staffs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, had discovered how to manipulate the virus so that it could be easily transmitted by air.  Given the virus has had a 60% fatality rate in the past, the discovery would be easy to repeat by other research teams, and the teams were getting ready to publish the details of their work in Nature and Science magazines, there was a flood of concern that a scientific discovery paid for by the U.S. tax payer could be used by bio-terrorists to cause world-wide pandemic. As a result, leadership of the involved communities called for a "Time-Out" to review research and publication guidelines.
On Thursday, the National Institutes of Health, Office of Science Policy, Office of Biotechnology officially posted "United States Government Policy for Oversight of Life Sciences Dual Use Research of Concern" as the a way to put in place updated guidelines for this type of situation.  The next day, the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), voted to endorse release of the research team findings on the basis that placing the information in the hands of research teams world-wide would do more good than potential harm.  To learn more, click the link below to read an article in from the Washington Post:

Comment: Try doing an Internet search on a topic like "bird flu map".  By and large what you will find is a bunch of outdated efforts and stale data.  There is one exception however, HealthMap - a topic which deserves a discussion of its own at a later date.

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