|How to cite this article:
Yaro A. To publish or not to publish?. Ann Trop Med Public Health 2012;5:59-60
|How to cite this URL:
Yaro A. To publish or not to publish?. Ann Trop Med Public Health [serial online] 2012 [cited 2021 Mar 5];5:59-60. Available from: https://www.atmph.org/text.asp?2012/5/2/59/95948
“I will do everything in my power to ensure that it doesn’t inhibit the research. Because the research we’re interested in is the legitimate research done by scientists who have a legitimate interest”
– Anthony Fauci
Dr. Fauci made this comment after the controversy that erupted due to team of scientists who constructed deadly strain of the influenza virus [Figure 1]. The US National Science Advisory Board For Biosecurity (NSABB) then recommended that Science and Nature should remove certain methodological details. The reason? To stop certain terrorists from using the details for bioterrorism purpose. Since the “mandate,” so many opinions have been shared; while others support the US agency’s action, others are of the view that it is similar to censorship. In the past, the scientific community, especially those in the flu sector held that any mutation that increases the ability of the flu virus to spread among human would also make it less deadly. However, Yoshihiro (University of Winsconcin, USA) and Ro Fouchier (Erasmus Medical Center, Netherlands) proved otherwise.
|Figure 1: A model of the influenza virus
Click here to view
This issue has raised one question: “Is it important for scientists to publish their work or have to submit to some form of censorship?” To answer this question, we need to answer another question: Does the risk of such work outweigh any potential benefit? As Professor Peter Openshaw of Imperial College (UK) noted, “I think there’s always a concern with scientific research that although the benefits we get from the research are enormous, there is also the potential to cause harm and we need to balance that harm against the benefit.” I think, clearly in this case, if the worst case scenario were to develop and the virus were to get out, either accidentally or deliberately, then the consequences would be absolutely terrible and I think that there does need to be some degree of regulation. The question is who does the regulating.” But, in the field of mutational science, this event occurs even in nature. This view is shared by Garcia-Sastre of the Mount Sinai Hospital in the US. Others are of the opinion that the manmade strains might escape from the laboratory. This is a flimsy excuse as there are lots of protocols to deal with such issues.
We have also seen movies where some rogue individuals hire some of the best scientists of their generation for them to carry bioterroristic research only for one Mr. Hero to come and fight them. Terrorists with their vast network can hire such scientists to do their dirty work for them; we can cite the bombing of Scotland in 2007 when Al Qaeda hired some extremely talented doctors to do their dirty work.
But, how sure are we to predict that such lab-made virus will be a threat to humanity just because it showed virulence in ferrets? For example, in the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, it caused severe infection in ferrets but was mild in human. The NSABB’s decision does not have any scientific merit. We need to have papers published to increase our understanding of disease process. It is no hidden fact the Scientific and Medical advancements are seen when papers are published the further works are derived out of the initial studies. If not, we could have stopped the publication of an HIV research because at the time, terrorists could have used it for bioterrorism. People, especially policy makers, should not hide behind fear and stop science from advancing.
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None