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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
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An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
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HHS Asks PNAS to Pull Bioterrorism Paper
31 May 2005 (All day)
In an unprecedented move, officials at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) asked the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) to pull a bioterrorism-related paper that the journal planned to publish online on 30 May. The journal took the paper off its publication schedule on 27 May and has been reviewing it internally.
The paper, by mathematician Lawrence Wein of Stanford University and graduate student Yifan Lu, models how bioterrorists could wreak havoc by slipping a small amount of botulinum toxin into the U.S. milk supply, and it spells out interventions that the government and the dairy industry could take to prevent this nightmare scenario.
Stewart Simonson, HHS's assistant secretary for public health emergency preparedness, acknowledges that the idea of using botulinum as a bioweapon has already been widely discussed. "It's not the concept itself--you can't control everything," says Simonson. "It is the granularity of the detail." Wein, concerned about harming the chances that PNAS will eventually publish his paper, declined to discuss publicly the journal's interaction with him or HHS's request. On 30 May, however, the New York Times published an opinion piece by Wein—which the newspaper had accepted before PNAS decided to hold the report--that described the study in some detail.
PNAS highlighted the paper in its weekly tip sheet sent to journalists on 25 May, and also made an embargoed draft available. Simonson—whose office had received an earlier draft from Wein months before--says the PNAS paper first came to his attention the following evening. The next morning, he sent a letter to Bruce Alberts, president of the National Academy of Sciences, the journal's publisher, asking PNAS not to publish the paper. Later that day, PNAS sent an e-mail to reporters that publication of the paper had been delayed, simply noting that a new publication date will be announced. "We made a request," says Simonson. "There wasn't anything coercive."
Simonson recognizes that the flap will probably draw more attention to the paper than it otherwise might have received. "We thought about that," he says, "but it's a balance, and it struck us as the right thing to do."