- News Home
17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
- About Us
White House Responds to Congressman's Questions About H5N1 Flu Papers
17 April 2012 1:56 pm
White House science adviser John Holdren has replied to questions asked last month by Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) about how the Obama Adminstration has handled the controversy surrounding two studies that showed how to make the H5N1 avian influenza virus transmissible between mammals.
On 1 March, Sensenbrenner—a former head of the House of Representatives committees on science and the judiciary, and currently vice chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, sent a "fact-finding letter" to Holdren. It asked a number of questions about how the government reviews potential "dual-use research of concern" (DURC) that might be used for good or evil. It also observed that the Obama Administration's handling of the flu papers controversy "appeared ad hoc, delayed, and inadequate."
In his 9 April response, Holdren wrote that "the circumstances surrounding the recent review of H5N1 manuscripts are unprecedented." It marked the first time a government advisory body, the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), had recommended withholding information from a scientific paper, he added. "Thus, the [U.S. government] until now had not needed to have a system in place specifically for restricting dissemination of the results of DURC." But NSABB ultimately supported publication of the papers, he noted, after government reviews revealed "serious legal and procedural hurdles to the establishment of such a dissemination system that could not be overcome on a timescale that would be relevant to the publication of these papers." The government has issued a new policy for reviewing taxpayer-funded research for DURC potential, he noted.
In a statement, Sensenbrenner said he was only partly satisfied:
In his response, Dr. Holdren wrote that, until now, the United States government has "not needed to have a system in place" for restricting dissemination of dual use research or concern because this is the first time the NSABB recommended restricting publication. I believe the Administration needs to be more proactive than that and prepare for possible threats before they occur. The new policy is a good, if belated, first step, and I will be watching its implementation closely.