Today, a US scientific advisory board asked Science and Nature to publish redacted versions of papers on engineered versions of H5N1 avian flu (bird flu) that could be more transmissible in humans (see article). It is a sad state that such important information that could be used to advance public health need be considered a means of empowering terrorists.
There are clear and unfortunately valid concerns in this case, but it is worrisome to think about any form of censorship in the scientific literature. It is a slippery slope that should be a concern to all of us.
The editors at Science and Nature have been burdened with a potentially no-win scenario. Are there valid ways to determine who should have access to the key data? Is it possible to stop a determined terrorist from, say, stealing lab notebooks?
Will there be a day when you have to have certain credentials to search the literature? Until then,
Happy Searching–Jeff Saffer