When you hear the news piece about the scientists who “made the deadly flu virus” and the US government’s request to partially censor the publication, know this:
(1) they only showed that the recombinant virus transmitted between ferrets, not humans, not even primates. Even a clever terrorist would need several years, a large budget and lots of terrorist graduate students to take this to the next step.
(2) if they could do it in a laboratory that means that Natural Selection will at some point do it out in the wild. Other scientists need to know EXACTLY what they did so it can be studied and we know what to look for in the wild,
(3) what they did could have just made it easier to generate an effective H5N1 vaccine,
(4) efforts to give the government the power and responsibility of releasing the redacted data and methods to “responsible influenza researchers” is misguided and, given the government’s ability to keep secretes, increases the chances it will end up in clever-well-funded-terrorist-PIs hands. Not to mention the fact that some of the most important advances occur when researchers cross into other fields where they are not the expert.
(5) ignorance does not protect anybody worth protecting. There is a very clever analogy to gun-control here, but I refuse to compare knowledge to something that kills.
UPDATE (5/14/12) – It turns out (when this finally got published), they werent’ even using an H5N1 virus… they were studying a recombinant H1N1 virus containing an H5 NA gene…so mostly an H1N1. Big difference.