Biomedical experiments, public safety, morality
Theres a lot of interesting discussion going on about a recent study in which scientists created a strand of h5-n1 that is more contagious and transmissible than its current form. The US government has asked that only the results, and not large chunks of the methods used to produce the new strand be published, thus handcuffing the study for further research and the positive potential impact of analysis by virologists.
The obvious concern is that this technology gets into the wrong hands. There is also worry that a mistake or act of carelessness by a well-meaning lab could release the virus into the public. (Similar concerns erupted over technology like the hydrogen bomb mid-century, but this is the first time a study has been deemed unpublishable by authorities).
There are also questions being asked about whether, now the research has been done, it is inevitable that the information gets leaked or hacked, and some are saying that this research should not have been done at all. One commenter on the Diane Rehm show countered that in pure science, researchers often do not know the direction a study will take before they begin it, and it is essential to study the things that threaten our health in order to know them more fully and develop protections.
Can we estimate whether the benefits of potentially hazardous virology will be greater than its obvious hazards?
Also, how much control should the government have over the publishing of publicly funded scientific research?
Should we conduct virus-creating research or should we keep our efforts contained to the production of vaccines against entities that already exist in nature?