Science and Security

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It is a sobering new twist on the old academic mantra: publish or perish. With news about anthrax and smallpox in the headlines, government officials and terrorism experts have been taking a new look at research journals, asking if, in some cases, scientists aren’t doing the terrorists’ work for them, publishing recipes for biological cocktails and other potential nasties that could be used against Americans.

Some of the country’s most prestigious scientific journals have adopted a new policy voluntarily weighing the “potential harm” versus the “potential societal benefits” before publishing what’s called “sensitive material.” It’s a major departure from the principle of open research. The debate over science and security.


Ronald Atlas, president, American Society for Microbiology, co-director, Center for Deterrence of Biowarfare and Bioterrorism, University of Louisville

Eckard Wimmer, professor of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at State University of New York in Stony Brook

Patrick Brown, professor of Biology, Stanford University.