Journals to censor bioterrorism data

Published: Saturday 15 March 2003

In response to worries about bioterrorism, prominent journals have decided to take security issues into account while reviewing research papers. Details of published studies that might help terrorists make biological weapons would also be deleted. The 'Statement on Scientific Publication and Security' was endorsed by journals like Science, Nature and The Lancet.

At present, research is reviewed for accuracy. The journals are now amending this process to include the assessment of the security implications. The journals would establish their own expert panels to review the papers. Editorial boards would work with the authors to make specific changes and "tone down the research papers".

Experts say that the restraint is not enough, as there is nothing to stop scientists from posting their research on the internet. Ronald Atlas, president of the American Society of Microbiology, emphasises that the process does not give governments a formal role in vetting research. The statement was partly aimed at staving off calls to make the US government a prime scientific censor board.

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