Monday, September 15, 2014

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Scientists for Science

My interests here mostly are not focused on research directly relating to infectious diseases and pathogens, but I do think this research is worth doing, worth funding, and worth talking about. Pathogens can be just as fascinating as any other microbe, if not sometimes more so.

However, in light of certain recent research that has had a high potential for shock value (such as modifying bird flu to be transmitted easily between ferrets), there has some talk of restricting the kinds of research that should be done on potentially dangerous emerging pathogens (or, in the case of smallpox, almost obsolete ones).

The hosts of This Week in Virology have discussed this issue a great deal recently, and I agree with them that great care must be taken when putting in place these sorts of restrictions. The risks of such research are generally known and minimized by the regulations we already have in place (only working in BSL-3 and -4 conditions, for example), whereas the benefits are unknown and could be very great, even beyond the question of how to treat or prevent the disease being studied. The results of basic science are unpredictable.

So what is needed is not gut reactions to the issue, but careful, serious, considered conversation. If you feel the same way, whether you're a scientist or not, you can show your support by visiting (founded by the TWiV team, I believe) and by spreading the word.