Dr. Bruce Alberts, editor of Science magazine, said that the journal will publish the full version of the Fouchier H5N1 influenza virus paper if mechanisms are not developed to ensure circulation of the information to scientists. Alberts made his comments at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Vancouver:
Our position is that, in the absence of any mechanism to get the information to those scientists and health officials who need to know and need to protect their populations and to design new treatments and vaccines, our default position is that we have to publish in compete form.
Pallab Ghosh of BBC News, writes that Alberts ‘says it is important to get the research out quickly to scientists and health officials monitoring the virus.’
Update: WHO has decided to delay the decision on whether to publish the H5N1 data:
The Geneva meeting of 22 scientists and journal representatives agreed that publishing only parts of the research would not be helpful, because they would not give the full context of a complete paper.
Update 2: The New York Times reports that the H5N1 papers will be published in a few months, “to give researchers and officials an opportunity to provide better information to the public about the research and its importance, and would also give safety experts a chance to assess the conditions in which the work is being done.”
Apparently the decision was not unanimous, and it was opposed by the US.
The other important news is that the issue of the H5N1 fatality rate has finally made it to the front page:
The experiments involve a type of bird flu virus known as H5N1. Of about 600 known cases, more than half have been fatal. The exact death rate is not known, however, because some deaths may go uncounted and mild cases may go undiagnosed.