DescriptionThe recent use of biological weapons in terror attacks has led government officials and scientists to re-evaluate the public release of information that could be used in the production and deployment of biological weapons. A healthy debate is ongoing about where the lines should be drawn and who should have the authority to decide what can and cannot be published. Although most of the discussion of this issue in the popular press has concerned human pathogens that may be used as biological weapons, there are issues in agricultural research as well.
For this essay assignment, you will write a two- to four-page essay covering your thoughts on this issue. Several questions to consider are listed below. This is not a complete list of things you could write about, but rather is a place to start.
What types of information should be kept from publication, if any? (Genome sequences? Information on virulence factors for pathogens?) There are many possibilities here.
Who should decide what can be published and what cannot be published (e.g. scientists, government, editors, etc.)
What are the consequences, positive and negative, of deliberate choice regarding publication?
Do you think that keeping some types of information from publication is good for scientific inquiry? If it is injurious to scientific inquiry does the benefit of safety outweigh this?
Do you think that publication bans will discourage scientists from pursuing research in certain areas? If so, is this good or bad?