Experts delay releasing bird flu research

This is my attempt at “Grist” writing, so here goes…

The bird flu virus, H5N1, has been the focus of recent research, the results of which are now being kept secret? Many are calling this a breach of academic freedom (not to mention a nail in the coffin for public health), but the World Health Organization says
it doesn’t want bioterrorists getting the wrong idea.

Am I the only one who feels this article is just a bit too deadpan for the subject matter? Maybe it doesn’t shock the BBC’s readers in England, but this virus kills 60% of people that get near it. 60 percent! It could just be that dry British humor, but someone should either be laughing or crying at what this means for public health. The research discussed in the article is essentially determining whether that movie ‘Contagion’ could become our reality. That’s scary stuff, but I don’t think I’m sufficiently scared from the author’s weak lede, does anybody feel the same?

And I’m still looking for a nut graph, if you can find it, let me know. All this author does is summarize the events, with a subtle hint that this killer virus could become our next nightmare. Way too subtle for my taste, how would you improve it?

Alex Leader


2 Responses to “Experts delay releasing bird flu research”

  1. I agree with you Alex that this article does not have nearly enough emotion as it should, based on how serious the subject is. The lack of feeling made me feel as though the scientists and journalists debating whether to publish the paper really isn’t that important to them, seeing that they have meetings months apart to discuss the issue. They obviously understand the importance of the paper to the academic world, but the threat to humanity is less critical (at least that is how the author made it seem).
    The lede was less than impressive, as was the conclusion. This article could catch people’s attention in a much better way and make more of an impact. I had no idea about the H5N1 virus until I read this article, and if for some reason I ever came in contact with it, I would like to know if I had a 60% chance of dying from it. Information about the disease should be more known, but the formula of how H5N1 is formed should definitely remain under wraps.


  2. Caution at the expense of innovation is a slippery slope. Though we want to be wise about which details get out to the public and which are kept under wraps, it’s not wise to stifle advances toward such a burgeoning health issue.

    I mean, what’s next? Witholding ingredients from food labels so that so called ‘terrorists’ won’t have the information on how to best poison our food? Not releasing drug information or material safety data sheets so terrorists can’t learn about potentially toxic substances? Are there really countless bands of terrorists out there plotting these harebrained schemes?

    Halting the full publish of this research into H5N1 seems to be a blatant infringement of academic freedom. I’d have to imagine that the scientists involved are royally pissed that their hard work can’t be made public and further developed. That being said, I agree with you Alex, that this article is bone dry – where are the impassioned quotes from the scientists whose life’s work is being censored?

    Considering how little we know about H5N1, rapid research is vital. Terrorists are the least of our concerns.

    So hide your kids and hide your wife – apparently, terrorists are watching everyone out here.

    Word count: 200

    -Kristen Kiluk

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