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A Controversial Virus Study Shows Flaws in How Science Is Done - The Atlantic
Absent clearer guidelines, the burden falls on the scientific enterprise to self-regulate—and it isn’t set up to do that well. Academia is intensely competitive, and “the drivers are about getting grants and publications, and not necessarily about being responsible citizens,” says Filippa Lentzos from King’s College London, who studies biological threats. This means that scientists often keep their work to themselves for fear of getting scooped by their peers. Their plans only become widely known once they’ve already been enacted, and the results are ready to be presented or published. This lack of transparency creates an environment where people can almost unilaterally make decisions that could affect the entire world.

Take the horsepox study [the main topic of this article]. Evans was a member of a World Health Organization committee that oversees smallpox research, but he only told his colleagues about the experiment after it was completed. He sought approval from biosafety officers at his university, and had discussions with Canadian federal agencies, but it’s unclear if they had enough ethical expertise to fully appreciate the significance of the experiment. “It’s hard not to feel like he opted for agencies that would follow the letter of the law without necessarily understanding what they were approving,” says Kelly Hills, a bioethicist at Rogue Bioethics.

She also sees a sense of impulsive recklessness in the interviews that Evans gave earlier this year. Science reported that he did the experiment “in part to end the debate about whether recreating a poxvirus was feasible.” And he told NPR that “someone had to bite the bullet and do this.” To Hills, that sounds like I did it because I could do it. “We don’t accept those arguments from anyone above age 6,” she says.
the-atlantic  science  news  smallpox  horsepox  diseases  danger  risk  academia  papers  publish-or-perish  bioethics  ethics  biology  genetics 
4 days ago by jm
With genetic tweak, mosquito population made extinct
In experiments with the species Anopheles gambiae, scientists at Imperial College London tweaked a gene known as doublesex so that more females in each generation could no longer bite or reproduce.
After only eight generations, there were no females left and the population collapsed due to lack of offspring."This breakthrough shows that gene drive can work, providing hope in the fight against a disease that has plagued mankind for centuries,"Some scientists and technology watchdog groups have called for a moratorium on gene drive research."There are ecological risks from manipulating and removing natural populations, such as destroying food webs and shifting the behaviour of diseases, as well as social risks of disrupting agriculture and enabling new weapons."
genetics  medical  diseases 
20 days ago by thomas.kochi

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