Academy of Sciences to hold summit on limiting scientific publi

Sunday, July 28, 2002

WASHINGTON -- Concerned that researchers may be publishing information that might be useful to terrorists, the National Academy of Sciences is planning a meeting to discuss whether researchers should withhold some information from publications.

Ronald Atlas, president of the American Society for Microbiology, proposed the meeting in a letter to Academy president Bruce Alberts.

Atlas said his society has been asked by some authors to allow them to withhold information out of concern that it might be misappropriated or abused.

Such a step runs counter to current policies in the scientific community, which generally require researchers publishing their findings to include enough detail for others in the field to duplicate their results.

Indeed, it is through that process of duplicating and building upon published research that scientific progress continues.

"Science, by its definition, is supposed to be repeatable and if we permit publication of manuscripts that lack sufficient detail ... we will be undercutting science and we're not prepared to do that," Atlas said.

In cases where an editor thinks there may be national security problems, the society has a policy of calling a meeting to discuss whether to publish the article, he said.

An example, Atlas said, might be if a scientist developed a molecular method for detecting smallpox or anthrax and did not want to disclose details of how it is done.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: