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Pandemic series: pathogen research rejected for publication as an information hazard?

Published research on pathogens is overwhelmingly aimed at preventing the creation and spreading of disease. (Bioweapons programs, if they exist despite international treaty, are secret and/or classified.)

Nonetheless, some research and research publication have encountered criticism for potentially increasing the risk of accidental pandemic, or deliberate bioweapon attack. In a prominent example, in 2012 a Dutch research group published a description of a lab-modified strain of H5N1 influenza virus capable of airborne transmission between ferrets. This came after intense controversy including a recommendation-then-reversal by the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) that the research not be published. See here for summary and an update on the story.

Gain-of-function research of the type described in these publications has been under a funding moratorium in the US since 2014; however as detailed in a separate question, the research may be "allowed" in some cases in the US, and can continue elsewhere or using alternative funding.

This raises questions about the publication of such information, and the responsibility of journals (if any) in deciding whether it should be published. We ask:

By 2018 will an event occur in which a credible media source reports that a major medical journal has declined to publish an otherwise-publishable scientific paper on human pathogens due to concerns that it constitutes an information hazard?

We will consider any journal in this top 100 list to be a major medical journal. The question resolves as positive even if the paper is published after resubmission to a second (or third...) journal, as long as it is rejected for information-hazard rather than research quality reasons. The rejection may be at the journal's discretion or by request (or requirement) from an external party.


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