Free the Influenza! (Genomes)

One of the most important things in science is the free exchange of information. This is all the more vital when the information deals directly with human health. In a recent Nature editorial, the hoarding of influenza genetic data was criticized:

Genetic data are also lacking. When [H5N1] samples [collected from animals or human patients] are sequenced, the results are usually either restricted by governments or kept private to an old-boy network of researchers linked to the WHO, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the FAO…. Many scientists and organizations are also hoarding sequence data, often for years, so they can be the first to publish in academic journals. With the world facing a possible pandemic, such practices are wholly unacceptable. Nature and its associated journals are not alone in supporting the rapid prior exposure of data when there are acute public-health necessities….
Only [by releasing the sequences] can researchers establish and track the global pattern of the evolution of the bird-flu virus.

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