Angry Birds: Why Does the H5N1 Research Debate Make Scientists Want to Slug Each Other?

Twenty-two flu experts are gathered in Geneva today for the first day of the WHO’s “technical consultation on H5N1 research issues.”

The full list of participants is available here. While the meeting isn’t intended to resolve the bigger disagreements, it could be a starting point.

The WHO decided to get involved in this issue after weeks of debate and disagreement in the scientific community that arose after the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity made an unprecedented request to “make changes in the manuscripts” of two studies about the bird flu virus.

A few weeks after the NSABB decision, Keji Fukuda, the WHO’s assistant director-general for health security and environment, told the Canadian Press it was time for the WHO to step in, saying the agency could bring “balance to the discussion to make sure that the technical and scientific and the political and the public health concerns are all brought together.” Fukuda acknowledged, “It’s genuinely a set of difficult and very important questions.”

It’s rare to see such heated discussion in the scientific community. So to understand the issues on the table and the different perspectives out there, I put together a multimedia timeline of the controversy: