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The risks and benefits of influenza H5N1 research

Both Nature and the New York Times have weighed in on the resumption of influenza H5N1 research. In an editorial from 23 January 2013, Nature opines that “Experiments that make deadly pathogens more dangerous demand the utmost scrutiny”. They call for a quantitative risk-benefit analysis of H5N1 research. I don't understand how this can be done, when the outcome of research is frequently unknown. Here are my thoughts on this matter. What do others think - can research benefits be quantified before they are realized?
 
 

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