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TWiV 160 Letters

Neva writes:

Hi fellas,

Great programs as always. I look forward to each one: TWIV, TWIM & TWIP. .....Lots of TWIT too. ;-)

Here is a list of top science apps forwarded by William Gunn on G+.

Mendeley and PLoS staff both voted on which apps could have the greatest impact on science.


Very techie and above my pay grade, thought you fellas would find this interesting.

Thanks for your fabulous podcasts.

Godfried writes:

Dear Gentlemen,

Your discussion on the experiments from the Fouchier lab (creating the "most dangerous virus in the world") reminded me what a joy it is to listen to a good, thorough conversation. While typing this Dr. Fouchier walks around some floors above me (i'm in the same institute but a different lab). I was thinking that it would be really nice if he could join TWIV for one episode and hear his arguments for his approach. Maybe after publication of his story (if at all). Let us see where the differences of opinions occur and try to understand each others point of view.

Who would decline such an invitation from Dr. Racaniello (the man who possess a refined art, that to hurt cruelly whoever does him evil)?

Many thanx for all you've offered in the past and for all that will come,


ps i did the listeners survey

pps just discovered that Dr. Condit does not have a beard (according to the drawing on the website). For some reason i always pictured him with a Hemingwayesque-beard.

Volker writes:

I am a german science journalist who did listen to your nice blog on the Fouchier Story. I have to say that I liked you discussion a lot although I do not agree on every angel of it.

I did reporting on the story, unfortunatly in German only (http://m.faz.net/aktuell/wissen/medizin/mutmassliche-killerkeime-ein-virus-lernt-fliegen-11542644.html).

I was worried why this was published in Science without publishing or discussing the data, and I could not find many experts willing to discuss the marginal information we have. But I think the public must know about this because in my view, this virus is different from others viruses if it´s true that is probably as deadly and as highly transmissable. Do you know another one on this list?

Although I did appreciate your discussion and the critic of the comments by Enserink and Fouchier, I am wondering whether you send you critical comments to both of them to learn why they did say what they said or wrote. Just looking at the press sensationalizing this story misses the point, namely that the researchers and science reported it first. So the scientific community should deal with the way it communicates and not just blame the press to do it if communication channels fail. That´s one point.

I am also puzzled why you argue that this research should be published if and only if "containment for the scientific community" is guaranteed.

Are you saying that even if the mutation are in the public domain nobody could make such a virus and use it as a biological weapon?

Or are you saying that you don´t believe that this virus will be dangerous in real life?

Or are you saying that the model they did use, ferret, is not predictive what will happen in humans?

So actually I quite don´t understand what you main argument is on why publishing this recipe to build a deadly and transmissible bird flu virus is of no other concern that biosafety?

I not a fan of the bioweapon community, but in this case, I would like to see scientific discussion about what the model is and what it is not.

In trying to get in contact to many scientist I could find only one who had seen the data in Malta. He was in favor of publishing the work because of preventive measure against H5N1 but he was against publishing the five mutations due to Dual-Use. So he was concerned and he was an eminent flu virologist!

So I am really interested why you come to a totally different conclusion without having seen the data?

Hope you can send me some clues..

I wanted to make shure that you understand that for a science journalist this is not about creating panic, but reporting a real concern and discuss the deep questions whether or not some experiment should be done - in the public domain - or not.

This experiment was not stupid, but the knowledge gained may be used by scientist with not so good intentions. So I would argue, there is room and need for honest debate, where society has a say too, it not just internal to the scientific endeavour, therefore journalism kicked in.

The big question is, why did science publish this report without reporting about the science behind it. What is the real agenda here? What are the motive of Fouchier and Osterhaus and Kawaoka?

Thank you for listening to my thoughts. I am member of the German association of Science journalist and we are taking quality issues serious.

So I would love to hear your second thoughts.

Volker Stollorz




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