Recent studies altering the host range of the H5N1 bird flu virus have refueled intense debates over the potential misuse of academic life science research. To curtail the bioterrorism threat, it has been suggested that dissemination of the research results and methodology should be restricted. However, doubts have been raised over the suitability and effectiveness of this measure. Using the H5N1 studies as an example, this paper summarizes the main arguments of the debate. Particular attention is paid to the issue of the tacit knowledge required to replicate published life science research results, which has so far received limited attention. Taking into account the importance of tacit knowledge for life science research, it is argued that preventing publication of the methodology does not decrease the threat of bioterrorism.

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