Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Review: Assessment of Future Scientific Needs for Live Variola Virus

While we live in a very answers-driven world, "Assessment" provides disappointingly few of them through its very concise, direct examination of why on earth we might still want to maintain stores of variola virus.

One of the shining strengths of the book for a common reader would be its very to-the-point description of smallpox-related concepts that typically take lots of reading to discover. In fewer than thirty well-written pages, the audience is taken through the nature of the virus itself, efforts to eradicate it, and the current situation, effectively preparing any reader for the last half of the report for the pièce de résistance.

However, while the reasons given for further research on the virus are very well explained and carefully considered, the authors supplant the confidence usually expected from researchers of their stature with a very apologetic tone constantly reminding the reader that they refuse to formulate any opinion on the actual debate of the virus stores. While this might be appropriate for creating an objective, scientific tone, the generally balanced view of both sides becomes a glaring weakness when the reader is left with more questions than answers about the point of contention within the scientific community.

Many might argue that, seeing as the purpose of the report was not to comment on the fate of variola, a noncommittal stance might be fine. Now, more than ever, is not the time to be ambivalent about the topic. If we should keep the stocks, free up the regulations on research so that the scientists can do their job without having to worry about time and funding restraints. If we shouldn't, then let's destroy them and move on. The IoM Report, as well-written for its given purpose as it is, is just too neutral for my taste.

No comments:

Post a Comment