updated 6/7/2005 7:25:37 PM ET 2005-06-07T23:25:37

The National Academy of Sciences has delayed publication of a research paper at the request of the Health and Human Services Department, which was concerned that the material might be useful to terrorists.

The paper, assessing the vulnerability of the dairy industry to bioterror attack and recommending steps to prevent that from happening, had been scheduled for publication May 30.

A notice of upcoming reports in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences briefly listed the paper, but it was withdrawn after HHS raised concerns, William Kearney, director of media relations for the academy, said Tuesday.

In a letter to the Academy, Stewart Simonson, assistant secretary of HHS, charged that the paper was a "road map for terrorists."

Simonson contended that the paper provided too much detail on potentially vulnerable areas of the milk supply, processing and distribution systems and argued that it's publication "could have very serious health and national security consequences."

The Academy issued a statement saying, "In response to an HHS request, PNAS and the NAS have agreed to take another look at the PNAS paper in question."

"Under standard PNAS policy, the paper was originally evaluated for scientific merit and potential biosecurity issues," the statement noted.

Kearney added, "We are advocates of scientific openness, but don't want to do anything to endanger homeland security."

He said officials of the academies and HHS are meeting to discuss the study. In its statement the Academy said a new publication date will be set.

The paper was submitted by Lawrence Wein and Yifan Liu of Stanford University.

Wein declined to discuss the delay in publication of his paper in PNAS until Academy and HHS officials have met to discuss their differences.

Wein also had a detailed opinion piece on the same topic published in The New York Times on May 30. It explained how a terrorist could use botulin toxin to contaminate a dairy processing facility and argued that stricter safeguards are needed.

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