Declan Butler, reporter This is the personal blog of Declan Butler, a senior reporter at Nature. All views expressed here are mine, and not those of Nature. Contact me at

July 29, 2006

When new news is old news

Filed under: Blogging — admin @ 11:21 pm

Bob Cringely, the self-acclaimed IT guru who describes himself as a “sex symbol, airplane enthusiast and adventurer [who] continues to write about personal computers and has an active consulting business in Silicon Valley, selling his cybersoul to the highest bidder” has been sounding off — “The Wrap Fish, Don’t They? — about the short half-life of news on the Internet. His story is based on a paper — that he thinks was just published, but which was in fact *just republished*– in Phys. Rev. E 73 066132 – see here.

July 28, 2006

International community driving blindfolded in Indonesia flu battle

Filed under: avian influenza,Neglected diseases — admin @ 7:17 pm

Indonesia is the world’s current hotspot of avian flu, with the concomitant risk of emergence of a pandemic flu strain. Despite this risk, almost no avian flu poultry isolates have gone from Indonesia to the joint FAO/OIE network of national and international reference laboratories since summer 2005, I reveal in a short article tonight.

Some excerpts from the article:


July 25, 2006

More ‘Aaargh plop;’ cat flu in Iraq

Filed under: avian influenza — admin @ 10:02 pm

Back in March I reported on what we know, and don’t know, about the avian flu virus H5N1 in cats. The issue has new resurfaced with a paper in Emerging Infectious Diseases reporting avian flu in cats in northern Iraq — see my story today; “More cats found with bird flu“.

The earlier post commented on the fact that cat infections were more common than recognized:

July 20, 2006

WHO’s in charge?

Filed under: avian influenza,Neglected diseases — admin @ 9:42 pm

That’s the title of an editorial in this week’s Nature looking at the shift in balance of governance in global health away from the World Health Organization, prompted by the plethora of new actors, including the G8 (see the Saint Petersburg communiqué on infectious diseases) the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Some excerpts

Academics targetted in Iraq

Filed under: Justice — admin @ 8:44 pm

Following a recent news special I wrote on academics being targetted for assassination in Iraq, the International Council for Science (ICSU) has contacted me to let me know that they have issued a statement in response; I hear Pugwash are also looking at the issue.
The 2-page news special on Iraq is here.

Some excerpts:


July 15, 2006

Media pickup of Indonesia sequences

Filed under: avian influenza,Open data — admin @ 11:19 pm

My article on the Indonesia flu mutations has generated a fair bit of press coverage, making the front page of Google News — see here. Reuters, and many other media outlets, have picked up on it also, but the best article I’ve seen so far I think is this one, which gives balanced credit to both WHO’s core data needs in handling outbreaks, while also discussing its difficulties in making data more widely available. Le Monde also has good coverage — in French, as has CIDRAP.

The article has also generated considerable discussion in the blogosphere — see for example, the comments here.

July 12, 2006

Indonesia cluster mutations

Filed under: avian influenza,Open data — admin @ 10:54 pm

Just a quick signpost to an article I’ve published in Nature tonight revealing the full mutations in the recent Indonesian cluster where human to human transmission occurred. Some abbreviated excerpts:

A strain of avian flu that spread through a family in Indonesia, killing seven of the eight people infected, was accumulating mutations as it spread from person to person, according to confidential sequence data seen by Nature. The functional significance of the mutations isn’t clear — most of them seem unimportant. But influenza researchers say the finding reiterates the need for sequence data to be made more widely available, if the virus is to be better understood.

July 6, 2006

Top 50 science blogs

Filed under: Blogging,GIS — admin @ 9:27 pm

Quick pointer to an analysis I’ve done of where science blogs rank in the overall blogosphere; its on free access at
1. Top Five Science Blogs
2. Top Five Science Writer Blogs
3. Top 50 Science Blogs
4. Note on how I did the rankings
5. Five odd facts about the ranking

A note for my fellow flu bloggers; Effect Measure comes in at number 9 of all science blogs with a Technorati rank of 6186, and H5N1, not listed, came in at number 9 in the writers’ category with a Technorati rank of 10159.

Congress members call to free H5N1 gene sequences

Filed under: avian influenza,Open data — admin @ 9:10 pm

I mentioned in a previous post that:

“Dennis Kucinich (Democrat, Ohio) and Wayne Gilchrest (Republican, Maryland) are circulating a letter in the House of Representatives that calls on Michael Levitt, the US health secretary, to require H5N1 sequences and other publicly funded research data “to be promptly deposited in a publicly accessible database, such as GenBank”.

The letter has now been sent, signed by 16 members of Congress: you can read it here.

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