As we discussed some time ago, Boston University wants to build, and apparently will get to build, a "level 4" biolab devoted to studying the scariest of biological agents: anthrax, ebola, you name it.
Well, science must move forward. So all’s well, as long as BU is capable of handling the stuff safely, and as long as the lab will be built in a location where an accident wouldn’t immediately threaten large numbers of people.
The problem, of course, is that BU is BU. And therefore, BU plans to build the lab here (there’s a different view of it here), in the South End/Roxbury area, a very densely populated part of the city (see maps 1 and 2 here). (Of course, many people who live in that area are poor (map 3), so no big whoop, right? If someone were proposing a level 4 research facility for super-scary biological agents in, say, the Harvard biolabs outside of Harvard Square, do you think this ever would have happened?)
Also, BU doesn’t exactly have a stellar track record when it comes to the discovery of, and the timely reporting to proper authorities of, "incidents" in its research facilities. Remember the hoopla over accidental tularemia infections at a BU lab a while back? Ah, but of course something like that could never happen again….right?
Anyway, the latest news is that the "independent committee" that is supposed to oversee safety and research at the new lab has been accused of having conflicts of interest, in that several members of the committee may want to conduct research at the lab once it’s built. Surprise, surprise. I haven’t been able to find the "report" that these allegations are based on – will update if I locate it.
I haven’t heard anything suggesting that the activist groups that are still trying to stir up opposition are likely to have much success blocking needed approvals – the powers that be seem to be solidly behind this project. But it still strikes me as a bad idea.