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In a related question, it's asked whether the Wuhan Lab conducted gain-of-function research, as claimed by Sean Hannity of Fox News.

But moments later in the same piece Hannity says that Anthony Fauci admitted that gain-of-function research was worth risking a global pandemic. (The on screen-captions make it clear this claim is actually coming from National Review, but Hannity says it a way that he simply endorses it as his own.)

Fox News Sean Hannity COVID-19 Gain of Function Research Anthony Fauci

Hannity's words in my transcription:

In 2012 though, Dr. Fauci argued that the benefits of gain-of-function research are worth risking even a global pandemic caused by a lab leak. Less than 10 year later, the world was upended by Covid-19, which was likely created by gain of function research at this Wuhan institute of Virology and leaked into the world killing millions [...].

Did Fauci actually say that (the emphasized part)? (I've added the rest of the claim/paragraph merely for context. I'm not asking about the latter claim here as it's been asked before.)

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    Without the second part "Covid-19, which was likely created by gain of function research" we're left with something much, much less controversial. Jun 5 at 16:33
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The article in question seems to be "Research on Highly Pathogenic H5N1 Influenza Virus: The Way Forward". The abstract is:

The voluntary moratorium on gain-of-function research related to the transmissibility of highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza virus should continue, pending the resolution of critical policy questions concerning the rationale for performing such experiments and how best to report their results. The potential benefits and risks of these experiments must be discussed and understood by multiple stakeholders, including the general public, and all decisions regarding such research must be made in a transparent manner.

The article proper seems to say little more than the abstract. A key point, though, is that Fauci didn't seem to believe that there was any risk of a pandemic from properly conducted gain-of-function research. The potential risk was from publishing the results:

[T]he issue that has been intensely debated is whether knowledge obtained from these experiments could inadvertently affect public health in an adverse way [...]. Putting aside the specter of bioterrorism for the moment, consider this hypothetical scenario: an important gain-of-function experiment involving a virus with serious pandemic potential is performed in a well-regulated, world-class laboratory by experienced investigators, but the information from the experiment is then used by another scientist who does not have the same training and facilities and is not subject to the same regulations. In an unlikely but conceivable turn of events, what if that scientist becomes infected with the virus, which leads to an outbreak and ultimately triggers a pandemic?

Scientists working in this field might say—as indeed I have said—that the benefits of such experiments and the resulting knowledge outweigh the risks.

This seems similar to many other debates about whether potentially dangerous knowledge should be published or suppressed, although the stakes are unusually high.

I think that the statement

Dr. Fauci argued that the benefits of gain-of-function research are worth risking even a global pandemic caused by a lab leak.

is correct, but misleading – first, since anyone who reads it will naturally assume that the lab in question is the one doing the beneficial gain-of-function research, which isn't the case, and second, because it omits the fact that not performing the research increases the risk of a global pandemic caused by an act of God. The article is specifically about H5N1 and other "virus[es] with serious pandemic potential", and Fauci apparently believed the latter risk to be higher for those viruses.

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    The main talking point he wants to drive home in his narrative dramaturgy is indeed 'open knowledge may be abused/exploited by bad actors', but he also clearly talks about "a primary reason for performing an experiment that might appear to be risky." He also displays a religious belief in 'experts know their stuff & don't make mistakes ever'. In light of that, your final para is way too apologetic and in parts even non sequitur. Jun 4 at 23:17
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    @LangLаngС I'm taking the quote from Hannity/NR as a summary of Fauci's opinion, not their own, and I think it misrepresents (or misleadingly represents) his position for the listed reasons, whether his position is reasonable or not. In the bolded passage, "appear" seems to mean "appear to those outside the field", since he then contrasts "those who have these concerns" with "us, the scientific community".
    – benrg
    Jun 5 at 4:52
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    it is correct, but misleading; what is misleading here? anyone who reads it will naturally assume that the lab in question is the one doing the beneficial gain-of-function if it works it's always beneficial to someone, isn't it? article is specifically about H5N1 and other "virus[es] with serious pandemic potential", ; sars-cov-2 is the other virus.
    – tansy
    Jun 5 at 14:36
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    "Fauci didn't seem to believe that there was any risk of a pandemic from properly conducted gain-of-function research." The Devil is always in the details. Fauci should know that.
    – RonJohn
    Jun 6 at 0:00
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    @tansy: "What is misleading?" benrg's answer is too generous to Hannity. Fauci's article does not argue that increased pandemic risk is worth conducting gain-of-function experiments. Instead, it argues that increased pandemic risk is worth publishing the results of already-conducted gain-of-function experiments, an entirely separate question. Jun 6 at 3:52
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The Washington Post has the article A flu virus risk worth taking by Anthony S. Fauci, Gary J. Nabel and Francis S. Collins (December 30, 2011). It seems unlikely that this is the "paper from 2012" that they were referring to but nonetheless it seems especially relevant as an easier to read article expressing Fauci's opinions on the subject:

[I]mportant information and insights can come from generating a potentially dangerous virus in the laboratory.
[...]
The question is whether benefits of such research outweigh risks. The answer is not simple.
[...]
Along with support for this research comes a responsibility to ensure that the information is used for good. Safeguarding against the potential accidental release or deliberate misuse of laboratory pathogens is imperative. The engineered viruses developed in the ferret experiments are maintained in high-security laboratories. The scientists, journal editors and funding agencies involved are working together to ensure that access to specific information that could be used to create dangerous pathogens is limited to those with an established and legitimate need to know.

From this article I gather that Fauci supports this type of research, but only when there are sufficient safeguards in place to make it as safe as possible.

Compare the article Research on Highly Pathogenic H5N1 Influenza Virus: The Way Forward.

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    Deleted comments sharing political opinions rather then improving the answer.
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 5 at 4:34
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – fredsbend
    Jun 7 at 6:03
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This is what Fauci explicitly argued in 2012:

Putting aside the specter of bioterrorism for the moment, consider this hypothetical scenario: an important gain-of-function experiment involving a virus with serious pandemic potential is performed in a well-regulated, world-class laboratory by experienced investigators, but the information from the experiment is then used by another scientist who does not have the same training and facilities and is not subject to the same regulations. In an unlikely but conceivable turn of events, what if that scientist becomes infected with the virus, which leads to an outbreak and ultimately triggers a pandemic?

Scientists working in this field might say—as indeed I have said—that the benefits of such experiments and the resulting knowledge outweigh the risks.

The context of this debate was that a modified sequence of the H5N1 virus was published and the published information in the paper could potentially be used by another researcher with insufficient safety protocols in place to cause a pandemic.

In 2014, Ralph Baric thought that the kind of research he does qualifies as gain-of-function research. To work around the moratorium imposed from outside the NIH by the Office of Science and Technology Policy and continue to fund Baric's research it seems the argument for the research not being gain-of-function research was that the information Baric published in his paper with Shi from 2015 is not the kind of information someone could use to produce problems.

While Baric did create a chimeric virus that can effect human cells in contrast to the base virus that couldn't, the Fauci seems to have decided not to call that virus gain-of-function research even so it's about producing dangerous viruses in the lab.

Baric did work together with Shi and through the collaboration Shi's lab learned how to create those chimera viruses that infect human tissue. As late as 2019, Shi's lab was doing those experiments under biosafety level 2 which is doing the research under unsafe conditions and thus roughly the thread Fauci described in his paper that he considers worth risking.

If you accept Fauci argument that Baric's work from 2015 shouldn't be considered gain-of-function research, Fauci argued in 2012 that work that's more dangerous than the work that Baric did and that leads the Wuhan Institute of Virology to modify a Coronavirus to infect human cells under unsafe conditions is still worth the risk.

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    This answer started well, and then went a bit awry The first reference shows Baric directly denies what you say he thinks "Baric says that kind of experiment is not happening in his lab." Then you make a motivation claim without a relevant reference. (The irrelevant reference even opens with an editor's note: "We are aware that this article is being used as the basis for unverified theories"!)
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 22 at 1:51
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    "the Wuhan Institute of Virology to modify a Coronavirus to infect human cells under unsafe conditions" You are an experienced and trusted poster on this site. You know you aren't going to get away with a bold claim like this without a substantial citation!
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 22 at 1:53
  • @Oddthinking : I did link to the paper that describe what they did and which describes that they did their experiments under biosafety level II. Is the thing you want a statement that describes that biosafety level II isn't that safe? I think that the important factual question is about the fact that it's biosafety level II.
    – Christian
    Jul 23 at 15:33

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