Science Policy For All

Because science policy affects everyone.

Archive for December 2012

Science Policy Around the Web – December 21, 2012

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photo credit: mikebaird via photopin cc

photo credit: mikebaird via photopin cc

By: Jennifer Plank

Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.

Policy Lifts Otter-Free Zone in California – In 1987, the Fish and Wildlife Service moved 140 sea otters to San Nicolas Island off the California coast. The goal of this effort was to maintain two distinct populations of these endangered animals in the hopes of maintaining the species in case of an oil spill. At the same time, the service also established an “otter-free zone” at the request of fisherman and the Navy. This week, the “otter-free zone” restriction was lifted, a victory for environmentalists who did not believe the otters natural migration paths should be restricted. (Felicity Barringer)

The Gun Lobby’s Favorite Part of the Health LawA section of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) entitled “Protection of Second Amendment Gun Rights” states that the Department of Health and Human Services can not collect information about gun ownership. It also states that insurance providers cannot deny coverage or raise premiums due to gun use. This section in the ACA was added by the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid (D, NV). This language of the ACA is not without controversy as epidemiologists claim that gun use can kill as many people as influenza while gun-rights advocates maintain that any policies monitoring gun ownership is infringing on Second Amendment rights. (Jay Hancock)

Chicago’s Field Museum Cuts Back on ScienceThe Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago is cutting $3 million from its science budget this year including a program for research on the institutes collection of fossils, plants, and animals. Nationally, museum endowments have been low due to the recession, and the Field Museum has also been financing expansion projects resulting in a significant budget crisis. Staff at the museum will provide input on how to apply the budget cuts.  (Helen Shen)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

December 21, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – December 16, 2012

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photo credit: Walwyn via photopin cc

photo credit: Walwyn via photopin cc

By: Jennifer Plank

Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.

Tests Say Mislabeled Fish a Widespread ProblemA recent study published by Kimberly Warner and colleagues indicates that approximately 39 percent of fish sold by establishments in New York City were mislabeled. In some cases, the incorrect labels were relatively harmless- some cheaper species of fish were inappropriately labeled as more expensive species of fish. However, in some cases, the inappropriate labels present health concerns. For example, several types of fish that contain high levels of mercury were labeled as red snapper which poses a risk for pregnant consumers. Additionally, in many cases, the fish that was sold as white tuna was actually escolar, a fish that contains a toxin that can cause diarrhea when too much is ingested. Currently, the FDA is working on several programs to eliminate the problem of improperly labeled seafood.  (Elisabeth Rosenthal)

Why the Best Stay on Top in Latest Math and Science TestsResults released by the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) indicated that fourth and eighth grade students from Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea have again received the highest test scores on the TIMSS exam. A total of 63 countries participated in the study. There are several reasons why these 4 nations maintain high test scores. For example, educators from Singapore constantly revisit and modify their math and science curriculum in a timely manner. Based on the 2011 results, the United States ranked 11th in 4th grade math, 7th in 4th grade science, 9th in 8th grade math, and 10th in 8th grade science. (Jeffrey Mervis)

Psychiatry’s New Rules Threaten to Turn Grieving Into a Sickness –  A new change to the official psychiatric guidelines for depression will now result in a clinical depression diagnosis for patients suffering from grief over the death of a loved one. Under the current guidelines, the “bereavement exclusion” exempts patients from a depression diagnosis for 2 months following the death of a loved one unless the symptoms self-destructively extreme. The new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was published on December 1 and no longer contains the “bereavement exclusion.” Critics argue that the symptoms of depression are identical to the feelings experienced when one loses a loved one. However, American Psychiatric Association claims that grief-related depression is not fundamentally different than clinical depression, and the “bereavement exclusion” made it more difficult for clinicians to effectively do their jobs. (Brandon Keim)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

December 16, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – December 7, 2012

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photo credit: Christopher Chan via photopin cc

photo credit: Christopher Chan via photopin cc

By: Jennifer Plank

Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.

Supreme Court to Decide if Gene Patents are Legal
On November 30, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear the case of ACLU vs. Myriad Labs regarding patenting human genes. Myriad Labs patented the BRCA gene, therefore, they are the only company allowed perform medical research on the BRCA genes. Because no other companies can test for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, the testing remains very expensive for patients (approximately $5000, insurance companies pay a percentage of the test). The ACLU contends that naturally occurring genes should not be able to be patented. Myriad Labs disagrees by stating that without patents, it is not financially viable to conduct medical research. The Supreme Court will hear the case in early spring 2013. (Lynda Altman)

Genome Sequencing For Babies Brings Knowledge and Conflict – Whole genome sequencing can be used to decipher an individual’s genetic code and to screen for thousands of conditions that may impact the individual later in life. As the technology improves and becomes more common, whole genome testing will become more affordable for patients. Additionally, whole genome sequencing can be used to diagnose babies at birth. However, this use of the technology raises many questions regarding the handling of the results. For example, many adults who have had their genomes sequenced have decided to not receive results relating to the risk of incurable diseases such as Huntington’s or Alzheimer’s disease while newborn babies are unable to voice their desire to know the results. This article outlines many of the ethical issues facing whole genome sequencing for babies. (Rob Stein)

Research Grants: Conform and be Funded – Between 2002 and 2011, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded over 460,000 research grants, and the labs supported by these grants have produced numerous medical advances. However, it is unclear if the most influential researchers are funded by NIH grants. A survey of publications since 2001 suggests that approximately 60 percent of the most influential scientists (those who published papers that have been cited more than 1000 times) do not have NIH funding. This finding suggests that the NIH is not meeting their goal to fund the “best science by the best scientists.” (Joshua Nicholson and John Ioannidis)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

December 7, 2012 at 11:55 am