Science Policy For All

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Archive for March 2013

Science Policy Around the Web – March 22, 2013

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By: Jennifer Plank

photo credit: Rick Eh? via photopin cc

photo credit: Rick Eh? via photopin cc

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

Mice Fall Short As Test Subjects for Humans’ Deadly Ills – Data obtained from mouse models of sepsis, burns, and trauma have been misleading. Nearly 150 drugs developed to treat sepsis in humans have failed. A manuscript published in PNAS last month demonstrated why- mice have a condition that looks similar to human sepsis but is very different biologically. The decade long study analyzed genes used by white blood cells when responding to sepsis. The investigators found a panel of genes that were upregulated in response to sepsis in humans and then analyzed the response in mice to see if a similar panel of genes were involved. Surprisingly, there were no similarities between organisms. Additionally, in samples from human patients, a similar panel of genes were involved in the response to burns, sepsis, and trauma suggesting that finding a drug to treat one condition will treat all 3. While in many situations, mice are an ideal genetic model to human disease, this work suggests that mouse models cannot be used to develop drugs for all human conditions.  (Gina Kolata)

How To Find a Food Desert Near You – A food desert is an area where it is difficult to access large grocery stores that offer fresh and affordable food. To identify regions where access to healthy foods is limited, the USDA has recently released the Food Access Research Atlas.  Using the atlas, you can identify regions where there is low access to grocery stores. Additionally, income data has been incorporated into the map to compare low access to low income regions. (Nancy Shute)

Inequality Quantified: Mind the Gender Gap – While the number of women working in science and engineering fields has increased, universities still employ more men than women in STEM fields, and men still earn significantly more in these fields. Currently, only 21 percent of science professors and 5 percent of engineering professors are women. One potential cause of this problem is that a larger percentage of women quit scientific careers in the earlier stages to raise a family. Additionally, women only make 82 percent of what male scientists earn in the United States, and this gap is larger in European countries. Many universities are conscious of the need to correct the gender gap. (Helen Shen)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

March 22, 2013 at 1:47 pm

STEM education: the value of a scientifically literate population

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By: Katherine Donigan

Even twenty years ago, the growing need for professionals in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in the United States was apparent.  In the early 2000’s, Judith Ramaley, assistant director of education at the National Science Foundation, among others, acknowledged this need and created the STEM acronym, a rallying point and a clear focus on the deficiency in these areas (1).  In the intervening years, job growth and salaries in STEM fields have outpaced non-STEM sectors.  STEM-related unemployment during the recession of 2008, for example, was at around half of the level of non-STEM unemployment (2).  Despite the benefits of pursuing a science or engineering career, the United States ranks 23rd out of the 34 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED) countries in terms of the proportion of STEM graduates in the 25-34 year old age group (2).  A “skills gap” has emerged, as companies in the United States indicate they cannot find enough STEM workers to fill an estimated three million jobs (3).  Encouraging and adequately preparing students interested in STEM careers must become a priority if the United States is to remain internationally competitive in these fields.   Read the rest of this entry »

Written by sciencepolicyforall

March 19, 2013 at 9:56 pm

Posted in Essays

Science Policy Around the Web – March 8, 2013

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By: Jennifer Plank

photo credit: andre.vanrooyen via photopin cc

photo credit: andre.vanrooyen via photopin cc

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

Elephant Poaching Pushes Species To Brink Of Extinction – A recent publication in PLOS ONE states that the total number of elephants has decreased 62 percent from 2002-2011. A ban on ivory poaching in 1989 initially reduced the amount of the trade; however, over the past decade as many as 25,000 elephants have been killed yearly. The largest contributor to this crisis is increased trade within China. (Christopher Joyce)

Legislator Grills NIH Over Tobacco Grant – NIH director, Francis Collins, recently attended a hearing regarding how different Health and Human Services agencies are dealing with reduced budgets. While at the meeting, Representative Andy Harris (R-MD) questioned Collins about a grant to investigate tobacco control funded by the NCI. The PI on the grant, Stanton Glantz, was investigating the influence of  “third parties” funded by the tobacco industry. The study, published in Tobacco Control, uncovered a link between the tobacco industry and formation of the Tea Party. Harris, a member of the Tea Party, opposes this finding and would prefer that money from tax payers does not cover such research. Collins was also alarmed by the finding and hopes to strike a balance between not funding an “unfortunate outcome” and not micromanaging all NIH-funded research. (Jocelyn Kaiser)

We Have A Limited Window of Opportunity: CDC Warns of Resistance Nightmare – On Tuesday, Dr. Thomas Frieden of the CDC released new statistics regarding infections by the highly drug resistant bacteria carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (or CRE). To date, 42 states have reported at least one incidence of CRE infection, the occurrence of CRE has increased 4-fold over 10 years, and 4.6 percent of hospitals and 17.8 percent of long term care facilities have diagnosed CRE in the first 6 months of 2012. Together, these factors suggest that the situation is dire. Increasing the severity of these findings are the facts that CRE is resistant to nearly all antibiotics and results in fatality in nearly half of patients who contract the infection. The CDC has published a list of recommendations to limit the number of CRE infections; however, none of the recommendations are required or funded. (Maryn McKenna)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

March 8, 2013 at 12:07 pm