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Archive for August 2013

Science Policy Around the Web – August 29, 2013

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By: Jennifer Plank

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photo credit: Teseum via photopin cc

Measles outbreak tied to Texas megachurch sickens 21 – A visitor to the Eagle Mountain International Church that previously traveled to Indonesia and became infected with measles, has spread the infection to the largely unvaccinated congregation. To date, 16 people in Tarrant County, including a 4 month old infant, and 5 people in Denton County have contracted the illness and the number is expected to increase. All of the individuals infected have been linked to the church. As many as 1,000 people may have been exposed to the disease. Due to the outbreak, the church will be holding vaccination clinics for uninfected individuals. (JoNel Aleccia)

Government must step in to halt Fukushima leaks – A leak at the Fukushima Daiichi plant has resulted in the spillage of hundreds of tons of radioactive water, and experts believe the power company overseeing the plant is unable to cope with the leak. Therefore, many are calling on the Japanese government to intervene. Initially, the leak was labeled a Level 1 incident, but as of this week, it has been upgraded to Level 3. Several countries have offered to help Japan deal with the leak. (Quirin Schiermeier and Jay Alabaster)

Free papers have reached a tipping point, study claims – A study funded by the European Commission demonstrates that 50% of all scientific papers published are freely available after 1-2 years from publication, and the number is set to increase. US agencies funding scientific research and the European Commission are proposing plans for papers to be open access within 12 and 6 months, respectively. (Jocelyn Kaiser)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

August 29, 2013 at 10:43 am

Science Policy Around the Web – August 21, 2013

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By: Jennifer Plank

photo credit: Doug Pieper via photopin cc

photo credit: Doug Pieper via photopin cc

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

U.S. Blocks Import Permit for Russian Beluga Whales – The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service has blocked the import of 18 beluga whales from Russia to U.S. aquariums, because they feel the move would violate marine mammal protection laws. The import was requested by the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. The lifespan of beluga whales in captivity is relatively short, and only Russia permits their capture from the wild, necessitating a request to import into the U.S. The agency concluded that allowing the import to the Georgia Aquarium would result in increased seizure of whales from their natural environments. (Virginia Morell)

Scientists are Creating a Dangerous Flu Strain, Just to Prove They Can – A group of scientists from Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands plan to perform gain-of-function studies on the new avian flu virus (H7N9). So far, H7N9 has caused 43 fatalities in China and epidemiologists are actively tracking an outbreak. The group’s studies will modify the H7N9 virus in such a way to make it more deadly. The research will have to be approved by a research review board for public safety, however, NIH scientist Dr. Steven Salzberg believes the research is an unnecessary risk to public safety and will not provide results that will be useful in preventing H7N9 infection.  (Steven Salzberg)

Restrictions on Health Workers with HIV Lifted as Outdated Ban Ends – The UK has lifted a ban preventing healthcare practitioners with HIV taking retroviral drugs from performing certain procedures on patients. Because drug treatments for HIV result in low viral loads, it is essentially impossible to transmit the virus to patients. In fact, only 4 cases of healthcare worker-to-patient transmission has ever been recorded and in each instance (none occurred in the UK), the practitioner was not taking medication. Currently, only 4 countries (Australia, Ireland, Italy and Malta) have laws limiting the procedures performed by HIV-positive practitioners.

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

August 21, 2013 at 5:48 pm

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Science Policy Around the Web – August 10, 2013

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By: Jennifer Plank

photo credit: jazzijava via photopin cc

photo credit: jazzijava via photopin cc

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

FDA Regulates ‘Gluten Free’ Labels – Until last week, the term “gluten free” was not regulated by the FDA, and individual manufacturers got to decide exactly what it meant. According to new regulations from the FDA, the term “gluten free” does not mean that a particular food is devoid of wheat, rye, and barley. However, the foods must consist of less than 20 parts per million of gluten. That amount of gluten should not cause a person with celiac disease to feel ill. Companies producing “gluten free” food will have a year to comply with the new FDA policy. (Mary Clare Jalonick)

Decades After Henrietta Lacks’ Death, Family Gets a Say on Her Cells – In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, a cervical cancer patient unknowingly donated tumor cells to science. The cells, called HeLa cells, can grow indefinitely in a dish and have been invaluable to biomedical research. In fact, over 70,000 publications reference the cells. The HeLa genome has recently been sequenced and published, to the dismay of Lacks’ family. The NIH has agreed to let the Lacks family have some say in how the cells will be used. The Lacks family will allow her sequence to be used by scientists assuming their are some safeguards to protect their privacy. (Michaeleen Doucleff)

Greenland Soars to Its Highest Temperature Ever Recorded – The Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI) has been recording increasingly warmer temperatures over the past several years. On July 30, temperatures in Greenland reached 25.9C (78.6F) at Mantiisoq observing station, the highest temperatures seen in Greenland since 1958. The warm temperatures were brought by southeasterly winds. (Jason Samenow)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

August 10, 2013 at 10:56 am

Science Policy Around the Web – Aug 2, 2013

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By: Jennifer Plank

photo credit: Army Medicine via photopin cc

photo credit: Army Medicine via photopin cc

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

The Pertussis Paradox – As the number of incidences of pertussis (whooping cough) neared 50,000, scientists were forced to evaluate the efficacy of the newer pertussis vaccine. A new, safer pertussis vaccine was introduced in 1990. The newer vaccine, called DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, acellular Pertussis), had fewer adverse side effects than the older DTP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis) vaccine that was introduced in the 1940s. Possible side effects of the DTP vaccine included high fevers and seizures. After following the efficacy of the DTaP vaccine for several years, it became clear that while DTaP caused fewer adverse effects, the immune-protection is not as long lasting. Initially, the DTaP vaccine creates an immune response that is similar to that of the DTP vaccine, however, over time the immune-protection declines with the DTaP vaccine. In fact, children who received 1 dose of DTP were twice as likely to be protected during a whooping cough outbreak than children who received 5 DTaP vaccines during infancy. Today, efforts to determine the cause of the declining immune-protection in DTaP and methods for making the DTP vaccine safer are underway. (Arthur Allen, subscription required)

Astrophysicist tapped to lead NSF – Earlier this week, President Obama nominated astrophysicist France Cordova to head the National Science Foundation. If her nomination is confirmed by the Senate, Dr. Cordova will be only the second woman to lead the agency. Cordova, who is a former Purdue University administrator and NASA chief scientist, currently serves as the chairwoman for for the governing board of the Smithsonian Institution. Interestingly, Cordova’s career didn’t start with science; she earned her bachelors in English from Stanford University. (Lauren Morello)

Experts warn of dangers of over diagnosis and treatment of cancer –  A panel advising the National Cancer Institute has recommended that the word “cancer” be selectively used in diagnoses to prevent patients from panicking and seeking unnecessary, extreme treatments. The committee recommended using the word “cancer” only when lesions have a “reasonable likelihood of lethal progression if untreated.” For example, some women have localized lesions that look like cancers but are not lethal, and these women are unnecessarily treated with radiation therapy or mastectomies despite the fact that the lesions will never harm them. While preventative care is not necessary in some cases, removal of non-cancerous lesions in the colon or on the cervix has reduced the incidence of cancer. (Lenny Bernstein)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

August 2, 2013 at 10:26 pm