Science Policy For All

Because science policy affects everyone.

Archive for October 2013

Science Policy Around the Web – October 31, 2013

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By: Chris O’Donnell

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

Battle Over Reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act – The America COMPETES Act, which was first approved in 2007, increased federal support for research and science education. The legislation is once again up for reauthorization this fall, but it appears this once bipartisan bill will now be the ground for a battle in the House of Representatives. Already, there are disagreements over the agencies to be included and how those agencies should function. A discussion draft was recently released by Democrats on the House science committee, but the committee’s Republican chairman, Representative Lamar Smith (TX), has yet to release his draft bill. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) discusses her draft bill and trying to find common ground with House Republicans. (Jeffrey Mervis)

Organizations Urge Lawmakers to Allow NSF to Advance Research in Social and Behavioral Sciences – Recently, over 70 organizations wrote a letter to House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) asking for lawmakers to continue to allow the National Science Foundation (NSF) to evaluate and fund research propels in a wide range of disciplines, including social science and behavioral sciences. This is in response to a recent editorial where Smith and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) suggested that certain grants in the social, behavioral, and economic sciences were not worthy of federal funding. There is concern that politics may interfere with the ability of the NSF to fund projects from all disciplines and negatively impact the scientific process as a whole. (Kathy Wren)

Wide Disparities Among U.S. States in Science and Math A recent study by the National Center for Education Statistics suggests eighth-graders attending public schools in the U.S. are above average in science compared to their foreign counterparts in 47 of the 50 states. U.S. students did not fare as well in math, but students were still above the international average in 36 states. However, wide disparities were observed between states. For example, average state scores in science ranged from 453 in the District of Columbia to 567 in Massachusetts. And from states with an average science score of at least 500, the percentage of students with high or advanced scores ranged from 31% in Hawaii to 61% in Massachusetts. There is a desire for policymakers to find out why some states, like Massachusetts, are performing so well.  (Adrienne Lu)

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October 31, 2013 at 4:51 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – October 27, 2013

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By: Jennifer Plank

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

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

Dolphin Slaughter Fueled by Illegal Shark Trade – A conservation NGO, Mundo Azul, has suggested that the demand for shark meat is leading the yearly slaughter of over 15,000 dolphins near Peru alone. The dolphin skin is harvested for shark bait. Hunting dolphins in Peru has been illegal since 1996, but the law is rarely enforced. Over 30 NGOs have joined together signing a petition asking the Peruvian government to investigate the dolphin killings. The Peruvian government has agreed to do so by June 2014. (Alexis Manning)

Obama Urges More Education Spending, Calls for ‘Political Courage in Washington’ – President Obama has called for Congress to increase the amount of money dedicated to education. In FY2014 budget proposed by Obama, he called for spending cuts to entitlement programs, increased spending for education, biomedical research, and transportation projects, and a decrease in tax cuts for wealthy Americans. (Scott Wilson)

Researchers Spar Over Tests for Breast Cancer Risks – At the American Society for Human Genetics annual meeting, a heated debate arose over genetic testing for breast cancer genes. Using BRCA1 and BRCA2 sequences to analyze risks for breast cancer has been well established, however, many other genetic loci are associated with developing breast cancer. A new set of tests BROCA, tests for BRCA mutations and also sequences 38 other breast cancer associated genes. Since the other genes do not have as clear of link to breast cancer, many in the field think a positive result will result in patients taking drastic and unnecessary measures. (Jocelyn Kaiser)

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October 27, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – October 20, 2013

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By: Jennifer Plank

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

 

photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

A New Method Against Genetically Modified Salmon – The Food and Drug Administration has recently indicated that they intend to approve genetically modified salmon for human consumption to the dismay of many consumer and environmental activists. Because the government will not ban the production and sale of the fish, the activists are taking a different approach to inhibit the sale of the GMO salmon. Retailers including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Target, and Safeway have indicated they have no intention of selling the product, and Kroger is being pressured to follow a similar path. Activists believe that the GMO salmon will not be sold if there is no demand for the product. (Brady Dennis)

Pakistan Polio Outbreak Puts Global Eradication at Risk – Since 2012, the Taliban has claimed that vaccinations are a Western method to sterilize Muslims and has imposed bans on vaccinations. The Taliban controlled region, North Waziristan, has seen an increase in the number children infected with polio. Additionally, tests from sewage indicate that the disease seems to be spreading to other regions. Prior to this, polio had been largely eradicated with the exception of three small pockets. However, the recent increase in the number of polio infections suggests that the pockets within Pakistan are growing. (Kate Kelland)

Uganda Fights Stigma and Poverty to Take on Breast Cancer – In Uganda, stigma, poverty, and misinformation result in women not receiving treatment for breast cancer until it is too late. In the United States, 20% of women with breast cancer will die from the disease compared to 40-60% in less developed countries. In these countries, women generally do not seek treatment immediately and there is a delay in receiving the appropriate treatment. Uganda is trying to treat cancer patients more effectively through building a new government sponsored hospital, which has not yet opened due to lack of equipment. (Denise Grady)

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October 20, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – October 11, 2013

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By: Jennifer Plank

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

What Science Tells Us About the Safety of Genetically Modified Foods – Despite wide use within the United States, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) remain a subject of hot debate. While such a debate exists, little energy is spent on discussing the extensive studies that have already been done to demonstrate their safety. A group of Italian scientists published a review of manuscripts testing the safety of GMOs and came to two distinct conclusions. 1- GMOs are safe for human consumption. 2- While GMOs do not pose a risk to human health, they can potentially harm the environment. (John Timmer)

Today’s Nobel Prize Winner Had His Research Cut by the NIH – This week, James Rothman (along with Randy Schekman and Thomas Sudhof) won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine demonstrating the importance of basic research. However, with recent budget cuts, many basic research projects have lost funding- including the project that was the basis for Rothman’s Nobel Prize. Rothman now hopes that the project will be refunded if he applies again in the future. This article discusses the importance of funding for basic research. (Jennifer Welsh)

How the Shutdown is Devastating Biomedical Scientists and Killing Their Research – Last week, I highlighted the overall effect that the shutdown is having on research. This article includes an interview with an anonymous PI who is discussing how the shutdown will affect him and his specifically. (Brandon Keim)

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October 11, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – October 6, 2013

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By: Jennifer Plank

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

NFL Crusaded Against Science – An investigative book claims that the NFL denied a growing number of scientific studies linking playing football and brain damage. As part of their effort to discredit publications demonstrating a link between the two, the league created the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee in 1994. The studies published by the committee were controversial and included findings such as: concussions were minor injuries, concussions do not increase the risk of further injury, and football does not cause brain damage. Earlier this year, former NFL players sued the NFL over the fraudulent findings by the committee and received a $865 million settlement. (Don Van Natta Jr.)

NIH Trial Turns Away New Patients as Shutdown Obstructs Work of Scientists, Researchers – With 3/4 of NIH employees furloughed, new patients are unable to be enrolled in clinical trials. On average, 200 new patients enroll in trials each week, including 30 children being enrolled in cancer trials. As the government shutdown continues, those individuals’ health and well being are in danger. Additionally, other science agencies including the NSF, NASA, and DOE have either furloughed or have plans to furlough the majority of their employees. If the shutdown continues for an extended period of time, outside agencies and universities that receive federal government funding can be affected as well. (Joel Achenbach)

Vaccine Refusal Linked to California Pertussis Outbreak –  In 2010, over 9000 individuals were infected with pertussis in California. Several causes of infections have been previously described, including decreased immunity years after receiving the vaccine. However, a new study published in “Pediatrics” indicated that populations that were largely intentionally unvaccinated also contributed to the outbreak. The study identified nearly 40 geographical clusters with an unusually high number of non-medical exemptions for the pertussis vaccine were more likely to have a pertussis outbreak than surrounding areas. (Michelle Healy)

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October 6, 2013 at 8:39 pm