Science Policy For All

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Archive for November 2013

Science Policy Around the Web – November 27, 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.

The Pentagon Joins the Drug Business – The Department of Defense is launching an effort to create its own vaccines and drugs for biodefense. In October, construction began on a facility in Florida that will produce flu vaccine and specialized drugs for the Pentagon to protect military troops against biological weapons. However, this has been met with some backlash. A 2009 analysis commissioned by the White House recommended against establishing a government-controlled facility. There is concern work from this new facility will significantly overlap with research being done by the Department of Health and Human Services on similar vaccines and drugs. Finally, millions of dollars are being shifted from spending on equipment for military at risk of exposure to biological weapons to pay for this initiative. A top aide for Assistant Secretary of Defense Andrew C. Weber, who has championed this initiative, has said that the Florida facility is required to produce medicine that the military cannot rely on HHS or others to provide. (David Willman)

Survey Analyzes The Potential Hard of Do-It-Yourself Biologists – The Do-It-Yourself Biology (DIYbio) movement is believed to consist of a community of about 3,000 to 4,000 DIYbio hobbyists. Concerns over the safety and risks associated with the research being done by DIYers has led to the publication of a recent survey attempting to distinguish fact from fiction in regards to the DIYbio movement. This survey concluded that the majority of DIYers are conducting simple, harmless studies. The survey shows that DIYers are also considering possible regulatory frameworks, which some argue is needed sooner than later. While the survey concluded that worries over the DIYbio movement are premature, not all scientists agree with this finding. DIYers hope this survey will eliminate some of the suspicions and fear associated with the DIYbio movement and turn the focus to its potential opportunities. (John Bohannon)

North Carolina Museum Refuses to Show Film on Climate ChangeIn October, the North Carolina Coastal Federation advocacy organization asked the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences to show the film Shored Up, an hour long movie looking at climate change and the impact of the rise in sea-level in New Jersey and North Carolina, as part of the weekly Science Café event at the museum. However, the program committee for museum director Emlyn Koster recommended the film not be shown by itself, but perhaps later as part of a larger program, and Koster himself also declined to show the film stating the Café event was not the right format to show the film. The controversy seems to stem mainly from the fact that the museum is part of a state agency for a state government perceived as hostile to climate change. Koster has stressed his independence and denied attempting to avoid the climate change issue. (Erik Stokstad)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

November 27, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – November 17, 2013

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By: Kaitlyn Morabito

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

Typhoon creates health crisis in the Phillipines -With current death tolls in the hundreds and projected deaths in the thousands, relief agencies around the world, including Doctors without Borders, the Red Cross, the WHO, and USAID, are quickly responding to the devastating disaster.  These groups are trying to prevent secondary deaths caused by untreated wounds, infectious disease and lack of food, water and medical supplies.  In addition to physical health, Doctors without Borders is providing psychological aid to mitigate post-traumatic stress disorder.  Even with the swift and extensive relief effort, it is still a challenge to get medical personnel and supplies to the many remote regions of the Philippines.  (Jan Christensen)

Aids Prevention: Africa’s Circumcision Challenge – Circumcision campaigns aimed at reducing new HIV infections are attracting attention in 12 African nations.  The goal of these programs is to circumcise 80% of males of reproductive age by 2015.  The program, supported by the WHO, UNAIDS, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and PEPFAR among others, estimates that reaching this goal may decrease the rate of new infections by 30-50%.  This policy is based on observations of doctors and researchers since 1986 and supported with evidence from clinical trials which show ~50% lower risk of HIV infection in circumcised men.   Opponents argue that circumcision without adequate education may lead to risk compensation and eventually lead to an increase in new infections.  Critics also point out that circumcision does not directly protect women from infection and that the resources could be used elsewhere to more efficiently prevent HIV infections. (Catherine De Lange)

House Hearing Skates Over Big Disagreements on NSF Reauthorizations – On Wednesday, the public heard for first time the contents of the FIRST (Federal Investments in Research, Science, and Technology) bill.  This bill would make changes to the NSF grant reviews process, including requiring the NSF director to ensure that each grant is aimed to one of 6 national goals and post a description of each grant before it is awarded.  While the subcommittee chair Larry Buchshon suggested that the provisions in this bill are in line with changes the NSF and NSB have already approved, NSB chair Dan Arvizu counters that the NSB has yet to review the bill.  In fact, NSB and NSF leaders have expressed concerns over some of the key provisions in the bill.  (Jeffrey Mervis)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

November 17, 2013 at 9:23 am

Science Policy Around the Web – November 8, 2013

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By: Tara Burke

Photo credit: Ryan Thompson via photopin cc

Photo credit: Ryan Thompson via photopin cc

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

F.D.A. Ruling Would All But Eliminate Trans Fats – Yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration outlined measures to rid the nation’s food supply of trans fats, a major contributing factor to heart disease. The announcement ends a thirty-year fight by public health advocates against trans fats, which are created when liquid oil is treated with hydrogen gas to make a solid. The Institute of Medicine has found that there is no allowable amount of consumption of artificial trans fats and therefore, the FDA recommends that trans fats be removed from the legal category “generally recognized as safe”. The complete removable of trans fats from the American diet is expected to significantly cut down on health care costs and heart attacks. (Sabrina Tavernise)

U.K. Researchers Launch Open-Access Genomes Project – The United Kingdom announced this week the establishment of a British Personal Genome Project (PGP-UK). This program will recruit volunteers to provide DNA as well as health data; both DNA and health data will be available with no restrictions on their use. Britain’s PGP, headed by Stephan Beck from University College London, stems from a 2005 Harvard study. While the Harvard PGP currently has less than 200 genomes available, the study has many volunteers waiting. Other countries continue to see the value in personal genome databases as a way of furthering our understanding of DNA’s contribution to disease as Britain’s PGP joins other programs currently underway in Canada and Korea and one launching soon in Germany. (Elizabeth Pennisi)

More Asteroid Strikes Are Likely, Scientists Say – Traditionally, asteroid strikes have been thought of as an extremely rare event. However, in a paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature, scientists estimate that asteroid strikes may occur as often as every decade or two. These findings, along with the recent asteroid explosion over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk are elevating the topic of planetary defense. The United Nations is expected to recommend the establishment of an International Asteroid Warning Network, a way for countries to share information. They are also likely to recommend an advisory group to explore technologies that can deflect asteroids. (Kenneth Chang)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

November 8, 2013 at 5:40 pm