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Archive for December 2013

Science Policy Around the Web – December 20, 2013

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By: Jennifer Plank

photo credit: paulswansen via photopin cc

photo credit: paulswansen via photopin cc

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

FDA Questions Safety of Antibacterial Soaps – Recent concerns that antibacterial materials in soaps and toothpastes resulted in a new FDA policy that requires soap manufacturers to prove that antibacterial chemicals are safe. Some claim that antimicrobials interfere with hormones in children and add to the formation of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Producers of the antibacterial soaps claim that they have been deemed safe. Animal models have demonstrated that Triclosan and Triclocarbon result in developmental defects. The companies have been given a year to prove the safety of antibacterial soaps. (Sabrina Tavernise)

NIH to Experiment with High-Risk Grants – NIH director, Dr. Francis Collins, recently told an advisory committee that the NIH should fund more individuals rather than research proposals. This change in ideology results from the success of NIH Pioneer Awards funded through the NIH Common Fund. The Common Fund awarded 7 individuals with the Pioneer Award, which provides individuals with $500,000 to be spent over 5 years. The recipients of the Pioneer Awards published more high impact manuscripts than recipients of the most common award, the R01. Despite the success, individual awards will not replace R01s. This new mechanism will be proposed to institute directors in January. (Sara Reardon)

Meeting Clinical Trials Need for Speed – The amount of time required to initiate a clinical trial is frustrating to researchers and patients. Therefore, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), has launched the PCOR Network (PCORnet), which is a centralized data-sharing network. The PCORI will fund 29 pilot projects ($93.5 million) to create, enable, and test common data models. If the pilot projects are successful, the PCORnet will be expanded.  (Francis Collins)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

December 20, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Posted in Linkposts

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Science Policy and U.S. Foreign Policy – Birds of a Feather

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By: Bethanie Morrison

According to the National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats, “we are experiencing an unparalleled period of advancement and innovation in the life sciences globally that continues to transform our way of life.”1 This advancement in life sciences is driven by developments in international academic institutions, industrial research centers, private laboratories (i.e. Do-it-Yourself Biology) and government research facilities. The evolution of a global research community and the relationships such an entity can foster have major implications for the United States in terms of our foreign policy objectives.  In the pre-9/11 edition of Bruce Jentleson’s American Foreign Policy2, he lists 5 main reasons why U.S. foreign policy is especially important in this post-Cold War era.  The 5 points are summarized here, and you can see how our foreign policy and science policy agendas are inherently linked:

1.  The U.S. still faces significant threats to its national security (biodefense).

2.  The U.S. economy is becoming increasingly internationalized (technology imports and exports).

3.  Areas of policy previously considered “domestic” have been internationalized (STEM education).

4.  The increasing diversity of the U.S. population makes for a larger number of citizens with personal interests in foreign policy (areas of research funding, i.e. Malaria, HIV/AIDS).

5.  The U.S. cannot claim to be true to its most basic values if it ignores its violations internationally (global health system research).

In addition, Jentleson suggests that all foreign policy decisions can be analyzed by a framework of ‘4Ps,’ which stands for Power, Peace, Prosperity and Principles.  While each policy can be analyzed in terms of the 4Ps, it is rare for all four to be simultaneously achievable within each policy decision.  It is interesting to apply this analytical framework to the foreign policy involved in science policy and vice versa.  While this analysis will differ from policy to policy, the significance of each of the 4Ps may differ from political party to political party, making this a dynamic and interesting analytic process.  Below is a sample of how a 4Ps framework may be applied to science policy in terms of foreign policy.

Power:  This is important for self-defense, deterring aggression and exerting influence over other nations.  For example bioterrorism and biodefense strategies, and most DoD-funded research, provides outlets for science policy to influence the US’s position of power internationally. In addition, ensuring continued competitiveness in STEM education and U.S. involvement in “big science” (ie. The Human Genome Project) will require policies that allow us to be the authority on science thereby exerting our influence over other nations.

Peace:  This is important in terms of international management, diplomacy, and shows the importance of international institutions.  With regard to science policy, our relationships and collaborations fostered with other nations that are based on science and technology are critical to maintaining peace.  The globalization of science and international product development partnerships have improved our relationships with many European nations and are now expanding to our relationships with Asia.  Of particular interest is the formation of positive partnerships with major international forces such as Russia and China.  While there remain mistrust issues between the U.S. and China3, working together on a scientific goal may be a form of diplomacy that eases tensions moving forward.

Prosperity:  This relates to trade agreements and international economic policies that improve the U.S. financial system.   The ways in which science translates into finance center around technology development and trade.  This may involve regulatory mechanisms and policies regarding pharmacological agents and technology.

Principles:  These are the values, ideals and beliefs for which the U.S. claims to stand.  Global health initiatives play the largest role in U.S. foreign policy principles aside from our fight against terrorism.  Global health policy encompasses a broad range of research areas including clean water, children and women’s health issues, eradication of diseases and improvement of health care systems world-wide4.

The question is, how would you rank these 4Ps in terms of importance in U.S. foreign policy, and does that ranking system differ when thinking strictly in terms of U.S. science policy and funding?  Why?  Consider writing to your representatives expressing your ideas or concerns in terms of something bigger than your lab.  You never know what could happen!

1.  National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats. National Security Council, November 2009.
2.  Jentleson, Bruce W., American Foreign Policy: the Dynamics of Choice in the 21st Century.  W.W. Norton and Company,  July 2013. 
3.  Lieberthal, K., Jisi, W., Addressing US-China Strategic Mistrust.  John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institute, March 2012.
4.  Kaiser Family Foundation 2013 Survey of Americans on the U.S. Role in Global Health, November 2013.

Written by sciencepolicyforall

December 17, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Posted in Essays

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Science Policy Around the Web – December 8, 2013

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By: Tara Burke

Photocredit: Chase Dekker via Photopin cc

Photocredit: Chase Dekker via Photopin cc

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

Panel Says Global Warming Carries Risk of Deep Changes – On Tuesday, a panel appointed by the National Research Council warned that continued global warming poses the risk of drastic changes to the environment. The deep environmental changes of concern include potential mass extinction of plant and animal life, possible collapse of polar sea ice as well as the threat of dead zones in the ocean. However, the panel ruled out the possibility of most worst-case fears perpetuated by Hollywood and popular imagination such as a sudden release of methane from the ocean that would fry the planet. The panel recommends the creation of an early warning system capable of alerting society before such changes create irreversible chaos. (Justin Gills)

United States Should End Gene Therapy Review Panel, Study Says – A panel commissioned by the Institute of Medicine at the U.S. National Academies recommended that the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC) be phased out. The RAC was created in 1974 to vet clinical trials of gene therapy for novel risks. The report issued Thursday says, in most cases, gene therapy does not need this extra regulation anymore as concerns about common gene therapy methods no longer exist and the public perception of such treatment has transitioned from negative to positive. Panelists suggest that the RAC should be replaced by a RAC-like body with a larger breadth that reviews all risky clinical research that may not be sufficiently reviewed by supporting agencies. (Eliot Marshall)

NASA funding shuffle alarms planetary scientists – On December 3rd, NASA’s planetary science division announced restricting of its funding of various research and analysis programs. This jarred planetary scientists who already feel slighted in the ever-shrinking world of science research funding and who rely on this division for a majority of their funding. Even more worrisome is the newly-formed Solar System workings research program which will not be taking funding proposals until 2015…long after many of currently-funded planetary scientists run out of their current monies. Early-career planetary scientists are especially fearful of these new funding woes and are concerned they may be forced to change careers. (Alexandra Witze)


Have an interesting science policy link?  Share it in the comments!

Written by sciencepolicyforall

December 8, 2013 at 12:35 pm