Science Policy For All

Because science policy affects everyone.

Science Policy Around the Web – October 28, 2014

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By: Lani S. Chun

photo credit: BWJones via photopin cc

Ebola Outbreak – Public Health

WHO convenes meeting to discuss the development and implementation of Ebola vaccine

Much attention has been given to the isolated incidents of travelers inadvertently bringing Ebola outside of West Africa, feeding fears that Ebola may become a global epidemic. However, it is important to note that there have only been 10 deaths and 27 cases confirmed outside of the three hardest hit countries—Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia—where almost 5,000 ebola deaths out of over 10,000 cases have been confirmed. This highlights the need to concentrate on the plight of the citizens and healthcare workers who are living and working in West Africa, where limited healthcare resources, long-standing cultural traditions, and distrust in the government are prolonging and exacerbating the ebola outbreak. On the 23rd of October, the WHO convened a meeting to discuss the development and implementation of ebola vaccines as the best option to curb current and future ebola outbreaks. Among the 90+ participants were representatives of governments, charities, banks, pharmaceutical companies, and academic scientists. As a result, production of potential vaccines is scheduled ramp up in 2015. In addition, clinical trials and approvals of said vaccines will be fast-tracked with the prioritization put on vaccination of healthcare workers. (Chris Johnston, The Guardian; Patterson Clark, Washington Post; CDC; WHO)

 

Nobel Prize in Chemistry

2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry co-awardee, Eric Betzig, makes additional contributions to the field of microscopy

The Nobel Prizes serve as symbols of global participation in the advancement of culture, human welfare, and scientific achievement and are widely considered crowning achievements for awardees, but Eric Betzig isn’t just accomplished; he’s prolific. On October 8, 2014, Eric Betzig shared the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his contribution to the development of single-molecule microscopy, which he was the first to utilize in 2006. Sixteen days after the Nobel Prize announcement, his group published a paper in Science, describing another ground-breaking method called lattice light-sheet microscopy. Lattice light-sheet microscopy overcomes the low spatio-temporal resolution of current technologies, allowing in vivo, 3D visualization of highly dynamic processes with minimal photobleaching and background fluorescence. This method provides a more nuanced and detailed mechanism for visualizing cellular processes and is an essential advancement of fluorescence imaging technology. (Rachel Feltman, Washington Post; Nobelprize.org; Chen et al., Science)

 

Federal Science Policy

USA share of internationally funded nuclear fusion research in jeopardy due to Congressional concerns over budget

In 2007, the ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) Agreement was signed and ratified by six countries (China, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and USA) and the European Union. With the ratification of the agreement, the countries set out to collaboratively build and test a magnetic confinement system, called a tokamak, that could serve as a proof-of-concept for nuclear fusion as a source of energy. Although the tokamak will not be used to produce electricity, the goal of the 30-year project is to demonstrate that energy output from nuclear fusion can be ten times greater than energy input. Construction of the largest tokamak to date began in 2013 with scheduled completion of the machine in 2019. The USA agreed to build 9% of the tokamak regardless of the price tag. However, mismanagement, ballooning expenditures, and moving deadlines have caused some members of Congress to question the cost-benefit potential of US participation in such a high-cost, long-term project with relatively uncertain outcomes. Some Senate members have moved to end US funding for the project by next year. With upcoming elections in multiple states and low approval ratings, it is to be seen what direction Congress will go with respect to ITER. (Adrian Cho, Science; ITER.org)

 

 

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

October 28, 2014 at 5:49 pm

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