Science Policy For All

Because science policy affects everyone.

Science Policy Around the Web – December 2, 2014

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By: Amanda Whiting, Ph.D

photo credit: AJC1 via photopin cc


Federal Funding and Dual Use Research of Concern

U.S. urged to clarify extent of funding moratorium on risky virus research

The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) has called upon the US government to clarify its position and urged it to give guidelines to scientists affected by a recent funding moratorium on certain types of infectious disease research. The NSABB statement was intended to give voice to some of the concerns of scientists and uncertainty surrounding the October 17th announcement and ask for “clear definitions and pathways to exceptions where they are needed” said NSABB Chair Samuel Stanley, president of Stony Brook University, New York. The pause in new federal funding applies to gain-of-function (GOF) research on influenza, MERS and SARS viruses that could potentially make these pathogens more transmissible in mammals or more pathogenic. The moratorium on new research is intended to give experts, such as those at NSABB, a year to advise on and help formalize a U.S. government-wide policy for reviewing the risk and benefits of GOF studies. Researchers whose studies are already funded or have non-U.S. support are encouraged to join a voluntary moratorium while the policy is under development. Concerns over the possible misuse of viral research arose in 2012, after the publication of two NIH-funded studies of H5N1 transmissibility and pathogenesis in ferrets.  (David Malakoff, ScienceInsider)

Open Access Publishing

Gates Foundation announces world’s strongest policy on open access research

Beginning January 1st, 2015, researchers with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will be required to agree to some very, very open access publishing requirements! According to the open access policy announced on November 20th, authors funded in whole or in part by the foundation, must make their resulting papers and underlying data-sets open with unrestricted access immediately upon publication and allow reuse of their data for commercialization. During a two year transition period, authors may still apply for a 12-month embargo on the open publication of their data. This year-long delay in open access is similar to other life sciences funding sources, such as the NIH. However, after 2017, this option will no longer be available and could potentially prevent Gates Foundation researchers from publishing in top-tier journals such as Science and Nature, which currently make the delay mandatory. The ability to re-use data for commercial purposes also goes far beyond what is required by most open access policies. The Gates Foundation has taken a major stance on open access – and time will see just how far journals will go to continue to publish and distribute research or who else might follow suit. (Richard Van Noorden, Nature News Blog)

Public Health Policy

More public health interventions required to tackle grim reaper of ‘lifestyle’ diseases

A new paper published in the journal Critical Public Health, pushes the idea that public health policy should focus more breaking the (bad) habits of the public on the whole, rather than focus on an individual’s behavior as a way to better overall public health. Common behaviors, such as eating while watching TV or walking the dog after dinner, represent “social practices” that could be targeted for potential intervention with policy. The lead author, Dr. Stanley Blue says, “Smoking, exercise and eating are fundamentally social practices, therefore we need to re-shape what is deemed socially acceptable and normal in order to change them.” The authors cite changed attitudes towards smoking as one example of practice-oriented public health – as the social relationship with smoking changed, public health policies emerged that target the “practice” of smoking such as bans on smoking in restaurants or bars or in cars with children. “Current public health policy is dominated by the presumption that individuals are capable of making ‘better’ choices for themselves on the basis of information given to them by the government or other agencies. This does not account for the fact that practices like those of smoking and eating have histories of their own. Public health policy will have to find the courage to break away from its traditional mold if it is to stand a chance of confronting the grim reaper of lifestyle diseases.” (Science Daily)

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


Written by sciencepolicyforall

December 2, 2014 at 9:00 am

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