Science Policy For All

Because science policy affects everyone.

Posts Tagged ‘children

Science Policy Around the Web – March 06, 2017

leave a comment »

By: Liu-Ya Tang, PhD

Source: pixabay

Technology and Health

Is That Smartphone Making Your Teenager’s Shyness Worse?

The development of new technologies, especially computers and smartphones, has greatly changed people’s lifestyles. People can telework without going to offices, and shop online without wandering in stores. While this has brought about convenience, it has also generated many adverse effects. People tend to spend more time with their devices than with their peers. Parents of shy teenagers ask, “Is that smartphone making my teenager’s shyness worse?”

Professor Joe Moran, in his article in the Washington Post, says that the parents’ concern is reasonable. The Stanford Shyness Survey, which was started by Professor Philip Zimbardo in the 1970s, found that “the number of people who said they were shy had risen from 40 percent to 60 percent” in about 20 years. He attributed this to new technology like email, cell phones and even ATMs. He even described such phenomena of non-communication as the arrival of “a new ice age”.

Contrary to Professor Zimbardo’s claims, other findings showed that the new technology provided a different social method. As an example, teenagers often use texting to express their love without running into awkward situations. Texting actually gives them time and space to digest and ponder a response. Further, Professor Moran said that the claim of Professor Zimardo was made before the rise of social networks;  shy teenagers can share their personal life online even if they don’t talk in public. He also talks about the paradox of shyness, where shyness is caused by “our strange capacity for self-attention”, while “we are also social animals that crave the support and approval of the tribe.” Therefore, new technologies are not making the shyness worse, in contrast social networks and smartphones can help shy teenagers find new ways to express that contradiction. (Joe Moran, Washington Post)

Genomics

Biologists Propose to Sequence the DNA of All Life on Earth

You may think that it is impossible to sequence the DNA of all life on Earth, but at a meeting organized by the Smithsonian Initiative on Biodiversity Genomics and the Shenzhen, China-based sequencing powerhouse BGI, researchers announced their intent to start the Earth BioGenome Project (EBP). The news was reported in Science. There are other ongoing big sequencing projects such as the UK Biobank, which aims to sequence the genomes of 500,000 individuals.

The significance of the EBP will greatly help “understand how life evolves”, says Oliver Ryder, a conservation biologist at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research in California. Though the EBP researchers are still working on many details, they propose to carry out this project in three steps. Firstly, they plan to sequence the genome of a member of each eukaryotic family (about 9000 in all) in great detail as reference genomes. Secondly, they would sequence species from each of the 150,000 to 200,000 genera to a lesser degree. Finally, the sequencing task will be expanded to the 1.5 million remaining known eukaryotic species with a lower resolution, which can be improved if needed. As suggested by EBP researchers, the eukaryotic work might be completed in a decade.

There are many challenges to starting this project. One significant challenge is sampling, which requires international efforts from developing countries, particularly those with high biodiversity. The Global Genome Biodiversity Network could supply much of the DNA needed, as it is compiling lists and images of specimens at museums and other biorepositories around the world. As not all DNA samples in museum specimens are good enough for high-quality genomes, getting samples from the wild would be the biggest challenge and the highest cost. The EBP researchers also need to develop standards to ensure high-quality genome sequences and to record associated information for each species sequenced. (Elizabeth Pennisi, ScienceInsider)

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

Written by sciencepolicyforall

March 6, 2017 at 8:41 am

Science Policy Around the Web – October 28, 2016

leave a comment »

By: Emily Petrus, PhD

Source: Flickr, under Creative Commons

Technology and Health

Can You Please Pass the iPad?

As digital media screens have become more prevalent, doctors have warned parents of its negative impact on developing minds. In 1999, screen time was first addressed, with doctors mandating that no screen time was recommended for children under age 2.   The argument goes that children need parents present in real-time to interact with to develop the ability to read social cues and engage on a personal level.

Now the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has dictated that one hour per day of high-quality educational screen time may be allowed for children between 2 and 5 years of age. For children 18 months to 2 years, some screen time is ok as long as a parent is actively engaged and watching with the child. This is especially relieving for parents of children who have relatives far away who use Skype or FaceTime to communicate. Although this is technically screen time, it does benefit children with those important social interactions and reading facial and vocal cues.

Overall the goal of the AAP is to ensure that media is used in a mindful way, not to replace social interactions but to enhance family discussions and provide supplementary education material for older age groups. They also recommend media-free family time to ensure children develop a healthy relationship with technology. Jenny Radesky, MD, FAAP and lead author for the statement said, “What’s most important is that parents be their child’s media mentor. That means teaching them how to use it as a tool to create, connect and learn.” In relation to screen time rules, it seems the amount of parent involvement and moderation are the keys to success. (AAP)

Mental Health Research

New Director of National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH)

NIMH has a tall order to fill: bridge the gap from the breakneck speed of basic neuroscience research advances to bring solid and reliable treatments to the clinic. Last month NIMH welcomed a new director, Dr. Joshua Gordon, to take the helm and direct the institute toward a balance between these two priorities. After 19 years as a faculty member at Columbia University, Gordon hopes to bring his experience as both a clinician and a researcher to achieve this delicate result.

NIMH’s strategic plan for research was laid out in September, with four priorities highlighted to combat mental illness. These include describing mechanisms of complex behaviors, at the molecular, cellular, circuit and genetic levels. Second, characterizing mental illness trajectories to determine best intervention procedures and time points, which would include detecting biomarkers and understanding how behavior reflects neuropathology. Third, NIMH strives to marry tried and true existing treatments with new therapies which can be implemented in community settings, thus bringing help to patients. Finally, NIMH funded research must improve public health, with better clinician education about new treatments, and new service delivery models that can be implemented to reach more patients suffering from mental illness.

These are all monumental tasks but Gordon seems up for the challenge. In a recent Q&A session by Meredith Wadman of Science Magazine, he was asked about the op-ed pieces in the Washington Post and the New York Times by NIMH clinical psychiatrists where they accused previous director Thomas Insel of putting too much priority on basic research and letting clinical neuroscience fall by the wayside. Gordon replied by saying, “I think my first priority is good science. Where there are opportunities in psychiatry for short-term effects, we are going to try to take advantage of them. Absolutely. We’d be mad not to. We know so little about the brain, we have so few truly novel treatments in the pipeline that I’m all ears.” (NIH News Release)

Autism

Autism early intervention – help the parents, help their children

The plight of the working parent has become an important and almost bipartisan issue this election season. Politicians are proposing policies that will help families with paid family leave and some help with childcare costs, however there is a growing segment of people who desperately need even more help. Raising a child with autism is increasingly common, currently 1% of children and young people in the US are on the spectrum.

The cost of having an autistic child can be tremendous, with extra health care expenses, special equipment, classes and educational requirements. Often one parent must leave the workforce to care for their child as they require extensive and specialized care. Early interventions such as classes and therapy are thought to be effective for lessening the symptoms of autism, but until now the trials have been small and have had short end points. This week The Lancet published an article demonstrating that interventions aimed at educating parents of autistic children had long-term (up to 6 years) benefits. 152 children aged 2-4 years old were recruited to the study, with half given interventions that included therapy, monthly support and a parent-mediated 20-30 minute daily session of planned activities. The children who received this extra support reported lower levels of severe autism and had better teacher and parent assessed behaviors. However, the study did not find significant reductions in anxiety or depression or a language benefit.

This study demonstrates that providing education and resources for parents of autistic children are a worthwhile endeavor. Government resources are often aimed at providing services for the child, which are equally important. Parents armed with the proper educational tools can become personalized therapists for their children, which could reduce societal costs and improve outcomes. (Heidi Ledford, Nature)

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

Written by sciencepolicyforall

October 28, 2016 at 10:50 am

Science Policy Around the Web – August 14, 2015

leave a comment »

By: Patricia Kiesler, Ph.D.

Photo credit: via pixabay.com

Laboratory Animal Rights

Animal advocacy group targets cat and dog research using novel crowdsourcing campaign

The Los Angeles–based Beagle Freedom Project (BFP) animal advocacy group filed a complaint on Monday with Ohio State University (OSU) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) alleging that a NIH-funded OSU laboratory has violated NIH rules concerning the use of dogs in biomedical research. In the past, U.S. research facilities would procure dogs from Class B dealers, who would sell animals that they obtained from pounds, breeders and “random sources”. The latter are associated with stolen and abused pets. In 2013, the NIH announced that researchers using the agency’s funds could not procure dogs from Class B dealers, as of October 1, 2014, and could not use such dogs in projects funded in 2015 and beyond. According to BFP, OSU has violated both guidelines. In their complaint, BFP provided records suggesting that the university obtained four class B dogs on October 6, 2014, and that one of the class B dogs was still alive as late as July of 2015. OSU has disputed both accusations and provided evidence to ScienceInsider indicating that the dogs were purchased before the NIH rule went into effect, on September 11, 2014, and said that no class B dogs are currently involved in laboratory research.

BFP has gathered this evidence against OSU through a unique crowdsourcing technique. Public supporters browse the BFP’s website and its list of more than 1200 cats and dogs kept at 17 public research universities in the U.S. and “adopt” one of these animals. BFP then sends supporters a Freedom of Information Act request form, which they fill out and send to the university housing the animal. Any information collected (health records, protocols, necropsy reports, etc.) is forwarded to BFP. Through this strategy, the animal advocacy group has generated hundreds of public records requests to engage the public and pressure universities to release animals and/or end their research. (David Grimm, ScienceInsider)

Scientific publishing policy

Courts refuse scientists’ bids to prevent retractions

Two scientists have sought to prevent journals from retracting or expressing concern about their papers this year. But U.S courts have dismissed their legal bids. Guangwen Tang from Tufts University in Boston, MA had hoped to stop the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition from retracting her 2012 paper on the value of providing Golden Rice to children. This rice is a genetically engineered form of rice that is rich in b-carotene for use as a source of vitamin A. Following Tufts University ‘s discovery that parents had not been informed that the rice provided to their children was genetically modified, the journal decided to retract her paper and did so after the court’s ruling. Mario Saad from the University of Campinas in Sao Paulo, Brazil had also hoped to prevent the journal of Diabetes from publishing expressions of concern about four of his papers. The journal said online that it had been alerted to potentially manipulated images in his studies and that was concerned about the reliability of some of his data. The first investigation launched by the University of Campinas found mistakes, but no dishonesty, in Saad’s work and the conclusions of a second investigation have yet to be released. The court, however, swiftly denied his injunction bid and a request to reconsider thereafter. As a result, Diabetes published print concerns regarding all four of his papers.

“In both cases, the courts decided that the scientists’ requests would deny journals their right to free speech. The decisions do not prevent the scientists from suing for damages from defamation, however, and legal action is ongoing in both instances”. But a scientist suing a journal to stop retractions is unheard of and researchers may find it difficult to win defamation cases against publishers in the U.S. as defamation charges have a high burden of proof in this country; “plaintiffs [would] have to show that publishers acted with malice or reckless disregard”. (Monya Baker, Nature News)

International – Children’s health

Mexico bans giveaways of baby formula at hospitals in an effort to encourage breastfeeding

Mexico has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Latin America with only one in seven mothers breastfeeding exclusively during their babies’ first six months. This poor record is amplified in a country where millions live in extreme poverty and drinking water is often unhealthy. In an effort to increase breastfeeding rates, the Mexican government has banned free baby formula at hospitals. But Mexican health authorities said that baby formula could still be supplied at a doctor’s request and would be available for purchase. Mexico’s measure follows the World Health Organization’s recommendations that exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and continued breastfeeding for up to two years or beyond supplemented with complementary foods provide health benefits to babies that translate into adulthood. These recommendations have recently been supported by a long-term study in Brazil that involved nearly 3,500 babies who were followed up 30 years later. The research, published in The Lancet Global Health last April, found that those who had been breastfed the longer scored higher on intelligence tests as adults. They were also more likely to reach higher educational attainment and to earn greater incomes. Although breastfeeding was evenly distributed across social class and the researchers tried to rule out main confounders including mother’s education, family income and birth weight, experts agreed that further research was needed to explore any possible link between breastfeeding and intelligence. The large sample size and number of factors monitored, however, made this a powerful study. (BBC News)

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

Written by sciencepolicyforall

August 14, 2015 at 10:00 am

Science Policy Around the Web – March 8, 2012

leave a comment »

By: Rebecca Cerio

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

Gulf on Open Access to Federally Financed Research – An updated view of the legislation introduced and reasoning behind both sides of the open access debate.  Should federally-funded research be available to the public free of charge?  The final answer isn’t likely to come in an election year, says Guy Gugliotta in the New York Times.

Are the Kids Alright?  – Medicating children is becoming more common every year, yet it has historically been difficult to get drug makers to properly safety-test their products in children.  Bob Grant in The Scientist outlines two laws up for reauthorization before Congress which have encouraged safety studies in minors…and possibly saved lives.

The Work-Life Integration Overload – A recent survey by the Association for Women in Science found that both men and women reported a significant amount of work-life imbalance, particularly among married-with-children scientists.  Their survey was far from scientific but does capture a picture of a generation of scientists struggling to balance work with family demands.

Have an interesting science policy link to share?  Let us know in the comments!

Written by sciencepolicyforall

March 8, 2012 at 8:33 pm