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Science Policy Around the Web – November 11, 2014

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By: Sara Cassidy, M.S., Ph.D.

Ebola

More money for the fight against Ebola

President Obama asked Congress for more than $6 billion dollars in additional funds to cope with the Ebola crisis. By framing the request as emergency funds, the president hopes to win bipartisan support for the measure. It includes $2.43 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services, much of which is apportioned for the Centers for Disease Control to shore up U.S. defense against the disease, as well as to control the epidemic in West Africa. $238 million is requested for the National Institutes for Health for vaccine and medicine development. $2.1 billion for State and international aid is slated for the U.S. Agency for International Development and USAID. Republicans indicate support for the request but also the need for careful review first. The request likely will be discussed in more detail at a Senate Appropriations hearing Nov 12th. (David Rogers, Politico)

 

Equal Pay for Equal Work

Gender inequity in pay persists in science

A recent survey conducted by the magazine, The Scientist, shines a light on the persistent inequity in pay received by equally qualified female scientists compared to their male colleagues. The difference in pay was most stunning in the U.S. and Canada, where female scientists made approximately $28,000 less than male scientists comparing average salaries. The most equitable pay was found in Latin America, where the difference in average salary was about $300. Independent of gender, the data showed that there were slight to modest increases in pay across different scientific disciplines compared to 2013, with relatively greater increases in the fields of genomics and immunology. (Jyoti Madhusoodanan, The Scientist)

 

Federal Science Policy – Climate Change

GOP majority could challenge Obama climate policy

In Tuesday’s election, Republicans gained control of the Senate and retained control of the House, which could spell disaster for the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to cut CO2 pollution from coat-fired power plants. The GOP-lead senate has also indicated they will approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which would shuttle oil from Canada to U.S. refineries. Republican senator from Oklahoma and climate change denier, James Inhofe, is next in line to chair the Environment and Public Works Committee. (NPR)

 

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November 11, 2014 at 12:00 pm

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Science Policy Around the Web – February 7, 2014

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By: Tara Burke

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

Guidelines urge women to monitor stroke risks more closely than men – The American Heart Association (AHA) and American Stroke Association (ASA) released guidelines yesterday aimed at preventing strokes in women. While women share many of the same risk factors as men, they also have unique risks that stem from pregnancy complications and hormone use. These additional guidelines emphasize maintenance of safe blood pressure levels, especially in young women, and suggest that women be screened for high blood pressure before taking birth-control pills. The AHA and ASA also advocates that women who experienced preeclampsia and eclampsia during pregnancy consider these conditions a risk factor for stroke well after their pregnancy.  (Lena H. Sun)

New Avian Flu Virus Ravages Poultry in Korea – A new strain of avian flu identified in South Korea on 17 January has spread nationwide and 2.8 million domestic chickens and ducks have been culled since the outbreak was discovered. Additionally, the strain has killed dozens of Baikal teal and other migratory birds. Previously this strain, H5N8, had not been seen in such a highly pathogenic form. Scientists are arguing over the origin of this strain and, to date, there are no reports of human infections. However, there is a serious worry that this strain may affect over 15,000 hens and ducks used in animal husbandry and breed improvement research. Destroying all of these animals would severely disrupt the center’s genetic resources and ongoing research projects. (Dennis Normile)

An Unusual Partnership to Tackle Stubborn Diseases – On Tuesday, the NIH along with seven nonprofit organizations and 10 large companies announced a partnership aimed at speeding up the development of drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease, Type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. The partnership involves a 5-year, $230 million effort in which the participants will share data in meetings and conference calls. This partnership will also make their findings publicly available. This joint effort benefits both academic research and industry with the ultimate goal of benefiting those suffering from these diseases. Drug companies have been strained by the enormous amount of money they have put into developing drugs but have the medications failed in clinical trials. Scientists are dealing with a flood of data from gene sequencing and other technologies, making it difficult to conclude what has been discovered. The partnership should speed up analysis and streamline communications amongst all different facets of research required to effectively create drug treatments. (Gina Kolata)

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February 7, 2014 at 2:15 pm

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Science Policy Around the Web – April 21, 2013

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By: Jennifer Plank

photo credit: limowreck666 via photopin cc

photo credit: limowreck666 via photopin cc

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

FDA’s rejection of generic OxyContin may have side effects – With the patent on the original OxyContin ending, the FDA has declared that they will not approve generic versions of the drug. In order for drug developers to compete in the prescription pain relief market, they will have to develop abuse resistant forms of the drug. In 2010, Purdue Pharma LP, the developer of the original OxyContin, produced a form of the drug that includes a polymer that makes it impossible to snort and inject the drug. The patent on the drug resistant form expires in 2025.  (Nancy Shute and Audrey Carlsen)

Stereotype threat for girls and STEM – According to Facebook executive and author Sheryl Sandberg, women are being held back by what social scientists call a “stereotype threat”- an idea that suggests that the more we are aware of the stereotype, the more likely we are to act in accordance with it. Sandberg suggests that the stereotype threat is what is responsible for preventing women to pursue leadership roles and careers in highly technical field, such as computer science. A recent study looking at author gender and gender typing of projects suggests that publications from male authors were more highly regarded scientifically. The author also presents many links aiming to encourage interest in STEM. (Chris Gunter)

Gene patents are sabotaging the future of medicine – A case currently being debated by the Supreme Court, Association of Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, has the potential to influence how clinicians can report the results of genome wide sequencing to their patients. Currently, Myriad holds the patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are associated with the onset of breast and ovarian cancers. Therefore, Myriad has a monopoly on all diagnostics and therapeutics related to the BRCA genes. The Association for Molecular Pathology states that a person has a right to know their own genetic code and should not have to have permission from patent holders to know the sequence of their own genes. The Supreme Court will rule on the case in late June. (Daniela Hernandez)

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April 21, 2013 at 8:17 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – March 22, 2013

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By: Jennifer Plank

photo credit: Rick Eh? via photopin cc

photo credit: Rick Eh? via photopin cc

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

Mice Fall Short As Test Subjects for Humans’ Deadly Ills – Data obtained from mouse models of sepsis, burns, and trauma have been misleading. Nearly 150 drugs developed to treat sepsis in humans have failed. A manuscript published in PNAS last month demonstrated why- mice have a condition that looks similar to human sepsis but is very different biologically. The decade long study analyzed genes used by white blood cells when responding to sepsis. The investigators found a panel of genes that were upregulated in response to sepsis in humans and then analyzed the response in mice to see if a similar panel of genes were involved. Surprisingly, there were no similarities between organisms. Additionally, in samples from human patients, a similar panel of genes were involved in the response to burns, sepsis, and trauma suggesting that finding a drug to treat one condition will treat all 3. While in many situations, mice are an ideal genetic model to human disease, this work suggests that mouse models cannot be used to develop drugs for all human conditions.  (Gina Kolata)

How To Find a Food Desert Near You – A food desert is an area where it is difficult to access large grocery stores that offer fresh and affordable food. To identify regions where access to healthy foods is limited, the USDA has recently released the Food Access Research Atlas.  Using the atlas, you can identify regions where there is low access to grocery stores. Additionally, income data has been incorporated into the map to compare low access to low income regions. (Nancy Shute)

Inequality Quantified: Mind the Gender Gap – While the number of women working in science and engineering fields has increased, universities still employ more men than women in STEM fields, and men still earn significantly more in these fields. Currently, only 21 percent of science professors and 5 percent of engineering professors are women. One potential cause of this problem is that a larger percentage of women quit scientific careers in the earlier stages to raise a family. Additionally, women only make 82 percent of what male scientists earn in the United States, and this gap is larger in European countries. Many universities are conscious of the need to correct the gender gap. (Helen Shen)

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March 22, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – February 15, 2012

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Photo by lisafanucchi on Morguefile.com

By: Rebecca Cerio

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

When Scientists Choose Motherhood – As suggested in one of our recent posts, the next big challenge for gender equality in STEM careers may not be at the interview or tenure committee table, but in the conflicts between a successful academic career and raising a family. (by Wendy Williams and Stephen Ceci in American Scientist).

White House Touts NSF’s New Family-Friendly Policies – An older article on some of the concrete measures being taken to combat the above issues by the NSF, such as 1-year grant delays, reduced travel requirements, and supplemental awards to keep labs running during family leave. (by Jeffrey Mervis via ScienceInsider)

Their So-Called Journalism – A freelance science journalist describes her frustrating exploits trying to write good science for popular women’s magazines.  (by Hillary Rosner via Tooth and Claw on the PLoS Blogs network)

 

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February 15, 2012 at 3:41 pm

The New Landscape of Gender Imbalance in the STEM Fields

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By: Danielle Daee

Although women represent a little more than fifty percent of the U.S. population, they are traditionally underrepresented in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields.  Although the imbalance has significantly improved in the last 20 years1, women continue to be significantly underrepresented (compared to the number of advanced degrees awarded) in most STEM academic positions.  According to the National Science Foundation these discrepancies boil down to four key factors, which provide the foundation for their ADVANCE funding program2:  (1) organizational constraints of academic institutions, (2) work-life balance demands, (3) implicit or explicit bias, and (4) an underrepresentation of women in academic leadership and decision-making positions.

In an article published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences3, Ceci and Williams call for a redistribution of the gender funding away from the historic causes of gender imbalance, namely bias.  After reviewing 20 years worth of data, the authors reveal that recent analyses supporting a gender bias do not hold up to statistical scrutiny when properly controlled.  These findings suggest that biased practices in interviewing, hiring, and reviewing are problems of the past and have been largely eliminated by gender equality campaigns.  The authors further suggest that women are underrepresented in STEM academic positions largely due to their own constrained and free choices.  These choices (which include deferral of careers to raise children, career moves/job searches affected by two-body problems, elderly parent care, enhancing work-home balance, etc.) can be both freely made and/or constrained by society, institutional hindrances (i.e. the tenure clock), or biology (fertility timelines and child-bearing responsibilities).

The family-based choices highlighted by Ceci and Williams ring true for many female academics and are in-line with two of the ADVANCE funding principles (organizational constraints and work-life balance).  Ceci and Williams make a compelling argument for a shift in gender bias funding to address these constrained choices.  Taking this argument a step further, funding for innovative approaches to make academic institutions and the tenure process more family friendly for both sexes could lead to a more positive transformation of the academic climate.  Unfortunately for many tenure-track investigators, the tenure clock often coincides with the enhanced responsibility of caring for young children.  Because women often assume caregiver roles, these challenges disproportionately affect women.  Academic institutions are already implementing tenure extension policies for family formation, but encouraging both men and women to partake in these extensions could relieve the stigma associated with such policies and balance the caregiving responsibilities between the sexes.  Additional innovative, flexible, and gender-neutral career options (e.g. part-time tenure-track jobs, lab shares, family-induced grant extensions) should be developed to challenge the historically linear career path of successful academics.  Such policies could combat the STEM imbalance and fuel a new wave of successful male and female academics with the perfect work-life balance.

  1. http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/women/, NSF’s 2011 Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering report
  2. www.nsf.gov/advance,  The ADVANCE program was developed to increase the representation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers.
  3. Ceci, S.J., and W.M. Williams.  2011.  Understanding current causes of women’s underrepresentation in science.  PNAS. 108 (8):  3157-62.

Written by danidaee

February 14, 2012 at 9:34 am

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