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Posts Tagged ‘science funding

Science Policy Around the Web – February 9, 2018

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By: Rachel Smallwood Shoukry, PhD

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Ethics

Big tobacco’s offer: $1 billion for research. Should scientists take it?

A controversial debate has arisen in recent years about whether scientists should accept funding from sources that have interests at odds with improving the human condition and promoting health. Specifically, should researchers accept research money from tobacco companies? This practice used to be generally accepted up until a couple of decades ago, but as the harmful effects of smoking have become more clear, as well as evidence of the tobacco industry’s attempts to cover-up and misdirect the public from becoming aware of those effects, the scientific community has become reluctant to partner with “big tobacco” and is more aware of conflicts of interest.

The tobacco company Philip Morris International (PMI), makers of Marlboro and other cigarette brands, is looking to invest in research of illegal cigarette trade and smuggling. It recently established a partnership with the University of Utrecht (UU) in the Netherlands to investigate this phenomena, but UU has now pulled out of the deal after a large amount of backlash. However, PMI is still looking to fund research on the tobacco industry, setting up the potential for more controversy.

There is additional concern about this possibility due to PMI’s funding of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World. The foundation has stated that its goals are related to smoking cessation and preventing smoking deaths through several approaches. However, many fear that the foundation is simply a front for PMI to be able to distribute funds under a better-sounding name while continuing to fund research that can be presented in a misleading way to distract from legitimate health concerns. Several top institutions have denounced the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World for using PMI’s funds, and many have vowed that they will not seek grants from or collaborations with the foundation.

Proponents of allowing the funding via the tobacco industry are interested in research of cigarette alternatives aimed at harm reduction, arguing that little is known about their long-term health implications. They say there is little funding outside of the tobacco companies for these types of studies and don’t know where else to turn. They are also worried about the climate surrounding the topic, after the response UU received when accepting research dollars from PMI. But opponents do not believe that PMI and other companies are seeking harm reduction or to hide the truth about tobacco’s health effects through their research activities and marketing tactics. This ethical debate is sure to continue as PMI disclosed that it has had over 50 applications for funding.

(Martin Enserink, Science)

NSF

US science agency will require universities to report sexual harassment

The NSF has announced it will implement a new requirement that institutions receiving grants must report grant-funded investigators who have sexual or other types of harassment claims against them and whether they were put on leave pending investigation. Many are welcoming this step as movement toward a code of conduct that has been called-for in recent years. It is also coming on the heels of several research initiatives into sexual harassment in STEM fields and other organizations implementing policies to expose and prevent harassment. Although the #MeToo movement only brought sexual harassment claims to the forefront of our culture a few months ago, the STEM field had its own bombshell revelation followed by the unveiling of many stories of sexual harassment a couple of years ago when a renowned astronomer resigned after an investigation revealed years of sexual misconduct and harassment. This new policy is also likely related to the US Congress commissioning the Government Accountability Office to look into sexual harassment by individuals funded by federal scientific agencies.

The notice the NSF sent out also directs the recipient institutions to have clear policies on what constitutes harassment and what is appropriate behavior, as well as giving clear instructions to students and employees on how to report harassment. The institutions themselves will be responsible for conducting investigations and deciding repercussions. Until now the NSF has had an option to voluntarily report sexual misconduct of award recipients, but it was rarely used. The notice states that the NSF can remove the responsible personnel from the grant or even suspend or terminate the grant following the mishandling of a report.

Despite the general positive view of this attempt by the NSF to deter harassment and establish serious consequences, some have expressed concerns at the potential implications and logistics of implementation. It was suggested that this step may discourage universities from undertaking investigations of sexual harassment, since universities benefit from grant money and reputation just as the investigators do. Another aspect to consider is that universities have different policies on sexual harassment and misconduct, and what may be allowable at one institution may be a severe breach at another. It was not immediately clear from the notice how decisions will be made with regard to the grant following investigations. While perhaps not perfect, this policy by the NSF is a first step in the right direction to ensuring everyone can pursue their scientific endeavors in a harassment-free environment.

(Alexandra Witze, Nature)

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February 9, 2018 at 4:01 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – December 15, 2017

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By: Leopold Kong, PhD

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Science funding

Indian research labs face financial crisis

In June 2015 at Dehradun, India’s Ministry of Science and Technology mandated that India’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), should generate half its funds from external sources to support their research activities.  The ‘Dehradun Declaration’ resulted in all CSIR labs resolving to turn research projects into ‘for-profit’ ventures over the next two years and develop a revenue model in a business-like manner with a clear cost-benefit analysis. The CSIR is India’s largest public sector research and development organization, employing over 4600 scientists across 38 premier laboratories.  Two years after the decision, Indian research labs face a looming financial crisis. In an email earlier this year to CSIR lab directors, CSIR Director General Girish Sahhni wrote that after covering a roughly 15% increase in salaries, pensions and employee benefits, only $31 million out of the total $681 million budget for the 2017 fiscal year will be left to support new research.  Furthermore, only 15% of CSIR’s budget is supplemented through successful marketing of its discoveries, which is far from the mandated 50% that may take another three years according to the latest projections.  “There is no ready market for CSIR technologies,” says Dinesh Abrol, a science policy expert at the Institute for Studies in Industrial Development in New Delhi and a former CSIR scientist. “These are all pipe dreams and pipe dreams will not work.” ‘It is too ambitious a time-period. We need to change the culture of our organization as most of us are currently focusing on scientific research. We cannot switch gears to take up work on industrial applications or research overnight,’ says one CSIR scientist who did not want to be named. ‘Barring a few, most CSIR labs cannot raise money from private companies as we don’t have capabilities such as technology marketing, intellectual property or negotiating abilities with industries.’  Nonetheless, India has seen tremendous growth in recent years in translational STEM sectors such as the pharmaceutical industry, which was worth $18.8 billion in 2010 and is currently worth $41.1 billion in 2017.  The Indian government also plans to develop 20 existing universities into ‘world class’ research institutions with $1.54 billion of funding.  In a more optimistic tone, Dr. Srivari Chandrasekhar, Director of the Hyderabad-based CSIR-Institute of Chemical Technology, commented “All good fundamental science research leads to applied research and CSIR is a unique agency which has competence to perform translational research in our country. Innovative solutions to industrial problems are nothing but great science. The scientist is happy only when his fundamental research is used by industry for a product formation.”

(Sanjay Kumar, Science)

Research Misconduct/The Environment

Investigation finds Swedish scientists committed scientific misconduct

In 2016, Swedish scientists Oona M. Lönnstedt and Peter Eklöv published a ground shaking report in the journal Science on the adverse effects of microplastic polysterene particles on the European perch. They found that exposure to plastic particles had a significant negative impact on hatching success rates, growth rates, feeding preferences, response to olfactory threat cues and innate behaviors.  The results were heralded as “an important step”, that could potentially “guide mitigation efforts” of microplastic pollution. However, soon thereafter, two colleagues of the scientists claimed the study was “a complete fantasy”, since they never saw either Lönnstedt or Eklöv at the Ar Research Station in 2015, where the study was purportedly done.  Subsequently, a group of five ecologists and physiologists joined with the whistleblowers to sort through the mounting evidence of fraudulence. “Of course I did these experiments,” Lönnstedt told Science and suggested the accusations were fueled by “jealousy” on the part of one of the whistleblowers. “If you compare my CV with her CV … then yeah, there is a big difference,” she said.  An initial probe into the matter was dismissed, but a second, more in-depth study led by a panel at the Central Ethical Review Board (CEPN) concluded on December 7th that the two were guilty of “misconduct in research”. In an interview with Science after CEPN’s decision, Eklöv expressed disappointment towards his former postdoctoral mentee Lönnstedt: “This is a person I very much trusted, and now it’s been shown that she was dishonest, not only to me but also to the whole scientific community.” At a key point during the investigation, when more data from the study was requested, Lönnstedt had given the excuse that her laptop had been stolen.  Looking back, Eklöv said, “I also confronted her about that several times. She was devastated. She was sitting here in my office completely devastated about this computer. … We talked about it, and I thought it could have happened; I could not exclude that. But it seemed strange, of course.” Although the contested report has been retracted since May 26, 2017, the paper has been cited 46 times so far this year according to google scholar.

(Quirin Schiermeier, Nature News)

 

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December 15, 2017 at 3:56 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – October 6, 2017

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By: Allison Dennis, B.S.

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Homelessness

An outbreak waiting to happen: Hepatitis A marches through San Diego’s homeless community

San Diego’s homeless population, the fourth largest among US cities, has been battered by a Hepatitis A outbreak since early 2017. The outbreak may have been brought on by the conditions that arose when homeless people were locked out of public bathrooms and further displaced from popular downtown areas by City officials in anticipation of the Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game last summer. The Hepatitis A virus, which is transmitted person-to-person and through the fecally contaminated environment, affects the liver, resulting in fatigue, yellow skin, diarrhea, and discolored urine. Its 50-day incubation period combined with its ability to survive outside the body for months, provides the virus an extensive time frame to spread from a single carrier. So far 481 people have reported infections, and 17 people have died.

The city is now struggling to respond. 54,000 people have already been vaccinated and a state law has been temporarily relaxed, allowing paramedics to administer the vaccine to at risk individuals. New portable bathrooms and hand-washing stations have been installed near homeless encampments. However, providing stable housing for the homeless remains an outstanding obstacle. In July, the San Diego Housing Commission announced an $80 million, 3-year initiative, Housing First-San Diego, which will provide incentives to landlords, 700 housing vouchers, and the construction of additional voucher-eligible housing. Housing First refers to a US government endorsed approach to providing stable housing, free of conditions, as a first step in addressing homeless people’s healthcare needs. Stable housing is fundamental to addressing the health needs of homeless populations both for prevention and treatment.

(Usha Lee McFarling, STATnews)

Science Funding

Does your state get its fair share of federal research dollars?

Representative Bill Foster is proposing a change to the way the National Science Foundation (NSF) distributes funding across the country. Twenty-nine years after it’s creation, NSF began a formal program to address the disparities in its funding across the fifty states, territories, and commonwealths of the United States, recognizing that scientific funding was being predominantly steered towards institutions housed on either the East and West coasts. The Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) currently allocates additional funds specifically to the twenty-five states, two territories, and one commonwealth winning less than 0.75% of NSF’s Research and Related Activities budget. Additional funds are supplied to these states for improving infrastructure, funding grants that fell under the cutoff for funding through traditional NSF programs, and supporting workshops and outreach. In fiscal year 2016, $160 million was allocated for the EPSCoR program compared with $5,500 million for the Research and Related Activities budget.

Bill Foster is arguing that EPSCoR is now disproportionately benefiting small states, proposing eligibility should be determined on a per capita instead of per state basis. This seems to be a change of pace from Bill Foster’s previous calls to eliminate the program altogether. Barring the passage of the proposed bill into law, NSF does not have plans to change the way they calculate eligibility, citing the popularity of the current program with congress.

(Jeffrey Mervis, Science)

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October 6, 2017 at 10:24 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – September 8, 2017

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By: Emily Petrus, PhD

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Science funding

Congress Returns and Funding Anxiety Continues for Scientists

The summer recess is over, which means congress needs to get to work and pass funding bills to keep the government running past the end of fiscal year: September 30th. The agenda is full, including funding hurricane Harvey relief, raising the debt ceiling and allocating funds for 2018. The budget fight is bound to be full of surprises, even just last night Trump sided with democrats on these three issues, throwing most conservative GOP members for a loop. It remains to be seen how the 2018 budget will impact research, but here’s what we know so far.

The 2017 budget was considered a positive one for scientists, because the large cuts demanded by the president went unheeded by congress. The president requested to cut most federal agencies, and the EPA (-31%), NOAA (-22%) and FDA (-31%) were the largest targets.  However, most research institutions did not see major cuts, and although the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget was requested to be reduced by 22%, it received a $2 billion raise.  The upcoming 2018 fight would pit the president’s proposed agenda against senate against house, providing a 3-way fight which leaves scientists in the middle of potentially hostile waters.

Proposed budgets by the house of representatives and senate are still being formulated, but there are already discrepancies between the two proposals. For example, the house proposes increasing NASA’s budget by $94 million (+1.6%), while the senate would reduce funds by $193 million (-3.3%). The discrepancies can be found even deeper in NASA’s budget, with reversed support for planetary science (increased spending from the house) and earth science research (cuts from the house, maintained spending from the senate). These cuts could impact our ability to monitor distant planets and moons which could be sustainable for human life. For example, an unmanned mission to Jupiter’s moon, Europa, slated to launch in 2020 and land in 2024 could be stalled. In flyby missions from 1995-2003, this moon was found to have brown sediment, a warm core and probably a salty ocean under an icy surface, making it similar, albeit colder, to our planet.

Back on earth, our ability to design new ways to produce renewable, sustainable energy could also take a hit, as funding may be cut from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E). This department funds “high-risk, high-reward” projects and has only been in operation for 8 years, which makes it difficult to determine if the investment is worth the so far limited outputs. The senate proposes increasing this funding by 1.1%, while the house would scrap the project entirely.

Finally, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is on the chopping block, with the house following the president with a 22% decrease in funding, while the senate only seeks to cut the budget by 1%. Controversial projects overseen by NOAA include the Polar Follow-On programme, which monitors weather in collaboration with NASA. Cutting this program could impact our ability to predict hurricanes, something not likely to sit well with voters and representatives in states impacted by current weather catastrophes.

Although there are big discrepancies in proposed budgets between the president, the house and the senate, time will tell how much cooperation the republicans and democrats can achieve by the end of the month to avoid a government shut down. On a positive note, the NIH can hope for a boost from the house and the senate, as funding human health is an issue which usually enjoys bipartisan support.

(Rachael Lallensack, Nature News)

The science of education

School’s Back in SessionGet your learning on!

School is back in session; teachers are teaching, students are learning, and education is supposed to be breaking down socioeconomic barriers. What can science do to help educators have the greatest impact on students? There’s an intersection between teaching strategy, learning, and education policy which can be implemented for better student outcomes.

A recent report by Science News describes new strategies developed in the lab to enhance student learning. However, researchers are finding that studies performed in a lab setting with college kids do not yield the same results for optimizing student performance when applied to a bustling classroom of younger students. For example, when college students were asked to read a passage and jot down notes, their recall of the reading assignment was improved a week later. However, younger grade school students were shown to need an extra cue to help connect associations and make memories “stick”. This strategy helps teach students how to recall information, providing an extra support link until they can perform this task without a second thought. Another ongoing study is helping students improve executive function in students as young as middle school. Researchers designed a video game which requires players to shift strategies as rules change mid-game, which thus far has positively impacted the students’ performance on cognitive tests.

Being able to adapt to new situations is a cornerstone of learning, and neuroscience has long been searching for the magic that makes this task easy sometimes but challenging othertimes. The methods to study this process are becoming more sophisticated. Researchers can now view single synapses coming and going, and in some cases receptors on those synapses popping in and out. But understanding brain-wide learning requires zooming out and looking at neural network activity. It seems intuitive that to learn something new, connections must be formed between brain areas. These associations “stick” that memory or fact somewhere in the brain. Indeed, people who are learning something new display greater “brain flexibility”: the ability to not only make new connections, but let some others fall apart. Children with low math performance actually had higher connectivity during brain scans while doing math problems. It seems forgetting unimportant information to make room for new ideas is as important as making just more new connections.  In addition, a researcher scanned himself three times per week for a year, and found his brain displayed greater flexibility on days when he was in a good mood. The balance between making new connections and letting others go may be the key to better learning.

As science puts more pieces together on how learning best occurs, we can see some things coming into focus to enhance student learning. People who can make new connections and loose old ones in a dynamic fashion can be better learners. Being in a good mood, meaning a stable home and school environment with food and housing security can lead to better brain flexibility. Teachers trying new strategies to enhance brain flexibility with their students could help the students learn how to absorb and use new information. All of this information can be used to inform policy on what makes for a successful student as we proceed through the academic year.

(Susan Gaidos, Science News; Laura Sanders, Science News )

 

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September 8, 2017 at 3:54 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – September 1, 2017

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By: Kseniya Golovnina, PhD

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Science funding

Priorities emphasize both military and civil uses in R&D spending

On August 17, 2017, the White House established Research and Development (R&D) budget priorities for Pentagon’s 2019 fiscal year (FY).  According to an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) memo outlining these priorities, the Pentagon should emphasize investments in technology that have both military and civilian uses in its next budget.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is evidently under a similar push. DHS guidelines state that special attention should be paid to R&D in the field of safety, and that integration of new technologies can significantly contribute to U.S. economic and technological leadership. Moreover, the need to develop new technologies to protect critical infrastructure and to increase border security is a key Trump administration priority.

An important emphasis in the OMB memo states that Defense Department R&D investments should continue to be spent in a way to support the military of the future. the document urges the Pentagon to develop and utilize new quantitative metrics to evaluate effectiveness of R&D. Monitoring these statistics aims to eliminate any redundancies with effective private sector R&D programs. Thus if research can be done more effectively in the private sector, thereby attracting private investments, Federal involvement should not longer be considered needed or appropriate, providing a mechanism for transforming or closing redundant programs. these changes would allow priorities in R&D funding to be given to basic and early-stage applied research with too high a risk and level of uncertainty for private sector.

Two agencies will definitely benefit from new Budget Priorities, the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit-Experimental (DIUx) group, which has the lead role in interacting with the commercial sector, specifically in Silicon Valley, Boston and Austin, and the Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) that is charged with taking existing technologies and developing new capabilities for their use. With the newly received authorities these agencies will get private companies on contract more quickly.

(Aaron Mehta, DefenceNews)

Science education

State-by-state interest in STEM indicators revealed by draft education plans

STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is a curriculum that emphasizes educating students in four specific disciplines using an interdisciplinary and applied approach. This education is becoming an important part of K-12 schools in United States. According to the U.S. Department of Education (DOEd), 14 out of 17 submitted State’s draft education plans (82%) include STEM-related school performance indicators. The proposed programs have been developed to meet the requirements of the ESSA (2015 Every Student Succeeds Act). That law, signed by former President Obama, is the successor to the Bush-era No Child Left Behind program, which encouraged the establishment of science-oriented performance metrics to augment school achievement metrics. ESSA also directed new federal funding streams for STEM education and established a new professional development program for teachers – the STEM Master Teacher Corps.

Including STEM indicators to evaluate the school program gives states the flexibility to incorporate science metrics into accountability systems along with the option to launch new STEM initiatives through ESSA funding programs. However, currently only a small minority of school districts are leveraging ESSA dollars to fund innovative STEM education efforts, mostly due to the small amounts of money available. Despite increased awareness of the need, the US primary and secondary education system has relatively few established and successful STEM educational initiatives.

The future of new STEM initiatives is unclear due to ongoing congressional negotiations over the fiscal year 2018 budget. On one side, the Trump administration has proposed the elimination of three major DOEd grants, they deem duplicative, poorly structured, or showing little impact. On the other, the House Appropriations Committee is recommending both cuts and increases to relevant education programs.

In early September, when the remaining (34) states have submitted their draft education plans, it will be more clear how much interest each state has in STEM education and how much funding they will get based on an accepted 2018 budget.

(Alexis Wolfe, Science Policy News from AIP)

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September 1, 2017 at 1:52 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – August 29, 2017

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By: Allison Dennis, BS

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Science funding

1 Million fewer dollars available for studying the health impacts of coal mining

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, was instructed to stop its ongoing research into the potential health effects of surface mining by the U.S. Department of the Interior on August 18, 2017. The US$1 million study was established on August 3, 2016, “at the request of the State of West Virginia,” by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE). OSMRE, an office within the U.S. Department of the Interior, selected the National Academy of Science to systematically review current coal extraction methods, the framework regulating these methods, and potential health concerns. Critics of the study point to the findings of a similar review undertaken by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences that were made public on July 21, 2017, which determined that the current body of literature was insufficient to reach any conclusions regarding the safety of mountaintop removal on nearby communities.

Mountaintop removal, a form of surface mining, employs the use of explosives to efficiently expose coal deposits that would otherwise require a large number of workers to extract over time. The excess soil and rock that has been blasted from the mountain is placed in adjacent valleys, leading to alterations of stream ecosystems, including increases in selenium concentrations and declines in macroinvertebrate populations.

The people of rural Appalachia experience significantly higher rates of cancer than people in the rest of the U.S., of which environmental exposures are only one potential risk factor. Widespread tobacco use, obesity, and lack of accessible medical care are all believed to underlie the cancer epidemic in Appalachia, culminating in a tangled web of risk.

It is unclear how the money from this study will be repurposed. The Obama administration cancelled a study of surface mining to redirect funds towards examining the little known effects of hydraulic fracturing.

(Lisa Friedman and Brad Plumer, The New York Times)

Cancer treatments

For breast cancer patients the cost of peace of mind may be both breasts

Between 2002 and 2012 the rates of women with a breast cancer diagnosis opting for a double mastectomy increased from 3% to 12%. In a majority of these cases, a lumpectomy may be medically sufficient. However for many women, this choice may stem from a personal pursuit of peace of mind rather than the advice of their doctors. The mastectomy procedure can extend time of recovery from a few days, in the case of a lumpectomy, to 4 to 6 weeks. Yet for many women, undergoing a lumpectomy followed by 5 to 7 weeks of radiation therapy would offer the same long-term survivorship. Additionally, 1 in 8 women with invasive cancer in a single breast is electing to remove both breasts.

The reasons for this increase is unknown. While the procedure has not been demonstrated to increase survivorship, the procedure itself is relatively risk free. Breasts are not vital organs, and improvements in reconstruction methods have provided women with a natural-looking, cosmetic replacement. For many women the cost of feeling their struggle with breast cancer is behind them is the removal of both breasts. Double mastectomies, along with the reconstruction surgeries they normally require, are usually covered by insurance.

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer type in the U.S. Mortality from the disease decreased by 1.9% per year from 2003 to 2012. Yet, for many women facing breast cancer, the choice of a double mastectomy may feel like the only empowering choice, one their doctors are willing to let them make.

(Catherine Caruso, STAT News)

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August 30, 2017 at 8:57 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – August 22, 2017

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By: Leopold Kong, PhD

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Image: By Tkarcher [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Zika

The case of the disappearing Zika

Early last year, there were over 35,000 suspected and confirmed cases of Zika virus infection per week in South America. This year, the number has plummeted below 1,000 per week. In the United States, only a single case of local Zika transmission has been reported this year in contrast to 224 in 2016.  Neither improved mosquito control nor climate change can explain the good news.  Experts attribute the drop in Zika cases to the development of immunity against the virus, which has spread rapidly.  Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), says he is not “entirely surprised” by this trend, but is “impressed by how steep it has been”.  A vaccine is still needed to curb potential future epidemics, but its development is now complicated by lack of populations susceptible to infection.  Increased Zika cases have been reported in Mexico this year, which could lead to outbreaks in Texas. Currently, a vaccine developed by NIAID is entering a placebo-controlled study of 2400 people in Zika-affected areas.

(Jon Cohen, Science)

The Scientific Workforce

Graduate Student immigration in the US and the UK shifting to Canada and Australia

In 2015-16, the United States and United Kingdom hosted nearly 384,000 and 200,000 international graduate students respectively. The two countries have been the world’s top two hosts for graduate students since the 1970s.  However, since the travel ban in the United States and the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom, the numbers have been dropping.  In contrast, universities in Canada and Australia are reporting spikes in their application numbers.  Joint surveys conducted in February and July found that about a third of US universities have decreased international graduate student applications, particularly from India, the Middle East and China.  Sayed Mashaheet, a native of Egypt who earned his PhD in crops science at North Carolina State University, says that many international students see the United States as a riskier investment since the election.  With its friendly citizenship pathways, Canada maybe benefiting from these changes. The University of Toronto received 27% more international-student applications this year for a total of 15,000 compared to 11,951 in 2016.  Sofia Solar Cafaggi chose to pay her way through medical school at the University of Toronto instead of attending the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio for free because she will be eligible for Canadian citizenship after three years.  “In the US, I would have stayed an alien for at least the next decade, and that made me nervous about career prospects given the current political drama,” she says.  If the shift continues for the US and the UK, “some programmes will simply collapse,” says Anita Gopal, international officer for the US national Postdoctoral Association in Rockville, Maryland.

(Virginia Gewin, Nature News)

Science Funding

Trump’s list of Science Priorities aims to steer federal agencies’ focus

On August 17, the White House issued a memo to federal agencies outlining how their research money should be used.  Written jointly by the White House Office of Management and Budget and Office of Science and Technology Policy, the document sets the White House’s priorities for the next budget request.  This year, the memo lists five priorities in this order: military superiority, security, prosperity, energy dominance, and health.  The list greatly contrasts with Obama’s research priorities that included global climate change, clean energy, Earth observations, advanced manufacturing, and innovations in the life sciences, biology and neuroscience.  The list also appears to contradict President Trump’s own 2018 budget requests.  For example, the memo focuses on support for breakthroughs in military technologies and for helping older Americans remain healthy despite large cuts for those same areas in previous proposals.  Notably, the memo supports research in precommercial technology in energy, which would presumably include the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.  However, President Trump has previously called for this agency to be shut down.  The budget for the 2019 fiscal year are due next  month.

(Jeffrey Mervis, Science)

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August 22, 2017 at 5:36 pm