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Posts Tagged ‘Women

Science Policy Around the Web – April 10, 2015

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By: Kaitlyn Morabito, Ph.D.

photo credit: Asha Hall-10 via photopin (license)

Women in STEM

Women in engineering engage best with gender parity

The lack of women in STEM related fields has been a hot topic recently with many groups focusing on closing the gender gap. At the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, a social psychology researcher setup an experiment to gauge the role of female peers in female engineers participation in a group problem-solving activity. Within the groups of 4 engineers, different male to female ratios were utilized: 1:3, 2:2, and 3:1. Each group contained one female engineer subject and 3 evaluators who utilized a script in the problem-solving activity. Following the activity, the evaluators rated the female engineers on participation, confidence, interest and comfortableness. The female engineer also took a self-survey after she met her group, but before the activity started to measure how confident, anxious, challenged, or threatened she felt and the likelihood of her staying in engineering. When there were no other females in the group environment, the female engineers felt less confident and were more likely to view the activity as a threat and less likely to remain in engineering. The females who were in even groups, felt more confident, but were still less likely to participate the females who were in a mostly female group. This highlights how challenging it can be for a women to participate and succeed in a male-dominated field. The study has its caveats so the results may not be generalizable. The subjects were women who already chose engineering, the groups were small, and the interactions were scripted. However, it still emphasizes the role that female peers may have on other females. (Bethany Brookshire, Scicurious – ScienceNews)

Physics

Years after shutting down, U.S. atom smasher reveals properties of ‘God particle’

The Tevatron collider, which was shut down over 3 years ago, has provided more insight into the Higgs boson particle, which was discovered by the physicists working on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in 2012. The Higgs boson particle is essential to the standard model theory, which explains how particles get their mass. Scientists working on the LHC directly measured the mass of the Higgs boson particle and other quantitative measurements such as angular momentum. The subject of angular momentum or spin was determined to be zero spin and the parity was determined to be negative. Scientists using the Tevatron collider, however, used a more indirect approach by using the interaction of the Higgs particle with other particles (Z boson or W boson) to approximate the spin and parity of the parental Higgs particle. This indirect measure puts more strident limits on the hypothetical parity and spin of the Higgs particle. This data was slow to analyze due to the loss of personal to the LHC project and otherwise could have been published prior to the discovery of the Higgs boson particle. (Adrian Cho, Science)

Technology

Amid Protests, Hawaii Governor Says Construction of Thirty Meter Telescope is Paused

The company Thirty Meter Telescope stopped construction of a telescope on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea volcano. This telescope, standing at 180 ft, will be one of the largest in the world with scientists reasoning that the location is perfect for studying “the earliest years of the universe.” The one-week secession of building comes after a week of demonstrations by protesters who argue that the land is sacred to some of Hawaii’s natives. The opposition to the telescope project has existed since its initiation over a year ago, but really came to a head with the demonstrations beginning last week. The land on which the telescope is being erected is leased by the Thirty Meter Telescope company through the University of Hawaii. The Hawaiian Land Board approved the construction of the telescope on March 6th. The pause in construction will provide an opportunity for the opponents, university and government officials, and company to have a discussion of the future of the projects. (Caleb Jones, Huffington Post)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

April 10, 2015 at 9:00 am

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Science Policy Around the Web – October 27, 2013

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By: Jennifer Plank

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

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

Dolphin Slaughter Fueled by Illegal Shark Trade – A conservation NGO, Mundo Azul, has suggested that the demand for shark meat is leading the yearly slaughter of over 15,000 dolphins near Peru alone. The dolphin skin is harvested for shark bait. Hunting dolphins in Peru has been illegal since 1996, but the law is rarely enforced. Over 30 NGOs have joined together signing a petition asking the Peruvian government to investigate the dolphin killings. The Peruvian government has agreed to do so by June 2014. (Alexis Manning)

Obama Urges More Education Spending, Calls for ‘Political Courage in Washington’ – President Obama has called for Congress to increase the amount of money dedicated to education. In FY2014 budget proposed by Obama, he called for spending cuts to entitlement programs, increased spending for education, biomedical research, and transportation projects, and a decrease in tax cuts for wealthy Americans. (Scott Wilson)

Researchers Spar Over Tests for Breast Cancer Risks – At the American Society for Human Genetics annual meeting, a heated debate arose over genetic testing for breast cancer genes. Using BRCA1 and BRCA2 sequences to analyze risks for breast cancer has been well established, however, many other genetic loci are associated with developing breast cancer. A new set of tests BROCA, tests for BRCA mutations and also sequences 38 other breast cancer associated genes. Since the other genes do not have as clear of link to breast cancer, many in the field think a positive result will result in patients taking drastic and unnecessary measures. (Jocelyn Kaiser)

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October 27, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – Aug 2, 2013

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By: Jennifer Plank

photo credit: Army Medicine via photopin cc

photo credit: Army Medicine via photopin cc

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

The Pertussis Paradox – As the number of incidences of pertussis (whooping cough) neared 50,000, scientists were forced to evaluate the efficacy of the newer pertussis vaccine. A new, safer pertussis vaccine was introduced in 1990. The newer vaccine, called DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, acellular Pertussis), had fewer adverse side effects than the older DTP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis) vaccine that was introduced in the 1940s. Possible side effects of the DTP vaccine included high fevers and seizures. After following the efficacy of the DTaP vaccine for several years, it became clear that while DTaP caused fewer adverse effects, the immune-protection is not as long lasting. Initially, the DTaP vaccine creates an immune response that is similar to that of the DTP vaccine, however, over time the immune-protection declines with the DTaP vaccine. In fact, children who received 1 dose of DTP were twice as likely to be protected during a whooping cough outbreak than children who received 5 DTaP vaccines during infancy. Today, efforts to determine the cause of the declining immune-protection in DTaP and methods for making the DTP vaccine safer are underway. (Arthur Allen, subscription required)

Astrophysicist tapped to lead NSF – Earlier this week, President Obama nominated astrophysicist France Cordova to head the National Science Foundation. If her nomination is confirmed by the Senate, Dr. Cordova will be only the second woman to lead the agency. Cordova, who is a former Purdue University administrator and NASA chief scientist, currently serves as the chairwoman for for the governing board of the Smithsonian Institution. Interestingly, Cordova’s career didn’t start with science; she earned her bachelors in English from Stanford University. (Lauren Morello)

Experts warn of dangers of over diagnosis and treatment of cancer –  A panel advising the National Cancer Institute has recommended that the word “cancer” be selectively used in diagnoses to prevent patients from panicking and seeking unnecessary, extreme treatments. The committee recommended using the word “cancer” only when lesions have a “reasonable likelihood of lethal progression if untreated.” For example, some women have localized lesions that look like cancers but are not lethal, and these women are unnecessarily treated with radiation therapy or mastectomies despite the fact that the lesions will never harm them. While preventative care is not necessary in some cases, removal of non-cancerous lesions in the colon or on the cervix has reduced the incidence of cancer. (Lenny Bernstein)

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August 2, 2013 at 10:26 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – June 30, 2013

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photo credit: lanier67 via photopin cc

photo credit: lanier67 via photopin cc

By: Katherine Donigan

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

FDA Gets Tough on Tobacco– The FDA earlier this week announced its rejection of four proposed tobacco products, signifying the agency’s new oversight over tobacco products.  The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, passed in 2009, allows the FDA to regulate new tobacco products that are looking to enter the market.  Though a promising step, medical professionals remain concerned that the FDA’s assessment of these products took four years. Authorization by the FDA is not an indicator of safety, nor does it allow companies to claim FDA approval.  It simply means that the product does not pose more of a risk to public health than those already available.  By further regulating ingredients in cigarettes (like nicotine and menthol), experts are hopeful that such regulation may generally help reduce tobacco use. (Gillian Mohney, ABCNews)

W.H.O. Issues Guidelines for Earlier H.I.V. Treatment– According to new guidelines released by the W.H.O. people infected with HIV should be placed on anti-retroviral therapy sooner than they are currently – when a patient’s CD4 white blood cell count falls to the lowest level of the normal range.  For certain populations (including those with other serious infections, pregnant women and young children), the new guidelines recommend starting treatment as soon as a positive HIV result is seen.  Scientists have been recommending that all patients begin therapy immediately upon testing positive, so as to maximize patient outcomes and reduce further infections.  Such early intervention comes at increased cost, but falling costs of HIV drugs combined with improving economies in at-risk countries are helping to reduce this burden.  (Donald G. McNeil, Jr. NYTimes)

Questions about effect of over-the-counter Plan B for all ages– Timely access to emergency contraception (EC) is critical to preventing unintended pregnancies.  In 2011, the Obama administration overruled the FDA’s decision to make EC available over the counter to women and girls of all ages. This meant that girls 16 and younger needed to obtain a prescription for EC, and girls 17 and older had to show identification to a pharmacist.  The decision was reversed a few weeks ago when the administration announced they would no longer fight to keep the age restriction (see link).  Emergency contraception is now (theoretically) available to women and girls regardless of age, but whether the FDA’s recommendation will actually increase access remains to be seen.  Some pharmacists indicate they will still refuse to provide EC to girls who look “too young”, and the price (around $40-50) is still a barrier for some, including teens. (Meeri Kim, Washington Post)

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June 30, 2013 at 6:49 pm

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 – December 16, 2012

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photo credit: Walwyn via photopin cc

photo credit: Walwyn via photopin cc

By: Jennifer Plank

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

Tests Say Mislabeled Fish a Widespread ProblemA recent study published by Kimberly Warner and colleagues indicates that approximately 39 percent of fish sold by establishments in New York City were mislabeled. In some cases, the incorrect labels were relatively harmless- some cheaper species of fish were inappropriately labeled as more expensive species of fish. However, in some cases, the inappropriate labels present health concerns. For example, several types of fish that contain high levels of mercury were labeled as red snapper which poses a risk for pregnant consumers. Additionally, in many cases, the fish that was sold as white tuna was actually escolar, a fish that contains a toxin that can cause diarrhea when too much is ingested. Currently, the FDA is working on several programs to eliminate the problem of improperly labeled seafood.  (Elisabeth Rosenthal)

Why the Best Stay on Top in Latest Math and Science TestsResults released by the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) indicated that fourth and eighth grade students from Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea have again received the highest test scores on the TIMSS exam. A total of 63 countries participated in the study. There are several reasons why these 4 nations maintain high test scores. For example, educators from Singapore constantly revisit and modify their math and science curriculum in a timely manner. Based on the 2011 results, the United States ranked 11th in 4th grade math, 7th in 4th grade science, 9th in 8th grade math, and 10th in 8th grade science. (Jeffrey Mervis)

Psychiatry’s New Rules Threaten to Turn Grieving Into a Sickness –  A new change to the official psychiatric guidelines for depression will now result in a clinical depression diagnosis for patients suffering from grief over the death of a loved one. Under the current guidelines, the “bereavement exclusion” exempts patients from a depression diagnosis for 2 months following the death of a loved one unless the symptoms self-destructively extreme. The new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was published on December 1 and no longer contains the “bereavement exclusion.” Critics argue that the symptoms of depression are identical to the feelings experienced when one loses a loved one. However, American Psychiatric Association claims that grief-related depression is not fundamentally different than clinical depression, and the “bereavement exclusion” made it more difficult for clinicians to effectively do their jobs. (Brandon Keim)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

December 16, 2012 at 12:23 pm