Obama's Climate Question and an Answer for Global Health

Here's a rundown of some of the stories we've been following on Science's policy blog, ScienceInsider:

On 18 December, the last day of the Copenhagen climate meeting, what will President Barack Obama tell the world that the United States is prepared to do? We already know that Copenhagen won't have legally binding agreements, but how the nations of the world use the meeting to tee up negotiations in 2010 will determine whether the 3-year run up to this meeting will be deemed a marginal success or a total repudiation of the U.N. approach. Today, Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao raised the stakes in a Joint Agreement they signed. And they put a big onus on the U.S. Senate to come up with numbers on emissions cuts goals.

A new group is adding its voice to the furor over the influence of drug money on medical research and practice, saying there should be more money to study the problem. In a letter today to National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, 100 physicians, medical ethicists, and others called for funding.

Mention global health, and everybody thinks of HIV, malaria, and a host of other infectious diseases rampant in developing countries. But a group of research institutes says it's time that chronic, noninfectious diseases that afflict people in poor countries get a more prominent place on the global scientific agenda--and yesterday, they announced three new priorities for their own research. The targets are hypertension, tobacco use, and the crude stoves polluting indoor air in developing countries.

European companies are laggards in spending on research and development--but a new report offers a few upward trends. E.U. companies' R&D grew by 8.1% in 2008, ahead of the United States (5.7% growth) and Japan (4.4%), according to the EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard, an annual list compiled by the European Commission. Although the United States still spends more in the sectors that depend most on R&D (pharma, biotech, and information and communication technology), Europe is leading in the up-and-coming alternative energy sector.

As public health officials have stressed since the swine flu pandemic surfaced last April, influenza is unpredictable. But one thing is predictable: pandemic influenza viruses come in waves that typically peak about 6 to 7 weeks after they begin to climb. New data from the United States and the United Kingdom hint that the second wave of the swine flu pandemic may have peaked in these countries.