ScienceInsider

Breaking news and analysis from the world of science policy

  • After Election 2014: 21ST CENTURY CURES

    Left to right: Former Representative Eric Cantor (R–VA) with representatives Fred Upton (R–MI) and Diana DeGette (D–CO) at a 21st Century Cures Initiative roundtable earlier this year.

    Left to right: Former Representative Eric Cantor (R–VA) with representatives Fred Upton (R–MI) and Diana DeGette (D–CO) at a 21st Century Cures Initiative roundtable earlier this year.

    U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce

    This story is the ninth in ScienceInsider’s After Election 2014 series. Through Election Day on 4 November, we will periodically examine research issues that will face U.S. lawmakers when they return to Washington, D.C., for a lame-duck session and when a new Congress convenes in January. Click here to see all the stories published so far; click here for a list of published and planned stories.

    Today, a look at the 21st Century Cures Initiative, which is expected to produce legislative proposals to improve biomedical research and innovation in the new Congress that convenes in January.

    Can a congressional odd couple successfully shake up the complex system that transforms research discoveries into new drugs and treatments?

    It’s a question that has been rippling through biomedical research circles in recent months, as an unlikely pair of allies—conservative Representative Fred Upton (R–MI) and the relatively liberal Representative Diana DeGette (D–CO)—have pursued a project they’ve dubbed the 21st Century Cures Initiative. The goal: to speed up the lengthy and costly process of developing new treatments for disease.

  • Older papers are increasingly remembered—and cited

    Older papers are increasingly remembered—and cited

    European Southern Observatory

    As Isaac Newton famously put it, today's scientists are "standing on the shoulders of giants" by relying on the work of their predecessors. Scientists give a nod to those predecessors by citing their papers. But bibliometric researchers have debated whether older work is becoming obsolete more quickly, with scientists increasingly citing the recent work of their contemporaries. Now, the team behind Google Scholar has weighed in with a study of their own massive index of papers—and it appears that Newton’s aphorism is truer than ever.

    There’s no doubt that scientific papers become obsolete. Although some papers are continually cited and become immortal, the vast majority end up in the dustbin of scientific history. The question is whether the rate of obsolescence has been increasing or decreasing over time.

    A 2007 study published in the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology concluded that obsolescence has been slowing down since the 1960s as authors cite ever older work. But a 2008 study published in Science reached the opposite conclusion: Obsolescence has accelerated over the past 2 decades as journals have gone online, with authors tending to ignore older papers.

  • In some states, science on the Election Day ballot

    Demonstrators at an anti-GMO rally in Colorado last year.

    Demonstrators at an anti-GMO rally in Colorado last year.

    Chris Goodwin/Flickr

    When voters go to the polls tomorrow, there will more than just candidates on the ballot. There are also 146 referenda and initiatives in 41 states and the District of Columbia, including a handful that relate to science, engineering, or the environment. They include questions asking voters to fund a new $21 million genomic medicine research center in Maine, to approve a $125 million bond for a new engineering building at the University of Rhode Island, and to allow terminally ill patients in Arizona to use experimental treatments.

    Two ballot issues have stirred particularly strong debate—and an outpouring of cash. In Colorado and Oregon, groups are spending millions of dollars to sway votes on the question of whether companies should be required to label foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In Michigan, hunting and conservation groups are engaged in a heated and complicated battle over whether to allow the hunting of wolves.

    The GMO labeling initiatives—Proposition 105 in Colorado and Measure 92 in Oregon—have attracted strong opposition from industry groups, who argue there is no evidence that GMO foods pose a health threat and that labeling would be costly to consumers. “Once you start to label, now you have to segregate every single step of the way—the field, silo, transportation,” says Martina Newell-McGloughlin, a biotechnology researcher at the University of California, Davis, who is allied with groups urging a "no" vote on Proposition 105. “You’re going to end up paying a tax for a label that has no health value.”

  • Could digital badges clarify the roles of co-authors?

    Digital badges could clarify co-authors' roles

    Projectcreditnet (contributor taxonomy): J. Scott, L. Allen, A. Brand et al.; BioMed Central Design (badge designs)/Creative Commons 4.0

    Ever look at a research paper and wonder how the half-dozen or more authors contributed to the work? After all, it’s usually only the first or last author who gets all the media attention or the scientific credit when people are considered for jobs, grants, awards, and more. Some journals try to address this issue with the “authors’ contributions” sections within a paper, but a collection of science, publishing, and software groups is now developing a more modern solution—digital “badges,” assigned on publication of a paper online, that detail what each author did for the work and that the authors can link to their profiles elsewhere on the Web.   

    Those organizations include publishers BioMed Central and the Public Library of Science; The Wellcome Trust research charity; software development groups Mozilla Science Lab (a group of researchers, developers, librarians, and publishers) and Digital Science (a software and technology firm); and ORCID, an effort to assign researchers digital identifiers. The collaboration presented its progress on the project at the Mozilla Festival in London that ended last week. (Mozilla is the open software community behind the Firefox browser and other programs.)

  • Controversy over Truthy illustrates the power of social media to inform—and mislead

    Filippo Menczer

    Filippo Menczer

    Courtesy of Indiana University

    The truth about Truthy has become a scarce commodity.

    Truthy is the name of an academic research project that analyzes and models the diffusion of information on Twitter. Launched in 2010 by researchers at Indiana University (IU), Bloomington, the project has recently also become a case study in how the Internet can accelerate the flow of misinformation.

    In late August, Truthy began to draw scathing criticism from political conservatives in the media and government, who claim it is really part of an attempt by the Obama administration to monitor and stifle free speech. Truthy’s leaders steadfastly reject that claim. But along the way, the Indiana scientists have learned a hard lesson: The media are equally good at promoting new knowledge and spreading falsehoods.

    The attacks are “not simply a misunderstanding of our research,” says Truthy’s lead investigator, computer scientist Filippo Menczer, but rather “a deliberate attempt to distort what we have done.”

    In 2011, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Menczer, the director of IU’s Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research, a 4-year, $920,000 grant to study how so-called memes—ideas, issues, and events—are spread across the Internet. In addition to exploring what the structure and diffusion of tweets say about how a society functions, the researchers have also looked at ways to tell whether messages are coming from real people or from computer programs, called bots.

  • After Election 2014: EASING RESEARCH REGULATION

    Research universities say they are getting buried by costly regulatory paperwork.

    Christian Schnettelker/manoftaste.de

    This story is the eighth in ScienceInsider’s After Election 2014 series. Through Election Day on 4 November, we will periodically examine research issues that will face U.S. lawmakers when they return to Washington, D.C., for a lame-duck session and when a new Congress convenes in January. Click here to see all the stories published so far; click here for a list of published and planned stories.

    Today, a look at the effort by universities to ease what they say is an increasingly heavy, and costly, federal regulatory burden on academic research.

    Michigan Technological University (Michigan Tech) in Houghton doesn’t have a medical school. But over the past few years its administrators have been conducting surgery of sorts—participating in a pilot program aimed at cutting regulatory red tape that officials say is stifling research.

    The bureaucratic experiment has slashed by 90% the number of forms used to track key spending, dramatically reduced the amount of time researchers spend doing the paperwork, and nearly eliminated tardy filings, they say. But none of the organs vital to maintaining accountability and transparency appear to have been harmed, they add. 

    The experiment is part of a larger national effort by U.S. universities to revamp what they argue are costly and wasteful regulations. The rules, whether to protect human patients and research animals or prevent financial conflicts of interest, are often well-intentioned, academic officials say. And sometimes they are a reaction to an egregious breach. But “[t]oo often federal requirements are ill-conceived, ineffective, and/or duplicative,” a coalition of major U.S. research universities declared earlier this year. “[T]he time researchers must devote to compliance … unnecessarily reduces the time they can devote to discovery and innovation,” they warned.

  • China ramps up efforts to combat Ebola

    George Gao with Tim Brooks, head of Public Health England’s rare and imported pathogens lab, who recently deployed to Sierra Leone.

    George Gao with Tim Brooks, head of Public Health England’s rare and imported pathogens lab, who recently deployed to Sierra Leone.

    Courtesy of George Gao

    BEIJING—In the unfolding Ebola crisis, much attention has focused on the relief efforts of Western countries and the nonprofit Doctors Without Borders. Out of the limelight, China is mounting one of its largest aid operations ever, driven in part by increasing political and business interests in Africa.

    Already about 200 medical workers and advisers from China are now stationed in the three West African countries fighting Ebola outbreaks: Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. George Gao, deputy director-general of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), runs a mobile testing lab in the capital of Sierra Leone. Reached by phone there in Freetown, Gao says his team performs 40 to 60 blood tests a day. In addition to diagnosing the disease in patients, it’s crucial to test corpses; if a patient has died from Ebola, it’s imperative to refrain from traditional burial practices in West Africa such as washing or touching the deceased or giving a “final kiss,” Gao says.

  • New paper asserting that sexism in science is over stirs the pot

    Professor C. Bodin, a female scientist figurine released by Lego in 2013.

    Credit: Maia Weinstock/Flickr/Creative Commons

    There is no sexism in U.S. academic science, argue researchers well versed on the controversial topic in a new paper and an op-ed yesterday in The New York Times. That’s a bunch of BS, say bloggers and others who follow the issue.

    The paper, by psychologists Stephen Ceci and Wendy Williams of Cornell University and economists Donna Ginther of the University of Kansas and Shulamit Kahn of Boston University, says the chronic underrepresentation of women in math-intensive fields is not due to discrimination, but rather their own employment preferences. The women working in those fields, they add, “have equivalent access to tenure-track academic jobs … persist and are remunerated at comparable rates.”

  • Nigerian virologist delivers scathing analysis of Africa's response to Ebola

    "Ebola is Africa's problem," says Oyewale Tomori.

    "Ebola is Africa's problem," says Oyewale Tomori.

    DeSt

    VIENNA—After Oyewale Tomori finished his talk on Ebola here at the International Meeting on Emerging Diseases and Surveillance, there was stunned silence. Tomori, the president of the Nigerian Academy of Science, used his plenary to deliver a scathing critique of how African countries have handled the threat of Ebola and how corruption is hampering efforts to improve health. Aid money often simply disappears, Tomori charged, "and we are left underdeveloped, totally and completely unprepared to tackle emerging pathogens."

    Trained as a veterinarian, Tomori was the World Health Organization’s (WHO's) regional virologist for the African region in 1995 during the Ebola outbreak in Kikwit in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). ScienceInsider sat down with him at the meeting in Vienna; questions and answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

    Q: You said in your talk that Ebola was "swimming in an ocean of national apathy, denial, and unpreparedness.” What did you mean?

    A: We were totally unprepared. After the first cases occurred in West Africa, it took almost 3 months for WHO to know. When the first patient came to Sierra Leone and died, his son brought him back to Guinea and as far as Sierra Leone was concerned, it was Guinea’s problem. People abandoned their duty, they denied the problem, and when it became a big problem they became incapable of handling it.

    This is not the first time Ebola has appeared in Africa. There have been more than 20 outbreaks since 1976. Not one of them has been declared a global problem. Of course, circumstances are different this time. But if we had been prepared, if we had learned from the past, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

    Q: You seem angry.

    A: Yes, I am, because I know Africa has the capacity and the capability to solve most of her problems, but Africa will not enable her human resources to perform effectively and efficiently. African leaders have little or no respect for their experts and would rather act on advice from external sources. In the end, they become the experts on Africa’s problems, not the Africans. This is why I am angry with Africa.

  • After Election 2014: R&D TAX CREDIT

    TaxCredits.net/Flickr

    This story is the seventh in ScienceInsider’s After Election 2014 series. Through Election Day on 4 November, we will periodically examine research issues that will face U.S. lawmakers when they return to Washington, D.C., for a lame-duck session and when a new Congress convenes in January. Click here to see all the stories published so far; click here for a list of published and planned stories.

    Today, a look at what will happen to the so-called R&D tax credit, which expired at the end of 2013.

    The R&D tax credit is designed to create an incentive for businesses to invest in research. And while everybody agrees that it works, figuring out how to pay for it—it has cost the U.S. Treasury about $7 billion annually in recent years—has made it politically impossible to make permanent.

    In January, lawmakers allowed it to expire for the sixth time in 21 years. And while there’s little doubt in Washington that, regardless of who wins on Election Day, Congress will eventually move to revive the credit, there’s plenty of uncertainty surrounding what the renewed credit will look like—and whether lawmakers will grant industry’s long-standing wish to make the tax break permanent.

    “Those are the questions of the day,” says Christina Crooks, director of tax policy at the National Association of Manufacturers in Washington, D.C., one of many trade groups pushing Congress to renew the credit.

  1. « 1
  2. ‹ previous
  3. 140
  4. 141
  5. 142
  6. 143
  7. 144
  8. 145
  9. 146
  10. next ›
  11. 613 »