ScienceInsider

Breaking news and analysis from the world of science policy

  • Turkish academics pay price for speaking out on Kurds

    Tayyip Erdogan

    Tayyip Erdogan

    WITT/SIPA/Newscom

    Turkish academics who have openly criticized Turkey’s military crackdown on ethnic Kurdish communities are now feeling the wrath of their government. In recent days, the government arrested 33 academics. Although all have since been released, ScienceInsider has learned, 15 have been fired from their university posts. Today, Turkey’s Science Academy released a statement objecting to the government’s “wrong and disturbing” reaction in what is mushrooming into yet another crisis for the nation’s academic community.

    Human rights organizations as well as the U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine have criticized Turkey and called on it to respect freedom of speech. "This is a witch-hunt by the government," says Caghan Kizil, a Turkish neuroscientist based at the Dresden University of Technology in Germany. "It aims to silence the opposition with brutality and bullying." The U.S. National Academies "will continue to monitor the situation closely," says Martin Chalfie, the Nobel Prize–winning chemist who chairs the Academies’ Committee on Human Rights in Washington, D.C.

  • Official statistics understate global fish catch, new estimate concludes

    Official statistics tend to understate catches by local fishers, a new study finds. Here, a  Somali man carries a sailfish to Mogadishu's fish market in 2013.

    Official statistics tend to understate catches by local fishers, a new study finds. Here, a Somali man carries a sailfish to Mogadishu's fish market in 2013.

    AMISON Public Information/Flickr (CC0 1.0)

    Commonly cited statistics have understated the size of the global seafood catch by about 30%, a new tally finds. The estimate, drawn in part from a painstaking effort to gather statistics on poorly documented subsistence, recreational, and illegal fisheries, suggests that the world catch has also declined more steeply since the 1990s than official figures indicate.

    Overall, fishers caught an estimated 109 million metric tons (mt) of fish in 2010, researchers report today in Nature Communications. That’s well above the 77 million mt that nations reported to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, which keeps global catch statistics.

  • What we know so far about the clinical trial disaster in France

    The university hospital in Rennes, France.

    The university hospital in Rennes, France.

    Electzik/Wikipedia (CC BY 3.0)

    One person is brain-dead and five more have been hospitalized after a phase I clinical trial in France went horribly wrong. At least three of the patients may suffer irreversible brain damage if they survive, a doctor treating them said today.

    The patients were previously healthy volunteers who participated in a study, conducted by Biotrial, a private company in the city of Rennes, to test the tolerability of a candidate drug. French officials haven't announced which drug, and it's not yet clear why many others who participated in the study since it began in July apparently haven’t experienced similarly severe side-effects.

  • Ebola is back … or never left

    The Ebola virus (shown here in red between infected monkey cells) resurfaced in Sierra Leone just hours after WHO had announced the end of the outbreak in West Africa.

    The Ebola virus (shown here in red between infected monkey cells) resurfaced in Sierra Leone just hours after WHO had announced the end of the outbreak in West Africa.

    NIAID

    It was a short-lived celebration. Just hours after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa over on Thursday, Sierra Leone reported a new case of the disease to WHO. A 22-year-old woman, who had died earlier in the week, had tested positive for the virus. WHO confirmed the case on Friday. “A joint team of local authorities, WHO, and partners are investigating the origin of the case, identifying contacts, and initiating control measures to prevent further transmission,” WHO said in a statement.

    The details of the case are troubling. The young woman was a student in Lunsar, a town in the district of Port Loko, says Christopher Dye of WHO. Around Christmas she traveled from there to Kambia district, closer to the border with Guinea, and stayed there until 6 January. “We suspect that was the time of onset of the illness,” Dye says. “Having become ill she decided to go home, and her family home is in Tonkalili.” The young woman went to a hospital but was not recognized as an Ebola case. “She got progressively worse and died. The process of preparing her body for burial and the burial itself were done unsafely,” Dye says. “That is of course not what we would have liked to have seen happen in light of all the Ebola cases we had.”

  • The 5-minute journal submission

    New journal aims to make paper submissions simpler and faster.

    New journal aims to make paper submissions simpler and faster.

    Pathogens & Immunity

    There’s no shortage of places to publish original research papers about pathogens and immunity, but a new peer-reviewed journal on those topics has a unique author-friendly mandate: to reduce the submission process to a matter of minutes, and initial reviews to just a few days.

    In related news, the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York also announced today a similar attempt to simplify submissions to nine peer-reviewed journals.

  • WHO declares Ebola outbreak over

    The first time Liberia was declared free of Ebola in May 2015,  people celebrated in the streets. Now, all of West Africa is free of  Ebola, but the virus may come back yet again, WHO warns.

    The first time Liberia was declared free of Ebola in May 2015, people celebrated in the streets. Now, all of West Africa is free of Ebola, but the virus may come back yet again, WHO warns.

    EPA/Ahmed Jallanzo

    The World Health Organization (WHO) today declared Liberia free of Ebola, marking the end of the outbreak in West Africa. “Today is a good day,” Rick Brennan, director of emergency risk management and humanitarian action at WHO, said at a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland. But he also urged continued vigilance, warning that there was a significant risk of flare-ups.

  • Health panel: Pump new billions into disease outbreaks—or else

    In 2004, before anti-HIV drugs were widely available in India, an AIDS ward in Chennai was filled with patients.

    In 2004, before anti-HIV drugs were widely available in India, an AIDS ward in Chennai was filled with patients.

    Malcolm Linton

    A new report written by a high-profile commission urges the world to learn from the many mistakes made during the Ebola epidemic and revamp how it collectively responds to infectious disease crises.

    The report by the Commission on Creating a Global Health Risk Framework for the Future (GHRF) recommends that the world spend about $4.5 billion more each year to bolster the ability of countries to respond to pandemics. “The reality is we have neglected this dimension of human security,” says commission chairman Peter Sands, who spoke at a well-attended launch of the report held this morning in New York City at the Rockefeller Foundation, one of eight sponsors.

  • U.K. researcher details proposal for CRISPR editing of human embryos

    A developing human embryo.

    The study's use of CRISPR/Cas9 on human embryos is a "justified technical approach," HFEA says.

    Duncan Hull/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

    LONDON—The hottest technique in gene editing, called CRISPR, could soon be used to study human embryos. On 14 January, a regulatory committee in the United Kingdom will evaluate a request to knock out development genes in day-old embryos. In a press conference today, Kathy Niakan, a researcher at the Francis Crick Institute here, discussed the rationale behind her proposed project and the hope that this line of inquiry might one day improve treatments for infertility.

    Niakan studies how the single cell of a fertilized egg turns into a blastocyst, the approximately 5-day-old structure that subsequently implants in the mother’s uterus. The blastocyst contains several types of cells. Those destined to become the fetus are called epiblast progenitor cells. They are surrounded by two other types of cells, which become the placenta and another structure, the yolk sac. Niakan’s research uses human embryos, created in fertility clinics, that are left over from in vitro fertilization (IVF) attempts and donated for research. After being studied, the embryos are destroyed when they are 7 days old.

  • What Vice President Biden’s moonshot may mean for cancer research

    Vice President Joe Biden in 2012.

    Vice President Joe Biden in 2012.

    Marc Nozell/Flicker (CC BY 2.0)

    Cancer researchers are welcoming but eagerly awaiting more details on Vice President Joe Biden’s newly announced plan to lead “a moonshot” to cure cancer. They have tossed out some of their own thoughts on what the plan should entail, while tempering expectations for a single cancer cure. Their overall hope, they say, is that it will mean steady funding increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

    Biden, whose son Beau died of brain cancer last year, first announced his cancer moonshot in October 2015. President Obama discussed the plan last night in his State of the Union address, saying, “For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the family we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.”

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