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A worldwide worm survey, and racial bias in a health care algorithm

Science Podcast
worm illustration with podcast overlay

Earthworms are easy … to find. But despite their prevalence and importance to ecosystems around the world, there hasn’t been a comprehensive survey of earthworm diversity or population size. This week in Science, Helen Philips, a postdoctoral fellow at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research and the Institute of Biology at Leipzig University, and colleagues published the results of their worldwide earthworm study, composed of data sets from many worm researchers around the globe. Host Sarah Crespi gets the lowdown from Philips on earthworm myths, collaborating with worm researchers, and links between worm populations and climate. Read a related commentary here

Sarah also talks with Ziad Obermeyer, a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, about dissecting out bias in an algorithm used by health care systems in the United States to recommend patients for additional health services. With unusual access to a proprietary algorithm, inputs, and outputs, Obermeyer and his colleagues found that the low amount of health care dollars spent on black patients in the past caused the algorithm to underestimate their risk for poor health in the future. Obermeyer and Sarah discuss how this happened and remedies that are already in progress. Read a related commentary here

Finally, in the monthly books segment, books host Kiki Sanford interviews author Alice Gorman about her book Dr. Space Junk vs The Universe: Archaeology and the Future. Listen to more book segments on the Science books blog: Books, et al.

This week’s episode was edited by Podigy.

Ads on this week’s show: The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life by David Quanmen; MEL Science

Download the transcript (PDF).

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About the Science Podcast

[Image: Public domain; Music: Jeffrey Cook]


Sarah Crespi

Sarah Crespi is the Senior Multimedia Producer at Science and host of the Science Magazine Podcast.