CATEGORIES
UK
Science policy and funding
Health policy
Education, training and careers
Technology transfer
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Pharma and biotech sector
Biomedical ethics
Public engagement in science
Publishing and data sharing
Global health
International science
Worldwide
European Union
Europe
Africa
Middle East
Asia
Australasia
North America
Latin America
Issue 1194: 22 May 2015
UK
Science policy and funding
It's time for UK researchers to stand up for the EU
In an opinion piece, Mike Galsworthy of Scientists for Labour discusses the implementation of the new Conservative Government's research-related policies, and the creation of a new spinout group, Scientists for EU. An accompanying editorial considers the prospects of the UK voting to leave the EU in the upcoming referendum on UK membership, expected by 2017.

Research Europe    Issue.409  - 21 May 2015 p.7, 2
  See Also:
Times      - 22 May 2015 p.7, 30
More scientists mean bigger slice of funding pie
A new report from the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education has pointed to the fact that Wales only receives 3 per cent of UK research funding, and argues that an additional 621 researchers will be needed if the country is to attract the 5 per cent needed to mirror Wales' population share.

THE    Issue.2204  - 21 May 2015 p.12
Animal rights group in legal challenge to Home Office
Anti-vivisectionists have been granted a judicial review of the Home Office’s investigations into animal welfare at leading research labs. The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) highlighted concerns about the treatment of some animals in Imperial College London’s research facilities. They claim that the Home Office’s investigation and sanctions were not adequate given allegations of “appalling animal suffering”.

Independent      - 18 May 2015 p.13
Health policy
Childhood obesity to be top NHS target
Speaking to health leaders in London, health secretary Jeremy Hunt has pledged to make tackling childhood obesity one of his main priorities in the new parliament. Hunt has promised a national strategy to address the issue of obesity, pledging more support for GPs, but made no clear promises on funding.

Daily Telegraph      - 21 May 2015 p.2
Policy to strike deals with food industry has failed to improve England's diet, study finds
A study published in the journal 'Food Policy' has concluded that there is little evidence to demonstrate that the food 'responsibility deal', launched by the coalition Government in 2011, has led to improved diets and eating habits. The report notes that strategies that would have led to improved diets, including food pricing and reducing sugar intake, were not included in the pledges.

BMJ    Vol.350  Issue.8009  - 23 May 2015 p.3
Higher pressure on NHS cancer services damages research
A Cancer Research UK-commissioned survey of cancer clinicians, nurses and administrators has revealed that increasing workload pressures on NHS staff are leading to less time being available for research purposes.

Independent      - 19 May 2015 p.16
Education, training and careers
Publish or perish
Two years on from major research funders announcing that institutions must meet 'The Concordat to Support Research Integrity' in order to be eligible for funding, an editorial and accompanying news piece discuss how the majority of UK institutions have failed to investigate and report on research misconduct. The editorial argues that research funders must do more to enforce the Concordat and address the barriers to compliance; addressing stigma and clarifying the expectations of signatories are key recommendations.

Nature    Vol.521  Issue.7552  - 21 May 2015 p.259, 271
  See Also:
Research Europe      - 21 May 2015 p.14
On pound-for-pound basis, UK is a knockout performer
According to the 2015 Universitas 21 Ranking of National Higher Education Systems, the UK has the eighth best university system in the world when considering four weighted areas: public and private spending; production of research articles; industry and international connections; and the policy and regulatory environment. Furthermore, when average incomes are taken into account, the UK is only outperformed by Serbia.

THE    Issue.2204  - 21 May 2015 p.8
Last era's model
An article examines arguments around the doctoral thesis, which takes a lot of time for PhD candidates to write, but means that a lot of research may be left "unused and unread". A potential alternative is the "integrated format", where a linked selection of published papers are instead submitted.

THE    Issue.2204  - 21 May 2015 p.36-41
Technology transfer
Science spin-offs
On 14 May the University of Oxford announced plans to raise £300 million to develop Oxford Sciences Innovation, which will support the University's spin-off companies.

Nature    Vol.521  Issue.7552  - 21 May 2015 p.264-265
Global Themes
Pharma and biotech sector
Astra chooses Sweden over Britain for $285m facility
AstraZeneca’s new $285 million drug development centre will be built in Sweden, rather than the UK. The facility will produce cutting-edge biological medicines and is expected to create 250 highly skilled jobs. The move comes despite AstraZeneca repeatedly stressing a commitment to scientific research in the UK and the decision to base their headquarters in Cambridge.

Times      - 19 May 2015 p.40
Biomedical ethics
No stories this week.
Public engagement in science
Scientists take their research out of the lab and into the pub
A three day Pint of Science festival “for lovers of science and beer” has been taking place in 70 pubs around the UK. The festival brings together scientists with 10,000 members of the general public at 205 events around the country to discuss their research.

Independent      - 18 May 2015 p.10
Publishing and data sharing
Move for greater clinical trials clarity challenged
Reforms aimed at making drug trials more transparent have been legally challenged by a pharmaceutical trials company. The Health Research Authority has called for all clinical trials to be registered, with the aim of preventing companies from hiding negative results, but Richmond Pharmacology, a company which carries out clinical trials on behalf of major pharmaceutical companies, has been allowed a judicial review of this change. Sense about Science, who were involved in campaigning for all trials to be registered, have voiced strong disappointment that this legal challenge has been granted.

Guardian      - 19 May 2015 p.8
The BMJ requires data sharing on request for all trials
The 'BMJ' announces that, from 1 July, it will be extending its requirements for data sharing to apply "to all submitted clinical trials, not just those that test drugs or devices". The announcement follows calls from the WHO, US Institute of Medicine and the Nordic Clinical Trial Alliance for clearer regulation and guidance on data sharing.

BMJ    Vol.350  Issue.8009  - 23 May 2015 p.10
Miners' rights
An article reports on a planned change to EU copyright laws that would permit researchers to use text and data mining techniques to analyse large amounts of material. The European Commission has indicated a willingness to propose such a change, but getting it adopted is seen as a difficult prospect because the European Parliament is divided on the issue.

Research Europe    Issue.409  - 21 May 2015 p.13
Peer-review log
On 18 May a standardized format for recording peer review activities was announced. This would allow researchers to chart their peer review undertakings using their ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID) profile.

Nature    Vol.521  Issue.7552  - 21 May 2015 p.265
Global health
Plan to reform WHO after Ebola to be unveiled by Angela Merkel
The WHO's slow and "universally condemned" response to the Ebola epidemic will lead to the creation of a new semi-autonomous body within the organisation under plans launched by the German chancellor Angela Merkel at the World Health Assembly in Geneva. The new body will have a ring-fenced budget and be politically independent, and its own external advisory board will make decisions on when to declare an epidemic a public health emergency.

Guardian      - 18 May 2015
  See Also:
Nature    Vol.521  - 21 May 2015 p.264
The drug push
A feature article discusses the challenge of stimulating the commercial development of new antibiotic products to aid in the fight against rising anti-microbial resistance. Although several recent developments have raised hope that some companies are willing to take on the risks involved, many are deeply sceptical that they can be profitable. International experts are considering a range of policy levers to make investment in this field more attractive.

Science    Vol.348  - 22 May 2015 p.850-853
  See Also:
New Scientist    Vol.226  - 23 May 2015 p.6
International science
No stories this week.
Worldwide
European Union
EU Commission promises to listen to scientists
The European Commission has announced the establishment of the Science Advice Mechanism - a high-level group of seven scientists that will channel advice from national academies, learned societies and other groups to policy makers. The Commission will also provide €6 million to help European networks of academies and learned societies to work together.

Science    Vol.348  - 22 May 2015 p.848
  See Also:
Research Europe      - 21 May 2015 p.5
Deal floated to spare ERC from cuts
In the latest round of negotiations on the creation of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the European Commission has put forth a new proposal that would exempt the European Research Council and the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions programme from having their funding diverted. Under the Commission’s original proposal, substantial funding from other existing funds – including Horizon 2020 – would have been diverted to fund EFSI, and its latest position is being seen as a response to intensive lobbying from researchers and academics to protect existing funding for science and innovation.

Research Europe    Issue.409  - 21 May 2015 p.1
Critics doubt future of citizens' initiative
At a hearing for the Stop Vivisection European Citizen's Initiative (ECI) petition in Brussels last week, concerns were raised about the viability of the ECI as a means of increasing public involvement in policy making. Only three petitions have so far passed the threshold of signatures required to be considered by the European Commission, and of the two that have been considered neither has resulted in any legislative change.

Research Europe    Issue.409  - 21 May 2015 p.4
Swiss hope fades on solution for Horizon 2020
At an event on 12 May, doubts were expressed over the possibility of a second referendum on immigration in Switzerland that would enable the country to participate fully in Horizon 2020. The opportunities for Swiss researchers to receive funding under the programme have been limited since a referendum in February 2014, which resulted in restrictions on immigration which run contrary to conditions for involvement in Horizon 2020.

Research Europe    Issue.409  - 21 May 2015 p.5
Europe
Russia turns screw on science foundation
Fears are growing that Russia’s leading private science funding organisation, the Dynasty Foundation, will be labelled as a ‘foreign agent’ - that is, in receipt of foreign funding and involved in "vaguely defined 'political activities'" - despite no apparent justification. The final decision of the Ministry of Justice is overdue, but if the rumoured ‘foreign agent’ decision is upheld, the foundation’s activities, including scientific fellowships, summer schools and educational projects, will be undermined or stopped.

Nature    Vol.521  Issue.7552  - 21 May 2015 p.273
Africa
Delivering a new future for Africa
Recent criticisms of the WHO's Regional Office for Africa (AFRO) reflect longstanding problems which are only now being stated publicly following the most recent Ebola crisis, according to a comment piece. While WHO AFRO continues to be seen as isolated and distant from the nations it is intended to serve, the recent appointment of a new regional director, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, provides some hope for much needed reform.

The Lancet    Vol.385  Issue.9982  - 23 May 2015 p.2030
Middle East
No stories this week.
Asia
No stories this week.
Australasia
Australian grant cut
The newly announced Australian budget last week included measures to divert funding from universities to national facilities, many of which faced closure earlier this year.

Nature    Vol.521  Issue.7552  - 21 May 2015 p.264
North America
Tackling embryo gene editing
The US National Academies is launching an international initiative to address the controversial area of genetic modification of human embryos, following several recent developments in the field. A meeting to be held in the autumn will help to shape the work of an expert committee.

Science    Vol.348  - 22 May 2015 p.842-843
Canadian registry to track thousands of pot smokers
Researchers in Canada are compiling a registry to track all patients prescribed marijuana over the next ten years, with the hope of addressing long-standing questions over the benefits and use of the drug in easing symptoms associated with neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis and other conditions.

Science    Vol.348  - 22 May 2015 p.846
Genome standard
On 14 May the US National Institute of Standards and Technology unveiled the world’s first reference standard for validating DNA tests, which it is hoped will foster accuracy.

Nature    Vol.521  Issue.7552  - 21 May 2015 p.265
Latin America
No stories this week.
Top Stories

Top Story
Plan to reform WHO after Ebola to be unveiled by Angela Merkel

The WHO's slow and "universally condemned" response to the Ebola epidemic will ...

Top Story
It's time for UK researchers to stand up for the EU

In an opinion piece, Mike Galsworthy of Scientists for Labour discusses the ...
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