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Issue 1178: 23 January 2015
UK
Science policy and funding
Clamour for clarity on the reach of chief scientist
There have been suggestions that Sir Mark Walport, the Government's chief scientific adviser, is looking to gain greater control over the £4.6 billion research budget. Critics point to his closeness to the Chancellor, and his possible instigation of the recently announced review of the research councils, potentially in order to shift funding towards big research institutes. Supporters have argued that Walport is providing leadership during a politically difficult time for science due to the loss of the expertise of senior civil servants in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

THE    Issue.2,187  - 22 January 2015 p.6-7
'I'm not a great believer in the power of prayer'
An interview with Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, in which he discusses the Ebola epidemic and the delayed global response in handling the outbreak. Farrar also outlines his plans for the Trust to 'internationalise' more and to back young researchers who want to take risks.

Independent      - 19 January 2015 p.18
Three-parent baby pioneer: ‘The Brits will be ahead of the world’
An article discusses the mitochondrial transfer fertility technique with its pioneer Dr Jamie Grifo. Dr Grifo defends the method after controversy followed the death of premature twins conceived through the technique in 2003. While the US Food and Drug Authority have stopped Dr Grifo from further testing, the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority are considering approval.

Independent      - 17 January 2015 p.20
Health policy
No more top-down reorganisation in mental health but much more funding, experts urge
Mental health experts have called for more funding for mental healthcare, stressing the need for patients to be able to access better treatments. Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, highlighted the importance of mental wellbeing for the UK’s economy and society.

BMJ    Vol.350  Issue.7992  - 21 January 2015
More understanding – and money – is required
An article discusses the need for more research into women's health, with gynaecological or reproductive health problems affecting 50 per cent of UK women. The charity ‘Wellbeing for Women’ is featured: it funds research into all areas of women's health, and raises awareness to help prevention.

Independent on Sunday      - 18 January 2015 p.2
Cuts in aid to Sierra Leone sent UK’s Ebola bill soaring
The Department for International Development (DfID) has come under fire this week as evidence to the Public Accounts Committee revealed that the UK Government expects to spend close to £330 million on the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, £100m more than the original allocation. Critics are arguing that cuts in the health aid budget to Sierra Leone have been counterproductive as they have resulted in increased spending on more expensive forms of aid, such as emergency measures.

Independent on Sunday      - 18 January 2015 p.2
TB in England ‘to overtake US by 2016’
Public Health England (PHE) and NHS England have put forward an £11.5 million programme to eradicate tuberculosis, warning that England is likely to have twice as many cases as the United States within the next two years. New procedures to be introduced include inoculating new-born babies against the disease and teams being sent to homeless shelters and prisons to seek out cases.

Times      - 19 January 2015 p.8
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The Lancet    Vol.385  - 24 January 2015 p.312-313
Cigarettes will be sold in plain packaging from next spring
The UK Parliament will debate and be given a free vote on the introduction of plain packaging featuring large health warnings for cigarettes. The legislation is expected to pass with large support from Labour, Liberal Democrats and Tory MPs, with the regulations potentially being introduced as early as May 2016.

Times      - 22 January 2015 p.2
Education, training and careers
Women students shun sciences
According to new data from UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, women were shown to outnumber men in 2014 university places as a whole and in two thirds of degree subjects. However, most courses in science and engineering subjects continue to be male dominated, with only biology having more female undergraduates.

Times      - 22 January 2015 p.15
Careers at risk after case studies ‘game playing’ REF study suggests
An analysis of submission patterns supports claims that academics may not have been included in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) because institutions could not find enough good impact case studies. The number of case studies required increased in increments depending on the number of staff submitted and some academics have expressed concerns that exclusion could negatively impact their careers.

THE    Issue.2,187  - 22 January 2015 p.6-7
Seize the moment
A careers article discusses the difficult transition between post-doctoral work and leading research as a principal investigator. The article discusses strategies for dealing with this challenge, and gender differences in this transition.

Nature    Vol.517  Issue.7535  - 22 January 2015 p.517-519
Technology transfer
Venture capitalists back life sciences
UK companies in the life sciences sector saw their financial support from venture capitalists surge 41 per cent last year. Two of the five largest funding rounds were for companies in the area of immunotherapy, with other rounds in the areas of research services, biological molecule detection, and genetic testing. These five largest funding rounds accounted for $389 million of the $713 million the sector received last year from venture capital backers.

Sunday Telegraph      - 18 January 2015 p.2
Global Themes
Pharma and biotech sector
Antibiotics: drug firms ‘to blame’
Karl Rotthier, CEO of DSM Sinochem Pharmaceuticals, has suggested that the growth of antibiotic resistance is being encouraged by the practices of drug companies. He argues that poor standards of environmental production methods have resulted in antibiotics being present in drinking water, fish, and cattle. This problem has been further compounded by the globalisation of exports and travel.

Sunday Telegraph      - 18 January 2015 p.6
Biomedical ethics
No stories this week.
Public engagement in science
Public engagement: hidden costs for research careers?
An opinion piece describes the frustrations of some early career scholars who do not feel they receive enough support to engage with the public and their concerns that a focus on reaching out could harm their credibility as 'proper' research-active academics.

THE    Issue.2,187  - 22 January 2015 p.28-29
Where mind meets matter
A feature article discusses the increasing interest in the field of medical humanities, which looks to explore the social, historical and cultural dimensions of medicine.

THE    Issue.2,187  - 22 January 2015 p.40-45
Publishing and data sharing
Publishers’ merger is ‘bad news for universities’
University librarians have warned that journal prices could increase following the merger between Macmillan Science and Education and Springer announced last week. Historically, mergers have harmonised prices upwards as publishers are given more power over the market, potentially resulting in the cancellation of subscriptions to smaller journals.

THE    Issue.2,187  - 22 January 2015 p.11
Global health
What are affordable vaccines?
A report from Médecins Sans Frontières, 'The Right Shot: Extending the reach of affordable and adapted vaccines', has raised fears about the affordability of vaccines to middle-income countries, many of which do not qualify for support from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, which supports low-income countries. The report further alleges that a lack of transparency on the part of vaccine manufacturers negates regulation which would otherwise ensure prices were set in accordance with national GDP.

The Lancet    Vol.385  Issue.9965  - 24 January 2015 p.304
  See Also:
BMJ    Vol.350  - 20 January 2015 p.
International science
Science seeks roots of terror
An article outlines criminology and psychology studies offering further understanding of radicalisation. It is noted that “psychology’s potential for the study of terrorism has yet to be realised”. An accompanying article discusses the limits on the use of mathematical modelling in the prediction of terrorist activities.

Nature    Vol.517  Issue.7535  - 22 January 2015 p.420–421
  See Also:
Nature    Vol.517  - 22 January 2015 p.419–420
Safety boost for GM organisms
A new article discusses new research which has created genetically modified microbes that cannot survive in the absence of an artificial supplement and hence cannot escape into the environment. By addressing these widespread concerns on the potential impact of genetic engineering, the new research may lead to developments in new drugs and fuels where microbes are isolated from their surroundings.

Nature    Vol.517  Issue.7535  - 22 January 2015 p.423
Complementary medicine centres should be more critical, says Ernst
Edzard Ernst, the first UK professor of complementary medicine, has told journalists at the Science Media Centre that research into alternative medicines needs to be more critical and that too much research is done by people who are already proponents of complementary therapies.

BMJ    Vol.350  Issue.7992  - 21 January 2015
Worldwide
European Union
Sharp cuts planned for Horizon 2020
An article and editorial report that the European Commission plans to slash the Horizon 2020 budget by €2.7 billion over five years in order to fund President Juncker's European Fund for Strategic Investments. The plans have been strongly criticised by the research community, but not yet by the new research commissioner Carlos Moedas, with some commentators pointing to an increasing centralisation of power under Juncker.

Research Europe    Issue.401  - 22 January 2015 p.1, 2
  See Also:
Science    Vol.347  - 23 January 2015 p.357
The warning lights are flashing for parts of Horizon 2020
In an opinion piece, secretary-general of the League of European Research Universities Kurt Deketelaere reflects on the first year of Horizon 2020, noting “warning lights” that could threaten the programme. He labels the reallocation of some Horizon 2020 money to the European Fund for Strategic Investment as 'unacceptable', and argues that the programme has to continue along the lines agreed upon at its inception.

Research Europe    Issue.401  - 22 January 2015 p.7
Chief scientific adviser role back in play
Rumours about the possible restoration of the European Commission's chief scientific adviser position are rife after the second most senior official at the Commission - Frans Timmermans - said that the position would be filled. However, official sources have since denied that a decision has been made.

Research Europe    Issue.401  - 22 January 2015 p.3
ERC holds off on open data
The European Research Council (ERC) will not mandate data sharing as a requirement for its funded research under its new open access guidelines. The ERC has argued that there is still much to be done to refine publishing and curation practices before such a mandate becomes an option.

Research Europe    Issue.401  - 22 January 2015 p.3
Major Ebola projects backed
On 16 January a joint Ebola fund was announced, with investment of €117 million and €99 million from the European Commission Horizon 2020 fund and industry respectively.

Research Europe    Issue.401  - 22 January 2015 p.3
Europe
Looking for lift-off
A feature article examines Russia’s ambitions to see five of its universities ranked in the top 100 in the world by 2020.

THE    Issue.2,187  - 22 January 2015 p.34-39
Africa
Hope at last of turning point in Ebola outbreak
Figures from the WHO show that the weekly number of reported cases in the most severely hit west African countries - Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea - have all fallen for three weeks running. While the call for 'vigilance' remains, the figures suggest that a turning point has been reached.

Guardian      - 23 January 2015 p.5
  See Also:
Times      - 21 January 2015 p.28
Middle East
No stories this week.
Asia
No stories this week.
Australasia
No stories this week.
North America
Squeeze put on flush scientists
In order to fund a broader range of research, the US National Institute of General Medical Sciences has placed a strict one-grant limit on researchers who already receive at least $400,000 per year in funding not tied to a specific project.

Science    Vol.347  - 23 January 2015 p.357
The insurgent
A feature article profiles Justin Goodman - director of laboratory investigations for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Goodman's studies have had some successes in questioning the oversight and conduct of animal research, but have also received fierce criticism - with opponents claiming the work is biased and methodologically flawed.

Science    Vol.347  - 23 January 2015 p.366-369
Latin America
No stories this week.

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Sharp cuts planned for Horizon 2020

An article and editorial report that the European Commission plans to slash ...

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TB in England ‘to overtake US by 2016’

Public Health England (PHE) and NHS England have put forward an £11.5 ...
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