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UK
Science policy and funding
Health policy
Education, training and careers
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Issue 1140: 11 April 2014
UK
Science policy and funding
London seeks place in life sciences race
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has launched MedCity, an initiative designed to make the "golden triangle" of London, Oxford and Cambridge more appealing to biotech firms by bringing together academic and industrial research. He claims the scheme will have a 'spillover' effect and improve the UK's life sciences in other regions, despite criticisms that the scheme will cause too great a concentration of investment and expertise in the south east.

Financial Times      - 9 April 2014 p.4
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Science    Vol.344  - 11 April 2014 p.134
Daily Telegraph      - 9 April 2014 p.4
Daily Telegraph      - 9 April 2014 p.2
HEFCE looking overseas for research excellence
The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) is to investigate the possibility of a more international Research Excellence Framework. The idea was proposed by Professor David Eastwood, vice-chancellor of the University of Birmingham, who believes that a joint framework would enable greater comparison between research performance in the UK and countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong.

THE    Issue.2147  - 10 April 2014 p.9
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Research Fortnight      - 9 April 2014 p.1, 2
The tide of open access just became a flood
An opinion piece by Neil Jacobs, from the higher education ICT organisation Jisc, highlights the recent announcement by the Higher Education Funding Council for England regarding the new requirements for the next Research Excellence Framework in relation to open access. The author considers the potential implications of the changes.

Research Fortnight    Issue.432  - 9 April 2014 p.20
Rhetoric on immigration ‘is scaring off scientists’
Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, has argued that the UK political discourse on immigration is proving to be a deterrant in attracting scientists from overseas. The Wellcome Trust and the Royal Society have agreed a fast-track visa scheme with the Home Office for top-tier scientists after only 25 visas were approved last year, 13 per cent of the 200 available for scientists.

Times      - 7 April 2014 p.21
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Research Fortnight      - 9 April 2014 p.5
Culls curbed
The Government has said it will reform its approach to culling badgers to reduce the spread of bovine tuberculosis, saying that culls must be made "more effective and humane", and has postponed plans to extend culling to other areas of the UK.

Nature    Vol.508  Issue.7495  - 10 April 2014 p.154
Health policy
Cochrane questions effectiveness of Tamiflu
A series of articles discuss the use of neuraminidase inhibitors for the treatment of influenza, focusing on the first complete systematic review of Tamiflu and Relenza by the Cochrane Collaboration, which concluded that the Department of Health for England had "wasted more than £500m on stockpiling neuraminidase inhibitors to use in the event of a flu pandemic". Previous data had prompted governments around the world to stockpile Tamiflu, which the new expanded review of all clinical trial data found to be of limited effectiveness.

BMJ    Vol.348  Issue.7953  - 12 April 2014 p.1, 7-9, 15-17, 18-19
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Guardian      - 10 April 2014 p.1
Times      - 10 April 2014 p.2
Daily Telegraph      - 10 April 2014 p.1
Financial Times      - 10 April 2014 p.2
Independent      - 10 April 2014 p.1
Education, training and careers
Scientists have lost battle to keep A-level exams practical
Science experiments will no longer count towards final A-level grades following a redesign of science A-levels to be introduced next year. Ofqual has rejected advice from a campaign of scientific bodies, who argued that the change would discourage schools from conducting scientific experiments as part of lessons.

Times      - 9 April 2014 p.6
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Guardian      - 10 April 2014 p.12
Meeting our STEM needs goes beyond supply and demand
In an opinion piece, Professor Averil McDonald from the University of Reading argues that there are not sufficient places at universities for STEM students. She advocates a move away from "simplistic market forces" in favour of "strategic investment" in STEM delivery to meet the UK's needs, similar to methods used to determine numbers of medical and nursing students.

Research Fortnight    Issue.432  - 9 April 2014 p.21
Technology transfer
No stories this week.
Global Themes
Pharma and biotech sector
No stories this week.
Biomedical ethics
No stories this week.
Public engagement in science
£9 million 'informal learning' initiative launched
The Wellcome Trust, in partnership with the Economic and Social Research Council and the US National Science Foundation, has launched a new initiative to explore how informal learning activities such as visiting museums or watching documentaries can impact on young people's engagement with science.

Daily Telegraph      - 11 April 2014
  See Also:
Daily Telegraph      - 10 April 2014 p.
Society needs more than wonder to respect science
In a comment article, Susan Watts, former science editor of 'Newsnight', discusses the importance of science journalism in scrutinising and valuing science, and the "fundamental difference" between it and science communication.

Nature    Vol.508  Issue.7495  - 10 April 2014 p.151
Publishing and data sharing
ID from medical data could spark ‘crisis’
Ross Anderson, a professor of computer security at the University of Cambridge, has raised concerns over the use of medical data in research, claiming that patient data can never be truly anonymised. He warns of a potential "ethical crisis" and highlights the need for public debate around access to medical records.

THE    Issue.2147  - 10 April 2014 p.11
Trial data shared
The Project Data Sphere initiative, a free online platform to enable researchers to share and analyse historical clinical trial data sets, was launched this week. Data from 34 cancer trials will be released by researchers by the end of the year.

New Scientist    Vol.222  Issue.2964  - 12 April 2014 p.6
Funders punish open-access dodgers
Two of the world's largest research funders, the US National Institutes of Health and the Wellcome Trust in the UK, have begun withholding grant payments as a way of enforcing their policies that research they fund must be made open access - the only funders in the world thus far to employ such measures.

Nature    Vol.508  Issue.7495  - 10 April 2014 p.161
Global health
Neglected tropical diseases: becoming less neglected
A new report by the Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases coalition and GlaxoSmithKline assesses the progress made since the 2012 London Declaration to control, eliminate, or eradicate ten neglected tropical diseases by 2020.

The Lancet    Vol.383  Issue.9925  - 12 April 2014 p.1269
Oral antibiotic raises hopes of eradicating yaws
Researchers and global health experts are considering the feasibility of a global initiative to eliminate yaws, a disease which can cause disfiguring facial injuries, with around 100 000 new infections every year in the tropics. While results of pilot programmes using a single-dose oral antibiotic are promising, any eradication effort would face considerable logistical and financial challenges.

Science    Vol.344  - 11 April 2014 p.142
A new direction for hepatitis C
The WHO has published its first 'Guidelines for the Screening, Care and Treatment of Persons with Hepatitis C Infection' (HCV). The guidelines provide a global framework for policy makers, governments, health workers and patients, with a particular focus on low- and middle-income countries where rates of HCV are disproportionately high.

The Lancet    Vol.383  Issue.9925  - 12 April 2014 p.1270
New prescriptions
An article discusses current trends in healthcare aid ahead of the expiration of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015. Growth in healthcare aid has slowed in recent years, and global organisations are now considering new approaches, as well as how to adequately match funding to diseases that exert the greatest health burden.

Economist    Vol.411  Issue.8882  - 12 April 2014 p.65-66
Aid-lab initiative
The US Agency for International Development has announced the creation of a new $100 million Global Development Lab to encourage research and development into nutrition, child health, and other international development challenges.

Nature    Vol.508  Issue.7495  - 10 April 2014 p.155
International science
Untie the mavericks
An opinion piece argues that the current system of peer review stifles radical and subversive thinking, with the result that funding is focused more towards predictable proposals rather than truly innovative research and 'maverick' scientists.

THE    Issue.2147  - 10 April 2014 p.31
Worldwide
European Union
Transparency campaigners welcome new rules for clinical trials in Europe
Following a vote in the European Parliament, new clinical trials law is expected to come into force in 2016. Members of the European Parliament voted to introduce measures to increase the transparency of clinical trials in Europe, with financial penalties for those who do not comply.

BMJ    Vol.348  Issue.7953  - 12 April 2014 p.2-3
  See Also:
Nature    Vol.508  - 10 April 2014 p.154-155
Pro-life groups target EU stem cell research
European pro-life organisations were due to meet with EU research commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn after obtaining 1.7 million signatures across all member states in support of a ban on EU funding for any activity in which embryos are destroyed. The groups are part of a European citizens' initiative, which gives groups the right to propose legislation if they gather at least 1 million signatures from citizens in seven member states.

Science    Vol.344  - 11 April 2014 p.134
Europe
Western science severs ties with Russia
An article and accompanying editorial discuss the recent decision by NATO and NASA to sever scientific ties with Russia following its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

Nature    Vol.508  Issue.7495  - 10 April 2014 p.162, 149-150, 154
Bird flu scientist allegedly under investigation
It has been alleged that former avian influenza scientist Ilaria Capua, who is now a member of the Italian parliament, is under investigation on suspicion of trafficking flu viruses and creating a cartel to boost sales of a technology she developed. Capua strongly denies the claims.

Science    Vol.344  - 11 April 2014 p.135
Africa
Are bats spreading Ebola across sub-Saharan Africa?
Scientists are investigating the causes of an unprecedented outbreak of Ebola in Guinea, which has already killed over 100 people and spread to two neighbouring countries. The mystery centres on how the strain which caused the outbreak spread from Central to West Africa, with one leading suspect being the fruit bat.

Science    Vol.344  - 11 April 2014 p.140
Middle East
No stories this week.
Asia
No stories this week.
Australasia
No stories this week.
North America
NIH stem-cell programme closes
The Center for Regenerative Medicine (CRM) at the US National Institutes of Health appears to have closed following the departure of its director, Mahendra Rao, although no official announcement has been made about the centre's future. Rao's departure follows the NIH's decision to fund only one of five clinical trials of induced pluripotent stem cells at the CRM, and NIH officials have said that they are 'rethinking' the NIH's approach to stem cell research.

Nature    Vol.508  Issue.7495  - 10 April 2014 p.157
Lands of the free?
A feature article discusses the concerns of American and Canadian scientists that scientific freedom of speech and open discourse in North America is being restricted, partly as a result of recent budget cuts and the US government shutdown.

New Scientist    Vol.222  Issue.2964  - 12 April 2014 p.26-27
Latin America
Mesoamerica's mystery killer
A news focus article examines the ongoing struggle to decipher the causes of a mysterious kidney disease (known as chronic kidney diseases of unknown etiology or CKDu) which affects Central American agricultural workers and appears to be spreading. The condition has been described by the Pan-American Health Organisation as a "serious public health problem" and several major new research studies are underway.

Science    Vol.344  - 11 April 2014 p.143-147

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Top Story
London seeks place in life sciences race

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has launched MedCity, an initiative designed ...

Top Story
Cochrane questions effectiveness of Tamiflu

A series of articles discuss the use of neuraminidase inhibitors for the ...
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