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UK
Science policy and funding
Health policy
Education, training and careers
Technology transfer
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Issue 1159: 29 August 2014
UK
Science policy and funding
Labour warns UK will lose global science lead without more investment
The shadow universities minister, Liam Byrne, has warned that the UK needs to invest more in science if it is to remain competitive with other countries. The UK spends 1.7 per cent of its GDP on R&D, less than the three per cent spent by Germany and the EU average of two per cent. However, there is no commitment as yet from the Labour Party that they would increase the science budget should they gain power.

Guardian      - 28 August 2014
Three-parent IVF ‘will stop diseases being inherited’
The fertility expert Lord Winston has spoken of his support for mitochondrial transfer, a novel IVF technique which - if it receives backing by a vote in Parliament this autumn - could prevent mothers from passing on incurable genetic illnesses to their children. The proposed change could make Britain the first country to legalise mitochondrial transfer via IVF.

Times      - 25 August 2014 p.15
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Independent      - 26 August 2014 p.1
Crisis counsellors
A feature article examines the pressures on scientific advisers to react appropriately in times of crisis. Emergency procedures such as the formation of the UK Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies are discussed, along with examples of crises such as the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano, and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Nature    Vol.512  Issue.7515  - 28 August 2014 p.360–363
Health policy
Patients to gain new cancer drugs after funding boost
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has boosted the Cancer Drugs fund by 40 per cent, with almost an additional £300 million being pledged to the budget. The fund will, however, for the first time assess drugs on the merit of ‘value for money’ to enable as many patients as possible to benefit. The fund has so far helped more than 55,000 cancer patients since it was set up in 2011.

Daily Telegraph      - 28 August 2014 p.2
Education, training and careers
Charities more generous than MRC for PhDs
It has emerged that a number of medical charities offer a far higher level of funding for PhD studentships than the UK Research Councils. While studentships available from the Medical Research Council (MRC) amount to approximately £83,000 over three and a half years, medical charities such as the Macular Society provide funding of up to £100,000 across three years.

THE    Issue.2167  - 28 August 2014 p.10
Women and minorities more likely to go back for postgraduate study
Women and black or minority ethnic (BME) graduates have a greater likelihood of leaving the job market to pursue further study, according to a recent study from the University of the West of England. Female STEM graduates were 48 per cent more likely than men to return to postgraduate study, while BME graduates who had studied a STEM subject were 50 per cent more likely to return than white graduates.

THE    Issue.2167  - 28 August 2014 p.11
Brian Cox warns of scientist shortage
Speaking in support of a science summer school initiative in Tower Hamlets, London, the scientist and television presenter Professor Brian Cox has warned that the UK will face a severe shortage of scientists and engineers by 2020 unless more can be done to attract children from deprived backgrounds to study STEM subjects at university.

Daily Telegraph      - 29 August 2014 p.2
Technology transfer
No stories this week.
Global Themes
Pharma and biotech sector
Could tech end animal-based drugs testing?
Scientists are working on alternatives to animal testing in order to reduce the high cost of creating new pharmaceuticals and speed up the process. Alternatives - such as digital modelling of human tissue, chips which emulate organs and laboratory-grown biological tissues - will likely help the research pipeline but their use will require a significant overhaul of the regulatory systems around drug testing.

Observer      - 24 August 2014 p.20
Biomedical ethics
No stories this week.
Public engagement in science
No stories this week.
Publishing and data sharing
‘Shock and derision’ at Science appointment
The appointment of Kent Anderson as publisher at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has sparked criticism among supporters of open access. Mr Anderson, whose portfolio will include 'Science' and the new open access journal ‘Science Advances’, is widely perceived as a sceptic of open access who has appeared unsupportive of the matter in several previous blog posts.

THE    Issue.2167  - 28 August 2014 p.16
Why null results rarely see the light of day
A new study published this week, which traced the outcomes of 221 survey-based social science studies supported by the US National Science Foundation, indicates that more than two-thirds of experiments that produced null results were never published and simply filed away. The authors call for the creation of a registry for all data and study designs, although concerns have been expressed that this may introduce new kinds of bias.

Science    Vol.345  - 29 August 2014 p.992
  See Also:
Nature News      - 28 August 2014 p.
Global health
World struggles to stop Ebola
An article describes the challenges facing the effort to combat Ebola in West Africa. Limitations on support, both financial and physical, mean that aid forces are struggling to contain the epidemic, which is now predicted to continue for another four to nine months at least.

Nature    Vol.512  Issue.7515  - 28 August 2014 p.355–356
  See Also:
New Scientist    Vol.223  - 30 August 2014 p.7
Science    Vol.345  - 29 August 2014 p.989-990
Guardian      - 28 August 2014 p.18
Nature News      - 28 August 2014 p.
Nature News      - 28 August 2014 p.
Ebola vaccine to be tested on volunteers in UK
Clinical trials of a new Ebola vaccine could be fast-tracked to start in the UK within the next few weeks. The vaccine, developed by the US National Institutes of Health and GlaxoSmithKline, will be tested on 60 volunteers by a team from the University of Oxford before being extended to volunteers in Gambia if no adverse reactions are found. The planned trial comes at a time when the WHO is warning that, in a worst-case scenario, the current outbreak in West Africa could eventually lead to 10,000 deaths.

Independent      - 29 August 2014 p.9
  See Also:
Daily Telegraph      - 29 August 2014 p.7
Reducing the global prevalence of overweight and obesity
An opinion piece discusses the public health consequences of increasing levels of overweight and obesity and argues that the "solution has to be mainly political", with "acceptable remedial action" an essential component of public health policy over the coming decades.

The Lancet    Vol.384  - 30 August 2014 p.728-730
Allow use of electronic cigarettes to assess risk
A comment article discusses the use of e-cigarettes and calls for a rigorous study of their long-term effects to better assess the risks of their use, as well as potential benefits for reducing the smoking of tobacco-based products.

Nature    Vol.512  Issue.7515  - 28 August 2014 p.349
International science
Mapping our lives
Google X, the research wing of the internet giant, has announced its 'Baseline study', a "womb to tomb" longitudinal experiment which will gather a broad spectrum of data across complete lifetimes of subjects. Data will include genome analysis, diagnoses, demographic and socioeconomic factors and will follow in the tradition of long-running studies such as the National Survey of Health and Development in the UK.

Guardian      - 25 August 2014 p.12
Worldwide
European Union
No stories this week.
Europe
No stories this week.
Africa
No stories this week.
Middle East
Iranian science minister ousted
The Iranian parliament last week dismissed science minister Reza Faraji-Dana. Faraji-Dana had been implementing reforms to free-up Iran's universities and promote greater openness and transparency, which it is believed may have antagonised colleagues in the parliament.

Science    Vol.345  - 29 August 2014 p.986
Asia
Taking China's health professional education into the future
An editorial introduces a special issue of 'The Lancet' on the future of China's health, timed to mark the 100th anniversary of the China Medical Board. The article discusses the findings of a review of China's health professional education system - the largest such system in the world, with 500,000 graduating in 2012, but with many continuing problems including a lack of faculty growth to cope with the large student body.

The Lancet    Vol.384  - 30 August 2014 p.715, 717-724, 733, 819-827
Demystifying central government R&D spending in China
A Perspectives article presents an analysis of China's R&D expenditure, taking advantage of the increasing transparency of its major agencies in sharing spend data. The article discusses the role of the key funding agencies, and the case for further budgeting reform.

Science    Vol.345  - 29 August 2014 p.1006-1008
Chinese pharma starts to narrow the gap
Although China currently invests far less in pharmaceutical research than the US - $1.6 billion vs. the United States' $30 billion - as part of its current five-year plan it is increasing funds far more than other countries in the area, its 33 per cent yearly growth dwarfing the Asia-Pacific average of seven per cent. Aside from R&D spending there are other barriers that China will need to overcome if it wishes to compete with the well-established biotech sector in the US and Europe, such as its relatively strict regulatory environment and lack of researchers.

Financial Times      - 25 August 2014 p.17
Australasia
Australia needs a strategy
In the week that national scientific advisers from around the world hold a major meeting in New Zealand, an editorial by Australia's Chief Scientist Ian Chubb argues the need for his country to develop a long-term strategy for maximising the value of its scientific endeavours.

Science    Vol.345  - 29 August 2014 p.985
North America
Animal welfare accreditation called into question
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has released a study suggesting that US laboratories accredited by the country's only independent certifier of animal welfare practices breach guidelines more frequently than do non-accredited labs. The study's findings are disputed, but are expected to spark further discussion and debate on the oversight and regulation of animal welfare.

Science    Vol.345  - 29 August 2014 p.988
Latin America
No stories this week.
Top Stories

Top Story
Why null results rarely see the light of day

A new study published this week, which traced the outcomes of 221 ...

Top Story
Chinese pharma starts to narrow the gap

Although China currently invests far less in pharmaceutical research than the US ...
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