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Science policy and funding
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Issue 1171: 21 November 2014
UK
Science policy and funding
Safety-first rulings 'stifling innovation'
Sir Mark Walport, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, has stated in his first annual report that scientific innovation is being stifled in Britain by over-use of the 'precautionary principle'. Sir Mark points to the European Union being arguably over-cautious in blocking the cultivation of GM crops and the use of some pesticides, stifling scientific development.

Times      - 20 November 2014 p.6
BIS officials prepare for 'further cuts'
Reports suggest that the scale of cuts being modelled by civil servants for the next spending review are likely to be greater than previously suggested by the Government. The cuts will apply across Whitehall, but within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills it is thought they are more likely to impact student provisions rather than the ring-fenced science budget.

THE    Issue.2,179  - 20 November 2014 p.8
Fall in grant application success rates
Five out of the six research councils surveyed by 'Times Higher Education' have seen a decline in the percentage of successful grant applications. Ben Martin, professor of science and technology policy at the University for Sussex, attributes this to a drop in funding allocation: there has been a nine per cent fall in applications, but the amount of funding allocated was down by 22 per cent over the same period. Only the Arts and Humanities Research Council bucked the trend.

THE    Issue.2,179  - 20 November 2014 p.6-7
Imperial reclaims crown as research income king
According to figures compiled by 'Times Higher Education', Imperial College London was one of ten universities - out of the 27 awarded more than £10 million - to see a rise in the value of their awards in 2013-14. It retook first place, after dipping down to third last year. Elsewhere, the University of Surrey showed an 85 per cent rise in the value of its awards.

THE    Issue.2,179  - 20 November 2014 p.7
FoI requests reveal our hand to competitors
An pair of opinion pieces debate the pros and cons of exempting universities from the Freedom of Information Act.

THE    Issue.2,179  - 20 November 2014 p.28, 29
Health policy
Attacking critics is no way to fix the Saatchi bill
In response to a comment piece from Lord Saatchi, which labelled critics of his Medical Innovation Bill as "the authentic voice of complacency and self-satisfaction", a response from David Hills of the Stop the Saatchi Bill campaign counters that the bill: fails to encourage innovation; would allow negligent doctors to escape censure; and is opposed by "a huge weight" of professional medical and legal opinion.

Guardian      - 19 November 2014
  See Also:
Guardian      - 14 November 2014 p.
We’re not ready for three-parent babies, says expert
It is expected that Parliament will soon vote on whether to move forward with mitochondrial donation in the UK. A 'yes' vote would make the UK the first country to permit the treatment in principle, despite suggestions that more research needs to be done to resolve outstanding concerns.

Independent i      - 17 November 2014 p.7
Wrangling over vaccine for meningitis may cost hundreds of children’s lives
The Department of Health has so far failed to reach an agreement with Novartis, the Swiss pharmaceutical company, over a new meningitis vaccine. Discussions are said to have stalled due to a lack of agreement over a "cost-effective price", with the Government being advised on pricing by an independent committee. The vaccine for meningitis B has been licensed in the UK since 2013.

Independent      - 20 November 2014 p.1, 5
Education, training and careers
No stories this week.
Technology transfer
No stories this week.
Global Themes
Pharma and biotech sector
AstraZeneca may face new Pfizer bid as cool-off ends
Next week sees the end of the obligatory six-month 'cooling off' period, following the rejected takeover offer for AstraZeneca by Pfizer in May. Pfizer will be free to approach AstraZeneca again at the end of this period.

Daily Telegraph      - 19 November 2014 p.3
GSK leads index for medicines access in poor areas
The 2014 Access to Medicine Index has reported that GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is leading the pharmaceuticals industry in efforts to widen global access to medicines. This provides a strong endorsement for GSK's work in low- and middle-income countries.

Financial Times      - 17 November 2014 p.20
Biomedical ethics
No stories this week.
Public engagement in science
Openness in science is key to keeping public trust
A World View article looks at public trust in science, and poses that those in the science community owe it to the public to be more open about their research, including any mistakes and errors that have occurred. The author acknowledges that this will require a cultural shift in the way we view research findings and admissions of error.

Nature    Vol.515  Issue.7527  - 20 November 2014 p.313
Save the museums
An editorial outlines the plight of Italian museologists to save and properly catalogue the rich scientific collections contained in their museums. Following decades of neglect, the country’s museums have started to organise their collections in a similar way to other European institutions.

Nature    Vol.515  Issue.7527  - 20 November 2014 p.311–312
Publishing and data sharing
Data-access practices strengthened
An editorial summarises the updates to the 'Nature' publishing group's data-availability measures, which include closer ties with the journal 'Scientific Data' – a repository for research datasets.

Nature    Vol.515  Issue.7527  - 20 November 2014 p.312
Global health
A dose of reality
Following a meeting at WHO headquarters on 11-12 November, researchers could begin trials in West Africa to test the effectiveness of Ebola treatments within the month. At the meeting, there were lengthy discussions over appropriate standards of protocols, and the associated ethical issues - particularly the acceptability of denying some patients potentially life-saving interventions.

Science    Vol.346  - 21 November 2014 p.908-911
  See Also:
New Scientist    Vol.224  - 22 November 2014 p.6
BMJ    Vol.349  - 22 November 2014 p.5
The Lancet    Vol.384  - 22 November 2014 p.1833
EU aids Ebola fight with more funds, equipment and drugs for west Africa
The EU's new Ebola coordinator, Christos Stylianides, has labelled the current outbreak in West Africa as a "mega natural disaster" and has pledged extra support, with 5,000 tonnes of medication and supplies being rushed to the region.

Observer      - 16 November 2014 p.33
UN report urges faster action to beat Aids
A new report from UNAids calls for a fast global response to halt the Aids epidemic by 2030 which, if successful, could prevent nearly 28 million new infections and 21 million deaths. The report warns that without combating Aids in this timeframe, the epidemic risks rebounding with an increased rate of infection than before.

Guardian      - 19 November 2014 p.22
International science
A global vision
An editorial reports on the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s announcement that it will be leaving the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU), a collective of scientific bodies worldwide. The editorial calls for more efficient spending and more high profile projects from the ICSU to prevent further members leaving.

Nature    Vol.515  Issue.7527  - 20 November 2014 p.311
‘Platinum’ genome shapes up
An article looks at efforts to map the 'platinum genome' – a sequencing effort that hopes to fill in the gaps from the original Human Genome Project. The new methodologies being drawn upon include the use of 'hydatidiform moles', which are created when a sperm fertilises an egg without a nucleus, resulting in a single set of chromosomes for sequencing.

Nature    Vol.515  Issue.7527  - 20 November 2014 p.323
Worldwide
European Union
Exit of E.U. science adviser triggers furor
An article examines the fallout to the decision by new European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker to discontinue the position of chief scientific adviser (CSA). While many in the scientific community have been fiercely critical of the decision, some commentators have suggested that it may prompt a necessary rethink of the Commission's scientific advice system, and that the CSA role had not been well thought out.

Science    Vol.346  - 21 November 2014 p.904
  See Also:
Research Europe      - 20 November 2014 p.1
Research Europe      - 20 November 2014 p.2
Moedas’s team shapes up
As part of announcements about the composition of his new team, the new EU research commissioner, Carlos Moedas, has confirmed that several existing personnel will be retained in the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation.

Research Europe    Issue.398  - 20 November 2014 p.3
Europe
New bird flu strain in Europe
The highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu strain, which had never previously been reported in Europe, has caused outbreaks in poultry facilities in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands during the last month. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has judged that the risk to humans is very low.

Science    Vol.346  - 21 November 2014 p.898
Africa
No stories this week.
Middle East
No stories this week.
Asia
No stories this week.
Australasia
No stories this week.
North America
Mounting concerns over ‘war on science’
In Canada, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government is facing criticism for not allowing Canadian federal scientists to communicate freely with the public. There are claims that 2,000 federally employed scientists have been laid off since Harper took power in 2009, and concerns around the cancellation of numerous scientific programmes. The US-based Union of Concerned Scientists submitted an open letter last month, signed by 800 international scientists, calling on the Canadian government to redress the situation.

THE    Issue.2,179  - 20 November 2014 p.18
Rush Holt to lead AAAS
Physicist Rush Holt, a long-term Democratic member of Congress, will succeed Alan Leshner as chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) early next year.

Science    Vol.346  - 21 November 2014 p.899
Latin America
No stories this week.
Top Stories

Top Story
A dose of reality

Following a meeting at WHO headquarters on 11-12 November, researchers could begin ...

Top Story
Mounting concerns over ‘war on science’

In Canada, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government is facing criticism for not allowing ...
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