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UK
Science policy and funding
Health policy
Education, training and careers
Technology transfer
Global Themes
Pharma and biotech sector
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International science
Worldwide
European Union
Europe
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Middle East
Asia
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North America
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Issue 1167: 24 October 2014
UK
Science policy and funding
Untested drugs for dying patients
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has voiced his support for the Medical Innovation Bill, put forward by Lord Saatchi, which would make it easier for doctors to try out new untested treatments on very ill patients without the fear of being sued. The Bill has divided the medical community and raises ethical issues, but Lord Saatchi argues that the principle is already being applied in the case of Ebola victims in Africa.

Daily Telegraph      - 20 October 2014 p.1
Build more power in the north
In an interview, economist Jim O'Neill discusses inequality and potential for growth in the north of England, providing context for the review on regenerating the UK's cities he presented to the Government this week. The review advises strengthening links between cities such as Manchester and Liverpool, devolving powers to cities and "establishing a world-class medical facility in the north".

Sunday Telegraph      - 19 October 2014 p.8-9
Health policy
Parents call on MPs to back technique to end agony of rare childhood disease
MPs are to decide this week whether regulations should be made permitting a medical procedure that replaces faulty mitochondria in IVF embryos with healthy DNA from a female donor, resulting in so called “three-person embryos”. Whilst it is hoped that mitochondrial transfer could help tackle rare childhood diseases, concerns remain over as yet unknown side effects, as the introduced mitochondrial DNA would be passed on to future generations.

Guardian      - 22 October 2014 p.16
  See Also:
Daily Telegraph      - 22 October 2014 p.29
Daily Telegraph      - 23 October 2014 p.7
Unite and conquer
A leader and accompanying article discuss the possible effectiveness of travel bans from countries afflicted by Ebola, and strongly argues against this form of "social distancing". The author claims that isolating affected countries will worsen the crisis, damaging their economies and social infrastructure, and leading to untraceable movements of people across borders.

New Scientist    Vol.224  Issue.2992  - 25 October 2014 p.3, 4-5
  See Also:
Guardian      - 23 October 2014 p.12
Insiders say NICE is being told to be more favourable to industry
The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) now falls under the responsibility of life sciences minister George Freeman, and some commentators have expressed concern that with his role based jointly at the Department of Health and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, NICE decision-making may be more influenced by industrial policy than health policy. Sources at NICE have voiced concerns that there may be pressure to "be more lenient in the interpretation of evidence".

BMJ    Vol.349  Issue.7980  - 25 October 2014 p.1
Education, training and careers
Mass observation
A feature article discusses the value and effectiveness of the increasing monitoring of scholars' activities in universities.

THE    Issue.2175  - 23 October 2014 p.34-39
More girls opting for science in school
There has been a 27 per cent increase in the number of girls choosing to study science at BTEC level this year. The number of girls gaining the applied science level 3 qualification – the equivalent of A-level – is higher than boys for the first time, at 54 per cent compared to 46 per cent.

Independent      - 22 October 2014 p.21
Am I bothered? Yes, say Imperial’s stressed doctoral students
An international survey has found that doctoral students at Imperial College London showed more stress and discontent than their counterparts in 2009. Of particular concern was the decline in agreement that their PhDs had prepared them well for future careers.

THE    Issue.2175  - 23 October 2014 p.10
Biology wish list: numbers please
Early results from a researcher sector survey by the Biotechnology and Biological Research Council and the Medical Research Council have highlighted data analysis and multidisciplinary research as vulnerable skills in biological and medical sciences. Concerns around postdoctoral recruitment have also been highlighted in the preliminary results, and a more detailed analysis will be published later this year.

THE    Issue.2175  - 23 October 2014 p.12
Technology transfer
No stories this week.
Global Themes
Pharma and biotech sector
AstraZeneca neither confirms nor denies that it will ditch antibiotics research
AstraZeneca has responded to rumours that it will disassemble its in-house antibiotic research laboratories by calling them “highly speculative”. Concerns that the company would abandon the research, known for its high failure rate, remain present in the industry at a time when public awareness of antibiotic-resistance is increasing.

Nature News      - 22 October 2014
Biomedical ethics
The ethics squad
A feature article discusses the emerging bioethics consultancies that are being called upon to help scientists through the minefield of conducting ethical research, given the many challenges faced by researchers – and the sensitive information they become privy to.

Nature    Vol.514  Issue.7523  - 23 October 2014 p.418–420
Public engagement in science
No stories this week.
Publishing and data sharing
More than half of 2007-2012 research articles now free to read
A European Commission report has suggested that over 50 per cent of all peer-reviewed articles published between 2007-2012 are now available for free download on the internet. Furthermore, the research, conducted by Canadian consultancy Science-Metrix, found that 13 percent of articles were published directly to open access journals in 2012.

Nature News      - 22 October 2014
Global health
The ice bucket
A Nature editorial looks back on the recent social media phenomenon in aid of the neurodegenerative disease amytrophic lateral scelrosis (ALS), the ice bucket challenge. Following huge engagement by the public and the hundreds of millions raised worldwide, the author questions whether it would have been so successful if the public were aware that some of the money would inevitably be used to fund research on animal models of the disease.

Nature    Vol.514  Issue.7523  - 23 October 2014 p.403–404
There is a 'moral responsibility’ to go out and stop Ebola in Africa
In an interview Peter Piot, who helped identify the Ebola virus in 1976, discusses his institution's responsibility to not only study Ebola, but to assist in the relief effort. Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, has encouraged staff to volunteer by guaranteeing to pay their salary. He argues that academics can help in future crises by documenting the relief effort so lessons can be learned.

THE    Issue.2175  - 23 October 2014 p.9
WHO will review its response to Ebola once the outbreak is under control
Responding to media reports of a leaked internal WHO document which listed some major communication problems delaying its response to the Ebola outbreak, the WHO has stated that a full, transparent review of its actions will be conducted once the infection is under control.

BMJ    Vol.349  Issue.7980  - 25 October 2014 p.1
International science
Data bank struggles as protein imaging ups its game
An article discusses the recent meeting in Hinxton, UK, of leaders of organisations forming the Protein Data Bank. Discussion focused on advancements of technology to allow the mapping and storage of more complex structures and to track changes in molecular structure in real time.

Nature    Vol.514  Issue.7523  - 23 October 2014 p.416
Call for help
A leader article describes how useful mobile phone records could be for epidemiologists in understanding mobility patterns during epidemics, such as the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Call records can provide immediate, empirical data to support decision-making about where to supply aid and to track population flows to predict where further outbreaks may occur.

Economist    Vol.413  Issue.8910  - 25 October 2014 p.16, 85-86
Worldwide
European Union
EIT accused of failing eastern Europe
A leader article discusses the possible impact of the location of Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) on the innovation gap between older and more recent member states. Martin Kern, interim director of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) - which funds the KICs - has acknowledged concerns that new member states have lost out so far and has indicated that the EIT will seek to redress this imbalance in the coming year.

Research Europe    Issue.396  - 23 October 2014 p.1
Europe
Universities told to study performance–based funding
A recent European University Association report exploring funding efficiency has recommended the introduction of funding based on performance. Commentators have suggested that careful simulation of the effects of a performance-based model will need to be undertaken to assess its likely impact on different universities.

Research Europe    Issue.396  - 23 October 2014 p.5
Africa
No stories this week.
Middle East
No stories this week.
Asia
China's private universities
An editorial from the president of a leading private university in China welcomes the recent pledge by his government to treat public and private universities equally in terms of funding for education and research. The article highlights the importance of private universities within the Chinese higher education system.

Science    Vol.346  - 24 October 2014 p.401
Show me the money
A feature article examines the case of physicist Ulf Leonhardt who was recruited to work in China under the government's lucrative schemes to attract talented researchers from overseas. Although the details are disputed, Leonhardt's experience brings to light several questionable practices in how the programmes and funding to universities are administered.

Science    Vol.346  - 24 October 2014 p.411-415
Searching for science in India's traditional medicine
The Indian government is backing a significant research effort to establish a scientific basis for Indian traditional medicine, known as Ayurveda. This support, which has included funding for genetic studies around Ayurvedic traits (termed "ayurgenomics"), has drawn criticism from several commentators and concerns over the level of peer review some of the results have received.

Science    Vol.346  - 24 October 2014 p.410
Australasia
No stories this week.
North America
US suspends risky disease research
An editorial and article discuss the future of gain-of-function research following the US government’s announcement that it will stop funding new projects pending a review of the risks of such studies. Those currently conducting gain-of-function studies in the US on influenza, SARS, and MERS have also been asked to put their research on hold while the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy conducts its risk assessment.

Nature    Vol.514  Issue.7523  - 23 October 2014 p.411–412, 403
  See Also:
Science    Vol.346  - 24 October 2014 p.404
Election stakes go beyond control of the Senate
Ahead of the forthcoming US Congressional elections, science advocates are gearing up to fight against the prospect of mandatory budget cuts for federal research agencies - developing the case that there is an 'innovation deficit'. In addition to funding considerations, a range of other science policy issues need to be resolved no matter which parties gain control of the two houses.

Science    Vol.346  - 24 October 2014 p.408-409
  See Also:
Nature    Vol.514  - 23 October 2014 p.412–413
Health inequities in the USA: closing the gaps
Sexual minorities, native Americans, and people with disabilities are under-represented by research into health inequities in the US, according to a new report by Academy Health, a non-profit organisation, and the American Academy of Medical Colleges.

The Lancet    Vol.384  Issue.9953  - 25 October 2014 p.1478
US federal health agencies questioned over Ebola response
New guidelines regarding the care of patients with Ebola have been issued to health workers in the US, following a congressional hearing into the US's handling of the outbreak at home and abroad.

The Lancet    Vol.384  Issue.9953  - 25 October 2014 p.1489
Obama names Ebola czar
The US Government has appointed lawyer Ron Klain to coordinate activities to combat the Ebola crisis. The move highlighted the ongoing absence of a US Surgeon General, after the Senate blocked the appointment of the president's previous nominee last year.

Science    Vol.346  - 24 October 2014 p.403
Latin America
No stories this week.
Top Stories

Top Story
Parents call on MPs to back technique to end agony of rare childhood disease

MPs are to decide this week whether regulations should be made permitting ...

Top Story
US suspends risky disease research

An editorial and article discuss the future of gain-of-function research following the ...
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