CATEGORIES
UK
Science policy and funding
Health policy
Education, training and careers
Technology transfer
Global Themes
Pharma and biotech sector
Biomedical ethics
Public engagement in science
Publishing and data sharing
Global health
International science
Worldwide
European Union
Europe
Africa
Middle East
Asia
Australasia
North America
Latin America
Issue 1153: 18 July 2014
UK
Science policy and funding
Britain's scientific funding bodies to join forces against superbugs
A news article heralds the collaboration of major scientific funding bodies in Britain on a joint research initiative to combat antimicrobial resistance. The three largest Research Councils are providing an initial £25 million between them to set up the initiative. Sir John Savill, Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council, described the collaboration as "a war cabinet to coordinate research on all fronts."

Independent      - 17 July 2014 p.12
A portfolio career
Following this week's Government reshuffle, Greg Clark has been appointed universities and science minister in addition to his current ministerial role in the Cabinet Office. While many in the sector have welcomed Clark's appointment, others have expressed concerns at the split role, arguing that the universities and science post requires dedicated focus.

THE    Issue.2161  - 17 July 2014 p.6-7
UK science minister shuffle
David Willetts resigned as minister for universities and science on 14 July as part of a Government reshuffle, with his responsibilities being taken over by Greg Clark. Willetts was viewed by the scientific community as a highly effective advocate for research during a time of austerity.

Science    Vol.345  - 18 July 2014 p.245-246
Few regrets for former universities minister
In an interview, former universities and science minister, David Willetts, reflects on his time in the post and discusses the key challenges for his successor, Greg Clark. Willetts highlights Labour's policy to cut tuition fees as one of the biggest future challenges, suggesting that it "would be a disaster for our universities".

THE    Issue.2161  - 17 July 2014 p.7
Metrics that don't need a pinch of salt
In an interview, John Green, retired chief coordinating officer of Imperial College London, discusses the development of "Snowball Metrics" – a set of metrics complete with ‘recipes’ to enable their standardised calculation. The ‘recipes’, which aim to improve comparisons across different institutions, currently relate to areas such as research funding and output, but may also have relevance for the Research Excellence Framework.

THE    Issue.2161  - 17 July 2014 p.22-23
Health policy
Are statins about to medicalise middle age?
The debate over the increased prescription of statins continues following criticisms detailed in a letter from the president of the Royal College of Physicians, Sir Richard Thompson, to the health secretary. Those behind the letter question the wisdom of medicalising a further five million people by placing them on statins, drawing attention to flaws in evidence dismissing their side effects and the financial incentives behind those on the guideline-setting panel.

Times      - 15 July 2014 p.6
  See Also:
Guardian      - 18 July 2014 p.6
Rotavirus cases fell after vaccine introduced
Since the introduction of a vaccine against rotavirus in the UK last year, the number of confirmed cases has fallen by 69 per cent, down to 4490.

BMJ    Vol.349  Issue.7967  - 19 July 2014 p.2
Education, training and careers
Poet raps universities for elitism
A black performance poet, George Mpanga, has said that Cambridge should better reflect ethnic diversity - like the London grammar school that he attended prior to studying at the university. Mpanga thinks that it should be compulsory for top universities to reach out to children at primary school level. The poet added that university elitism was a problem of class and poverty, and not just ethnicity.

Times      - 12 July 2014 p.33
Technology transfer
No stories this week.
Global Themes
Pharma and biotech sector
A new home for orphans
A shift in focus to developing 'orphan' drugs for rare diseases is behind the pharmaceutical company Shire's long-term strategy as it seeks to accept a merger offer from US-based AbbVie.

Economist    Vol.412  Issue.8896  - 19 July 2014 p.63-64
Biomedical ethics
Misjudgements will drive social trials underground
Following the recent controversy surrounding Facebook's study into user behaviour through altering the emotional content of posts, a commentary seeks to respond to the ethical criticisms that have been levelled against the study. The author argues that such research can provide valuable insights into mood and behaviour and that this study did not violate privacy or breach any ethical codes, although it could have been preferable to seek ethical review and inform participants after the study.

Nature    Vol.511  Issue.7509  - 16 July 2014 p.265
Public engagement in science
Science advocacy, defined
An editorial discusses the nature of science advocacy and the ingredients required for scientists to become effective advocates for science to policy makers and the public - including development of communication skills and an understanding of the societal context in which science operates.

Science    Vol.345  - 18 July 2014 p.243
Publishing and data sharing
A short, sharp transition to open access
Last month the Danish Government published a national strategy for open access, which outlines plans to ensure 80 per cent of research papers published by Danish institutions are open access by 2017, and 100 per cent by 2022. The plan is "ambitious, but not unattainable" according to Johnny Mogensen of the Danish research ministry.

Research Europe    Issue.391  - 17 July 2014 p.17
Faked peer review
Over 60 articles have been retracted by academic publisher SAGE following an investigation into misconduct in the peer review process on one of its journals. It identified a prominent researcher in Taiwan under strong suspicion of misconduct, and the Tawainese education minister linked to some of the retracted articles has resigned.

Nature    Vol.511  Issue.7509  - 17 July 2014 p.268
Global health
HIV: science and stigma
Ahead of the upcoming 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, an editorial discusses the need for greater action on AIDS stigma and discrimination worldwide. In recent years AIDS legislation introduced by Russia, Uganda, and Nigeria has been criticised for apparently discriminating against marginalised populations. The WHO recently published new guidelines for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of AIDS within these populations. (Editor's note: This article was published before the MH17 plane crash which led to the tragic loss of many lives, including many believed to be delegates travelling to this conference).

The Lancet    Vol.384  Issue.9939  - 19 July 2014 p.207
GAVI gears up for record replenishment
The GAVI Alliance (formerly the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation) will ask its donors to contribute US$7·5 billion in its next pledging round to support the development and introduction of new vaccines in developing countries between 2016-20 - double the amount requested in its previous pledging round. It is hoped that the funds will help the Alliance prevent five to six million deaths over the next five years.

The Lancet    Vol.384  Issue.9939  - 19 July 2014 p.219-220
International science
Unity amid divisions
A feature article explores recent developments within Israeli universities at a time when there are both exciting new opportunities for international collaboration and challenges surrounding academic boycott campaigns. One major development is the Britain Israel Research and Academic Exchange Partnership (BIRAX), a £10 million initiative which aims to encourage Anglo-Israeli scientific collaborations.

THE    Issue.2161  - 17 July 2014 p.40-45
Break out
A careers article examines the growth of interdisciplinary research in bringing together diverse academic areas to solve complex problems or challenges. With increased funding for such research, young researchers are being urged to purse interdisciplinary work - but there remain significant barriers to career advancement and a difficult balance to strike between specialisation and breadth of research for early career academics.

Nature    Vol.511  Issue.7509  - 15 July 2014 p.371-373
Worldwide
European Union
Eyes on the prize
An opinion article by Richard Frackowiak, a co-executive director of the EU-funded Human Brain Project, addresses the open letter signed by over 500 scientists criticising some aspects of the science and direction of the project. The author defends its mission and calls for productive scientific dialogue.

New Scientist    Vol.223  Issue.2978  - 19 July 2014 p.28-29
  See Also:
Nature    Vol.511  - 15 July 2014 p.268
Commission warned against reshuffle
Concerns have been raised that the European Commission is planning a 'disastrous' split between the research and innovation portfolios. Science representatives have argued that physically separating research and innovation would not only narrow thinking, but also compromise Horizon 2020. Robert-Jan Smits, director-general of research and innovation, has responded that rumours about restructuring are “just gossip”.

Research Europe    Issue.391  - 17 July 2014 p.1
New EU committee head
Jerzy Buzek, a conservative Polish MEP and former chemical engineering professor, has been elected as the new chair of the European Parliament's research committee.

Science    Vol.345  - 18 July 2014 p.246
Juncker said to back CSA position
A UK MEP has announced via social media that the newly appointed president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, intends to retain the post of chief scientific adviser (CSA). This post was created by his predecessor and has been held by Anne Glover for the last two years.

Research Europe    Issue.391  - 17 July 2014 p.3
Vague gender guidelines miss target, summit hears
Participants of the 'Gender Summit 4 Europe' have criticised the European Commission’s guidelines on gender balance in Horizon 2020, which were felt to be 'fuzzy' and failed to include key programmes designed to address gender imbalances in research.

Research Europe    Issue.391  - 17 July 2014 p.4
Europe
'Unnecessary' science spending can buy weapons instead, says Ukraine president
Earlier this month the Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko announced that funding for scientific research would be reduced so that priority could be given to strengthening the country’s army. Concerns have been raised that this would undermine Ukraine’s research capacity, which has already been significantly compromised after over a thousand scientists left when Russia annexed Crimea.

Research Europe    Issue.391  - 17 July 2014 p.19
Why global warming is bad for your health
The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre has estimated that the most expensive aspect of climate change will be its effect on premature mortality. The report predicts that if a 3.5C global temperature rise occurs - the amount predicted should current trends continue - then early mortality will cost at least €120 billion a year, whereas the effect on coastal infrastructure and agriculture will cost a minimum of €42bn and €18bn respectively. Southern Europe will be hit worst of all by the effects of climate change.

Financial Times      - 12 July 2014 p.41
Africa
No stories this week.
Middle East
No stories this week.
Asia
Building 'big data' scientists
To capitalise on the growing big data market in China, IBM has agreed a deal with the Chinese Education Ministry to donate US$100 million in software to Chinese universities, to assist in the development of data scientists.

Science    Vol.345  - 18 July 2014 p.244
Australasia
No stories this week.
North America
Alarm over biosafety blunders
Tom Frieden, head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has expressed anger and disappointment over three serious lapses in biosafety involving potentially harmful select agents - two incidents at the CDC involving anthrax and H5N1 influenza, and a third at the National Institutes of Health where a vial of smallpox was discovered. Frieden has temporarily closed the two CDC labs involved and halted the shipping of high containment (biosafety safety level-3 and -4) agents.

Science    Vol.345  - 18 July 2014 p.247-248
  See Also:
Independent      - 16 July 2014 p.13
Nature    Vol.511  - 15 July 2014 p.269
No Scripps-USC merger
The Scripps Research Institute has announced that it will not proceed with discussions on a possible merger with the University of Southern California (USC), after its faculty rejected a proposed deal.

Science    Vol.345  - 18 July 2014 p.245
  See Also:
Nature    Vol.511  - 15 July 2014 p.263
Nature    Vol.511  - 15 July 2014 p.274-275
The child who wasn't cured of Aids
There has been a setback in the fight against HIV as doctors recently announced that a child pronounced cured of HIV last year, after receiving anti-viral drugs almost immediately after birth, is now HIV positive. Although the news shows that much more research around HIV needs to be done, researchers hope that the case of the "Mississippi baby" will provide insights into HIV infection and its long latency period.

Independent      - 12 July 2014 p.25-26
  See Also:
Nature    Vol.511  - 17 July 2014 p.268
A radical change in peer review
The US National Science Foundation has run an innovative experiment in peer review in which more than 100 applicants were required to review seven competing proposals as a condition for submitting their own. The results provided some evidence that the system led to more comprehensive reviews and efficiency savings.

Science    Vol.345  - 18 July 2014 p.248-249
Researchers aim for an electrical memory prosthesis
The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has announced that two academic teams will share more than $35 million in funding to develop electrical prostheses that will aim to stimulate areas of the brain critical to memory. The initiative aims to help develop treatments for traumatic brain injury but has drawn a mixed response from the research community, with some concerned it is premature.

Science    Vol.345  - 18 July 2014 p.250
NIH Roadmap/Common Fund at 10 years
A commentary article authored by current and previous National Institutes of Health (NIH) directors discusses the outcomes of the 'NIH Roadmap' - a central fund established ten years ago to support large scale transformative initiatives on strategic areas spanning NIH institutes. It highlights some of the key successes and challenges of the approach.

Science    Vol.345  - 18 July 2014 p.274-276
Rare diseases in children: towards better and fairer treatment
The US Food and Drug Administration has published a new strategic plan for the development of treatments for rare diseases in children. Among the priorities set out in the plan are enhanced basic and translational paediatric science and advancements in the design and administration of clinical trials involving children.

The Lancet    Vol.384  Issue.9939  - 19 July 2014 p.208
Latin America
No stories this week.
Top Stories

Top Story
A portfolio career

Following this week's Government reshuffle, Greg Clark has been appointed universities and ...

Top Story
Britain's scientific funding bodies to join forces against superbugs

A news article heralds the collaboration of major scientific funding bodies ...
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