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Issue 1183: 27 February 2015
UK
Science policy and funding
Britain’s House of Lords approves three-person conception of babies
The House of Lords has voted by 280 votes to 48 to approve an earlier House of Commons decision to allow the use of mitochondrial donation in fertility treatment. Britain is the first country in the world to approve the technique which will allow women with mitochondrial diseases to conceive by using the donated mitochondria of another woman. Clinics will be able to apply for licences from later this year.

Guardian      - 24 February 2015
  See Also:
Daily Telegraph      - 25 February 2015 p.2
Independent      - 24 February 2015 p.10
Times      - 21 February 2015 p.2
Advisory board to help steer Nurse review
Sir Paul Nurse has announced the eight members of the advisory group that will help inform his review of the Research Councils, as well as 17 people – including international experts – that will form a "reference group" to assist the review. The inclusion of a number of prominent sector figures with a broad range of expertise may counter some existing concerns over the review's objectivity.

THE    Issue.2,192  - 26 February 2015 p.8
Universities struggle with EPSRC data policy
Concerns have been raised by researchers and data managers regarding the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council's (EPSRC) policy on open data. The policy requires data to be stored for ten years after last use, and that researchers fully integrate data sharing plans with their research proposals. However, awareness and understanding of the policy appear to be low, and some institutions have also raised concerns about the costs of meeting the requirements.

Research Fortnight    Issue.451  - 25 February 2015 p.4
Social science is vital too
Speaking at the launch of a new report from the Campaign for Social Science, science minister Greg Clark has spoken about the importance of social science being embedded in the Government's Science and Innovation Strategy. The Economic and Social Research Council, together with other funders such as the Wellcome Trust, are looking at the importance of funding interdisciplinary work across the natural and social sciences to improve global health.

Guardian      - 25 February 2015
Biology powerhouse raises railway alarm
The Francis Crick Institute has raised concerns over the proposed route of the Crossrail 2 project, which will skirt the new research institute. It is thought that the electromagnetic fields and vibrations caused by trains will disrupt sensitive experiments being undertaken at the Crick. Both Crossrail and Crick developers are working on a solution to the problem.

Nature    Vol.518  Issue.7540  - 26 February 2015 p.464–465
Health policy
Thousands sacrifice their privacy to help DNA study
The Personal Genome Project, which aims to sequence the DNA of 100,000 British people, has received ten times the expected number of volunteers, despite fears that people could be identified by their genetic code being made available online. It is hoped that the pooled DNA data will prove valuable for research into cancer and other diseases.

Times      - 24 February 2015 p.15
NICE says antibiotic prescriptions should be scrutinised
Draft guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommend that doctors’ antimicrobial prescribing should be monitored and that doctors should not bow to pressure from patients who demand antibiotics. More than three-quarters of antibiotic prescribing takes place in general practice and figures from Public Health England showed that GPs’ antibiotic prescribing increased by 4 per cent from 2010 to 2013.

BMJ    Vol.350  Issue.7997  - 28 February 2015 p.4
Education, training and careers
Reform of research funding formula will benefit elites, says REF critic
Following the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), there have been changes to the way that the £1.1 billion of quality-related funding will be awarded, with a boost given to 4*, or world-leading research. While some critics have argued that the downgrading of 3* research will force institutions to be more selective about the staff submitted to future research assessments and will favour top institutions, others argue that the concentration of funding will not change from existing levels.

THE    Issue.2,192  - 26 February 2015 p.8
  See Also:
Research Fortnight      - 25 February 2015 p.5
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
Out of the loop: why lay views of science are heard but not obeyed
In an opinion piece, Melanie Smallman, director of Think-lab, considers how public dialogue around science has developed over recent years. She argues that, while public views are now more likely to be heard in scientific debate and policy making, experts' views tend to carry more weight. However, public dialogue still has a key role to play in raising societal concerns and questioning established views.

Research Fortnight    Issue.451  - 25 February 2015 p.22
Publishing and data sharing
Make outbreak research open access
An article appeals for more research data to be made open access, citing the recent Ebola outbreak as a prime example of how open research data facilitated quicker breakthroughs, new collaboration, and faster application of work.

Nature    Vol.518  Issue.7540  - 26 February 2015 p.477–479
Psychology journal bans P values
In an effort to reduce the publication of sub-par research the journal 'Basic and Applied Social Psychology' will no longer publish P values resulting from null hypothesis significance testing procedures. In an editorial, the journal explained how, by removing the P values, studies will be scrutinised more rigorously, rather than making it easier for people to publish low-quality research.

Nature News      - 26 February 2015
Global health
Reducing the cost of rare drugs
An editorial and comment piece mark Rare Disease Day. The authors of the comment piece make three recommendations which, they contend, would reduce the comparatively high costs of 'orphan drugs' developed to treat rare diseases. Prices for orphan drugs are often set at unusually high levels due to the necessarily small number of patients who access them.

The Lancet    Vol.385  - 28 February 2015 p.746
  See Also:
The Lancet    Vol.385  - 28 February 2015 p.750-751
Malaria drug failing
This week it was announced that drug resistant malaria is spreading rapidly across Burma, with over 20 per cent of the Burma population shown to harbour a mutation in K13, a drug resistance gene. With cases spreading across Burma to the Indian border, the strain of malaria will be significant, given that over 90 per cent of global cases of malaria have been confined to India.

New Scientist    Vol.225  Issue.3010  - 28 February 2015 p.9
  See Also:
Science    Vol.347  - 27 February 2015 p.930-931
The painful truth
A news feature article looks at neuroscientific techniques that can better gauge the pain that someone is in. These objective measures have been previously used in legal disputes, but there is a debate as to whether the techniques are robust enough to be used for this purpose.

Nature    Vol.518  Issue.7540  - 26 February 2015 p.474–476
International science
GM protesters ‘condemning millions to hunger’
The former environment secretary Owen Paterson has condemned those who criticise the use of genetically modified crops, accusing anti-GM saboteurs of being 'eco-terrorists'. He named several organisations as a barrier to the benefits that GM crops can provide, arguing that their stance would "condemn billions to hunger, poverty and under-development.”

Times      - 24 February 2015 p.5
Focus on political Islamic groups to boost science
An opinion piece looks at economic instability as a factor in the recent rise of Islamic radicalism, and the views towards science by different Muslim groups. It is suggested that scientific education could be fostered through outreach to some of these groups and could serve to reduce radicalisation.

Nature    Vol.518  Issue.7540  - 26 February 2015 p.457
Worldwide
European Union
No stories this week.
Europe
From a US vantage, Barroso sees lessons for Europe
José Manuel Barroso, former president of the European Commission and Portugal, has argued that European universities could learn much about celebrating their teaching and research quality from US institutions. Cambridge and Oxford were noted as exceptions, but Professor Barroso believes it is “not by coincidence” that some of the most prominent European academics are working in the US.

THE    Issue.2,192  - 26 February 2015 p.16
When right beats might
An editorial reports on the efforts of Italian senator and former stem cell researcher, Elena Cattaneo, who has campaigned for tighter regulation on unproven stem-cell therapies in Italy. A report went to the Senate last week which analyses what went wrong and who was to blame for the selling of unproven therapies which were reported to prey on vulnerable and ill individuals and their families.

Nature    Vol.518  Issue.7540  - 26 February 2015 p.455
EU's first stem cell therapy
The Italian-developed Holoclar, which uses to stem cells to treat eye injuries, became the first commercial stem cell therapy to be authorised in Europe on 19 February.

Science    Vol.347  - 27 February 2015 p.930
Africa
Ebola endemic risk remains in west Africa, scientists warn
Scientists have urged the international community not to slow down their efforts against Ebola, despite the number of cases plateauing in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. The latest epidemic has infected over 23,000 people in West Africa, a scale not seen in previous outbreaks. Scientists have voiced concern that if the virus mutates and international efforts to combat Ebola slow down, the virus could become endemic in the region.

Guardian      - 25 February 2015
  See Also:
Science    Vol.347  - 27 February 2015 p.930
Middle East
No stories this week.
Asia
Japan looks to instill global mindset in grads
The Japanese education ministry has launched a new initiative, coined the Top Global University Project, seeking to equip its universities to operate in a global environment. The funding will aim to attract overseas researchers and better prepare graduates for international research through exchanges and other activities.

Science    Vol.347  - 27 February 2015 p.937
Australasia
No stories this week.
North America
Wider attention for GOF science
An editorial surveys the debate over so-called gain-of-function (GOF) research involving harmful pathogens, in light of the present pause in US federal funding for GOF studies involving influenza, SARS or MERS. The author calls on scientists to engage actively with other key stakeholders, including the public, to develop appropriate risk/benefit frameworks to assess these experiments.

Science    Vol.347  - 27 February 2015 p.929
As new botulism threat implodes, more questions
An article reviews the fallout after a US researcher's reported discovery of a novel botulinum toxin resistant to existing antitoxins was subsequently invalidated by government scientists. Several commentators have suggested that the initial secrecy in sharing the strain and sequence data on the toxin prevented the incident being resolved sooner.

Science    Vol.347  - 27 February 2015 p.934-935
Latin America
No stories this week.

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Top Story
Thousands sacrifice their privacy to help DNA study

The Personal Genome Project, which aims to sequence the DNA of 100,000 ...

Top Story
Britain’s House of Lords approves three-person conception of babies

The House of Lords has voted by 280 votes to 48 to ...
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