CATEGORIES
UK
Science policy and funding
Health policy
Education, training and careers
Technology transfer
Global Themes
Pharma and biotech sector
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European Union
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Africa
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Issue 1187: 27 March 2015
UK
Science policy and funding
Applied prestige
The first independent analysis of the results of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) was published this week. The report was commissioned by UK higher education funding bodies and produced by King's College London and Digital Science; it highlights the international contributions made by UK academics and the various ways in which universities have impact. The report is cited as evidence that the REF demonstrated that "applied research can gain its own professional merit and public recognition."

Nature    Vol.519  Issue.7544  - 26 March 2015 p.389-390
  See Also:
THE      - 26 March 2015 p.13
Research Fortnight      - 25 March 2015 p.5
Research Fortnight      - 25 March 2015 p.23
Research Fortnight      - 25 March 2015 p.20-21
Winners and losers in Hefce funding allocations
An article and an editorial consider the impact of the Research Excellence Framework results on the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s (Hefce) research funding distribution for 2015-16. Excluding transitional funding, which is only expected to be available for this year following changes to the quality-related funding calculation, King's College London makes the most gains, while the University of Manchester loses around 17 per cent.

THE    Issue.2,196  - 26 March 2015 p.6-9, 5
U.K. science gets funding bump
An additional £240 million of research and development funding has been announced in the UK's budget, mainly allocated to technology-related research. The move has been welcomed by the Campaign for Science and Engineering, however, the group continues to voice concerns about the effects of inflation on a flat core science budget.

Science    Vol.347  Issue.6229  - 27 March 2015 p.1398-1399
For open-access clarity, adopt rule on exception
An independent review of Research Councils UK’s (RCUK) open access policy, chaired by Sir Bob Burgess, has recommended that the policy should be amended to bring it in line with that of UK funding bodies, to reduce confusion about requirements. A response from RCUK on the recommendations is due in the summer.

THE    Issue.2,196  - 26 March 2015 p.14
Royal Society head
The structural biologist Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, who shared the Nobel prize in Chemistry in 2009, has been appointed to succeed Sir Paul Nurse as the President of the Royal Society.

Nature    Vol.519  Issue.7544  - 26 March 2015 p.395
  See Also:
Research Fortnight      - 25 March 2015 p.3
Nothing to say
Amid concerns of losing as many as half their seats in the upcoming general election, an article reports that, while the Liberal Democrats want to maintain their support for scientists, they are reluctant to promise too much in their science funding agenda and then being unable to deliver. The party fears alienating scientists in the same way that they lost student votes following the 2010 election.

Research Fortnight    Issue.453  - 25 March 2015 p.6
Health policy
A new social contract for medical innovation
A commentary article discusses the increasing focus on changes to medical innovation processes and policies, as a way to ensure healthcare needs can be met sustainably in the UK. The authors argue that medicine will need to be "predictive, pre-emptive, personalised and participatory" in the future. These changes will require a new policy framework based on a review of the "social contract" between the citizen and the health system.

The Lancet    Vol.385  Issue.9974  - 28 March 2015 p.1153-1154
Health giants will fund free tests and scans for millions
The NHS is to make proposals to digital health companies that are anticipated to increase the uptake of technology in the health service. Early diagnostics through wearable technologies may benefit the NHS by saving lives and money, and their introduction to the system would provide an opportunity for technology firms to advertise and prove the efficacy of their products.

Times      - 26 March 2015 p.2
Education, training and careers
Buyer beware
An editorial comments on George Osborne's proposals in last week's budget to help PhD and research masters degree students fund their studies with loans of up to £25,000. Although the Government’s attempts to address the lack of supply of PhD holders is welcomed, the author argues that these new arrangements would reduce public subsidy and change the funding model from a stipend to a loan system, in effect no longer regarding PhD research as 'work'.

Research Fortnight    Issue.453  - 25 March 2015 p.2, 3
  See Also:
THE      - 26 March 2015 p.11
Technology transfer
No stories this week.
Global Themes
Pharma and biotech sector
Cloud cover protects gene data
An article reports on the challenges of keeping genetic data and medical records secure while carrying out the large-scale, cloud-based analyses necessary to develop new 'personalised' medicines. A new form of data encryption, demonstrated at a recent workshop at the University of California, is showing promise in addressing the issue - but broader challenges of security and computing power remain.

Nature    Vol.519  Issue.7544  - 26 March 2015 p.400-401
Drug companies unite to mine genetic data
A consortium of ten pharmaceutical companies has partnered with Genomics England to mine data from the flagship 100,000 Genomes Project. The project aims to sequence the genomes of 100,000 cancer and rare disease patients by 2017, and it is hoped that the one year trial partnership will make progress in developing genetically-targeted medicines.

Financial Times      - 26 March 2015 p.4
Mobile phones to serve as clinical research tool
Following last year's release of 'HealthKit', a centralised platform for health data collected via Apple mobile devices, the technology giant has announced 'ResearchKit', touted as "a way for medical researchers to transform the iPhone into a tool for conducting clinical research". Apple recently showcased an app designed to monitor symptoms of Parkinson's disease and addressed security concerns by promising that user data will not be visible to the company.

Financial Times      - 23 March 2015 p.19
Biomedical ethics
Fossil fuel divestment is not the answer
In a comment piece, Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, has outlined the organisation’s response to the Guardian’s campaign to divest from fossil fuel companies. Farrar argues that the Trust's position enables it to encourage support of environmental initiatives and to raise concerns if companies are not meeting environmental responsibilities. He also states that fossil fuels are essential to economies, life and health, especially in low-and-middle-income countries, and will remain so for future decades.

Guardian      - 26 March 2015 p.39
Public engagement in science
No stories this week.
Publishing and data sharing
NSF to make papers free
The US National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced a new open access policy. Grant-holders will be required to make work published in peer-reviewed journals freely accessible within 12 months of publication. The decision follows a 2013 White House memo requiring science agencies to develop open access policies similar to those used by the National Institutes of Health.

Science    Vol.347  Issue.6229  - 27 March 2015 p.1398
Global health
1 year on - lessons from the Ebola outbreak for WHO
Two critical reports of the WHO's response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa were this week published by the Associated Press and Médicins Sans Frontières. Among other criticisms it is alleged that the WHO delayed declaring the epidemic an emergency due to fears that political repercussions would negate any benefit.

The Lancet    Vol.385  Issue.9974  - 28 March 2015 p.1152
  See Also:
New Scientist    Vol.225  - 28 March 2015 p.6
Pork chop... with a side of superbugs
The International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi has developed a computer model to calculate the proportion of antibiotics fed to livestock around the world, arriving at a figure of around 63,000 tonnes of antibiotics every year. This is predicted to rise to over 100,000 tonnes by 2030. As antibiotic resistance is a significant global health challenge such figures raise the question as to whether bans should be placed on the use of antibiotics in livestock feed, to help prevent bacteria becoming resistant.

New Scientist    Vol.225  Issue.3014  - 28 March 2015 p.10
The good, the bad and the hideous
A commentary assesses progress towards the UN Millennium Development Goals to evaluate which ones have been beneficial and why some targets will be missed. As the proposed Sustainable Development Goals are being developed, research by a Denmark-based not-for-profit organisation indicates that goals focused on health interventions are the most cost-effective.

Economist    Vol.414  Issue.8301  - 28 March 2015
International science
Five scientists win the 2015 Gairdner International Awards
The 2015 winners of the prestigious Gairdner International Awards have been announced. Each year the Canada-based Gairdner Foundation recognizes scientists who have made groundbreaking discoveries in biomedical science. Among this year's winners is Lynne Maquat, acknowledged for her discovery of the mechanism that destroys mutant mRNA in human cells.

The Lancet    Vol.385  Issue.9974  - 28 March 2015 p.1169
Worldwide
European Union
A €1 billion brain reboot
Following substantial criticisms of the EU-funded Human Brain Project, the project's board has agreed to re-evaluate the initial scientific goal of producing a computer model of the human brain by 2023. A mediation committee argued that an "honest and more modest" strategy was needed to communicate the potential outcomes of the project - along with major changes in management structures to avoid conflicts of interest and the concentration of decision-making power.

Science    Vol.347  Issue.6229  - 27 March 2015 p.1046-1047
  See Also:
Nature    Vol.519  - 26 March 2015 p.389
Ukraine agreement
Following the signing of an agreement this week by European Commissioner for Research Carlos Moedas, and Ukrainian science minister Serhiy Kvit, Ukraine will now be eligible to participate in Horizon 2020, subject to the agreement of its parliament.

Nature    Vol.519  Issue.7544  - 26 March 2015 p.395
Europe
No stories this week.
Africa
A reassuring snapshot of Ebola
Viral genomes gathered from Ebola patients in Mali towards the end of 2014 do not differ significantly from those analysed earlier in the outbreak, according to a new study by US researchers. This is positive news for those seeking to develop diagnostic tests, treatments and vaccines for Ebola, the effectiveness of which could be compromised by mutations in the Ebola genome.

Science    Vol.347  Issue.6229  - 27 March 2015 p.1407
Middle East
No stories this week.
Asia
No stories this week.
Australasia
No stories this week.
North America
Biotech boot camp
A news feature article profiles I-Corps, a 'boot camp' for biotechnology start-ups designed to develop scientists' entrepreneurial skills. The course was developed with the US National Science Foundation and is now being rolled out by the National Institutes of Health on a trial basis, to develop the skills of biomedical scientists who are seeking to commercialise their research.

Nature    Vol.519  Issue.7544  - 26 March 2015 p.402-405
The world is going to university
A leader article introduces a special report in this week's 'Economist', on the global increase in demand for higher education. Universities across the world are largely adopting American-style models of mixed public-private funding and provision for both teaching and research. Whilst it is likely such approaches benefit research, the article queries whether these models provide students with value for money.

Economist    Vol.414  Issue.8301  - 28 March 2015
Republicans' bills target science at US environment agency
The US House of Representatives last week approved two environmental bills intended to reform the way that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) makes and reports its decisions. While Republicans maintain that the bills would make the EPA more accountable and independent of special interests, Democrats contest that the proposed reforms would threaten patient confidentiality and harm the EPA's ability to act swiftly on matters of environmental regulation.

The Lancet    Vol.385  Issue.9974  - 28 March 2015 p.1167-1168
Latin America
No stories this week.

Consultations and Publications
Initial analysis of REF 2014 impact   [HEFCE]
Click Here
Review of Open Access Implementation   [Independent Review]
Click Here
Top Stories

Top Story
Applied prestige

The first independent analysis of the results of the Research Excellence Framework ...

Top Story
A €1 billion brain reboot

Following substantial criticisms of the EU-funded Human Brain Project, the project's board ...
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