Archive for the ‘Policy’ Category

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The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) has released a new report, Sustaining Discovery in Biological and Medical Sciences: A Framework for Discussion,detailing FASEB’s most recent analysis of the problems/issues facing the biomedical research enterprise.

From the executive summary: “FASEB….is concerned about the future of biological and medical research. Inconsistent investment policies, growing demands for research funding, and outdated policies are jeopardizing current and future progress in this important area of research. This is a serious problem for the nation, and requires immediate attention and action.”

Options for mitigating the multitude of problems discussed in the FASEB report include: 1: Maximize research funding; 2: Optimize funding mechanisms; and 3: Improve workforce utilization and training.

ScienceInsider writes, “Although it echoes previous reports, FASEB’s analysis breaks new ground for the society because it provides “a comprehensive view of the problem and recognizes that an increase in funding is not the way out of this dilemma,” says Howard Garrison, director of FASEB’s Office of Public Affairs. He said FASEB’s board now hopes to collect feedback from its membership.”

There are a multitude of ways to become involved in science policy, communication and outreach. Until there are more opportunities for formal training in these topics at the undergraduate, graduate and continuing education levels, creativity and maintaining an open mind regarding how to gain experience is important. When possible, seek out help and advice from more experienced colleagues and mentors.

A scientist’s life is already extremely busy, and many find it difficult to find additional time for these learning and engagement opportunities. Do not over commit yourself, be honest with your time constraints and stress levels. I suggest greater participation in one or two things rather than little to no participation in a variety of things.

Open and honest communication with your mentor(s) is crucial. Not all mentors will be equally supportive of endeavors outside of the laboratory, start with explaining why you are interested in these activities and how they will help you in your future career aspirations. Seek outside advice, mentoring and support when required. See here for tips from AAAS on how to maximize your personal mentoring.

This list is not exhaustive and is a work in progress. Please comment additional suggestions and opportunities not listed here.

Suggestions:

Join the Forum on Science, Ethics, and Policy (FOSEP) (if located in Seattle) and sign up for their listserv (for occasional emails containing suggested webinar trainings and events).

Search for and join campus groups related to science policy. Attend events and contribute to discussions. If no such group exists in your area, contact your graduate school and/or student activities office to start your own.

Start a blog or contribute original submissions to an already established blog. SciencePolitics and FOSEP are happy to accept guest posts and advise.

For graduate students: volunteer to serve as a student representative for your department’s council meetings and/or to serve as your department’s representative to the graduate student senate.

For postdocs: volunteer to serve on the postdoctoral affairs committee, if one does not exist on your campus, contact the graduate school to explore the possibility of starting one.

If active on social media (facebook, twitter, linkedin, etc.) connect with science organizations and universities. Many of these groups also have separate accounts for their advocacy arm. Example suggestions: AAAS, OSTP, NIH (and individual institutes), SfN, etc. (local to the PNW: NWABRNSWA, Seattle Town Hall, Pacific Science Center etc.).

Join applicable science policy and advocacy groups hosted through organizations (expl. ASBMB and ASPET). Sign up for their action alerts and emails.

If eligible, apply for applicable “Hill Day” trips to Washington DC. These usually consist of advocacy training, mentoring, and organized meetings with elected officials and their staff. Many early career Hill Day opportunities are funded through travel awards. See ASBMB for an example opportunity.

Sign up for volunteer opportunities through local and national organizations (science and education museums, scientific societies, local nonprofits etc.).

Attend for credit, audit, or sit in on science policy, communication and outreach courses offered at your local institutions (see here for a (partial) list of courses offered at UW). If no courses are offered, MIT’s Science Policy Bootcamp (open courseware) and/or read Beyond Sputnik – US Science Policy in the 21st Century.

Apply for science policy and communication related fellowships. Examples include AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship and the Christine Mirzayan Science & Technology Policy Graduate Fellowship Program. See here for additional suggestions.

Become active in local and state politics. Attend your legislative district meetings. Participate in election caucuses. Volunteer for city and county commission/committee seats. Volunteer for non-profits and board of directors seats.

http://researchamerica.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/a-weekly-advocacy-message-from-mary-woolley-deep-thoughts-occasioned-by-ice-buckets/#more-2309

Dr. Mary Woolley, Research!America President and CEO, shares her thoughts on the ALS ice bucket challenge and issues her own challenge. “Where will change come from?  Probably not from more ice bucket challenges, per se, yet we should not underestimate the power of social media that is driving this challenge.  The science community is not particularly adept with social media and may even disparage it.  But we do so at great risk if we care about staying relevant and accessible to the public.  Using social media this election season to ask candidates to take a stand on the importance or lack of importance they assign to medical progress is a different challenge than pouring freezing cold water over your head and/or writing a check to the ALS Association.  Both are ways to speak out about the importance of fighting back against diseases instead of standing down, as Congress appears to be doing. Contact your candidates and tell them what you think. Don’t wait; seize this teachable moment; make a phone call; show up at a town hall meeting;  use social media to connect to candidates. Tap our list of candidates’ Twitter handles to easily direct a tweet to their attention.  And take the ice bucket challenge!”

 

http://news.sciencemag.org/asiapacific/2014/08/china-pulls-plug-genetically-modified-rice-and-corn

“China’s Ministry of Agriculture has decided not to renew biosafety certificates that allowed research groups to grow genetically modified (GM) rice and corn. The permits, to grow two varieties of GM rice and one transgenic corn strain, expired on 17 August. The reasoning behind the move is not clear, and it has raised questions about the future of related research in China.”

 

http://news.sciencemag.org/education/2014/08/flow-chinese-grad-students-u-s-slows

“For years, U.S. university administrators have worried that China’s massive investment in higher education would eventually mean fewer Chinese students seeking to earn advanced science and engineering degrees at their institutions. A new survey from the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) hints that the time may be approaching: For the second straight year, graduate applications from Chinese students are essentially flat. So is the number of acceptances, the first time that has happened in nearly a decade.”

 

http://news.sciencemag.org/education/2014/08/iranian-parliament-ousts-reform-minded-science-minister

“A monthslong effort to breathe new life into Iranian universities is at a crossroads after the ouster on Wednesday of the nation’s reformist science minister, Reza Faraji-Dana. “His downfall is a sad day for science in Iran,” says a scientist at the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran who asked to remain anonymous because of the uncertain political climate.”

 

http://news.sciencemag.org/people-events/2014/08/science-group-asks-u-s-energy-secretary-intervene-case-fired-los-alamos

“A science advocacy group is calling on Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to get involved in the case of political scientist James Doyle, who was fired by the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) after publishing a scholarly article questioning the value of nuclear weapons.”

 

http://thinkprogress.org/health/2014/08/25/3475190/date-rape-nail-polish/#

Alternative response/opinion to the recent headline grabbing Undercolor Colors, a new nail polish that will detect certain types of date rape drugs in liquids. “While the new product has captured its fair share of headlines over the past week, sexual assault prevention advocates warn that it’s not necessarily the best way to approach the sexual assault epidemic on college campuses.”

 

New Action Alert from Research!America:

Funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has remained flat in recent years, and uncertainty is growing over the ability of universities and other research institutions to conduct the noncommercial medical research underlying new preventative measures, diagnostic tools, treatments, and cures. In response to significant concerns about the erosion of NIH’s purchasing power, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) has introduced legislation, the Advancing Biomedical Research Act, that empowers Congress to provide up to 10% increases in NIH funding for FY 2015 and FY 2016, and up to 5% increases through 2021. These increases are more than justified by the scientific opportunity unleashed when the human genome was sequenced. And that’s just one of the developments that has set the stage for accelerated medical progress. We need to conquer Alzheimer’s Disease, cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, and other deadly and disabling health threats…and we can. Show Congress that you support Senator Harkin’s efforts to fuel medical progress. Urge the senators who represent you to support the Accelerating Biomedical Research Act now!

http://news.sciencemag.org/environment/2014/07/greening-food-pyramid

“Advice about a healthy diet might soon take the planet itself into account. The next version of Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the major nutrition report from the government agencies that brought you the food pyramid, seems likely to contain advice about sustainable food choices. The prospect is already generating controversy.”

 

http://news.sciencemag.org/people-events/2014/07/hivaids-field-shocked-death-leading-researcher-mh17-crash

“As thousands of researchers gathered here today to attend the 20th International AIDS Conference, which starts Sunday, the usual joyous hugs of greeting between far-flung colleagues were replaced by hugs of sorrow at the loss of Dutch HIV scientist Joep Lange, a leading light in the field, and at least five others heading to the meeting who were on the Malaysian Airlines flight shot down over Ukraine on 17 July.”

 

http://blogs.nature.com/news/2014/07/wellcome-trust-looks-to-youth-and-high-risk-research.html

“The United Kingdom’s largest biomedical charity is to shake up the way it forks out its funding, with an increased emphasis on ‘high-risk’ research and stronger support for less-experienced scientists.”

 

http://news.sciencemag.org/asiapacific/2014/07/australia-scraps-carbon-tax

“Bucking global efforts to curtail carbon pollution, Australia’s conservative government yesterday abolished a national carbon tax that it had long opposed. The move to “ax the tax”—as Prime Minister Tony Abbott is fond of saying—makes Australia the first country in the world to abolish a functioning carbon pricing scheme.”

 

http://nexus.od.nih.gov/all/2014/07/17/formula-for-innovation-people-ideas-time/

“To meet the changing needs of the biomedical workforce, NIH is piloting the concept of awarding longer grants that provide more stable support for investigators at all career stages. It is our hope that with more sustained support, investigators will have more freedom to innovate and explore new lines of inquiry. The NIH Pioneer Award, supported by the Common Fund, represents a compelling example of such an approach. Pioneer Awards supports individual scientists of exceptional creativity, who propose pioneering – and possibly transformative approaches – to major research challenges. This award allows for $500,000 annually in direct costs for five years, and, in a recent evaluation, was shown to facilitate a high level of innovation and productivity.”

 

http://news.sciencemag.org/scientific-community/2014/07/1-scientific-publishing

“Publishing is one of the most ballyhooed metrics of scientific careers, and every researcher hates to have a gap in that part of his or her CV. Here’s some consolation: A new study finds that very few scientists—fewer than 1%—manage to publish a paper every year.”

 

http://news.sciencemag.org/asiapacific/2014/07/researcher-sues-block-retraction-golden-rice-paper

“A researcher whose nutrition study in Chinese children was found in breach of ethical regulations is going to court to salvage a paper describing her results. Nutrition scientist Guangwen Tang is suing the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) and Tufts University, where she has worked for more than 25 years, to prevent the retraction of her 2012 paper in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.”

 

 

http://blogs.nature.com/news/2014/05/nih-to-require-sex-reporting-in-preclinical-studies.html

“The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) will require grant applicants to report the sex of animals and cells used in preclinical studies, officials said today….

Under the new NIH policy, which will begin to take effect in October of this year, grant applicants will have to describe how they plan to balance the sexes for cells and animals used in their studies….

Yet the problem is bigger than just sex bias: factors such as age and genetic background can all greatly influence how an animal responds to a treatment. Brad Bolon, a veterinary pathologist at Ohio State University in Columbus, thinks the new NIH rules ignore the real problem. “By drawing so much attention to matter of sex, it avoids the whole crux of the issue,” which is too little transparency on the details of experimental design as a whole, he says.

Bolon also worries about added costs that may result from the new rules. To get enough statistical power to draw conclusions about each sex, researchers may need to double the number of animals used in the study. “Arbitrarily saying that research must be done in both sexes, especially early on, is going to take money out of testing truly novel hypotheses,” he says.”

 

http://news.sciencemag.org/policy/2014/05/u.s.-senate-shelves-long-debated-patent-troll-bill

A U.S. Senate bill intended to crack down on frivolous patent lawsuits has floundered after months of negotiation between key stakeholders. The bill aimed to discourage so-called patent trolls—companies that amass patents with no intention of making any product and instead generate revenue by filing suits against allegedly infringing firms. But opponents of the bill—including university groups and biotech firms—feared the Senate’s offensive against patent predators would make it too costly for legitimate patent holders to protect their claims.”

 

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=314737115&ft=1&f=

Setting his sights on Republicans who reject climate change, an environmentalist billionaire is unveiling plans to spend $100 million this year in seven competitive Senate and gubernatorial races, as his super PAC works to counteract a flood of conservative spending by the Koch brothers.”

 

http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/2014/05/nih-will-no-longer-require-special-review-u.s.-gene-therapy-trials

In a milestone for the field of gene therapy, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will no longer subject all proposed gene therapy clinical trials to review by a special federal advisory committee.”

 

http://blogs.nature.com/news/2014/05/uproar-as-anti-gm-vine-activists-acquitted-in-france.html

“French scientists are up in arms over the recent court acquittal of 54 activists who destroyed 70 experimental genetically modified (GM) grapevines in eastern France in August 2010.”