Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

On Monday the Environmental Protection Agency released new regulations to combat climate change via reduction of greenhouse gases. “As predictably as morning follows sunrise, these rules are drawing fire in a number of ways.” This article addresses (and dismisses) six of those arguments.

I also highly recommend the 2nd to last episode of COSMOS season 1, in which Neil deGrasse Tyson gives an excellent 45-min summary of what we know about climate change and its potential consequences should the world continue to ignore/deny the problem.

“A key US House of Representatives committee approved legislation on 28 May that recommends steep cuts to US National Science Foundation (NSF) social-science funding and controversial changes to the agency’s grant-making process.”

” On April 2, 2013, President Obama launched the BRAIN Initiative to “accelerate the development and application of new technologies that will enable researchers to produce dynamic pictures of the brain that show how individual brain cells and complex neural circuits interact at the speed of thought.” In response to this Grand Challenge, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) convened a working group of the Advisory Committee to the Director, NIH, to develop a rigorous plan for achieving this scientific vision. This report presents the findings and recommendations of the working group, including the scientific background and rationale for the BRAIN Initiative as a whole and for each of seven major goals articulated in the report. In addition, we include specific deliverables, timelines, and cost estimates for these goals as requested by the NIH Director.”

“Now, after more than a year of meetings and deliberations, an NIH-convened working group has fleshed out some the goals and aspirations of BRAIN and tried to offer a more realistic appraisal of the funding needed: $4.5 billion over the course of a decade, or roughly quadruple the project’s currently planned budget.”

“The number of women on university science faculties has been growing too slowly to satisfy many people. But one category of researchers—miniature ones made of plastic—will soon get an infusion of female members. LEGO, the manufacturer of the plastic-block construction sets beloved by children everywhere, has announcedthat a new kit consisting of three female scientists and their research gear will hit the market by the fall. ”

“Scientists have demonstrated that genetically modified organisms have no measurable negative impacts on human health. Indeed, they may hold the key to feeding a world impacted by climate change. But does this mean GMOs are completely without risk? Nope. Here are some good reasons to be concerned.”

“While girls and boys take STEM classes at the same rates in high school, far fewer women choose to pursue science and math once they enter college. Currently women only make up 24 percent of the STEM workforce, a statistic the White House is hoping to see change.”

“The retraction of two controversial papers that promised a simple way to create embryonic-like stem cells seems to be imminent today after the lead author unexpectedly gave her full consent. Haruko Obokata, of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, had been the last obstacle to the retraction of both papers.”

“Many observers believe that the United States is churning out too many new Ph.D. biomedical researchers, creating a hypercompetitive, unhealthy environment. But a new report from an advisory panel to the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) paints a different picture for physician-scientists: There may not be enough of them to replace those preparing to retire.”

“Illinois became the first state in the union to ban microbeads, the tiny bits of plastic found in consumer products like skin exfoliants and soap.”


“Can sequencing of newborns’ genomes provide useful medical information beyond what current newborn screening already provides? Pilot projects to examine this important question are being funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), both parts of the National Institutes of Health. Awards of $5 million to four grantees have been made in fiscal year 2013 under the Genomic Sequencing and Newborn Screening Disorders research program. The program will be funded at $25 million over five years, as funds are made available.”

In the summer of 2013, ASBMB and fifteen other scientific societies conducted a survey of scientists asking questions regarding cuts to nondefense discretionary spending by Congress since 2010. Over 3,700 scientists from all fields of research responded.

Unlimited Potential, Vanishing Opportunity compiles the data from the survey into an easily understandable report that chronicles the difficulties of scientists trying to secure federal funds for research. The report clearly depicts the negative effects of these budget cuts and sequestration on individual scientists and the entire scientific research community.”

But see also ScienceInsider’s take on the study:

From AAAS – Fiscal Year 2014 Appropriations So Far: A Roundup

“The physics Nobelist and former White House science education czar has been named a faculty member in both the physics department and Stanford’s Graduate School of Education. The joint appointments, effective 1 September, give Wieman an academic perch to take his research on learning in new directions while continuing to incorporate those insights into the classroom.”

“Earlier this summer I convened more than 40 scientists, researchers, and advocates at Philadelphia’s University City Science Center to discuss the latest innovations in neuroscience research with Dr. Philip Rubin, Principal Assistant Director for Science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).”

“Two scientists are among the four new senators for life appointed today by Italy’s president, Giorgio Napolitano. Particle physicist and Nobel Prize winner Carlo Rubbia and stem-cell specialist Elena Cattaneo will become permanent members of the Italian Senate, along with the orchestra conductor Claudio Abbado and the architect Renzo Piano, whose appointments were also announced today.”

“The European Union Parliament voted today to limit Europe’s use of biofuels based on crops such as palm oil and soya beans, years after scientists pointed out that making fuel from food crops can do more harm than good to the environment.”

“Scientists who study ocean acidification must confront a fundamental problem: it is hard to measure exactly by how much the ocean’s pH is changing. Today’s sensors don’t work well at depth or over long periods of time, and they are too expensive to deploy widely. That is where the US$2-million Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health X Prize comes in.”

Fellowship Flier Fall 2013_FINAL

“In a rare step, the science committee of the U.S. House of Representatives voted yesterday to subpoena the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for data from key studies used to justify air pollution regulations.”

“On 1 August, researchers at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, will start recruiting patients for the world’s first clinical study using induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells.” The cells will be used to try to halt macular degeneration progression. While a clinical study can impact future clinical trials, even positive results do not allow for widespread clinical use (actual clinical trials are required first).

“The Italian parliament has voted in favour of introducing extreme restrictions on the use of animals in research — which some scientists say would halt important biomedical research in the country.” Restrictions include banning the use of non-human primates, cats and dogs, anesthesia required for even mild pain (injections), and no addiction research!

“Join Research!America, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Elsevier, The George Washington University and the Society for Neuroscience – for a workshop to enable early career scientists to effectively communicate the importance of biomedical research to the media and policy makers. ”

ScienceInsider interview with France Córdova, Obama’s newly nominated National Science Foundation director. “President Barack Obama yesterday nominated Córdova, a 65-year-old astrophysicist, to become the second woman, and first Latina, to lead the $7 billion agency. ”

“The faculty of the University of California, the largest public research university in the world, have adopted an open access policy in which they commit to make their research articles freely available to the public.”

“A human-rights mission to Turkey to investigate the cases of eight scientists, engineers and medical doctors detained under vague but broad-ranging crimes such as ‘attempting to overthrow the government’ has concluded that prosecutors have not provided convincing evidence of their guilt and called for all eight to be released.”

“The Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations Subcommittee that funds NIH received a sum of $121.8 billion. The $121.8 billion spending cap for the Labor/HHS Subcommittee is a $28 billion reduction from the FY 2013 sequestration level. A reduction this large (18.6%) if implemented would mean significant cuts for NIH and other programs under the Labor/HHS Subcommittee’s jurisdiction. If one assumes an 18.6% cut for all programs this would mean a cut of nearly $5.4 billion for NIH in FY 2014. By way of comparison, for FY 2010, the Labor/HHS Subcommittee enacted a bill that had $42 billion more than the House Labor/HHS Subcommittee proposed for FY 2014.” Also

“The European Commission has confirmed that it will heavily restrict the use of three pesticides linked to problems with bee health — just as another chemical has come under scrutiny following scientific assessment.”

“The heads of some 70 research funding agencies from around the world said today that they had agreed to encourage open access to science publications resulting from their spending.”

“Below are resources with more details about sequestration’s impact to science and the economy.” Good fact sheet links etc (use the provided material and write your elected officials and/or your local newspaper regarding science funding).

“NIH Career Symposium educates young scientists on range of career opportunities and burgeoning responsibilities of scientists.”

“One day after a prominent paper in the journal Cell was flagged for image duplication, the main author and the journal say that the problems arose from simple mislabeling of images and do not invalidate the results. They also defended the unusually rapid review of the paper, which was accepted only 4 days after official submission and published online 12 days later.”

“A bid by two Swiss billionaires to turn a mothballed pharma campus into the hub for a huge new biotechnology initiative has taken a major step forward today.”

Hi all! I won’t be posting for a few weeks, visiting my partner’s family in Germany. Look forward to a “news and events” post on Sunday the 12th. I’ve also been working on putting together a list of the 10 Most Influential Scientists in Seattle, so stay tuned.

Urge your elected officials to sign onto the Casey Burr letter to support NIH funding for FY2014.

“Fresh from attending President Barack Obama’s announcement of the BRAIN Initiative at the White House on 2 April, Society for Neuroscience (SFN)president Larry Swanson, a neurobiologist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles,composed this letter to SFN’s nearly 42,000 members….But the SFN letter makes it clear that Swanson wants a lid put on public criticism of the nascent project, which is expected to last more than a decade and ultimately cost several billion dollars. “It is important that our community be perceived as positive about the incredible opportunity represented in the President’s announcement,” Swanson wrote. “If we are perceived as unreasonably negative or critical about initial details, we risk smothering the initiative before it gets started.”

“The President’s request for FY 2014 significantly restructures federal spending in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education.  Funding for STEM education has previously come from multiple science mission agencies but under the President’s FY 2014 proposal, it will be consolidated and restructured and will be based out of three agencies:  the Department of Education (ED), National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Smithsonian Institution.”

“Yesterday, over the course of two contentious hearings, the new chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology floated the idea of having every NSF grant application include a statement of how the research, if funded, “would directly benefit the American people.” Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) said that he was not trying to “micromanage” the $7 billion agency but that NSF needs to do a better job of deciding what to fund given the low success rates for grant applicants and a shrinking federal budget.”

Cadence Biomedical, based in Seattle, is helping people walk again.

“The Spanish government has delayed the award of prestigious scientific grant programmes and unexpectedly reduced travel grants even as young scientists were leaving for short stays at laboratories abroad. The move has raised fears among junior and senior scientists that this could be another cut to the already battered science budget, which has gone through four years of continued reductions.”