The Week in Science and Science Policy April 23rd-30th

By | May 1, 2017

1. The problem of secrets in private biotech

In the face of potential cuts to federal science funding, private industry is increasingly a potential source of research funding. While federal funding peaked in the middle of the last century, private funding has only been increasing, and will continue to.

This does not mean that private funding and private biotechnology enterprises will rescue American science. We’ve seen how quickly private research companies can explode with Theranos, but there will be more significant problems then just companies with failed technology.

One of the tenets of science research is that it is open. We guard our data closely during research to protect from getting scooped, but then publicly publish our data for it to reviewed and replicated. Publishing our data is required from many grant sources, essentially they have to be able to see what they’re paying for.

There is no such stipulation in private research. One of the most hyped biotech companies right now, Moderna Therapeutics, is incredibly secretive, and actually just for the first time announced positive Clinical Trial data this past week.

This is a trend we are seeing within Calico, Alphabet’s anti-aging biotech as well. By refusing to share data, they are impeding the speed with which the entire research community could work and capitalize on their findings. The increase pull of capitalism in science will have negative consequences within the field, and needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later.

2. How much science skepticism is allowed?

As a someone passionate about both science and science fiction, I am excited by every scientific breakthrough that gets us closer to the scifi worlds I’ve read about. It’s easy to let my enthusiasm blind me to the fact that not everybody views these breakthroughs with the same level of enthusiasm or trust.

It’s important for us to remember that dissenting views are a part of discussion. Scientific advancement affects everybody, and we can’t just label skeptics as against science. In fact, skeptics are a crucial part of science, and of helping us create a future that benefits all.

3. Science skepticism isn’t universal

I often see a climate denier or anti-vaxxer and immediately label them as completely anti-science. However this is often not the case. Often, someone will deny the truth of one branch of science, while believing in the rest.

4. Lessons the March for Science can learn from Canada’s fight for science

Now that the march for science has come and gone, the scientific community is looking to the future and organizing where the movement will go. This Vox article from Chris Turner, author of The War on Science: Muzzled Scientists and Willful blindness in Stephen Harper’s Canadadetails what we can learn from how Canadian scientists fought against Stephen Harper’s anti-science government.

“the Death of Evidence march in Ottawa attracted fewer than a thousand people and caused merely a minor media stir. But it triggered a three-year campaign that steadily built resistance against the Conservative government’s cuts to research funding, its silencing of government scientists, and its intransigence on climate policy.”

We’ve had the march, now we need to form the movement, and articles like this one offer up a compelling roadmap.


The supreme court will review a case to examine what is allowed when drug companies produce and market biosimilars

Diversity is a crucial part of science, and we’re not doing enough to support it.

I am currently going through the back catalog for the fantastic podcast Science Soapbox, and loved this episode with physicist and Congressman Bill Foster about science in politics.

The vote to confirm Scott Gottlieb as FDA commissioner has moved from committee to the full senate

Trump still has not appointed a science advisor. Here’s two articles why he should and shouldn’t have one.

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