The Week in Science and Science Policy May 1st-8th

By | May 8, 2017

1. Science gets a budget deal that’s better that we’d hoped for

Waiting on President Trump’s signature is a budget deal of a little over $1 trillion, including continued funding for scientific research. While environmental research sees some cuts, most biomedical research will maintain similar levels of funding to what has previously been provided. This demonstrates that despite anti-science views and a draconian budget proposal coming from the top, our elected officials are still interested in funding science and at least in part understand its benefits.

2. Our policy makers must understand the importance of S&T leadership

For close to the past century, the U.S. has been a global leader in all forms of S&T research and development. This has allowed our government to become complacent, and to forget the large role that their predecessors played in creating such a solid base of U.S. research. Our policy makers must understand that federal funding and regulation is crucial to future research and maintaining our biomedical abilities in the next century.

3. This great essay about what it’s like to be a woman in science

I don’t want to say too much about this because the authors says it significantly better than I ever could. Science must face the truth concerning the preponderance all forms of discrimination in the field and work against it.

4. Cell-free systems: A new model system that will change the way we do research

This is a great summary of one of the most exciting developments in biomedical research. Currently any genetic engineering or biotechnology needs the machinery contained within a cell to be carried out. The only way we can do this is by using actual living cells, making this work fickle and slow. This is a great summary of the next step in research design, using systems that take this machinery out of the cell, increasing the efficiency of research.

5. A new grant system to help new investigators

The NIH has imposed a new grant system, wherein investigators with secure funding already will be unable to apply for more grants. This will hopefully fix a major flaw in the U.S. grant structure. One of the biggest pros in a grant application is demonstrating that you are a successful investigator, often through showing you’ve been awarded grants before. As grants have become more competitive, this resulted in a feedback loop where older investigators who already had grants had an easier time getting new ones, while new investigators had an increasingly difficult time getting their first grant. Hopefully this shift from the NIH will mediate this by preventing accomplished, funded investigators from applying for more grants, making more room for new scientists to get their first funding.

6. The first indications of a new scientific era

The Environmental Protection Agency maintains two science advisory boards, which review the work of EPA scientists, provide feedback, and shape the agencies future research and policy goals. While the House Republicans indicated that they would work to change how these boards functioned with the passage of the EPA Science Advisory Reform Act, which would allow more industry influence over the Advisory Board, this week we saw the first move. Several of the members of the Board of Scientific Counselors were forced out, in what is seen by EPA insiders as demonstrable of the future of EPA science: one which will work towards the goals of the administration and suppress climate change research while helping industry.


A great article about how research “moonshots” work and whether they’re worth it

Vox covers the climate march

DARPA is the largest funder of US synthetic biology research, this article asks whether we are willing to deal with the consequences

Its easy for junior researchers (or Ph.D.) students to see the flaws in research but not feel like they can make a difference, this article argues against that.

How do we fix science?

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