The best reads in science/science policy 03/10/-03/17/017

By | March 20, 2017

The big news this week was the release of President Trump’s initial budget plan. If you haven’t taken the chance to take a look at it yet, be sure to read up on its potentially devastating effects, how Republicans in Congress are responding to it, and what happens next. While this is what’s on everybody’s mind this week, take a look at a few of the other articles I thought were interesting.

1. On The Media discusses science’s partisan polarization

On The Media frequently features great discussions analyzing journalism, politics, technology and the intersections between them. In this recent episode, hosts Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield talk to William Ruckelshause, the first head of the EPA, about how the environment became a partisan issue. It’s easy to forget that environmentalism used to be a bipartisan issue, and the EPA was actually founded by Richard Nixon.


How the environment became a political battleground, the optics of Trump’s new travel ban, and the myth of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.



2. House bill HR 1313 would let your employer see your genetic code

This article from Stat talks about recent bill HR 1313, the “Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act”. One of the fears concerning gene sequencing and genetic testing that has percolated throughout society since the Human Genome Project has been that your genetics would be used to discriminate against you in some way. Personal genetic privacy was made the law in 2008, but this recent bill would allow employers to obtain the information under the guise of Employee Wellness Programs (like when they give you a free Fitibit to help improve your health). Under HR 1313, workers could opt out of giving up their genetic information, however they would forfeit significant discounts to their insurance premiums. This sort of social inequality looks a bit like the first steps towards a Gattaca-esque future, and is something that all scientists should work to prevent.


A House panel voted to allow employers to require workers to undergo genetic testing or risk paying a penalty of thousands of dollars.



3. Spain’s brain drain reclassified as “brain circulation”

The cuts to science research and funding proposed by President Trump will have many effects, including a potential “brain drain” of America’s scientific talent. If the funding dries up here, the best researchers will go to other countries where there is support for their work. This is actually one of the ways America has achieved scientific dominance, by attracting and keeping the best researchers from around the world.

In this op-ed, Amaya Moro-Martin, a Spanish ex patriot and scientist, rails against the ways that the Spanish government has rebranded Spain’s brain drain. In the absence of funding, Moro-Martin and many others emigrated to sunnier shores, looking for places where they could pursue their research. The Spanish government denied that this effect was happening. However, now Spain boasts of their effort to “reinforce [Spain’s] scientific presence in strategic countries”, and calls Spanish scientists abroad “diplomats”.

It’s easy to imagine this occurring in America in just a few short years, and it’s crucial that the American scientific community learns from foreign scientists who have already gone through what we are experiencing now.

Amaya Moro-Martín is furious about Spanish government attempts to brand her and other exiled scientists as strategic partners.






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