Policy and Advocacy News

How Science Fares in the U.S. Budget Deal

May 1, 2017 | Science

Congress reached an FY2017 spending bill which will fund the federal government until September 30, 2017. In the budget, NIH received a $2 billion budget increase, bringing it to $34.1 billion for FY2017, with $352 million provided under the 21st Century Cures Act. NSF received a small $9 million increase, bringing its FY2017 budget to $7.47 billion.

NIH to Limit the Amount of Grant Money a Scientist Can Receive

May 3, 2017 | Nature

NIH will begin restricting the amount of funding an individual scientist can hold at any one time by using a new metric called the Grant Support Index (GSI), which awards point values to each grant based on complexity and size. The hope is that this new system will make obtaining grants easier for early and mid-career scientists.

Marine Le Pen is a 'Terrible Danger', French Research Leaders Say

April 28, 2017 | Science

French scientists have united in opposition against presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, with directors of nine major public research institutes issuing a letter labeling Le Pen’s candidacy a ‘terrible danger’ and calling on voters not to support her. Increasing number of university presidents are encouraging staff not to vote for Le Pen and more intellectuals are coming out in favor of the other candidate, Emmanuel Macron. 

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Controversial UK Research Reform Crosses Finish Line

April 28, 2017 | Nature

Legislation creating the new UK research funding body called UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), passed through parliament, making it officially law. UKRI will be responsible for distributing Britain’s £6 billion pound research budget starting in 2018.


Science Isn't Dead in Washington. At Least Not Yet

May 1, 2017 | STAT

Cory Gerlach, a PhD candidate at Harvard University, discusses his recent trip to Washington, D.C. with the Harvard Science Policy Group to meet with scientists working in the federal government. Gerlach highlights his interactions with scientists, including a neuroscientist at NIH, and how bipartisan support for science has allowed these scientists to remain optimistic about the future. HH

How Marching for Science Risks Politicizing It

May 2, 2017 | The New York Times

Brendan Nyhan, a professor at Dartmouth College, discusses the political implications resulting from the March for Science. Nyhan notes evidence from a survey panel conducted between the Wednesday prior to the march and the Monday and Tuesday after the march showing an increase in the gap between liberals and conservatives regarding their positive feelings towards scientists. Nyhan did note that this polarization is more directed towards the scientists themselves rather than the research they conduct.

Articles of Interest

Scientists Surprised to Find No Two Neurons Are Genetically Alike

May 3, 2017 | Scientific American

Despite what has been taught in biology class, scientists have learned over the past decade that no two cells have the exact same DNA in their nucleus. This “somatic mosaicism” also applies to the brain, where researchers are studying whether particular mutations in brain cells may influence the development of neurological disorders like schizophrenia. While this is a relatively new field in neuroscience, NIH has devoted $30 million to the Brain Somatic Mosaicism Network to further their research.

Psychedelic Compound in Ecstasy Moves Closer to Approval to Treat PTSD

April 28, 2017 | Nature

Recent study results found that using MDMA, also known as ecstasy or Molly, was successful in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  The trial treatment involved a combination of psychotherapy and MDMA use, and after more than one year of two or three sessions of MDMA-assisted therapy, approximately 67% of participants no longer had PTSD according to the diagnostic scale. Researchers are now recruiting participants for a phase III clinical trial, the final stage before the FDA can potentially approve the drug for widespread clinical use.

  • Read more on PTSD at BrainFacts.org

Contacting Stranded Minds

May 1, 2017 | Scientific American

Dr. Adrian Owen, a professor at Western University in Ontario, released a new book titled Into the Gray Zone which highlights his work in the study of consciousness. Owen pioneered brain imaging technology used to establish levels of awareness in patients with severe disorders of consciousness, such as those in a vegetative state, which aided in the development of tasks capable of evoking brain activity using fMRI.

Party Drug's Power to Fight Depression Puzzles Scientists

May 2, 2017 | Nature

Researchers have uncovered that ketamine’s ability to lift a person’s mood may be due to its effect on the brain’s support cells, known as glia. A recent study showed that glial cells treated with ketamine were beginning to form new connections within 15 minutes, while the same effect took 3 days when treated with conventional antidepressants. Drug companies and researchers have been trying to develop a safer drug capable of replicating ketamine’s mood-boosting abilities, but so far none have been successful.