This Week in Science Policy and Advocacy
Policy and Advocacy News
January 11, 2017 | Science
This regularly updating feature tracks mentions of science and climate during the U.S. Senate hearings for President-elect Trump’s Cabinet nominees. Current highlights include General James Mattis, nominated for Secretary of Defense, stating that the Department of Defense should “assess the intellectual resources” of cities when deciding who the military should partner with for scientific research.
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January 9, 2017 | Scientific American
In this interview, Justin Sanchez, the director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office (BTO), discusses the projects that the BTO has planned for the coming year. Of particular interest is BTO’s research area that explores expanding the use of neuroprosthetics and neurotechnology to understand and enhance the neural activity that underlies memory and other cognitive processes.
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January 9, 2017 | Nature
Results from a recent survey of over 1,000 UK-based university staff suggests that Brexit could lead to an academic exodus. Of the lecturers and professors surveyed, 42 percent say they are likely to think about leaving the UK higher-education sector, and many individual foreign researchers now see better opportunities abroad. Additionally, the survey revealed large opposition to the UK government’s plans to reform higher education (HE) and research.
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January 3, 2017 | USA Today: Cincinnati
Aram Nerpouni, President and CEO of BioEnterprise, discusses the importance of ensuring our state and federal policymakers understand how crucial it is to continue funding medical science. As voters strongly support medical discovery, with a recent poll showing that 95 percent believe medical innovation is key to improving America’s health care system, Nerpouni argues that funding medical research would positively impact both politicians and the scientific community.
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January 10, 2017 | Scientific American
The author discusses the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s December report on effectively communicating science. The report found that the “deficit model”, or the idea that communicating science facts will lead to people agreeing with the scientific evidence, is mostly wrong. Instead, the author suggests doing practical research on what kinds of science communication work best with different audiences by doing it in real time.
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January 10, 2017 | Science
A recent study published in Nature Biotechnology found that PhD holders who do not become tenured professors make less money than their peers who starting working outside academia after earning their degree. The article points out that while this finding is not surprising, it provides data suggesting that the current system is not designed for those who seek non-academic work after a postdoc. However, the new study did not capture the nonmonetary priorities of postdocs which may contribute to their decisions to take lower salaried positions.
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Articles of Interest
January 9, 2017 | Science
A new study, among the first to investigate brain activity in human fetuses, explored which regions of the brain showed synchronized activity when at rest. They found that in fetuses that were eventually born prematurely, the area of the brain that develops to process language had weaker connections with the rest of the brain than in fetuses born full term. While the cause of these difference isn’t clear, the study suggested that maternal infection or inflammation may play a role.
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January 5, 2017 | The Guardian
A new study by researchers at Stanford University suggests that the area of the brain specialized for processing faces, known as the fusiform face area (FFA), continues to grow during adulthood. Using fMRI, the researchers found that the older the individual was, the larger their FFA, and therefore the better their ability to recognize faces. In comparison, there was not a size difference seen in the adjacent region which recognizes places. As the sample size was small and the oldest participants were 28, a larger study with a wider age range is being planned.
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January 10, 2017 | Scientific American
Do-it-yourself devices for transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), which deliver small electrical signals to the scalp to try and boost the brain, are becoming increasingly popular and range in price from $40-$700 dollars. Some studies have suggested that these devices, unregulated by the FDA, can improve learning, attention, and memory, but studies with more rigorous controls have not been able to repeat the enhancement effects, and the negative impact tDCS may have elsewhere in the brain remains unknown.
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January 6, 2017 | Science
A study measuring the levels of the protein tau, which has been linked to traumatic brain injury, in the blood of university athletes participating in contact sports found that tau levels may predict recovery time. Researchers tested the athlete’s blood at multiple time points after a sustained concussion. The athletes with severe concussions had higher levels of tau in their blood than those with more mild injuries, particularly when measured 6 hours after the injury took place. However, the tau level was only able to predict whether the player could return to play in 10 days or less 81 percent of the time, and it’s difficult to know how blood levels of tau relate to the levels in the brain.
- Learn more about concussions and the brain at BrainFacts.org