This Week in Science Policy and Advocacy
Policy and Advocacy News
January 24, 2017 | Science
A memo that halted communication between NIH and public officials triggered fear that NIH may be affected by the communication and funding freezes that have been ordered at other federal agencies. It was later clarified that the communications freeze is limited to the release of new policy and regulations through February 3.
- Read SfN President Eric Nestler’s statement supporting the free exchange of ideas and information in science.
January 19, 2017 | Science
President Trump has asked Dr. Francis Collins to remain NIH Director. Collins, a geneticist, has heading NIH for the past eight years, but no announcement has been made regarding how long Collins will retain his post under the Trump administration.
- Join the Advocacy Network to stay informed about issues related to neuroscience research at SfN.org
January 20, 2017 | Nature
This piece takes a closer look at David Gelernter, a computer scientist at Yale University and critic of liberal academia, and William Happer, a physicist at Princeton University who rejects the idea that carbon dioxide emissions from human activities will impact level of climate change, who are both rumored to be in the running for the role of White House science advisor.
President Trump has held meetings with both Gelernter and Happer, which has increased speculation that Trump could soon pick a science advisor to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
- Find science advocacy tools at SfN.org
January 23, 2017 | PRI
In an interview with Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL), the last remaining Ph.D. scientist in Congress, Foster discusses a wide range of topics from Trump’s Cabinet picks to the future of research funding. Foster, a physicist, emphasizes the fact that funding research is critical for the economy but that the economic effects of research investment are not immediate, making funding for science more vulnerable to budget cuts.
- Find information about U.S. advocacy programs at SfN.org
January 23, 2017 | Science
Declining federal support for science in Brazil has led to a dramatic cut in funds for scholarships and labs leading many scientists to consider leaving Brazil in search of funding. Recently, the government in Rio de Janeiro has awarded about 40% less of the planned budget to its state science agency, and in Sao Paulo, the legislature signaled it won’t fulfill the lawful budget of its own state science agency, reducing its projected revenues by $35 million for 2017.
- Find information about global advocacy programs at SfN.org
January 20, 2017 | Scientific American
After the 2016 election, graduate students at the University of California, Davis founded Science Informed Leadership (SIL), a group working to make sure that federal appointed leaders value science and use scientific evidence to advocate for science-based decision making. Using SIL as an example, the author discusses how individuals do not need to be elected officials in order to impact change. Additionally, the author provides ways individuals can stand up for science-based decision making, such as writing letters to Congress, exploring the app Volunteer, and staying engaged in politics.
- Learn how to contact your members of Congress at SfN.org
January 19, 2017 | Salem News
Senator Rob Portman of Ohio discusses the importance of ensuring that our nation’s laws are not holding back scientific innovation. Sen. Portman advocates for making the federal government’s role in public health smarter and more efficient, highlighting the recently signed 21st Century CURES Act which authorizes $4.8 billion in NIH research, including $1.8 billion for research to fight cancer and $1.5 billion for the BRAIN Initiative.
- Read about the advocacy activities of SfN members on Neuronline.
January 25, 2017 | Science
Recently, authors analyzed data from the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and found that female scientists are under-represented as reviewers of academic papers in the organization’s journals, with only 20% of paper reviewers being women between 2012 and 2015. In 2012, Nature acknowledged its own gender imbalance of female reviewers, and pledged to commission more female scientists are writers and reviewers, which has resulted in an increase of female reviewers from 12% in 2012 to 22% in 2015. The article goes on to challenge other scientific organizations to track their own gender participation.
- Read more about women in neuroscience at SfN.org
Articles of Interest
January 19, 2017 | Scientific American
A recent study found that under certain conditions, astrocytes, often characterized as the brain’s “helper” cells, can contribute to damage caused by brain injury and disease by turning toxic and destroying neurons. Using postmortem brain tissue from patients with Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s disease, the researchers found a large number of A1 astrocytes, the toxic version of astrocytes, suggesting that the cells may drive neurodegeneration.
- Read more about the role of astrocytes in the brain at BrainFacts.org
January 20, 2017 | New York Times
A new study examining brains of the now extinct Tasmanian tiger has revealed new insight into how they may have behaved in the wild. The authors were able to track down two preserved Tasmanian tiger brains and compare scans of those brains to their nearest living relative, the Tasmanian devil. Interestingly, the Tasmanian tiger had a larger brain and more developed frontal lobe than the devil, suggesting they had better decision-making and planning skills.
- Find out more about animal brains at BrainFacts.org
January 25, 2017 | Nature
This article takes a closer look at the issues surrounding big data and neuroscience, such as accommodating the large amount of data produced, the creation of computational programs to adapt to the growing workflow, and the sharing of raw data between scientists. For example, it took scientists ten years to map half the fly brain, but through working with physicists at Taiwan’s Academia Sinica, the same team of scientists were able to use a new data-acquisition technique which allowed them to image a whole fly brain in less than ten minutes.
- Learn more on big data and the brain at BrainFacts.org