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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Science & Medicine Round-up

  • Nature has an editorial and a number of articles discussing the current state of and fixes to the PhD system. They're mostly concerned with PhDs in science, technology, and engineering but some of the issues discussed are also relevant for the social sciences and humanities. Trigger warning for grad students and recent PhDs: lots of doom and gloom.
  • In other news in the Depression section, Nature has a good summary of the impact of the current US budget on the different areas of science funding. Summary: bad, but could've been worse. doi:10.1038/472267a
  • The situation in Fukushima is still far from resolved but media attention is declining, as can be seen in the declining number of articles in the major journals. 
    • Nature features a fairly critical interview with the chairman of the World Association of Nuclear Operators, Laurent Stricker. Asked if another disaster could be the end of nuclear power, Sticker replies, "I fear so. As we have seen at Fukushima, an accident in one country has consequences for all nuclear operators elsewhere." doi:10.1038/472274a 
    • Science discusses the impact of Fukushima on marine life and those whose living depends on it. doi:10.1126/science.332.6027.292  
    • In a letter to the BMJ, a Japanese obstetrician reports on the psychological effects of uncertainty and fear about radiation risks for pregant women. doi:10.1136/bmj.d2434 
    • According to WHO officials, the raised severity rating of the Fukushima disaster does not necessitate new public health countermeasure, reports the BMJ. doi:10.1136/bmj.d2491 
  • Drug companies love advocacy groups. Today: anti-smoking campaigners and producers smoking-cessation products. doi:10.1136/bmj.d2430 
  • JAMA reprints an article from 1911, discussing the promises of using sociology for preventive medicine. "The problems of sociology are, in most instances, problems of preventive medicine, and many of the problems of preventive medicine resolve themselves into sociologic questions." Well worth a read. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.335
  • The problem of overdiagnosis in all fields of medicine is the topic of the book, "Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick in Pursuit of Health" by H. Gilbert Welch, Lisa M. Schwartz, and Steven Woloshin, reviewed in JAMA by Leonard Berlin. For STSers there are probably better books out there, but for a general audience and physicians Overdiagnosed might be a good read. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.391
  • Once again, we are "[a] step closer to personalized medicine," according to a JAMA editorial about whole-genome sequencing by Boris Pasche und Devin Absher. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.484
  • An interesting mix of expertise, medicine, politics, and the law is in play in the case of the death of Ian Tomlinson at the 2009 London G20 protests. The BMJ reports on the latest developments in determining if Tomlinson's death was caused by being hit and pushed to the ground by a police officer. doi:10.1136/bmj.d2459
  • Another case of the intersections of law and science is the issue of DNA fingerprinting. In Science Michael Goldman reviews a new book by Sheldon Krimsky and Tania Simoncelli, titled "Genetic Justice: DNA Data Banks, Criminal Investigations, and Civil Liberties." doi:10.1126/science.1204097
  • Vaccinations and their alleged risks continue to be a contested issue, as can be seen in a controversy about an anti-vaccination ad at New York's Times square. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d2639
  • Obtaining the lethal substances used in executions is becoming increasingly difficult for the US. The UK government, that has banned the export of these substances, now "[u]urges rest of Europe to also ban export of “execution drugs,” reports Clare Dyer in the BMJ. doi:10.1136/bmj.d2507
  • Germany has been traditionally very cautious about preimplantation diagnostics, implementing a ban in 1990. The BMJ reports that the German parliament will soon vote on limited changes to the ban. The outcome is far from certain. doi:10.1136/bmj.d2473
  • On my bike blog, I have already reported on new research about what keeps a bicycle upright. Now the actual article in Science has been published. doi:10.1126/science.1201959
  • Isabella Rossellini, producer of humorous animal movies, is interviewed in Nature. doi:doi:10.1038/472294a
  • Sleep deprivation leads to riskier decision-making and coffee doesn't help: "stimulants such as caffeine might make sleepy people more alert, they do not improve decision-making abilities." doi:10.1523/​JNEUROSCI.4407-10.2011

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