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Saturday, April 02, 2011

Science & Medicine Round-up

Time for the second volume of what I've found notable in my RSS feeds:

  • Nature has several articles on nuclear energy and the events at Fukushima. Amongst them, Mark Peplow looks a "Chernobyl's legacy," asking if there lessons to be learned from the 25 years of clean-up efforts that can be applied once the immediate emergency in Fukushima has come under control. He also focuses on the research done on the long-term health effects of the Chernobyl disaster. doi:10.1038/471562a
  • A different research effort on radiation risks was the work done by the Radiation Effects Research Foundation in the aftermath of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, portrayed by Jocelyn Kaiser for Science. doi:10.1126/science.331.6024.1504
  • Colin Macilwan questions the judgment of many scientific experts in the aftermath of Fukushima: "the collective impression has been unconvincing: defensive, selective, condescending towards public fears and, in my view, ultimately counterproductive. Their combined message seems to have been: don't worry, things are under control, and Fukushima is not Chernobyl." Macilwan points out three main factors that have contributed to the disaster in Japan, but that are also wide-spread in nuclear power plants around the world: the amassing of several reactors at one site; the inherent safety problems of pressurized-water reactors; and the practice of storing spent fuel rods on-site. doi:10.1038/471549a
  • Spent fuel rods are also the focus of an analysis in Science. Eli Klintisch is trying to figure out what exactly went on in the storage tanks at the #4 reactor at Fukushima and discusses "concerns about U.S. spent nuclear fuel pools, which are thought to be packed more tightly than those in Europe or Asia." doi:10.1126/science.332.6025.24 
  • Another article in Science gives a brief overview that the Fukushima disaster has had on nuclear policy in countries around the world. doi:10.1126/science.331.6024.1502 
  • The current president of Arizona State University, Michael M Crow, advocates a radical restructuring of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in an article in Nature. He argues that spending 30 billion dollars per year on basic biomedical research is problematic when looking at the limited impact that research has on clinical outcomes and the health of society. Instead of focusing on translational research, Crow suggest that the NIH should be based on three pillars: a "fundamental biomedical systems research institute" that would include sociological, behavioral and environmental perspectives in addition to the typical biomedical sciences; an institute focused on health outcomes, again combining "behavioural sciences, economics, technology, communications and education as well as [...] fundamental biomedical research."; and finally "a 'health transformation' institute, should develop more sustainable cost models by integrating science, technology, clinical practice, economics and demographics." doi:10.1038/471569a
  •  Science has interesting material on and by Steve Wise, founder of the Nonhuman Rights Project. The projects goals is to "fil[e] lawsuits on behalf of intelligent animals such as chimpanzees and dolphins in an attempt to convince courts that at least some nonhuman animals meet the requirements of legal personhood and should be accorded certain basic rights." 10.1126/science.332.6025.30  (news focus article), doi:0.1126/science.332.6025.28  (Steve Wise on "The rise of animal law")
  • Saleem H. Ali favorably reviews sociologist and Max Weber scholar Toby Huff's book "Intellectual Curiosity and the Scientific Revolution A Global Perspective," an investigation into "Western scientific superiority." 10.1126/science.1204095
  • Science has a special issue, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the National Cancer Act. An introduction by Paula Kiberstis and Eliot Marshall provides an overview of the issue. doi:10.1126/science.331.6024.1539-a
  • The BMJ reports on the launch of a new European online register that will provide " information on every clinical trial taking place in 30 European countries." doi:10.1136/bmj.d1994

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