Harold Varmus knows what makes America great! #SCIENCE #RAawards16 @ResearchAmerica

Research America hosted its annual Advocacy Awards this week, which included honoring Dr. Harold Varmus with its Legacy Award.

Dr. Harold Varmus received the Legacy award for his lifetime commitment to advancing research.  In the 20 years we have hosted advocacy awards evenings, this is only the 4th time we have bestowed the Legacy Award.  I hope you will take a moment to consider the timely challenge Dr. Varmus delivered to us all via his acceptance remarks, in which he refers to science as representing the best of what we have been and must continue to be as a nation.

Dr. Varmus made an amazing speech during his acceptance of the award promoting science and research in America. Can Varmus run for President? He actually knows what makes America great!

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Leonardo DiCaprio includes climate change in Oscars acceptance speech! #momentforaction #climate #fangirl

In case you didn’t watch the Academy Awards last night – spoiler alert – Leonardo DiCaprio finally won Best Actor for The Revenant! Whether that matters to you or not, Leo continued his vocal stance on climate change and mentioned it in-depth in his acceptance speech!! He also posted about climate change on his Facebook wall, and included MomentForAction.org (below). Check out previous CauseScience posts on Leo killing it in a speech at the UN Climate Summit, and being named UN Messenger of Peace on Climate Change! Leo is definitely the biggest celebrity that continually vocalizes concern for climate change and repeatedly demands action!! Maybe this all started when he realized that Titanic could only happen in a world with icebergs 😉 (FANGIRLING!)

leo

#ASAPbio is currently discussing the future of #science publication! #scicomm #starstuddedcast

Just in case you weren’t aware, ASAPbio is currently underway and is likely going to influence the future of science publication!!

Accelerating Science and Publication in Biology (ASAPbio) will be an interactive meeting to discuss the use of preprints in biology held on February 16-17, 2016. The meeting will be streamed online, and we welcome participation from all interested parties through this website and on Twitter (#ASAPbio).

For background on the issues facing science publication, especially in biomedical science and biology, check out this primer from Nature last week (Does it take too long to publish research?). We here at CauseScience think that the answer to that title is a resounding YES!! One option that ASAPbio is considering are preprints – commonly used in other science fields. Nature this week featured another article related to ASAPbio about preprints (Biologists urged to hug a preprint).

For up to date info on the conference, check out the twitter hashtag #ASAPbio, which thus far has included tweets from well-known scientists, and fun pictures of former NIH directors and Nobel Laureates!! Or just visit the ASAPbio website!!

Definitely exciting to see people discussing the problems of science publication, but more importantly, discussing potential solutions!!

Anti-science Republican candidates silent on climate agreement #COP21 #science

There is a terrific editorial in the New York Times on the blaring silence from Republican presidential candidates following the historic Paris climate agreement. Turns out that science and 195 nations are hard to argue with… especially when you are arguing with lies, deceit, and fiction. Someone should tell Rep Lamar Smith and the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology to take note.

In the past, these Republican candidates have disparaged the idea of global warming. “We’re not going to make America a harder place to create jobs in order to pursue policies that will do absolutely nothing, nothing, to change our climate,” Marco Rubio said in a Republican debate in September.

Donald Trump uttered this marvel: “I am not a believer, and I will, unless somebody can prove something to me, I believe there’s weather. I believe there’s change, and I believe it goes up and it goes down, and it goes up again.”

Ted Cruz, who seems enthralled with the idea of a climate-science conspiracy, said last week, “Climate change is the perfect pseudoscientific theory for a big-government politician who wants more power.” On Saturday, Mr. Cruz had nothing to say.

Let’s hope the candidates’ new silence suggests that they see that when 195 nations together recognize the need for immediate action, their arguments to do nothing seem more misguided than ever.

The moral case on climate change! explained by Lawrence Torcello @US_Conversation #COP21

Making the moral case on climate change ahead of Paris summit

Lawrence Torcello, Rochester Institute of Technology

Much of the general public is well aware of scientists’ recommendations on climate change. In particular, climate scientists and other academics say society needs to keep global temperatures to no more than two degrees Celsius below preindustrial levels to avoid the most dangerous effects of climate change.

But now more academics are weighing in on climate change: philosophers, ethicists, and social scientists among others.

More than 2,100 academics, and counting, from over 80 nations and a diversity of disciplines have endorsed a moral and political statement addressed to global leaders ahead of December’s UN climate conference in Paris.

A few of the more widely recognizable signatories include philosopher and linguist Noam Chomsky (MIT); cognitive scientist Stephan Lewandowsky (University of Bristol); climate scientist Michael E Mann (PSU); writer and environmentalist Bill McKibben (Middlebury College); historian of science Naomi Oreskes (Harvard); and moral philosopher Peter Singer (Princeton).

As one of the philosophers responsible for this open letter, along with my colleague Keith Horton (University of Wollongong, Australia), I wish to explain why we felt compelled to organize it and why the endorsement of many influential philosophers is important.

In addition to Chomsky and Singer, the list of prominent philosophers who have converged from various philosophical backgrounds and points of disagreement to endorse this letter include many of the most influential figures in contemporary moral and political philosophy.

Thinking about the real world

While it may be popular among certain politicians to malign academics as removed from the “real world,” the fact remains that academics by virtue of training and professional necessity are driven to distinguish valid argument and sound evidence from fallacy.

We are bound to reference current research, and to examine our data before making claims if we hope to be taken seriously by our peers. We have a pedagogical obligation to instill these same practices in our students. We also have a moral obligation to prepare them for responsible citizenship and careers.

Global warming is the most important moral issue of our time, and arguably the greatest existential threat that human beings, as a whole, have faced. So the response to climate change from philosophers should be no surprise.

Those most responsible for climate change are relatively few compared to the vast numbers of people who will be harmfully affected. Indeed, climate change will, in one way or another, impact all life on Earth.

If we fail to decisively address the problem now, warming may escalate in a relatively short time beyond the point which human beings can reasonably be expected to cope, given the nature of reinforcing feedback effects.

The moral implications are enormous, and this letter represents the closest we have to a consensus statement from the world’s preeminent professional ethicists on some of the moral obligations industrial nations, and their leaders, have to global communities, future generations, and fellow species. The letter begins:

Some issues are of such ethical magnitude that being on the correct side of history becomes a signifier of moral character for generations to come. Global warming is such an issue. Indigenous peoples and the developing world are least responsible for climate change, least able to adapt to it, and most vulnerable to its impacts. As the United Nations Climate Conference in Paris approaches, the leaders of the industrialized world shoulder a grave responsibility for the consequences of our current and past carbon emissions.

Importantly, the letter points out that even if current nonbinding pledges being offered by world leaders ahead of the conference are achieved, we remain on course to reach potentially catastrophic levels of warming by the end of this century. The letter continues:

This is profoundly shocking, given that any sacrifice involved in making those reductions is far overshadowed by the catastrophes we are likely to face if we do not: more extinctions of species and loss of ecosystems; increasing vulnerability to storm surges; more heatwaves; more intense precipitation; more climate related deaths and disease; more climate refugees; slower poverty reduction; less food security; and more conflicts worsened by these factors. Given such high stakes, our leaders ought to be mustering planet-wide mobilization, at all societal levels, to limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degree Celsius.

It is increasingly obvious as we head to Paris that both industrialized and developing nations must make serious efforts to limit their greenhouse gas emissions beyond their current pledges. This is a requirement of physics.

It is unrealistic to expect most developing nations to meaningfully limit greenhouse gas emissions without binding pledges from industrialized nations to do so, as well as significant commitments to provide financial and technological assistance to poorer nations facing developmental challenges. This is a practical necessity and a requirement of ethics.

Ethical thinking

At its most fundamental level, thinking ethically means taking the interests of others seriously enough to recognize when our actions and omissions must be justified to them.

As individuals, our instincts too often drive us toward self-interest. Consequently, acting ethically beyond the circle of our immediate relations – that is, those we perceive most capable of reciprocating both harms and benefits – is difficult.

Still, the history of our species teaches that humanity as a whole benefits most when we are able to put narrow self-interest aside, and make an ethical turn in our thinking and behavior.

Now, faced with climate change the next great ethical turn in our thinking and behavior can’t come soon enough. We will make progress in addressing climate change when, and if, we begin taking the lessons of morality seriously.

The Conversation

Lawrence Torcello, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Rochester Institute of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

#Science Nerds! – Apply for AAAS Mass Media Science Fellowship #SCICOMM

AAASmm

Check out the fellowship and apply here! What a terrific opportunity for people interested in science policy and advocacy!!! Applications due January 15th!

This 10-week summer program places science, engineering, and mathematics students at media organizations nationwide. Fellows use their academic training as they research, write, and report today’s headlines, sharpening their abilities to communicate complex scientific issues to the public.

[tweet https://twitter.com/COMPASSonline/status/552185228476051457]

Scientists discuss the Future of Research at #ASCB2014 #FORsymp

Superstar Scientists Share visions for the Future of Research at ASCB/IFCB Meeting

by Christina Szalinski

A panel of bioscience superstars tried to throw some light on the gloomy outlook for cell research Saturday at the ASCB/IFCB 2014 meeting in Philadelphia. As NIH funding shrinks, graduate programs grow, and fewer than 10% of PhDs go on to tenure-track position, Bruce Alberts, professor at University of California, San Francisco, best-selling textbook author, and newly minted National Medal of Science winner, wondered aloud, “What brilliant young person wants to become a scientist… if they have to wait until they’re 42 to get their first independent grant?” Alberts continued, “You’re supposed to be famous to get a job as an independent investigator. You would have laughed at my CV when I got hired.” Alberts was joined on the panel by Shirley Tilghman, ASCB president elect and president emerita at Princeton University; Jon Lorsch, Director of the NIH National Institute for General Medical Sciences; and Marc Kirschner, past president of ASCB and chair of the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School (HMS); and more.

 

HMS postdocs Jessica Polka and Kristen Krukenberg believe that it’s time for researchers to face the new realities. To that end, they initiated this panel in Philadelphia on the “Future of Research,” pulling in leaders from across the biomedical research enterprise to a special interest subgroup session at the ASCB/IFCB meeting. Krukenberg opened the session by summarizing an earlier Future of Research symposium they organized for postdocs in Boston in October. Krukenberg reported that working groups at the Boston symposium recommended a broadening of training, changes in lab structure, diversification of funding mechanisms, and rewards for scientists who interact with the public.

 

In Philadelphia, Alberts had his own recommendations—techniques and equipment should be freely shared to minimize waste, scientific risk-taking should be encouraged, and labs should be a more moderate size, with 9 to 12 as the maximum. “Howard Hughes (Medical Institute) chose individual scientists to double the size of their labs, thinking they’d do twice as much work, but they started doing less interesting things because they had to manage an enterprise,” Alberts explained.

 

Connie Lee, Assistant Dean for Basic Research at the University of Chicago and chair of ASCB’s Public Policy Committee, said while the research situation at her university wasn’t dire yet, bridge funding for PIs caught between R01s had been increased four-fold in recent years. Lee urged institutions and researchers themselves to find other sources of funding.  “Think outside the NIH box,” Lee said. Chicago now has grant writing-workshops to give critical feedback on first drafts of grants, and someone in Washington, DC, to help them identify new sources of funding. Lee said that institutions have to help create new avenues for scientists to innovate.

 

Kirschner said that science best proceeds in an environment of free inquiry. He cited the example of the Hamilton Smith, who was working in the obscure field of bacterial immunity and discovered restriction endonucleases, which revolutionized DNA modification and earned a Nobel Prize. “These are the kinds of things we should promote that the system is working against,” Kirschner said. “Science progresses most rapidly when scientists can focus on science. Writing grants can stimulate creativity, but rewriting them does not.”

 

Referring to her time as Princeton president, Tilghman joked, “I had a 12 year sabbatical thinking about binge drinking, and college football, and financial aid… In the years that I had been away [from science] the sense of optimism had been eroded… The ground conditions we’re laying out for the next generation… are not the conditions that create the very best science.” The problem, said Tilghman, is too many people chasing too little money. An easy first step, she believes, would be to require every graduate training program that gets NIH funding to post the career outcomes of their students. “I’m begging the NIH, on my hands and knees if I have to, to do this at minimum so students can make informed decisions,” Tilghman declared. She said it’s hard to say where the workforce pipeline could or should be narrowed just as it’s hard to predict who will do well in grad school. But Tilghman said one thing is clear: “We can’t afford to send 75% of students onto postdocs.”

 

Kenneth Gibbs, a Cancer Prevention Fellow at the National Cancer Institute, expressed concern about the “shearing forces inside the biomedical research pipeline.” At NCI, Gibbs investigates biomedical graduate student and postdoctoral training. He said that his data indicate that many PhDs entered graduate training with poor knowledge of career options and that over time in graduate programs, students move away from the goal of reaching a faculty position.

 

Lorsch, whose NIH institute is the primary source of federal funding for basic cell science research, wants to change the way grants are awarded. “RNAi wouldn’t have been discovered if the PI had said, ‘That’s not one of the specific aims, so you’d better get back to working on those so we can get the grant renewed,’” Lorsch said. Soon NIGMS will be piloting a program called Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA), which aims to provide one grant per PI that’s bigger and longer than R01 averages and not tied to specific aims, according to Lorsch. The review will be based on track record and overall research ideas and there will be modified review considerations for early-stage investigators. “NIH is taking seriously all these problems, but without reciprocal changes at institutions it won’t work. Everyone is going to have to change what they do in order to right the sinking ship,” Lorsch said.

*This article is from the ASCB Post