John Oliver discusses Scientific Studies

If you didn’t catch the latest episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, be sure to do so. Summary here:

On Sunday’s Last Week Tonight, John Oliver debunked scientific studies that make outrageous claims. Oliver pointed to an example of an all too familiar subject of studies: Coffee. “In just the last few months, we’ve seen studies about coffee that claim it may reverse the effects of liver damage, help prevent colon cancer, decrease the risk of endometrial cancer, and increase the risk of miscarriage. Coffee today is like god in the old testament: It will either save you or kill you, depending on how much you believe in its magic powers.”

These studies can have serious consequences. Oliver explained that they are rarely replicated or fact checked, but that hasn’t stopped news organizations from actively reporting on the studies as truth. The contradictory nature of the these salacious studies can lead people to dismissing actual science that has been peer reviewed… like climate change.

There are always scientific experiments that haven’t yet been replicated or that are just waiting to be disproven. That is because science is a work in progress… we are always improving techniques, and learning more about subjects. I think the real problem lies with the media taking scientific evidence and portraying it as “fact” in order to boost viewership of the story. While scientists can always work harder to improve communication skills, this is a two-way street, and the media simply needs to do a better job of reporting on science.

What is the deal with @NERCscience’s RSS #BoatyMcBoatface?? #NameOurShip

In case you haven’t heard, a research vessel being built in the UK to the tune of $290 billion, may be christened the RRS Boaty McBoatface after an online poll to name the ship went viral.

When scientists in the U.K. asked the public to name their new $290 million polar research ship, they expected the name of an explorer such as Sir Ernest Shackleton or a naturalist like David Attenborough to eventually be emblazoned across the vessel’s bow.

However, they didn’t factor in the Brits’ oddball sense of humor

By 9 a.m. Monday (5 a.m. ET), more than 27,000 people had voted to name the ship “RRS Boaty McBoatface.”

The poll was launched Thursday by the National Environment Research Council, the government-funded body building the ship in Cammell Laird shipyard, near Liverpool.

The ship itself is amazing, and we look forward to the science that will come from its missions. However, we also can’t stop laughing at the potential future name of the ship. While it poses a conundrum for NERC, it has also resulted in TONS of press for the organization and its new ship!!

The name Boaty McBoatface was suggested by James Hand, who has since apologized for causing trouble on the poll, but refuses to deny the awesomeness of the name he submitted!!

CERN LGBT scientists targeted by other CERN scientists #science #hate

The CERN particle accelerator in Geneva, Switzerland has made huge discoveries in particle physics over the last few years. Unfortunately, it seems that CERN is also home to some hateful scientists (via Towleroad):

Kasich seems to have the right opinion on climate change #climate #GOP

In contrast to Marco Rubio last night, John Kasich seems to be moving in the right direction in terms of his stance on climate change. FINALLY someone in the GOP seems to be having somewhat rational thoughts on this matter (from Huffington Post):

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) knows human activity contributes to climate change, but that doesn’t mean he’s against it.

“I do believe we contribute to climate change,” he said. “We want all the sources of energy. We want to dig coal but we want to clean it when we burn it. We believe in natural gas, we believe in nuclear power, and you know what else I believe in? I happen to believe in solar energy, wind energy, efficiency, renewables.”

He later clarified that, “we don’t know how much humans actually contribute.”

YAAAAS Kasich… thank you for admitting that humans contribute to climate change, and that solar and wind energy are viable alternatives.

Why Science should matter to the presidential candidates #SuperTuesday

Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, The Science Coalition is asking people to answer the question: Why should science matter to the presidential candidates? Check out some responses just in time for Super Tuesday. For more information, click here.

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 (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!)


Obama asks congress for $$$ to fight Zika

President Barack Obama will ask the U.S. Congress for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funds to fight Zika at home and abroad and pursue a vaccine, the White House said on Monday, but he added there is no reason to panic over the mosquito-borne virus.

Zika, spreading rapidly in South and Central America and the Caribbean, has been linked to severe birth defects in Brazil, and public health officials’ concern is focused on pregnant women and women who may become pregnant.

Obama’s request to Congress includes $200 million for research, development and commercialization of new vaccines and diagnostic tests for the virus.

Read more from Reuters here.

Get involved in #ASAPbio

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Share your ideas on accelerating scientific publishing with ASAPbio

ASAPbio is a meeting that aims to accelerate the pace of research in biology by removing barriers to the use of preprints (versions of scientific manuscripts posted online at a validated server prior to peer review and journal publication).

Preprints allow scientific findings to be posted immediately in a format freely accessible to anyone in the world. They can help scientists get productive feedback on their work and also could serve as interim evidence for productivity. While preprints have been a key aspect of the physics community for decades, they are not widely used in biology because 1) they are not compatible with the policies of some journals, 2) they are not officially acknowledged by many funding agencies, and 3) there is uncertainty regarding whether a preprint will be respected as a legitimate form of communication in the biology community.

The meeting will bring roughly 70 leaders from funding agencies, journals, scientific societies, and the biology community to HHMI Headquarters on February 16th and 17th to discuss concrete immediate steps and areas of future development. However, change cannot occur without the involvement of the broader community.

Therefore, all biologists are invited to visit to take a 3-minute survey to share their opinions on preprints, comment on white papers written by attendees, and register their opinions via Twitter with #ASAPbio.

Furthermore, tune in at 7pm Eastern on Tuesday, February 16th to watch a video stream of introductory talks and the keynote address by Paul Ginsparg (founder of the physics preprint server arXiv). You can also view a stream of all plenary talks on February 17th (starting at 8am) and listen in to individual breakout sessions. Throughout the whole meeting, viewers are encouraged to submit comments and questions through the website, or on Twitter with the hashtag #ASAPbio.

Girl Power! HHMI selects female biochemist Erin O’Shea as next President

Who run the (world) HHMI? Girls!

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has named Erin O’Shea its sixth president, effective September 1, 2016. O’Shea currently serves as HHMI’s chief scientific officer, a position she has held since 2013.

O’Shea will succeed Robert Tjian, HHMI’s president since 2009. Tjian announced last year that he would step down and return to the University of California, Berkeley.

Kurt Schmoke, chairman of the HHMI Trustees and head of the committee that conducted the search, commented: “We’re delighted to welcome Dr. O’Shea into her new leadership role as the next president of HHMI. She is not only a distinguished scientist but also a leader committed to advancing HHMI’s unique role in the research community. Going forward, Dr. O’Shea will build on her accomplishments at HHMI, as well as the success of outgoing HHMI President Bob Tjian. We look forward to this exciting new chapter.”

O’Shea, 50, is a leader in the fields of gene regulation, signal transduction, and systems biology. An HHMI investigator since 2000, she has served on the faculty of Harvard University and the University of California, San Francisco. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. O’Shea received her undergraduate degree in biochemistry from Smith College and her PhD degree in chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Since joining HHMI in 2013, O’Shea has worked to enhance diversity in science, and to expand the institute’s support for researchers across career stages and its collaborations with other funders, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Simons Foundation, and the Wellcome Trust.

“HHMI pursues high-risk, high-reward science that can change the future,” said O’Shea. “I’m honored to have the opportunity to lead the institute, and I look forward to the important work ahead.”