New Sea World Ad shares ‘facts’ about captive Killer Whales #lies #science

The above ad for Sea World pretends to give lots of facts about the Orcas (Killer Whales) that reside in the parks owned by Sea World. Problem is… most Killer Whale science and scientists don’t agree with Sea World’s convenient, and probably made-up ‘facts.’ The Dodo has done a terrific job summarizing what is wrong with the Sea World ‘Facts.’ Check it out in full here. My favorite 2 below.

“I wouldn’t work here if they weren’t.”

Thriving, that is. Yet dozens of orca whale trainers have left the park in protest of the practice of keeping orca whales in captivity, many of them becoming outspoken activists against SeaWorld. One trainer recently described the company as having a “cult-like” atmosphere in which he felt obliged to stay in order to ensure the animals were being properly cared for.

“Government research shows they live just as long as whales in the wild.”

The country’s foremost oceans agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, reports that wild male orca whales typically live to 30 years old but can reach age 60, and females typically live to 50 years old by can reach 100 in the Pacific Northwest, where many of SeaWorld’s early whales were caught. Marine mammal scientist Naomi Rose has explained that SeaWorld is “cherry picking data” when it claims that its whales live comparable life spans to those in the wild.

In contrast, SeaWorld representatives have been filmed repeatedly misrepresenting the age of orca whales in the wild.

#Science Quotable: @ResearchAmerica’s Mary Woolley!! #advocacy #scicomm

The media gets a bad rap – sometimes deserved – for sensationalizing, trivializing, and generally making mincemeat of good science. The negative consequences can be enormous, leading to science skepticism that bleeds into counterproductive public policy. But just as often the media gets it right, capturing science as the workhorse it is, explaining how science addresses human challenges and what that means for people we all can relate to. 

Effective communication is critical if science is to earn and maintain public support. More and more leaders of universities are talking about making it both a recognized and rewarded component of academic success for faculty to engage in public outreach.

Last week, I shared our updated fact sheet on Infectious Disease. This week, we release our newest updated fact sheet on Alzheimer’s disease (In 2014, $15.9 billion was spent on Easter in the United States.That amount could fund NIH sponsored Alzheimer’s research for more than 28 years!).

As many times as we repeat the alarming statistics on the prevalence of Alzheimer’s – with the human and economic toll it is taking on our families and our society – the message hasn’t fully broken through. The drum beat must become louder and louder, until we convince policymakers of the need for more research to drive medical progress.

-Selected comments from CEO and President of Research!America, Mary Woolley – Check out the full statement announcing the opening of nominations for Research!America Advocacy Awards!

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


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.


The #Ebola Outbreak Continues in West Africa! New Case Counts and the safety trial for Merck-NewLink’s vaccine restarts


Despite the dissipated interest by most media outlets in the US, the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa continues. The CDC and WHO have updated Ebola case counts for the West African countries impacted most by the outbreak. The number of deaths now exceeds 8,000.

201315A clinical trial testing the safety of an Ebola vaccine has had to undergo a change in dose. The trial in Geneva, is testing a vaccine made by Merck-NewLink, and was halted in early December.

The clinical trial of an Ebola vaccine developed by Merck and NewLink resumed on Monday at a lower dose after a pause to assess complaints of joint pains in some volunteers, the University of Geneva hospital said.

@ResearchAmerica announces 2015 winners of Medical and Health Research Advocacy Awards #science

Research!America has announced the list of people and organizations it will honor as outstanding advocates for medical and health research at the 19th annual Advocacy Awards. Research!America describes the winners as ‘trailblazers in advancing medical progress to improve the health and economic security of our nation.’

The 2015 Advocacy Award winners are ABC’s “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts; Michael Milken, founder of the Milken Institute and FasterCures; Dr. Kenneth Olden, Director, National Center for Environmental Assessment, U.S. EPA; David Van Andel, Chairman and CEO, and Dr. George Vande Woude, Founding Scientific Director, Van Andel Research Institute; and the Society for Neuroscience (SfN).

“These exceptional leaders have advanced scientific discovery and innovation through their determination to improve the health of individuals worldwide,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America. “Their work has paved the way for others who are committed to ensuring that we save lives and sustain our nation’s global competitiveness with robust support for research.”

More info on each of the winners and descriptions of the terrific work they do at the Research!America blog and at the website for the Advocacy Awards.

Video from 2014 Advocacy Awards:

What’s up with our “rabid” obsession with ebola?

Interesting piece in the Huffington Post about the Rabid Opposition to Ebola: where epidemiology meets hyperbole.

The current Ebola outbreak is obviously terrible (the worst in history), and the disease is quite scary with somewhere around ~10% survival rate… but the current American “freak out” maybe some what of an exaggeration, according to this piece.  Western Africa lacks a lot of the routine, common medical facilities found here.  So while devastating in Africa, the likelihood of Ebola becoming an issue in the U.S. is quite minimal.  Yet, why the huge obsession and fear?  From the article:

What makes Ebola such a devastating disease in Africa is the lack of medical facilities to contain it. When family members in remote villages tend to one another, there is — of course — routine and rather copious exposure to infected body fluids, including blood. This is the very thing the gloves and gowns in routine use in every hospital in the U.S. are intended to prevent. When isolation precautions are taken, the degree of personal protection is considerably greater still. When need be, we have recourse to even more extreme forms of quarantine. 

Another really good point:

Perhaps the exaggerated fear of Ebola is in part due to the vanishingly remote likelihood of an outbreak here in the U.S., and the fact that there has never been one. When it comes to risks, familiarity does seem to breed contempt. We Americans routinely dismiss, for instance, the perils of eating badly or want of exercise — which will be the leading causes of premature death among us. We are dismissive about the threat of flu as well, because the virus is familiar. Our perceptions often distort risk, hyperbolizing the exotic and trivializing the mundane.

If we were at all rational about health risks, we should certainly consider closing our borders to tobacco. We would close them to soft drinks as well if a considered assessment of net harm were the basis for our actions. And maybe we would even do something to stave the trade of high-capacity, semi-automatic weapons.

Exhortations about the risks of Ebola in the U.S. are not the product of rational assessment. They are the product of excitement and exaggeration, and fear of the exotic. They are born of hyperbole, not epidemiology. They represent opposition of the rabid, knee-jerk variety.

There is a lot to be said about media portrayal of world issues… and how the dramatic, unique, and even “exciting” stories repeatedly make top headlines.  I’m not saying this disease isn’t terrible… it’s awful and devastating to those in West Africa.  But a good point to be made is that we have much more serious and threatening “killers” in this country that frequently go under-mentioned and undiscussed.


Are you a scientist with a social media presence? Beware of your ‘Kardashian Index’ #hilarious #science

Shadan Larki for The Daily Dot informs us all about the scientific ‘Kardashian Index’ created by University of Liverpool geneticist Neil Hall:

“Consider Kim Kardashian; she comes from a privileged background and, despite having not achieved anything consequential in science, politics or the arts … she is one of the most followed people on Twitter and [one of] the most searched-for [people] on Google,” Hall wrote in his full report. “I am concerned that phenomena similar to that of Kim Kardashian may also exist in the scientific community.”

Enter Hall’s solution, the “Kardashian Index.” It’s “a measure of discrepancy between a scientist’s social media profile and publication record based on the direct comparison of numbers of citations and Twitter followers.”

Check out the article for some featured tweets from scientists with social media presence! Including this one from Jonathon Eisen (@phylogenomics):

eisen k index