Hot Topics: Science

Blog Posts (39)

June 9, 2017

Trump’s Attack on Science

Some time ago I began to write a blog about support of science, and the role of science in policy and decision making under the Trump administration. While this would seem to be a straightforward task since all of the evidence is amazingly consistent, in fact, it has been difficult. The reason it has been difficult is that each time I compile the sources and information necessary to write this blog something else happens which illustrates starkly the abandonment of the use of science by this administration. At this time, shortly after Trump’s announcement of the United States withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, I am trying to start again. I know it may be futile to expect to cover everything but I am writing anyway. There is no shortage of material. For the purpose of this blog I will focus on the message sent by Trump’s science budget proposals and not seek to be all inclusive. After all, it is the budget proposal which best states the administrations intent. I will also try to touch on the anti-science warriors who have been appointed to high level government positions, including cabinet positions.

While it is attractive to think of science as non-political, science exists in the real world and is, in fact, subject in many ways to political considerations. We have been fortunate that the politicians in Washington including both congress and the executive branch have recognized both the economic and humanitarian benefits of scientific research. They have, with a few exceptions maintained and grown the government’s support of scientific research in both basic and applied fields in both biomedical and other areas of research. This seems now to have changed. Congress fortunately has rescued the 2017 fiscal year science and technology budget from major cuts proposed by the Trump administration. However the administration has proposed draconian cuts for the 2018 fiscal year budget which starts in October 2017. It remains to be seen what that budget looks like when it has been through the Congress.

Trump’s proposed budget includes massive cuts to all federal agencies which support research. He proposes a 22% cut to the National Institutes of Health.  Both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration are slated for 30% budget reductions. Other science supporting agencies are expecting cuts of eleven to thirty two per cent. These are huge budget reductions which will cripple labs and institutions conducting science.

Trump has appointed a series of individuals who are most certainly not advocates of science to important science based government positions. This includes climate change denier Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency.  Rick Perry also a climate change skeptic as well as fossil fuel fan is now the head of the Department of Energy. Former CEO of the world’s largest fossil fuel company, Rex Tillerson is now the Secretary of State. Trump consulted with anti-vaccine crusader Robert Kennedy Jr. regarding the establishment of a commission on autism. Eighty five percent of the top science jobs in the federal government lack a Trump nominee.

The role of science as a driver, indeed the driver, of innovation and economic and technological development has been nearly universally acknowledged. We are now moving backward. Our hope lies in the fact that Trump and his cronies cannot kill science. Science is truth and truth will prevail. In the meantime things are pretty much a mess.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our website.  

June 1, 2017

When Ideology Trumps Reason, Do The Life Sciences Resist or Capitulate?

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

The world of the life sciences and medicine is being changed radically in 2017. The proposed Trump budget cuts funding for the CDC, NIH, NSF, NEH, NEA, EPA, and PHS will radically change how science is done, how much science is done and by whom.…

May 23, 2017

Dear Mr. President: It’s Time for Your Bioethics Commission

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

Last week, seven Democratic members of the U.S. House Representatives sent a letter to the White House asking President Trump to appoint a director to the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), position that normally serves as the presidential science advisor.…

May 11, 2017

It’s Not Science Fiction: Ethics of Artificial Wombs

With the advent of 3-D printers and similar technology, modern science has come closer and closer to artificially solving medical issues and imitating parts of both the anatomy and physiology of the human body. However, when it comes to issues of reproduction and pregnancy, it’s an entirely different battle. Attempts to create an artificial womb for human … More It’s Not Science Fiction: Ethics of Artificial Wombs
May 8, 2017

Woolgathering: It’s a Bag, It’s a Baby, It’s an Artificial Womb!

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

An announcement last week took the science dream of an artificial womb one step closer to science fact: premature lambs were gestated in a biobag (technically an “extra-uterine system”).…

April 25, 2017

Why I Marched

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

This past Saturday, I donned by pink knitted brain hat and joined 40,000 other scientists and allies in Chicago’s Grant Park.…

March 10, 2017

Ethics & Society Newsfeed: March 10, 2017

Politics White House Slammed by Federal Ethics Chief for Not Disciplining Kellyanne Conway U.S. government’s official ethics watchdog blasted White House for not taking disciplinary action against senior counselor Kellyanne Conway for promoting Ivanka Trump’s products on TV Trump’s Ethics Order Seen as Boost for Shadow Lobbying President Trump’s speech to the joint session of Congress … More Ethics & Society Newsfeed: March 10, 2017
February 24, 2017

Good facts, calm deliberation, and wise counsel

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored” – Aldous Huxley, Proper Studies (1927)

A recent exchange on the bioethics listserv began with a panicked message that the Presidential bioethics commissions website (bioethics.gov) has gone dark.…

February 17, 2017

Ethics & Society Newsfeed: February 17, 2017

Politics Trump Ethics Monitor: Has The President Kept His Promises? To track Trump’s ethics-related promises, NPR checked debate transcripts, campaign speeches and press conferences Trump’s South Florida estate raises ethics questions Ethics questions and possible conflicts surrounding President Donald Trump’s frequent trips to his sprawling Mar-a-Lago property, especially in regards to the invitation of Japanese Prime … More Ethics & Society Newsfeed: February 17, 2017
February 15, 2017

The National Academy of Sciences Expands its Approval for Gene Editing

by Keisha Ray, Ph.D.

This week the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released a report giving their support for altering heritable genes when previously the NAS only supported altering uninheritable genes.…

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Published Articles (4)

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 16 Issue 2 - Feb 2016

The Porosity of Autonomy: Social and Biological Constitution of the Patient in Biomedicine Jonathan Beever & Nicolae Morar

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 15 Issue 4 - Apr 2015

Ideology and Microbiology: Ebola, Science, and Deliberative Democracy Joseph J. Fins

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 13 Issue 11 - Nov 2013

If I Could Just Stop Loving You: Anti-Love Biotechnology and the Ethics of a Chemical Breakup Brian D. Earp, Olga A. Wudarczyk, Anders Sandberg & Julian Savulescu

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 13 Issue 11 - Nov 2013

The Difficult Case of Voluntariness as Autonomy in Anti-Love Biotechnology Hywote Taye

News (139)

July 18, 2017 9:00 am

Two female scientists sue Salk Institute, alleging discrimination at ‘old boys club’ (Science)

Two senior female scientists are suing their employer, the prestigious Salk Institute for Biological Studies, alleging pervasive, long-standing gender discrimination. The independent institute, in San Diego, California, was founded by polio vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk 57 years ago.

July 4, 2017 9:00 am

Single-cell sequencing made simple (Nature)

Single-cell biology is a hot topic these days. And at the cutting edge of the field is single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq). Conventional ‘bulk’ methods of RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) process hundreds of thousands of cells at a time and average out the differences. But no two cells are exactly alike, and scRNA-seq can reveal the subtle changes that make each one unique. It can even reveal entirely new cell types.

June 16, 2017 9:00 am

Biologists debate how to license preprints (Nature)

Biology’s zeal for preprints — papers posted online before peer review — is opening up a thorny legal debate: should scientists license their manuscripts on open-access terms? Researchers have now shared more than 11,000 papers at the popular bioRxiv preprints site. But where some researchers allow their bioRxiv manuscripts to be freely redistributed and reused, others have chosen to lock them down with restrictive terms.

June 7, 2017 9:00 am

Next-generation cancer drugs boost immunotherapy responses (Nature)

An approach to unleashing immune responses against cancer is showing promise in early clinical trials, and may boost the effectiveness of existing therapies. The experimental drugs target a protein called IDO, which starves immune cells by breaking down the crucial amino acid tryptophan. IDO can suppress immune responses and rein in potentially damaging inflammation. But it can also halt the body’s natural immune response to cancer and allow tumours to grow unchecked.

May 29, 2017 9:00 am

House science panel joins Trump in questioning research overhead payments (Science)

A hearing on how the U.S. government defrays the cost of doing federally funded research on college campuses might put most people to sleep. But when budgets are tight, the billions of dollars being spent each year on so-called overhead become an irresistible target for lawmakers. This past Wednesday, the science committee of the U.S. House of Representatives weighed in on the subject, one that is at the core of the U.S. research enterprise but also exceedingly complicated. The hearing gave Republicans an opportunity to voice support for lowering overhead payments, which cover things like electricity, lab maintenance, regulatory compliance, and administration.

May 26, 2017 9:00 am

Rice plant engineered with a ‘tunable’ immune system could fight multiple diseases at once (Science)

May 25, 2017 9:00 am

Fixing the tomato: CRISPR edits correct plant-breeding snafu (Nature)

From their giant fruits to compact plant size, today’s tomatoes have been sculpted by thousands of years of breeding. But mutations linked to prized traits — including one that made them easier to harvest — yield an undesirable plant when combined, geneticists have foundIt is a rare example of a gene harnessed during domestication that later hampered crop improvement efforts, says geneticist Zachary Lippman of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. After identifying the mutations, he and his colleagues used CRISPR gene editing to engineer more productive plants — a strategy that plant breeders are eager to adopt.

May 23, 2017 9:00 am

U.S. flower sellers rush to destroy illegal GE petunias (Science)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that U.S. flower distributors have begun to destroy countless petunia plants after federal scientists confirmed that they were genetically engineered (GE) to produce vivid orange, red, and purple blooms. The agency says the flowers pose no risk to the environment or to human health, but GE organisms need special permits to be sold in the United States.

May 10, 2017 9:00 am

Pocket laboratories (Nature)

Mobile phones are helping to take conventional laboratory-based science into the field, the classroom and the clinic.

April 26, 2017 12:30 pm

Fluid-filled ‘biobag’ allows premature lambs to develop outside the womb (Science)

Overcoming engineering, biology, and technology obstacles, a team of researchers has crafted what may be the best artificial womb yet: a fluid-filled bag in which lambs born early can live for up to 4 weeks, before being ushered into the outside world. Although others have designed similar systems that are still in animal testing, this one is notable for its stripped-down simplicity.

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