Reducing Community Forum Spam through Machine Learning and Automation

first_img“Like an avalanche.” “Like a freight train.” “Like a tidal wave.”These may be clichés, but they aptly describe the overwhelmed feeling I had last April.As community capability manager for the majority of Intel external communities, I’m responsible for many aspects of keeping the communities up and running – and that includes protecting them against spam. Spam has always been a sporadic problem, but in April 2015 Intel’s community forums were inundated in spam – up to 10,000 unwanted posts per day.The typical reactive activities we employed to control spam, which are pretty standard across the industry, couldn’t scale to such a level. Volunteer moderators and Intel employees were spending unsustainable amounts of time and effort watching for and deleting unwanted posts. The community forum platform we use includes some out-of-the-box controls, such as the ability to define certain phrases and users to block. The problem with using filters is that there are an infinite number of phrases and user accounts. You can’t block them all. As soon as we’d block one phrase or one user, the spammers would just slightly modify the phrase (such as using symbols instead of letters, putting spaces between each letter, or misspelling a word), or create a new account. We’d block and the spammers would adjust… rinse and repeat. We simply couldn’t keep up. There had to be a better way.To complicate matters, we have several separate instances of the community forum platform. Every filter, every user account block, had to be repeated on each instance. Plus, not all rules applied to all instances. For example, in 90 percent of the cases, we should block posts containing the word “casino,” because advertisements for online or real casinos is not appropriate content for Intel forums. But wait, we’re Intel. We have silicon and other products embedded in slot machines. So there may be instances where “casino” actually makes sense in an Intel community forum post.In fact, Intel technology is potentially involved in every industry. As the Internet of Things evolves and becomes ubiquitous, it becomes harder and harder to define a one-size-fits-all rule to block this or that word or phrase. For example, “appliance repair” used to be a phrase that we would automatically label as spam. But now most appliances are connected devices, and so it becomes increasingly likely that a post about refrigerators or microwave ovens may NOT be spam.Again, there had to be a better way. A way to apply more intelligence and more proactive methodologies instead of the endless battle we were waging. Fighting spam is not my or the volunteer moderators’ primary job function. For the spammers, it’s their only job – they’re dedicated to finding ways around what we’re doing. It was clear that traditional and reactive manual efforts could not win. We simply didn’t have enough resources.The answer lay in automation and machine learning.Intel is already putting the power of automation to work in many areas, such as PC health monitoring and factory processes. Automation has increased efficiency and effectiveness in these areas, and we wanted to gain the same benefits for spam control. The automated solution we developed is described in detail in our recent white paper, “Preventing Spam on Intel Public Community Forums.”Two aspects of our solution are especially effective in helping block spam on Intel’s community forums:Machine learning. Using sophisticated machine-learning techniques, the spam-filtering service blocks unwanted and malicious content automatically. It uses a reputation-based system to monitor user profiles and discern the likelihood of a given source submitting spam.Multilingual analysis. Using text analytics, the spam filter detects harmful content, such as profanity and other spam-related content, in 75 languages.Attacks dropped off immediately after we implemented the spam-filtering solution in June, and spam levels have remained manageable ever since. Spikes have all but disappeared thanks to the spam-filtering service’s ability to learn.The word has gotten out about how effective the solution is. Several business groups at Intel, who maintain their own community forums apart from those protected by our automated solution, have initiated conversations about how they might adapt learnings from our project to their own forums.From our research during our quest for a better solution, we know that Intel is not alone in this – many other large companies with community forums are facing the same problem. Spam has always been a problem and always will be even with our solution – but I’d be happy to share some details of how we implemented the automated solution. I’d also like to hear what other IT professionals are doing to fight spam on community forums. Please join the conversation by leaving a comment below.last_img read more

Andy Grove, Internet E-mail, and Analytics

first_imgWhen I heard that Andy Grove died, I immediately thought back to the one direct interaction that I had with him.  Early in my Intel career, I worked in a research group as a systems administrator handling an e-mail gateway to CSNET, a network that was a key milestone to the development of the global Internet.  We set up the connection as a way for our own researchers to connect via e-mail to other corporate and academic researchers.  At an internal review session describing our projects, Andy Grove asked me, “so what are people doing with it?”  I remember that I really couldn’t give him a good answer to what was a perfectly valid and logical question, and I was in an uncomfortable situation if you know anything about Andy Grove.  But it did help drive me to think about e-mail analytics.  What we implemented then in a primitive way (compared to how we do it today) could address Andy’s question.In the early days of Internet connectivity through CSNET, e-mail was the major form of communication. Our experience started in early 1987 at a few hundred e-mail messages a week.   Over the first eight years of connectivity, Internet e-mail traffic grew exponentially.  With that growth came challenges in analyzing that e-mail traffic.  Our initial analysis listed the top senders and receivers both to and from the Internet in terms of total messages and bytes.  We also flagged very large messages going in and out.A simple PERL script was once able to perform all of Internet e-mail analysis.  As the number of messages began to grow dramatically, we ended up generating summaries on a daily basis and then collating those into a weekly format.  Now, when Intel analyzes its internal e-mail, Big Data techniques are needed to deal with the sheer scale of data available (our analysis infrastructure shown below).  Another difference from the early Internet days regards privacy.  We once simply analyzed mail logs and listed top users. Now with worldwide privacy requirements, analysis of things like mail logs and other usage logs that contain Personally Identifiable Information (PII) must to be carefully managed to ensure compliance with approved privacy plans and policies.Looking back to Andy Grove’s question, what were people doing with e-mail?  Back then, mail-based discussion lists, a primitive predecessor to today’s social media, were a major generator of e-mail.  In Intel’s e-mail world today, messages from automated processes and software make up a significant portion of the volume.   That information and other findings from the use of Big Data analytic techniques on e-mail offer a way to reduce the e-mail burden on Intel employees, and I am sure that other organizations could benefit from a similar approach.For more information, see the following:Intel’s e-mail analytics using Big DataUsing anonymized usage logs and Big Data to Improve User ExperienceIntel’s early history using the InternetCSNETlast_img read more

Have Antivirals Helped Prevent Flu Spread?

first_imgAs yet another day goes by with the World Health Organization (WHO) not declaring that the swine flu outbreak is a full-scale pandemic, more questions are surfacing about why this novel H1N1 has not spread as easily in European and Asian communities as it has in the United States, Mexico, and perhaps Canada. At press conferences held today by WHO and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), officials suggested that the virus had spread widely in the Americas before it was detected, making containment near impossible. Europe and Asia, by contrast, had a heads-up, and countries have closely monitored travelers returning from North America, putting many infected people and their close contacts on antiviral drugs, as well as forcing some patients to remain in isolation.Both WHO and CDC stress that the daily case counts they have been providing have many limitations, as they tend to pick up the most severe cases first. CDC added that it is now more interested in trends than specific case counts. But numbers are still being tallied, and as of today, WHO reported that there were more than 5200 confirmed cases in 30 countries, nearly 90% of which were in Mexico and the United States. Nikki Shindo, who heads the clinical team at the WHO Global Influenza Programme, said each country responds according to its own plan and resources. “European countries, which are mainly importing the cases, have been using antivirals very aggressively,” says Shindo. “Maybe in Asia, because of the experience with SARS and avian H5N1 infection, they would like to stick to a higher level of security and preparedness and prevention with regard to this outbreak of H1N1.” In North America, Shindo noted, treatment with antiviral drugs is largely reserved for severe cases and people who are at greater risk from the virus because of other underlying health problems or pregnancy.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Shindo said no data can yet prove that antivirals work against this novel H1N1 virus to lessen the severity and spread of the disease, but test tube studies have shown that the virus is not resistant to the drugs.Anne Schuchat, CDC’s interim deputy director for science and public health, particularly highlighted the need for pregnant women to receive antivirals, noting that there have been 20 confirmed cases and one death in that group. Schuchat said CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report will publish data about these cases in pregnant women “fairly soon.”last_img read more

Slain Iranian Physicist’s Campus Talk Suggests Strong Reformist Ties

first_imgWho killed Masoud Alimohammadi, the Iranian physicist who was blown up outside his apartment in Teheran on 12 January by a remote-controlled motorcycle bomb?  Emerging details of the professor’s scientific and political life have strengthened the accusation by opponents of Iran’s regime that the murder was sponsored by pro-government forces and not by foreign intelligence agencies, as Iranian authorities claim. It has already been reported that Alimohammadi, a theoretical particle physicist at the University of Tehran, was one of 240 academics at the institution who had declared their support for Mir Hossein Mousavi, the main opponent of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in last year’s election. But ScienceInsider has learned that Alimohammadi’s engagement in politics went beyond that. On 5 January, just a week before he was killed, Alimohammadi gave a talk before a student gathering at his university’s physics department in which he encouraged students to press on with the reformist movement without descending into chaos. (A recording of the session was posted on YouTube last week here, but it has been subsequently removed.)  Expressing disillusionment with Iran’s current state of affairs, Alimohammadi recounted his political activism from 3 decades ago when he participated in the Islamic revolution. Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)ScienceInsider learned of the talk from Ali Nayeri, an Iranian-born physicist at Chapman University in Orange, California, who was a freshman at Sharif University in the late ’80s when Alimohammadi was earning a Ph.D. from that institution. Alimohammadi starts the talk by noting that fear of reprisals had kept many on campus from attending the event. “I, too, was instructed not to come,” he says, according to a translation.Nayeri says he and many students he has talked to at the University of Tehran believe that Alimohammadi paid a price for his activism. “His killing was masterminded by the Islamic Republic,” Nayeri alleges. “The message to academics is: ‘Don’t meddle in the political sphere.’ ” A look at Alimohammadi’s history reveals a man who went from radical Islamist roots to becoming a moderate and a reformist.As a college student in the ’80s, he was actively involved in the cultural revolution that followed the overthrow of the monarchy in 1979, serving on a university committee that worked on physics education. He became the first Iranian student to receive a Ph.D. in physics from an Iranian university. Nayeri says he saw Alimohammadi for the first time during a campus visit by the Nobelist Abdus Salam to officially inaugurate the Ph.D. program that Alimohammadi was enrolled in. Sporting a full beard, the young graduate student looked very much the pious Muslim that many say he was, Nayeri says. At the ceremony, a senior Iranian physicist touted Alimohammadi and the three other students who made up the inaugural class as proof that Iran could produce the next Salam. Nayeri says his last meeting with Alimohammadi—in 1995 at a conference in Port Anzali—offers an insight into the man’s love for his country. Nayeri told Alimohammadi, then a researcher at the Institute for Studies in Theoretical Physics and Mathematics, about his plans to go abroad for graduate studies. Alimohammadi listened quietly, without expression, puffing on a cigarette. Nayeri finally asked him why he hadn’t moved to the West to pursue a scientific career. “He said—because we wanted to show that it was possible to stay in Iran and produce world class papers,” Nayeri recalls.last_img read more

Would More Water in the Mississippi Keep Oil From the Wetlands?

first_imgOne of the unsung heroes in the fight to save Louisiana’s wetlands from the oil spill is the Mississippi River. The flow of fresh water into the Gulf of Mexico has keep the slick offshore, scientists believe. Now some are proposing to divert more water into the Mississippi to help keep the oil at bay. The immediate worry is that the flow of the Mississippi River tends to drop seasonally, starting in June. G. Paul Kemp, a coastal scientist with the National Audubon Society, says that oil will reach more of the wetlands sooner if the water flow into the delta decreases. “The river is our best tool against the oil,” Kemp told ScienceInsider. The new proposal, supported by Kemp and others, is to shift the flow of water between the Mississippi and a river in Louisiana it feeds called the Atchafalaya. A massive concrete structure about 500 kilometers upstream from the mouth of the river diverts 70% of the flow down the Mississippi and sends 30% into the Atchafalaya. Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) Robert Twilley of Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, another supporter of the idea, has organized a team of coastal science and engineering experts to evaluate major response efforts to the spill. The team is looking at the proposal and plans to have an analysis completed next week. He says several hydrodynamic models have been run to evaluate the idea. “We’ve been in conversation with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state [of Louisiana] about how to manage the river as a protection system,” Twilley says. Politically, the idea may be difficult to accomplish, he admits. The diversion structure is controlled by Congress, and earlier proposals to send more water down the Mississippi met with resistance. For more on the gulf oil spill, see our full coverage.last_img read more

East Anglia Climate Scientists Largely Cleared in Final Major Investigation

first_imgThe fifth and, so far, most thorough major investigation into the published mails from the University of East Angia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) has given the CRU a relatively clean bill of health. (See the full report.) The independent inquiry into so-called “Climategate”, instigated by UEA and headed by former civil servant Muir Russell, examined the conduct of the CRU scientists following allegations sparked by the so-called “Climategate” e-mails. It looked at selective use of data, subverting of peer review, and failure to respond fully to requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The report was unequivocal in its backing of the scientists in terms of research integrity, though it did criticize their openness. “Their rigour and honesty as scientists are not in doubt,” it said. In response to the assertion that CRU had withheld data, the report found that it was mostly not theirs to withhold but was easily accessible in public databases. One of the report’s authors, physicist Peter Clarke of the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, told a press briefing today that they were able to download the relevant data “in a few minutes” and then process it in the same way as CRU had done, producing similar final results. “It took a couple of days of code writing,” he said. The authors found no evidence of bias by CRU in its selection of data. Allegations of misuse of tree ring data were also put aside.Some of the 1000 e-mails that appeared on the Internet suggested that CRU Director Phil Jones had tried to influence peer review of papers he disagreed with and prevented them from being cited by reviews of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).On the subject of peer review, Russell said that expressing “robust opinions [about papers] was typical during peer review.” And after consulting with editors of the IPCC report, the panel concluded that the CRU scientists were “parts of teams and not individuals responsible for the wording of the reports,” Russell says. Where the CRU scientists did fall down was in their openness to requests for data. “There was a consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openness,” Russell says. And the report criticizes UEA for failing to recognize its statutory requirements under FOIA. That failure, it said, could harm the reputation of the university, as well as the credibility of U.K. climate science. Panel member James Norton said that “now more than ever scientists need to be open. Scientists don’t own their own data and at most have a temporary lease.”UEA Vice Chancellor Edward Acton welcomed the report. “I accept that we could and should have been more open,” he says. He says that Phil Jones, who stood down as CRU director during the enquiry, had accepted the new post of director of research at CRU. This would allow him to concentrate more on his and the unit’s research output while taking away some of his administrative burden. CRU as a whole would become more closely integrated into the university’s School of Environmental Science.last_img read more

Decadal Plan for Plant Science Begins to Take Shape

first_imgSunflowers. U.S. Department of Agriculture U.S. plant scientists have taken the first steps toward a 10-year plan to help improve global food supplies using sustainable practices and to make progress in understanding how plants work. There is both a great need and great potential right now, says Gary Stacey, a plant scientist at the University of Missouri, Columbia, who chaired a closed meeting last week in Bethesda, Maryland, that was organized by the American Society of Plant Biologists. The meeting attracted 75 plant scientists from institutions around the country, as well as additional representatives from government, industry, and other professional societies. Food prices and the demand for food are rising, says Stacey, climate change is affecting natural habitats as well as cropland, and there’re increasing efforts to use plants for energy. But plant scientists have largely been on the sidelines in tackling these escalating problems. “They are not recognized for their potential [contributions], maybe not even within the plant community and certainly not outside of it,” says Keith Yamamoto, a molecular biologist at University of California, San Francisco. In 2009, he led a panel from the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council whose report emphasized the potential role of plant science in meeting societal needs. Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) Workshop participants flagged food security and a need for a second, greener Green Revolution as critical issues. Progress will require new model systems, intensively studied species that provide insights useful both in basic and applied research. There should be more emphasis on describing genetic diversity, wherein genes for useful traits are tracked down in a wide range of species for potential transfer into economically useful plants. Toward that end, some participants called for expansion of transgenic technologies, such that value-added genes could be joined to a broad range of fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Other scientists stressed that plants, whose environments can be tightly controlled because they don’t move, might be better models than animals for understanding the relationship between genotype, phenotype and environment. “One of the major goals is to model and infer how plants really work, based on genomic information, in different environments,” says Jim Carrington, president of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Missouri. Major questions on the table include how genes dictate an individual’s range of traits and how the environment affects the manifestation of those traits. New sensing technologies of scales from cells to ecosystems will be needed to explore these questions, the participants pointed out. Learning how plants tolerate drought, heat, and flooding is useful not just for agriculture but also for predicting how wild species might cope with climate change, says Edward Buckler, a geneticist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Ithaca, New York. He would like to see the creation of long-term monitoring sites for agricultural environments along the lines of what the National Ecological Observatory Network, a project funded by the National Science Foundation, is hoping to do for natural habitats. Cheaper, faster genome sequencing is already revolutionizing all aspects of plant science, including the characterization of genetic diversity. Many more plant genomes should and will be sequenced, says Stacey. But sequencing will also be a boon for describing the microbiomes of plants to understand the full impact of the microbial world on plant function, particularly those that interact with roots. Yamamoto would like to see the field move beyond plant breeding as the chief means of generating new varieties because current methods can take too long. Instead, he envisions using systems biology and synthetic biology to create designer plants that can withstand, say, extreme drought or improve a food’s nutrition quality. But he’s not sure that ambitious goal will make the report’s final cut. “I didn’t hear anything that rises to the level of a 10-year challenge,” he said. “It’s a steep hill to climb to get people to think 10 years [ahead] and really be bold about things, especially when they feel so uneasy about what’s gong to happen tomorrow.” Yamamoto ‘s also not sure that a 10-year plan will lead to new funding, given the current tight budget situation. An 8-year-old estimate pegs annual federal funding for competitive plant science research at $350 million, and participants said that tripling that amount, to $1 billion, would not be unreasonable. “We can easily spend that on one telescope, so isn’t feeding the world worth as much?” asks Tom Brutnell, a plant biologist at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research in Ithaca, New York. Organizers hope to circulate a draft report of the meeting for outside comments, with the ultimate goal of issuing a final report by March 2012 with the field’s priorities. “If we can show that we made an effort to prioritize things,” Stacey explains, “I would hope that would have more influence that just [being seen] as a clamor for funding.”last_img read more

White House Unveils Long-Awaited Public Access Policy

first_imgIn a victory for open access advocates, the White House science office today released a long-awaited policy aimed at sharing the results of federally funded research with the public. The policy will require that science agencies make papers that they fund freely available online within 12 months after the results appear in a journal. The policy follows several years of consultations and a petition to the White House from open access advocates last year. It appears to have found a middle ground between the two sides in a decadelong debate over so-called “open access”—the issue of whether and when scientific papers funded with taxpayer dollars should be available, for free, to the public. Traditionally, publicly funded scientists have published their work in scholarly journals that charge fees for access to the papers. That system has broken down in recent years, however, with the advent of digital technologies and new research funding models. Many journals and scientific societies have resisted complete and immediate open access, arguing that it will destroy the revenue streams they need to survive. The new federal directive is a “landmark” and a “watershed moment,” declared a press release from the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, an open access lobbying group. The Association of American Publishers, which has called some public access mandates illegal and said they threaten the viability of journals, said the directive “outlines a reasonable, balanced resolution of issues around public access to research funded by federal agencies.” Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) The six-page directive from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) says that agencies that spend more than $100 million on research must “develop a plan to support increased public access to the results of research funded by the federal government,” including papers published in peer-reviewed journals. Each agency must come up with a draft plan within 6 months that meets several requirements. For example, it must leverage existing archives, strive to partner with journals, make it possible to access digital data, optimize the ability to search and archive papers, describe how to enforce compliance, and find ways to carry out the plan within the agency’s existing budget. The OSTP directive is similar to a 2008 National Institutes of Health (NIH) policy that requires investigators to deposit their peer-reviewed manuscripts in NIH’s PubMed Central archive for posting within 12 months after they appear in a journal. But the OSTP policy does not spell out exactly where the papers will be posted and how they will be indexed. One option, for example, would be for an agency such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) to add links to published papers to its grants database. Another might be to add links to papers that investigators have posted on a university archive. NSF and other agencies issued statements supporting the policy but not specifying how they will comply. The details “could vary by discipline, and new business models for universities, libraries, publishers, and scholarly and professional societies could emerge,” NSF’s statement says. Myron Gutmann, head of NSF’s social, behavioral, and economic sciences directorate, says that some NSF divisions are “experimenting with things,” but that officially NSF doesn’t have any agency-wide plan in the works. “You could imagine an approach with a repository like PubMed Central; you could imagine a distributed approach with a database linking to outside things. You could imagine a hybrid. But we haven’t gotten that far,” Gutmann says. Catherine Woteki, undersecretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Research, Education, and Economics division, says her agency hopes to learn from NIH’s experience with PubMed Central. “There is software we might be able to adapt for our purposes,” she says. The Association of American Publishers praised the directive’s emphasis on working with publishers and the fact that the 12 month embargo is only a guideline that agencies can “tailor” for particular scientific fields or for their mission. Martin Frank, executive director of the American Physiological Society, which has been critical of many open access efforts, also likes the fact that the directive calls for linking to a paper in the journal’s own archive. That is important because it draws readers to society Web sites with information such as notices of meeting as well as advertising. It could also save money, Frank says. “You don’t have to create a PubMed Central,” he argues. Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition Executive Director Heather Joseph says for her group, a key part of the OSTP directive is that it requires that papers be made available in a way that allows for text mining, or searching full text and data. At the same time, the directive falls short of a bill introduced this month in the House of Representatives called the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR); it would make federally funded research papers available after just 6 months. “FASTR is better,” Joseph says. But “all things being equal, this [the OSTP directive] is an enormous step forward by this administration.”last_img read more

‘A New Planet Beyond Neptune’: The year we discovered Pluto

first_imgThe news headline in the 21 March 1930 issue of Science was simple and muscular: “A New Planet Beyond Neptune.” And so was the three-page story beneath it. Astronomers at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, had spotted an unknown planet close to where the observatory’s founder, funder, and eponym, Percival Lowell, had predicted before his death 14 years earlier. Lowell had based his forecast on Herculean calculations involving glitches in the orbit of the planet Uranus. Earlier researchers had also “discovered” far-out planets by crunching numbers, but their work had fallen by the wayside. Lowell’s had stood the test of time—and his own successors had borne it out.Then the “yes, but”s began. By mid-April, “Planet X” was looking disturbingly unplanetlike. Observations showed that it was a lot smaller than Lowell had predicted, and its orbit was strangely oblong. “[I]t is now thought that it may be proved to be a unique asteroid or an extraordinary comet-like object,” Science reported. No worries, the director of the Harvard College Observatory rejoined: Such a weird, far-flung object could be “perhaps of greater importance in cosmogony” than another run-of-the-mill planet would.Things got even murkier in May after an astronomer analyzed Lowell’s original calculations and concluded that they would have given the same result even if “Planet X” didn’t exist. In short, the discovery had been an accident. Still, a reviewer pointed out, the accident was still a discovery, too: “The value of a scientific hypothesis is not to be judged by its truth but by the impulse which it gives to the search for truth.” (He also speculated that other small trans-Neptunian bodies might turn up—as indeed they did, more than 60 years later.) The upshot: partial credit for Lowell.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)The pro-Lowellites rallied. By 13 June, “Planet X” had a name, chosen in a worldwide contest. The winner, submitted by the astronomically well-connected 11-year-old daughter of a University of Oxford professor: Pluto, the Roman god of the underworld—like the outer solar system, a place of Stygian gloom. (A popular runner-up in the contest, Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, was already the name of an asteroid.) Pluto, the Lowell Observatory astronomers proclaimed, was definitely a planet and definitely Percival Lowell’s—or close enough on both counts. “This remarkable trans-Neptunian planetary body,” one wrote, “has been found as a direct result of Lowell’s work, planning and convictions and there appears present justification for referring to it as his Planet X.” That “all’s well that ends well” consensus held sway for the rest of the century.Now to see what’s really there …*See Science’s full coverage of Pluto, including regular updates on the New Horizons flyby.last_img read more

U.K. moms are turning parenting into an experiment

first_img DAVIDE FILINGERI U.K. moms are turning parenting into an experiment In one Parenting Science Gang study, sensors measure temperature variations when a baby is carried by an adult doing light exercise. By Tania RabesandratanaFeb. 14, 2018 , 1:00 PM On 21 February, about 160 lactating mothers will head to Charing Cross Hospital in London to donate 25 milliliters of milk each for an unusual scientific study. The freshly pumped samples will be analyzed to determine how the composition of human milk changes with the nursling’s age, from 3 months to 4 years old.It’s a matter about which surprisingly little is known. But the experiment is equally remarkable for its origin: A group of mothers came up with the idea for the study and designed it together with breast cancer researcher Natalie Shenker and microbial ecologist Simon Cameron, both at Imperial College London. The mothers recruited the milk donors—in just a few days—and they will be involved in the data analysis and possible write-ups.This unusual collaboration was made possible by the Parenting Science Gang (PSG), a citizen science project in the United Kingdom funded by the Wellcome Trust. It links parents, gathered in Facebook groups around a specific interest, with scientists who help them design and carry out experiments. The project, which has already initiated multiple lines of research into issues such as schooling and gender stereotypes, is an effort to bring evidence to a realm rife with uncertainty and folk wisdom. “I try to raise my children with science in mind,” explains Melissa Branzburg, a PSG member and mother of two.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Several blogs and publications have recently sprung up to address the growing hunger for evidence among science-minded parents, and some academics are dispensing advice as well. But PSG allows parents to take matters into their own hands. It was born from a smaller-scale project in which mothers studied which detergents were best to clean cloth diapers, or nappies. (“There are no scientists looking at washable nappies,” says PSG Founder and Director Sophia Collins.) The Nappy Science Gang ran from March to November 2015, with funding from the Wellcome Trust and the United Kingdom’s Royal Society of Chemistry; it showed there was no evidence that “nonbiological” detergents—which lack dirt-attacking enzymes—help avoid skin irritation. The finding led the United Kingdom’s National Health Service to rescind its recommendations to use them.After the project ended, the trust donated £147,000 to launch PSG, which started in February 2017 and will run for 2 years. Some 2000 parents are involved, the vast majority of them women, despite efforts to include fathers. PSG addresses issues that matter to mothers, whereas funding agency committees “are often made up of middle-aged white men who have a different perspective,” Collins says. “As a parent, our point of view is being taken seriously,” says PSG member Mitch Wright, a mother of one. “It makes me feel empowered.”The mothers behind the milk study want to know how human milk changes after children reach age 2. Mothers are often told there is no benefit to breastfeeding past a certain age, even though many children around the world wean between 2.5 and 7 years old. The study will also act as a pilot project to plan recruitment for a large study on the links between breast cancer risk and infant feeding, and it could benefit an area that Shenker is interested in as co-founder of the Hearts Milk Bank, based at the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom, which provides donated milk to babies in neonatal units and for research purposes. At the moment, donors are recruited in the first 6 months of their baby’s life and can donate until the infant reaches age 1. Yet Shenker says that preliminary evidence from other studies suggests that as a baby goes into toddlerhood, milk becomes higher-calorie and richer in antimicrobials. “Would that be more appropriate for a preterm baby? This could make a big difference. We don’t know.”PSG members have plenty of other questions. One subgroup teamed up with environmental physiologist Davide Filingeri, head of the Thermosenselab at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom, to help answer a question that vexes many new parents: How many layers of clothing are needed to keep babies carried in a sling comfortable while avoiding overheating? There is “surprisingly little evidence” behind oft-repeated advice to give a baby “one extra layer of clothing” beyond what an adult would wear, Filingeri says. His role was to help translate the mothers’ idea into a robust experimental design to measure babies’ temperature variations in different conditions. The study, which is ongoing, will include about 15 mother-baby pairs.A third PSG study focuses on flexi-schooling, an arrangement in which children are registered at school but attend part-time, for instance because their parents think they need additional support or to accommodate a special interest in art. The mothers will conduct a survey of parents of flexi-schooled children, as well as interviews with teachers, and will use Freedom of Information Act requests to learn the numbers of flexi-schooling requests and refusals in Scotland. Other, more recent PSG subgroups will focus on gender stereotypes, health care experiences around breastfeeding, as well as pregnancy and birth for women with a higher body mass index.Wright says PSG has so inspired her that she wants to study chemistry or forensic science. But the goal is not to turn every parent into a scientist, Collins says; nor does she expect all participants to become experts at reading scientific literature. “But they might become more critical of what they read; they might seek information from a science magazine [or a clinical body] instead of a celebrity blog.”The studies are also an opportunity for parents to learn more about the process of science. In the milk study, for instance, the mothers had to understand the practical limitations of mass spectrometry, the technique used for analyzing the milk. “They had hoped to analyze a wider range of compounds in milk, such as antibodies,” Cameron says. Filingeri says he insisted on keeping the temperature study’s scope as specific as possible, explaining to the mothers that “it’s more beneficial to focus on one question or one set of small questions.” Tara Jones, an education researcher at the University of West Scotland in Paisley who provides guidance to the flexi-schooling group, encouraged the mothers to question their preconceptions and remain objective. “They’d made certain assumptions that flexi-schooling was a good thing,” she says.Carlos González, a pediatrician in Gavá, Spain, who wrote several parenting books peppered with peer-reviewed references, applauds the initiative—and yet he cautions that parenting often isn’t about evidence, but about choices. “Science cannot tell us how to raise our children,” González says. “Science can offer data that we can use to make decisions, but it cannot decide for us, because we have beliefs, principles, desires, and goals.”last_img read more

Common pesticide makes migrating birds anorexic

first_img Margaret Eng By Elizabeth PennisiSep. 12, 2019 , 2:00 PM White-crowned sparrows stop eating after they ingest small amounts of neonicotinoid pesticides. When birds migrate, timing is everything. Fly too late, and they miss the peak season for finding good food, a good mate, or a good nest site. But that’s just what may happen to migrants unlucky enough to eat pesticide-laced seeds, new research shows. Toxicologists studying white-crowned sparrows have shown that these large, grayish sparrows become anorexic after eating neonicotinoid pesticides, causing them to lose weight and delay their southward journeys. The study might apply to other birds as well—and help explain the dramatic songbird decline of recent decades, researchers say.Neonicotinoids are the world’s most widely used class of pesticide. They protect seeds—and the plants that grow from them—from insects resistant to other pesticides. But scientists have recently found that they can decimate pollinators like honey bees and bumble bees. Such concerns led the European Union to ban three of these compounds in 2018.Laboratory studies have shown that neonicotinoids sicken and disorient captive birds, but no data existed on how they affect wild birds, who often swoop into fields to nosh on pesticide-laced seeds. Wondering whether pesticide exposure might explain a massive recent decline in farmland bird species, Margaret Eng, an ecotoxicologist at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, and her colleagues got to work.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)The researchers caught dozens of white-crowned sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys) in southern Ontario province in Canada as the birds migrated from the Arctic to the southern United States. They kept the birds in cages with food and water for 6 hours. About a dozen received low doses of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid—equivalent to what they might ingest had they eaten several seeds from a recently planted field. Another dozen got a lower dose of the pesticide, and control birds received the same handling but no pesticide. After 6 hours, Eng put a tiny radio transmitter on each bird’s back and released it into a 100,000-square-kilometer site in Ontario, where 93 regularly spaced radio towers track tagged animals.Within hours, birds with the highest pesticide dose lost an average of 6% of their body weight and about 17% of their fat stores, which are key to fueling long flights, Eng and colleagues report today in Science. Over the course of those 6 hours, the birds given pesticides stopped eating, taking in about one-third the food that untreated birds ate, they note.Nor did the birds recover quickly when released. Half of the high-dose birds stuck around Ontario an extra 3.5 days or longer. “It’s just a few days, but we know that just a few days can have significant consequences for survival and reproduction,” Eng explains. She thinks the birds needed that extra time to get the pesticide out of their systems, start to eat again, and regain their lost fat.The paper provides “a compelling set of observations” that shows how even low doses of neonicotinoids can affect bird survival and reproduction, says Mark Jankowski, a toxicologist at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul who was not involved with the work. These effects could help explain declines in sparrow populations—and may apply to other birds, says Caspar Hallmann, an ecologist at Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. But more work would be needed to prove that, Jankowski adds.Few researchers think the United States or Canada will have the political will to ban neonicotinoids despite the harms, because they are so protective for plants. But there are workarounds, says Nicole Michel, a population biologist with the National Audubon Society’s Conservation Science Division in Portland, Oregon. For example, rather than treat all seeds before they are planted, farmers could save money and reduce birds’ exposure by applying the pesticide to plants only after an insect outbreak occurs. Jankowski says researchers could also explore other methods to reduce birds’ exposure, including coming up with better ways to bury seeds—and remove those that spill—during planting. Common pesticide makes migrating birds anorexiclast_img read more

Three percent of NIH grants involved a direct financial conflict of interest, watchdog report finds

first_img Equity interests Although the rate of 3% of grants with a conflict of interest might seem low, it “doesn’t sound unreasonable” because NIH only wants to be informed about conflicts that could bias a specific NIH-funded project, says Heather Pierce, a policy expert for the Association of American Medical Colleges in Washington, D.C. An investigator could have many other financial ties, such as those that show up in a federal database of payments that drug companies make to physicians, that have nothing to do with a specific NIH grant, she notes.But the low number of reports surprises some experts on conflicts of interest in biomedicine. In surveys and other studies, about 25% or more of academic biomedical researchers have reported industry relationships, notes Sheldon Krimsky of Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. The OIG report “doesn’t tell us the whole story,” he says. And research integrity expert Lisa Bero of the University of Sydney in Australia says many researchers don’t understand the reporting rules—such as a prominent cancer researcher who lost his job because he thought many of his payments from drug companies did not need to be reported in his research papers. Bero suggests allowing investigators to determine which conflicts they believe are relevant to their work and should be reported to their institutions “is a real loophole” that could be minimizing the true scope of financial conflicts. 49% Values of financial conflicts Investments About half of these significant financial interests involved researchers holding an equity stake in a company. One-fourth involved payment for services. Institutions said they could not readily report monetary values for about 45% of reported conflicts, mostly because they involved privately owned equities, the OIG report says. When institutions did tell NIH dollar values of significant financial interests posing conflicts, 85% were less than $100,000 (see graph).The report urges NIH to correct inconsistencies with how officials at different NIH institutes scrutinize information on reported conflicts. NIH should also consider asking institutions specifically about researchers’ foreign conflicts of interest, amid rising concern that scientists with funding from China and other countries are threatening the integrity of U.S.-funded biomedical research. National Institutes of Health 8% Intellectual property rights 1% 10% Other ≥$600,000 Reporting financial conflicts of interest to the National Institutes of Health In 2018, grantees’ institutions described 3978 significant financial interests. (Some grantees had more than one conflict per grant.) 2 Payment services Salary By Jocelyn KaiserSep. 30, 2019 , 5:20 PM 1%center_img $300,000– 599,999 14% 4 National Institutes of Health 14% 71% Graphic: A. Cuadra/Science; Data: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General Travel 2% Percentages are rounded. Types of financial conflicts 24% Financial conflicts of interest that could bias researchers funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) are rare, a report released last week found: About 3% of the 55,600 grants the agency awarded in 2018 involved at least one researcher reporting such a conflict. But some experts question whether the data are capturing all relevant conflicts.The 25 September report by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), NIH’s parent agency, follows a 2008 OIG analysis that found NIH was not collecting adequate data on financial conflicts, such as payments from drug companies for consulting or royalties from patents. The report helped prompt HHS to tighten its reporting rules, which now require investigators to tell their institution about all conflicts related to their institutional duties. The institutions then tell NIH about those that could bias an NIH-funded research project and explain how the conflict will be managed.A decade on, NIH’s improved tracking system allows a count for the first time. OIG found that in 2018, 202 of 2064 grantee institutions reported any financial conflicts of interests. A total of 1668 unique grants had at least one conflict. In total, 3978 separate “significant financial interests” were reported, because grants can have more than one investigator, and each investigator can have several types of conflicts.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) <$40,000 Three percent of NIH grants involved a direct financial conflict of interest, watchdog report finds $40,000– 99,999 $100,000– 299,999last_img read more