:: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 11-20-2014
The news waves have been exploding recently with a story on a congressional bill that prevents scientists from providing their expert opinion on matters of public interest. As reported by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas)in the congressional blog The Hill, the Secret Science Act of 2014 prevents the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from “relying on scientific studies that involve personal health information or other data that is legally protected from public disclosure”. Essentially, this law will mean that scientists will not be able to advise the government in areas relating to their own scientific expertise due to the potential conflict of interest involved. On the other hand, experts that are paid by corporations will have a say in matters of legal policy pertaining to their particular area of interest.
In an article written on Roll Call, Dr. Andrew A. Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, complains that the “Secret Science Bill” will actually grind the activities of the EPA’s scientific advisory board (SAB) to a screeching halt. SABs traditionally have good checks in place to ensure that their advice is unbiased and that any conflicts of interest are disclosed up front. The new bill will impose a huge amount of red tape onto this process which will ultimately result in tying the hands of the very scientists who are meant to represent the best interest of the public.
As mentioned by Rep. Johnson:
These bills are the culmination of one of the most anti-science and anti-health campaigns I’ve witnessed in my 22 years as a member of Congress
Do you believe that the current government is anti-science or are they simply ensuring that all sides, (corporate and public), are represented fairly in matters affecting public interest?
:: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 11-05-2013
The following videos help explain:
1. What is the Nogoya Protocol
2. Why is the Nogoya Protocol necessary?
:: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 11-04-2013
The United Nations (UN) is working to ensure that the benefits of genetic resources are shared in a fair and equitable way via the Nagoya Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The Nagoya Protocol was adopted in 2010 to provide a transparent legal framework for sharing genetic resources. “Its objective is the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources, thereby contributing to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity,” according to the UN.
A new report from the Synthetic Biology Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars looks at how the protocol may affect U.S. researchers working in the field of synthetic biology.
:: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 12-21-2010
This week, John Holdren, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, issued a Memorandum to the Heads of Departments and Agencies (posted on the White House blog) describing new governmental standards put forth to restrict political interference in scientific processes and expand assurances of transparency.
The memorandum also includes statements on the importance of selecting governmental scientists on the basis of their experience (rather than their political affiliation), providing open access to scientific information and allowing federal scientists to speak to the media without interference.
There are a number of sections in the memorandum which don’t hold much interest for me, such as the establishment of Federal Advisory Committees (reminds me too much of my thesis defense) and professional development of government scientists. Nonetheless, as I contemplate this memo, I believe that the American Biotechnologist community may have the most to gain from the aforementioned policies. This might sound surprising coming from someone who is generally boggled by politics, however I believe that concepts such as open access to scientific information which is free from political influence will be much appreciated by the scientific community.
Not everyone, however, shares my enthusiasm (or naivety). For example, Peter Aldhous of New Scientist quotes Francesca Grifo of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ as saying that the memorandum does not go far enough to define “minimum standards” and that too much “discretion is being left to individual agencies” to determine what actions are appropriate. Furthermore, MSNBC quotes Al Teich, the director of science policy at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) who worries that “the word ‘appropriate’ appears a half a dozen times in (the) document, (which) means there’s a lot of discretion for these agencies as to how they implement it.”
Whatever the case may be, I am truly a scientist at heart, and I continue to place myself far from the world of political pundits. Nonetheless, this document did attract my attention and I’m very curious to hear what you, my fellow American Biotechnologists, think of it as well.