Category Archives: Media

About damn time: Call for open science on Zika


One of our pet peeves here at esnl has been the almost complete privatization of scientific research, even when the work is done at public universities on the public payroll.

Scientific journals have, with a few notable exceptions, been walled off behind prohibitive paywalls, and we’ve seen costs to read a single article running as high as $100. [With the open access journals, there’s still one problem: Researchers must pay as much as $4,500 or more to make their work openly available].

University and libraries who want to provide access to faculty and students have been extorted for exorbitant sums, the antithesis of what the scientific community, with its emphasis on sharing of information, is supposed to be all about.

But with the Zika pandemic surging, a call has been issued to open up all research on the disease and its effects to free and open access.

It’s a good start, but only that.

From the Wellcome Trust:

Global scientific community commits to sharing data on Zika

10 February 2016

Leading global health bodies including academic journals, NGOs, research funders and institutes, have committed to sharing data and results relevant to the current Zika crisis and future public health emergencies as rapidly and openly as possible.

Organisations including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Médecins Sans Frontières, the US National Institute of Health and the Wellcome Trust, along with leading academic journals including Nature, Science and the New England Journal of Medicine, have signed a joint declaration and hope that other bodies will come on board in the coming weeks.

The statement is intended to ensure that any information that might have value in combatting the Zika outbreak is made available to the international community, free of charge, as soon as is feasibly possible. Journal signatories provide assurance that doing so will not preclude researchers from subsequently publishing papers in their titles.

It follows a consensus statement arising from a WHO consultation in September 2015, in which leading international stakeholders from multiple sectors affirmed that timely and transparent pre-publication sharing of data and results during public health emergencies must become the global norm.

Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust and a signatory of the statement, said: “Research is an essential part of the response to any global health emergency. This is particularly true for Zika, where so much is still unknown about the virus, how it is spread and the possible link with microcephaly.

“It’s critical that as results become available they are shared rapidly in a way that is equitable, ethical and transparent. This will ensure that the knowledge gained is turned quickly into health interventions that can have an impact on the epidemic.

“It’s extremely heartening to see so many leading international organisations united in this unprecedented commitment to open science, reinforcing the decision by  the WHO to declare Zika a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.”

Statement on Data Sharing in Public Health Emergencies:

The arguments for sharing data, and the consequences of not doing so, have been thrown into stark relief by the Ebola and Zika outbreaks.

In the context of a public health emergency of international concern, there is an imperative on all parties to make any information available that might have value in combatting the crisis.

We are committed to working in partnership to ensure that the global response to public health emergencies is informed by the best available research evidence and data, as such:

  • Journal signatories will make all content concerning the Zika virus free to access. Any data or preprint deposited for unrestricted dissemination ahead of submission of any paper will not pre-empt its publication in these journals.
  • Funder signatories will require researchers undertaking work relevant to public health emergencies to set in place mechanisms to share quality-assured interim and final data as rapidly and widely as possible, including with public health and research communities and the World Health Organisation.

We urge other organisations to make the same commitments.

This commitment is in line with the consensus statement agreed at a WHO expert consultation on data sharing last year whereby researchers are expected to share data at the earliest opportunity, once they are adequately controlled for release and subject to any safeguards required to protect research participants and patients.

Signatories to the Statement

Academy of Medical Sciences, UK
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
The British Medical Journal (BMJ)
Bulletin of the World Health Organization
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention
The Department of Biotechnology, Government of India
The Department for International Development (DFID)
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
eLife
The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
F1000
Fondation Mérieux
Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Fiocruz)
The Institut Pasteur
Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED)
The JAMA Network
The Lancet
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF)
National Academy of Medicine
National Institutes of Health, USA
National Science Foundation, USA
The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM)
PLOS
Science Journals
South African Medical Research Council
Springer Nature
UK Medical Research Council
Wellcome Trust
ZonMw – The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development

Headline of the day: What evading taxes gets you


From BBC News, rewards for the head of the company that deftly avoids taxes, both at home and abroad [though at least one country has taken action]:

Google boss becomes highest-paid in US

The chief executive of Google, Sundar Pichai, has been awarded $199m (£138m) in shares, a regulatory filing has revealed.

Google autocomplete vs leading politicians


What happens when you’re sitting at your newsroom desk in Europe and Google the last names of leading politicians in the Europe and the U.S. followed by the verb “is” and wait to see the suggestions offered by the world’s leading search engine?

That’s what folks at New Europe decided to find out, and the results are, shall we say, verrry interesting, as these screencaps show.

From New Europe:

BLOG Autocomplete

Chart of the day: European online insecurities


From Eurostat [PDF], with the average for the 27 member European Union [minus Romania, which lacked the data] in black:

In the European Union (EU), the proportion of internet users having experienced certain common security issues over the  internet — such as viruses affecting devices, abuse of personal information, financial losses or children accessing inappropriate websites — stood  at 25% in 2015. In  other  words, three-quarters (75%) of internet users encountered no such online security problems in 2015.

In the European Union (EU), the proportion of internet users having experienced certain common security issues over the internet — such as viruses affecting devices, abuse of personal information, financial losses or children accessing inappropriate websites — stood at 25% in 2015. In other words, three-quarters (75%) of internet users encountered no such online security problems in 2015.

Chart of the day: Perceived Euro media bias


How Europeans perceive media bias in their own countries, via YouGovUK:

BLOG Euromedia

Julian Assange gets ol’ Palestinian treatment


You know, the one in which a few small powers reject the overwhelming votes in their favor from a vast majority of the world’s nations.

First, from the Los Angeles Times:

‘How sweet it is,’ WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange declares after U.N. panel backs his freedom

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Friday he felt vindicated by the findings of a United Nations panel that ruled he should be allowed to walk free.

And the inevitable, via Deutsche Welle:

Assange stays put as Britain, Sweden reject UN decision

The British and Swedish authorities have rejected a UN panel’s findings and say WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will still face arrest if he exits Ecuador’s embassy. He’s not budging, reports Samira Shackle from London

UPDATE: From The Real News Network, an interview [transcript] on Britain’s response with Assange’s own attorney:

UK Rejects UN Ruling that Assange Detention Is Illegal

Program notes:

After the UN finds Assange to be arbitrarily detained, Assange attorney Carey Shenkman explains how the UK is undermining the authority of the UN while simultaneously relying on it to release detained UK citizens

BBC News covers Old Blighty umbrage:

Julian Assange decision by UN panel ridiculous, says Hammond

The UK foreign secretary has branded as “ridiculous” a UN panel’s ruling that Julian Assange be allowed to go free, as the Wikileaks founder demanded the decision be respected.

And the response, via the Guardian:

Julian Assange accuses UK minister of insulting UN after detention finding

Foreign secretary Philip Hammond dismisses panel’s finding as ‘ridiculous’ but WikiLeaks founder hails ‘sweet victory’

Anonymous voices our own sentiments, and much more graphically:

BLOG Anon

Facebook: Stay away for a good night’s sleep


And since we’re on an academic and media jag today, another scientific study of note, from the University of California at Irvine newsroom:

UCI researchers link compulsive Facebook checking to lack of sleep

Study correlates tiredness, bad mood, distractibility and social media browsing

If you find yourself toggling over to look at Facebook several dozen times a day, it’s not necessarily because the experience of being on social media is so wonderful. It may be a sign that you’re not getting enough sleep.

In a recently completed study, researchers at the University of California, Irvine demonstrated that lack of sleep – in addition to affecting people’s moods and productivity – leads to more frequent online activities such as browsing Facebook.

“When you get less sleep, you’re more prone to distraction,” said lead researcher Gloria Mark, a UCI informatics professor. “If you’re being distracted, what do you do? You go to Facebook. It’s lightweight, it’s easy, and you’re tired.”

Sleep deprivation can lead to loss of productivity throughout the economy. It can cause workplace mishaps and make drivers fall asleep at the wheel. Experts in the field of human-computer interaction want to know how sleep loss impacts people so they can design better technologies and products.

“There have been lots of studies on how information technology affects sleep. We did the opposite: We looked at how sleep duration influences IT usage,” said Mark, who will present the findings at a leading computer-human interaction conference in May.

She and her colleagues collected data from 76 UCI undergraduates – 34 males and 42 females – for seven days during the spring 2014 quarter. The study controlled for students’ gender, age, course load and deadlines and relied on sensors to objectively gauge their behavior, activities and stress levels.

Students’ computers and smartphones were equipped with logging software, and time stamps recorded when subjects switched from one application window to another and when they spoke on the phone or texted. They were asked to fill out a sleep survey each morning and an end-of-day survey at night.

Participants also filled out a general questionnaire and sat for an exit interview. Periodically throughout the week, they received probing questions from researchers regarding their mood, the perceived difficulty of whatever task was at hand, and their level of engagement in their work.

Central to the study was a concept known as “sleep debt,” the accumulated difference between the amount of sleep needed and the amount experienced.

Mark said the study’s findings show a direct connection among chronic lack of sleep, worsening mood and greater reliance on Facebook browsing. She also found that the less sleep people have, the more frequently their attention shifts among different computer screens, suggesting heightened distractibility.

Mark’s UCI collaborators on the study, funded by the National Science Foundation, were Yiran Wang from the Department of Informatics and Melissa Niiya and Stephanie Reich from the School of Education.

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