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Science Progressing: February 10

Science Progressing is your weekly guide to the science and technology policy news you should not have missed. Did we leave anything out? Tweet or facebook us and let us know.

STEM EDUCATION
President Obama hosts first annual White House Science Fair
Over 100 students and their science projects packed into the White House this week to participate at the super bowl of young student science fairs. The need to graduate more students with STEM degrees is at the forefront of the President’s agenda.

STEM EDUCATION
President Obama calls for investment and new approach to science education
President Obama said his upcoming budget proposal, set to be released next week, would include a request for $80 million from Congress for a new Education Department competition to support math and science teacher preparation programs.

BIOETHICS
New book frames evolving ethics of DNA databases
The new book by Dr. Bernice Elger, “Ethical Issues of Human Genetic Databases: A Challenge to Classical Health Research Ethics?” brings in-depth research and intense application of bioethics to the uses of DNA databases. Going over the history and current legal framework, this volume will be a staple on the ethics debate for some time to come.

SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY
India brings charges under its “Biodiversity Act” against Monsanto for “bio-piracy
India is charging the American company Monsanto for “bio-piracy” due to the alleged theft of indigenous eggplant varietal. There was controversy in 2009 over the genetically modified crop’s potential safety. Now, farmers with the backing of the Indian Government argue that the strain which conventionally developed over centuries has been stolen from them and modified.

CLEAN TECH
California’s green economy jobs more secure in recession
The clean economy sector in California lost only 3 percent of jobs compared to the overall 7 percent of jobs in the state of California in the great recession. Showing higher resilience to recession, it looks like green is fast becoming not just a more ethically sound investment but a safe investment.

DIVERSITY IN SCIENCE
Brainstorming on diversity in Science
The NIH has an open forum for comments from scientists on how they could increase diversity. From stronger mentoring programs to education about funding opportunities, NIH wants to know how to reach out to under-represented minorities.

CLIMATE SCIENCE
Malaria affected footprint to shift
A new study predicts that climate change will change the ranges of malaria carrying mosquitoes. A new “high-resolution” model shows the malarial zone shifting from the tropical parts of Africa into the sub-Saharan Sahel and East Africa, two of the poorest geographical locations on Earth.

STEM CELLS
Department of Defense stem cell investment may return big for soldiers suffering from severe bone fractures
Dr. Steve Stice and Dr. John Peroni of the University of Georgia Regenerative Bioscience Center used stem cells to develop a “fracture putty” that shows promise for speeding the healing of bones from weeks to days. The DoD grant of $1.4 million focuses on the men and women of the Armed Forces who have suffered severe fractures, allowing treatment of types of fractures for which current prognoses call for amputation.

BIOCOMPUTING
DNA used to process, store and render image data
Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute in California and the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology demonstrate the potential of “biological computing,” by using DNA in a “well-defined” chemical process to render and store their own institutional logos.

EVOLUTION
The animal world just got a lot older
A team of international researchers have discovered the oldest remains of an animal in Namibia. The sponge fossils have been dated to an age of about 760 million years, closing a gap that geneticist had theorized long before. Previously the oldest animal fossil was dated to be 650 million years old.

ENERGY
USDA Funds Two Renewable Energy Programs
The USDA’s first Repowering Assistance Program made available $25 million to “provide a financial incentive to biorefineries to use renewable biomass in place of fossil fuels used to produce heat or power.” Payments will be made to producers of so called “advanced” biofuels, such as cellulose, sugar and starch, crop residue, vegetative waste material, animal waste, food and yard waste, vegetable oil, animal fat, and biogas.

This week’s news compiled by Science Progress intern Jason Thomas.

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