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Science Progressing: March 23

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.

FUNDING SCIENCE
Study Shows NIH Generated $62.1 Billion in Economic Activity
A new report shows NIH had an economic impact last year of $62.1 billion dollars while sustaining some 432,000 public and private sector jobs. The proposed flat funding for NIH lead a group of  medical researchers to circulate a petition voicing their concerns of  “cures delayed, labs closed, and of the US falling behind in research.” Add lost jobs and economic shrinkage to the list whilst starting the in-fighting over shifting limited funding to important a new program designed to fast-track critical drug development and release.

CYBERSECURITY
Cybercriminals VS. Hacktivists
More a case of Spy VS. Spy-  so-called hacktivists have managed to out-pillage the world this year more than their “organized” cybercriminal counterparts. Instead of the iconic social and politically motivated web-defacements and “denial of service” attacks, hacktivists have turned to large scale data breaches which has lead to Verizon compiling a database and investigating total losses with several corporate participants.

CLEAN ENERGY
DOD Interest In Sustainable High-Grade Fuels Powers New Market
The second generation or Gen2 biofuels are benefiting from the military’s need for specialty chemicals. Joint R&D programs and fuel purchases are driving the industry to commercial viability while securing independent, sustainable fuels for our National defense.

BIOTECHNOLOGY
Supreme Court Rules Unanimously Against Blood Test Patent
The Court ruled that a biotech company’s blood test that detects a rise in certain red blood cells from a reaction by the autoimmune treatment drug, thiopurine, was un-patentable because it was a “well-understood, routine, conventional activity previously engaged in by researchers in the field.” The court cited that though the link between the new drug and reaction in the body was new, the patent never the less “simply describes that relation sets forth a natural law.” This decision may have larger implications going forward for other biotech and gene patentability.

STEM EDUCATION
Tennessee’s “Monkey Bill” Moves Along
With a vote of 24-8 the Tennessee Senate passed a bill aimed at encouraging teachers to undermine science by debating “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of “controversial” topics such as “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.” The law that created the famous Scopes Monkey Trial from Tennessee in 1925 was passed by 24-6, leading a ban on teaching evolution in the state until 1967- a total of 42 years. Never having been fully satisfied, opponents have “creatively” sought to undermined evolution in the 45 years since evolution has been a legal science topic in the state.

ENVIRONMENTAL
EPA Regulatory Costs Overblown
A new study challenges the oft touted talking points against environmental regulation. Contrary to the “job killing” regulations, this study reports “there is extensive literature showing that the costs of environmental regulations are more than offset by a broad range of economic, public health, and jobs-related benefits.”

EDUCATION
Empirical Study of Online Learning Programs Gleans Insights
The cost benefit study weighed the many differences that an online learning environment brings to education. By making use of home or community spaces, there are costs saving over using dedicated buildings as well as “through the reuse and large-scale distribution of materials.” The report makes suggestions for more effective learning by creating curriculums that encourage active learning which can also add to increased startup costs over traditional courses.

CLIMATE SCIENCE
2 Trillion in Ocean Damages- Add that to the Debt
Science Progress recently reported on the unexpected rate of acidification in our oceans and now the Stockholm Environment Institute put a tangible monetary figure on that damage: $428 billion per year by 2050. Tallying to 2 trillion by 2100, the report says it is not intended to be a “scaremongering forecast,” but instead to give concrete differences in the results of our actions. The report notes that these predictions are at our current CO2 emission rates that would push global temperatures up by 4o C and that the impacts can be reduced to $105 billion per year by staying below 2.2o C by 2050.

This week’s news compiled and summarized by Jason Thomas.

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