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The Dish: Sampling Today’s News – January 18, 2008

Petri dishScientists have produced a new tool that could potentially combat vitamin A deficiency in developing countries. The new system will allow analysis of a corn crop’s genetic make-up to identify and cultivate the breeds with high levels of vitamin A precursors. Vitamin A deficiency causes eye disease in about 40 million children a year and poses health risks to another 250 million people around the world. The analytical tool could help hundreds of millions of people who rely on corn as an essential part of their diets.

Private and public research institutions and publications are struggling to adapt to demands for transparency and popular participation. The Columbia Journalism Review’s Observatory yesterday reviewed various experiments in open and participatory publishing, including a recent effort in the pages of Scientific American and the experiences of various blogging communities. Christie Nicholson, the community editor for Scientific American, said she would like to develop a new platform that is “not quite wiki, but more than commenting.” Scientists and science communicators working in this new field, dubbed “Science 2.0,” gather today and tomorrow in the Research Triangle at the 2008 North Carolina Science Blogging Conference (

Google follows through on its promise to investors with a $25 million gift to an array of projects that include tracking global health risks to aiding the poor in India. When the company went public, it pledged to donate one percent of its profits and equity to “making the world a better place.” The company will offer grants and make investments of $175 million over the next three years under its philanthropy wing, The approach is distinct in that the company will invest in for-profit ventures, allow Google employees to get involved directly, and even lobby public officials for policy changes.

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