Archive for the 'Globalizing science' category

#scio10 aftermath: some thoughts on "An Open History of Science".

Here are some of the thoughts and questions that stayed with me from this session. (Here are my tweets from the session and the session's wiki page.)
The session was led by John McKay and Eric Michael Johnson. John posted the text of his presentation and Eric posted his presentation a la YouTube. I'm going to take this as permission to skip doing a proper recap here. Instead, I'm going to write about the big ideas this session raised for me.
First, I'm struck by how easy it is for those of us who were trained to do science to know very little about where scientific practices come from -- especially practices around communicating results and methods to other scientists. Somehow, we either assume it's always been this way (where "this way" is often the way we were taught to do it), or that the practices were put in place in plenty of time for the scientists of earlier eras who might have needed them, or that the practices that were established as the right ones were so obvious that their adoption was inevitable.
What I've gleaned from my coursework and reading in the history of science is that the inevitable usually takes a lot of work (plus some luck).

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#scio10 aftermath: my tweets from "An Open History of Science".

Session description: We will be talking about how the history of science and the history of the open-access movement have intersected. Steven Johnson touches on this theme in his latest book, The Invention of Air, in that 18th century British polymath Joseph Priestley was a strong advocate of publishing scientific data widely in order to create a greater dialogue between scientists. While Johnson only mentions this briefly in the case of Priestley, this theme runs strongly through the history of science and is what makes the debate over the patenting of genes or the availability of open-access journals such important topics today.
The session was led by John McKay and Eric Michael Johnson (@primatediaries).
Here's the session wiki page.

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Location, location, location: ethical considerations in where to run a clinical trial.

A day later than promised, let's kick off our discussion of "Research Rashomon: Lessons from the Cameroon Pre-exposure Prophylaxis Trial Site" (PDF). The case study concerns a clinical trial of whether tenofovir, an antiretroviral drug, could prevent HIV infection. Before it was halted in the face of concerns raised by activists and the media, the particular clinical trial discussed in this case was conducted in Cameroon. Indeed, one of the big questions the activists raised about the trial was whether it was ethical to site it in Cameroon.
From the case study:

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Coming Monday: our discussion the case of a halted international clinical trial in Cameroon.

Almost a month ago, I told you about a pair of new case studies released by The Global Campaign for Microbicides which examine why a pair of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) clinical trials looking at the effectiveness of antiretrovirals in preventing HIV infection were halted. In that post, I also proposed that we read and discuss these case studies as a sort of ethics book club.
Next Monday, June 15, we'll be kicking off our discussion of the first case study, "Research Rashomon: Lessons from the Cameroon Pre-exposure Prophylaxis Trial Site" (PDF).

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Two new case studies on international clinical trials (and a plan to read them together).

Earlier this week, I found out about a pair of new case studies being released by The Global Campaign for Microbicides. These cases examine why a pair of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) clinical trials looking at the effectiveness of microbicides antiretrovirals in preventing HIV infection were halted. Here are some details:

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A glimpse into how not to conduct an ethical drug trial.

The Independent reports that drug giant Pfizer has agreed to pay a $75 million settlement nine years after Nigerian parents whose children died in a drug trial brought legal action against the company.
It's the details of that drug trial that are of interest here:

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ScienceOnline'09: Diversity in science, online and off.

There were some really good discussions of ally work in the gender in science session led by Zuska, Alice, and Abel and in the race in science session led by Danielle Lee and AcmeGirl.
One of the issues that has become clearer to me is that there is an inescapable asymmetry in the relationship between allies and those (like scientists of color or women scientists) they are trying to support. (I think the discussion at Samia's blog helped me feel like I got it well enough to put into words.) An ally is someone who wouldn't have to care about the difficulties faced by members of the group s/he is trying to support; not being part of that group, the ally doesn't face those challenges first hand. This means the ally is choosing to care -- making an effort to take the issues of others seriously.

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Help jailed AIDS researchers in Iran.

Jan 09 2009 Published by under Globalizing science, Medicine, Politics

You know what makes an already scary world a lot scarier? When a government decides it's a crime for disease researchers to do their job.
From Declan Butler:

Iran has summarily tried two of the nation's HIV researchers with communicating with an "enemy government," in a half-day trial that started and ended on 31 December in Tehran's Revolutionary Court. There will be no further court hearings, and a verdict is expected within days.
The brothers, Arash and Kamiar Alaei, who have achieved international acclaim for their progressive HIV-prevention programme, have been held in Tehran's notorious Evin prison since their arrest last June (see Nature story, subscription required). Kamiar, the younger of the brothers, holds a master's degree from the Harvard School of Public Health and was to have resumed doctoral studies at the University of Albany's School of Public Health in New York. Arash, former head of international education and research cooperation at the Iranian National Research Institute of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, runs a clinic in Tehran. The brothers are not thought to have been politically active. ...
In August, the prosecutor publicly accused the men of fomenting a velvet revolution, arguing that they had collaborated with other scientists around the world, including some in the United States, attended international AIDS conferences, and met frequently with AIDS NGOs. "Those are not crimes, that's good medicine," says [Physicians for Human Rights spokesman Jonathan] Hutson, adding that it has casts a chilling effect on academic collaboration between Iran and the rest of the world. In December, the US National Academies suspended visits to Iran after the temporary detention of one of its officials in Tehran.

It's not clear from all this whether the "crime" for which the Alaei brothers are being held is communicating scientific information with other researchers (which is part of how scientists together solve scientific puzzles like the causes and cures of diseases), or whether it is bothering to focus on HIV and its treatment in the first place.

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The world is flat. Your adult edibles are adulterated.

Oct 22 2008 Published by under Current events, Food, Globalizing science

Maybe you heard about the melamine contamination issue when tainted pet food started killing pets. But, if you don't have a pet, maybe you didn't worry so much.
Or maybe you noticed when tainted infant formula started sending infants to the hospital. Stuff that harms babies (even way far away in China) is really sad. But if you're not currently caring for a baby that ingests infant formula, eventually your attention wandered.
Then the news came that melamine levels were testing high in treats like White Rabbit candies and Panda's March cookies -- treats that may have been on your shelves (as they were on ours). Sure, it's annoying to toss out that bag of candy, but it's a relief that someone is testing all of these products to keep us safe, right? (Because the products meant for human ingestion are all being tested, aren't they?)

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Prizes for women. Progress for women?

2008 is the tenth year of the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science awards to remarkable female scientists from around the world. Indeed, our sister-site, ScienceBlogs.de, covered this year's award ceremony and is celebrating women in science more generally with a For Women in Science blog. (It, like the rest of ScienceBlogs.de, is in German. Just so you know.)
In addition to the global contest, three further scholarships are given to women scientists in Germany. But, the only women eligible for these awards are women with kids. (The rationale for this is that childcare options in Germany are not as good as they should be for working mothers, so women scientists with kids need special support.)

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