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Event Recap: Intellectual Property Panel “From Research to Patent”

Event Recap: Anonymous Peer Review & PubPeer

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by Ian McLaughlin
On the 24th of October, the Penn Science Policy Group met to discuss the implications of a new mechanism by which individuals can essentially take part in the peer review process.The group discussion focused on a particular platform, PubPeer.com, which emerged in 2012 and has since become a topic of interest and controversy among the scientific community.In essence, PubPeer is an online forum that focuses on enabling post-publication commentary, which ranges from small concerns by motivated article readers, to deeper dives into the legitimacy of figures, data, and statistics in the publication.Given the current state of the widely criticized peer-review process, we considered the advantages and disadvantages of democratizing the process with the added layer of anonymity applied to reviewers.
PubPeer has been involved in fostering investigations of several scandals in science.Some examples include a critical evaluation of papers published in Nature 2014 entitled Stimu…

Tracing the ancestry and migration of HIV/AIDS in America

by Arpita Myles Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS is a global health problem that has terrified and intrigued scientists and laypeople alike for decades. AIDS is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, which is transmitted through blood, semen, vaginal fluid, and from an infected mother to her child [1]. Infection leads to failure of the immune system, increasing susceptibility to secondary infections and cancer, which are mostly fatal. Considerable efforts are being put into developing prophylactic and therapeutic approaches to tackle HIV-AIDS, but there is also interest in understanding how the disease became so wide-spread. With the advent of the Ebola and Zika viruses in the last couple of years, there is a renewed urgency in understanding the emergence and spread of viruses in the past in order to prevent those in the future. The narrative surrounding the spread of HIV has been somewhat convoluted, but a new paper in Nature by Worobey et. al, hopes to set the …

Event Recap: The Importance of Science-Informed Policy & Law Making

by Ian McLaughlin
Last week, we held a panel discussion focused on the importance of science-informed policy & law making.  The panel included Dr. Michael Mann, a climatologist and geophysicist at Pennsylvania State University who recently wrote The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy.   Dr. Andrew Zwicker, a member of the New Jersey General Assembly and a physicist who heads the Science Education Department of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, joined him.  Finally, Shaughnessy Naughton, a chemist and entrepreneur who ran for congressional office in Pennsylvania and founded the 314 PAC, which promotes the election of candidates with backgrounds in STEM fields to public office, joined the panel as well.
The event began with personal introductions, with each member characterizing their unique perspectives and personal histories.  Shaughnessy Naughton highlighted the scarcity of legislators with bac…

New Research shows how to make Human Stem Cell Lines divide equally

by Amaris Castanon For the first time, scientists have generated haploid embryonic stem (ES) cell lines in humans, as published in Nature. This could lead to novel cell therapies for genetic diseases – even color blindness (Benvenisty et al., 2016) The study was performed by scientists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem(Israel) in collaboration with Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and the New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF). The newly derived pluripotent, human ES cell lines demonstrated their ability to ‘self-renew’ while maintaining a normal haploid karyotype (i.e. without chromosomal breakdown after each generation) (Benvenisty et al., 2016). While gamete manipulation in other mammalian species has yielded several ES cell lines (Yang, H. et al., Leeb, M. & Wutz, A.), this is the first study to report human cells capable of cell division with merely one copy of the parent’s cell genome (Benvenisty et al., 2016). The genetic match between the stem cells and the egg do…