The best reads in Science Policy Feb 20–27

1. AAAS stands with the March for Science

My own feelings towards the March for Science have been very mixed. I think it’s important for scientists to be active in the name of science, but I worry about tying science to partisanship. Even though the organizers have stated the march is “not about scientists or politicians”, it’s hard for me to trust that all participants will hold the same standards.

I didn’t think that AAAS would formally endorse the March, and it goes a long way towards improving my opinion of it as well as legitimizing the March significantly.

2. AAAS discusses the future under President Trump

Experts gathered at the annual meeting of the AAAS last week to share their views on what will likely be a rough few years. Universities must prepare for likely funding cuts, shifts in focus, and a decline in the interest of the Federal Government in science.

Some pointed out that individual states will play a more important role in pushing science forward than ever, but decreases in funding will hit biomedical science especially hard. Science advocacy is more important than ever, and advocates must do their best to procure funding as well as stand up for the role of science in both politics and working towards creating a better society.

3. This profile of a bioethicist is a fascinating look at an important field

The ethical questions associated with science and research are only going to get more immense and difficult in the coming years. The rise of CRISPR (and with it easily genetically modified organsisms and gene therapy), the increasing potential of stem cell therapies, and the growing capacity of synthetic biology mean that larger and larger questions are being asked, and we don’t necessarily have the answer.

Jeantine Lunshof is a bioethicist who has been working closely with George Church, one of the fathers of synthetic biology, for three years. She is one of the rare cases of a bioethicist working directly with a lab to help direct their research direction and keep them out of ethical and moral trouble. It’s a good sign that Church has her in his lab, and hopefully sets a strong precedent for other labs trying to push the boundaries. Regulating science works best when scientists are involved, and starting with self-regulation puts a strong foot forward.

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