Malaria, Acidic Seas, and James Bond

Here's a roundup of some of the science policy stories we covered this past week on Science's policy blog, ScienceInsider.

An innovative approach to provide the best malaria drugs to the world's poor officially got under way last week in Oslo. Instead of providing money to governments to buy the medicines for their public health systems, the Affordable Medicines Facility for malaria (AMFm) (Science, 21 November 2008, p. 1174) will subsidize companies to sell the drugs on the private market at bargain prices. Most of the world's poorest rely on small pharmacies for their drugs, but to save money, they often pick cheap, ineffective drugs or counterfeits instead of state-of-the-art combination therapies. So far, AMFm has received $225 million to tackle the problem.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has asked scientists how to revise the Clean Water Act to protect seas against ocean acidification from atmospheric carbon dioxide. Under the current rules, waters are designated as impaired if their pH deviates from naturally occurring levels by 0.2 units. But biologists say that some organisms are affected by smaller changes. A more complex approach would also take into account how organisms or ecosystems are affected differently by changing pH levels.

Last week's announcement that William Brinkman, former head of research at Bell Labs, would be nominated to run the $4.8 billion Office of Science at the Department of Energy suggests that Energy Secretary Steven Chu, another alum, hopes to tap the fabled lab's expertise at marrying basic and applied research.

Elsewhere … Bush science adviser John Marburger returned to Washington, D.C., to make science policy more scientific. The Union of Concerned Scientists released a report suggesting that genetically engineered crops have not outperformed more traditional varieties. British spy service agency MI5 is looking for a scientific adviser--the equivalent of James Bond's Q. Time to spell check your résumé.

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Posted in Scientific Community