New NAS report on women in science

Matt has the scoop.

Women in science and engineering are hindered not by lack of ability but by bias and “outmoded institutional structures” in academia, an expert panel reported today. The panel, convened by the National Academy of Sciences, said that in an era of global competition the nation could not afford “such underuse of precious human capital.”

Among other steps, the report recommends that universities alter procedures for hiring and evaluation, change typical timetables for tenure and promotion, and provide more support for working parents. “Unless a deeper talent pool is tapped, it will be difficult for our country to maintain our competitiveness in science and engineering,” the panel’s chairwoman, Donna E. Shalala, said at a news conference at which the report, “Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering,” was made public.

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The report also dismissed other commonly held beliefs — that women are uncompetitive or less productive, that they take too much time off for their families, and so on. Their real problems, it says, are unconscious but pervasive bias, “arbitrary and subjective” evaluation processes, and a work environment in which “anyone lacking the work and family support traditionally provided by a ‘wife’ is at a serious disadvantage.”

The mess that is Project Bioshield

From the New York Times:

The last of the anthrax-laced letters was still making its way through the mail in late 2001 when top Bush administration officials reached an obvious conclusion: the nation desperately needed to expand its medical stockpile to prepare for another biological attack.

The result was Project BioShield, a $5.6 billion effort to exploit the country’s top medical and scientific brains and fill an emergency medical cabinet with new drugs and vaccines for a host of threats. “We will rally the great promise of American science and innovation to confront the greatest danger of our time,” President Bush said in starting the program.

But the project, critics say, has largely failed to deliver.

More below…

So far, only a small fraction of the anticipated remedies are available. Drug companies have waited months, if not years, for government agencies to decide which treatments they want and in what quantities. Unable to attract large pharmaceutical corporations to join the endeavor, the government is instead relying on small start-up companies that often have no proven track record.
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H5N1 asymptomatic infections, redux redux

It seems like every other story that comes out about H5N1 contradicts the previous one. I’ve blogged previously about some reasons to think that the diagnosed cases of H5N1 are only the tip of the iceberg (see here, here, and here, for instance). Though there I present some evidence to suggest that we may be missing asymptomatic or mild influenza cases, other stories have come to the opposite conclusion. For example, a recent news story from Cambodia reports that no mild or asymptomatic cases of H5N1 infection were found:

Researchers who tested 351 Cambodian villagers after they had extensive contact with avian influenza-infected poultry in 2005 found that none had antibodies to the H5N1 virus, suggesting that it doesn’t easily spread to humans and that mild cases are rare.

“Our findings suggest that asymptomatic and mild H5N1 virus infections had not occurred in the population we investigated,” says the report, published by Emerging Infectious Diseases. The study was done by an international team of scientists, with Sirenda Vong of the Institute Pasteur in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, as first author.

However, a new report from South Korea suggests that there have been several asymptomatic cases there:
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Marry me, John Hodgman

Okay, so you’ve probably seen this guy on the new Mac commercials. He’s the one who plays the PC, the nerdy guy with glasses. He’s also a contributor to the Daily Show, where he first appeared to talk about his book, The Areas of my Expertise (website), apparently, spending a disproportionate amount of time talking about hobos. And, he’s an Eli, like so many of the cool kids are. So, I was already slightly in love with him. But a bit on the Daily Show the other night sealed the deal. Head lice, intestinal parasites, and commensal bacteria were never so funny.