Thursday, November 27, 2014

Genomics: the Power and the Promise 2014 - day 3 recap

Genomics: the Power and the Promise has wrapped up, and what an amazing conference!  A superstar lineup of presenters working on cutting-edge research with huge policy implications? Yes please!  Throw in amazing interactive panels and Jay Ingram as the MC, there's a recipe for awesome!

I had to take a brain break yesterday, but you can find my day 3 highlights after the jump:

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Genomics: the Power and the Promise 2014 - Conference Day 2 Recap

With day 2 of the Genome Canada conference winding down, we had some fantastic discussions on the environmental impacts of human health, and how to use genomics to improve the health and adaptation of (and to) our ecosystems.

The highlights of day 2 are after the jump:

Monday, November 24, 2014

Genomics: the Power and the Promise 2014 - Conference Day 1 Recap

Embedded image permalink
This week, Genome Canada and the Gairdner Foundation are hosting their Genomics: the Power & the Promise event.  This year's theme is Genomics and the Environment, in which speakers, panelists, and attendees are exploring the applications of genomics in both human and environmental health. Today, the conference was kicked off by MC Jay Ingram (of Daily Planet fame), with an introduction from Genome Canada CEO Pierre Meulien, and Gairdner Foundation CEO John Dirks.  The conference boasts a highly varied audience, with folks from government, industry, and academia, as well as policy makers and various interest groups.

Day 1 focused on genomic medicine.  Highlights after the jump:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Kissing Transfers 80 Million Bacteria Between Partners

Bacterial build-up on the human
tongue (source).
As many as 80 million bacteria are transferred during a 10 second kiss.  I'm gonna let that sink in for my fellow germophobes.

The 100 trillion microorganisms that make up the human microbiota are responsible for all kinds of important process, from digestion to synthesis to protection against disease.  Microbiota composition is dependent on a bunch of factors, including age, diet, genetics, the environment, and who we interact with.  Your mouth contains 700 varieties of bacteria, and these are influenced by the people you keep close to you, according to a new open access study published in Microbiome yesterday.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

An Ode to Open Access Journals

In celebration of OpenCon 2014, I thought now would be as good a time as any to wax poetic about my love for OPEN ACCESS!!!!!

According to the United Nations, all people have a "right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications".   This was recognized in 1948 in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, but has received very little attention.

When I was submitting my PhD thesis to my university, I had to obtain permission to use my own research from the journals I had published in.  If my institution were smaller, or in a developing country, I may have had to pay to access my chapters.  In fact, there were definitely a few papers that were absolutely fundamental to my research that I could not access because my university had not purchased a license.  This traditional approach to scientific research may have worked when journals were printed (and therefore had manufacturing costs), but it is no longer relevant to modern publishing where everything ends up online.  Instead, the high cost of access limits the sharing of information, stunting scientific, medical, and academic research.  This is especially true in developing countries.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Is This the Death of Science?

While waiting for a bus this morning, I noticed an article in the local newspaper about the gap between teens' attitudes toward science and their career plans.  A recent poll by the science outreach organization Let's Talk Science found that 72% of high school students think science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are fun, and 78% think STEM fields provide lots of career options, but only 12% actually want STEM-related jobs.  And a further 19% of student (that's almost 1 in 5!) think that careers in science and engineering are better suited to men.

I guess we should rejoice in the gains we've made as scientists in engaging youth.  In 2010, only 34% of high school students thought science was fun, and 25% thought it was boring (now only 11% do!).  So kids are more interested in science than they've been in the past, and they understand its importance, but they most still don't see a future for themselves participating in science.  I have some ideas as to why that may be:

Thursday, November 6, 2014

How to Survive Ebola: researchers find clues to explain how some people survive infection

On Sunday, I gave you folks a link to an article about how genes affect Ebola survival.  I decided to read a little bit more into it and do a full Ebola post, since this is actually a pretty interesting (and open access) study.

People have this idea that Ebola symptoms are a lot like what we saw in Outbreak.  But in the 2014 Ebola outbreak, only a minority (30-50%) of those afflicted have progressed into hemorrhagic fever.  There are different symptoms, including organ failure and shock, and different ways in which people succumb to them.  Some folks survive, while others don't.  It turns out that this is about more than simply luck.