Science Education & Policy

Video games are a favorite activity of children, yet any affect on their health is often perceived to be negative.

A new paper in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology looked for an association between the amount of time spent playing video games and children's mental health and cognitive and social skills, and found that playing video games may have positive effects on young children. 

The issue is not new. Scientific journals require articles to produce quantitative answers - of course, that's how you do science. And scientists usually rely on a formalism based on classical statistics to report those results: they report the probability of their data given some hypothesis. P-values, that is.
Deputy Attorney General, Sally Yates, made what might be considered a historic announcement at the recent annual gathering of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in Las Vegas, Nevada.  

Summarizing the results of a multi-disciplinary review of forensic hair tests conducted by the FBI laboratory over many years, Yates claimed that 90% of those reviews showed evidence that FBI scientists erred during their court testimony - that perhaps FBI representatives overstated the significance of their findings or suggested that the forensic results were more incriminating than they actually were.  

“For those of us who believe in science,you simply cannot ignore what the scientific community is saying almost unanimously.”

A new study reports that current rising temperatures already noticeably load the 'climate dice', with growing practical impacts. As a bottom line, lead author D. James Hansen argues in Environmental Research Letters that a carbon fee is needed to spur replacement of carbon fuels with clean energy. Why won't this make anti-science groups like Greenpeace and Union of Concerned Scientists happy? Hansen believes nuclear energy is part of the broad solution to less fossil fuels, which flies in the face of modern environmentalism, which dislikes nuclear and natural gas.

The Louisiana Scholarship Program has widely varying effects on students, according to a series of studies released jointly by the School Choice Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas and the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans at Tulane University.

The studies address the effects of the Louisiana voucher program on the achievement and non-cognitive skills of voucher recipients, as well as broader effects on school segregation and public school students. It is the first evaluation to examine such a wide range of outcomes, or to consider the effects over the first two years of this specific program. Key findings include:

Last year, 6 million tons of “wood pellets” harvested from forests in Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Virginia were shipped across the Atlantic, to be burnt in renewable “biomass” power plants.

This was almost double the 2013 figure. The US “wood pellet” industry is booming.

A new study indicates that younger female gynecologic oncologists are less productive scholastically and that is why they are poorly represented in the higher academic ranks compared to male contemporaries.

There are obvious differences in gender make-up in the higher levels of academia. The reason for that is obvious: tenure. More women than ever are choosing to remain at universities but older males are not just going to be fired to achieve gender parity. And academia is far harder on women than the private sector, so women with childbearing and family responsibilities get penalized more than scientists at corporations do.

Do you feel good about getting that National Institutes of Health (NIH)? You should. As government has spent billions on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) outreach promoting the idea that only government-funded science is real science, the rolls of those wanting to stay in academia have ballooned. Grants are more competitive than ever so if you got one, you beat out up to nine other people.

Does that mean that taxpayers are getting the best value for their money? Perhaps not. A new study finds that the NIH is no better at picking beneficial projects than if researchers were just picked in a lottery. 

A Cochrane Library review suggests that smoking bans may reduce harms of passive smoking, unclear as they are, since there has never been evidence that second-hand smoke has harmed anyone. Yet epidemiologists have linked it to risks of heart disease and some have even claimed third-hand smoke - particulate matter residues on clothing or in a room - can cause cancer. 

But the review does correlate lower rates of cardiovascular disease with bans.