Science Education & Policy

Could alcohol abstinence campaigns like Dry January may do more harm than good?

The Dry January campaign estimates that last year over 2 million people cut down their drinking for January, but popular doesn't necessarily mean effective, and the claims lack rigorous evaluation. Like 'don't buy gas on Tuesday', it isn't really changing anything if people engage in the same behavior a little later.

Campbell Soup Co., which makes a variety of foods including the namesake soups and Prego pasta sauce, has declared their intention to put labels on their foods noting they are “partially produced with genetic engineering.”

Some are lamenting this will be a slippery slope to process labels being used as warnings, and undermining confidence in modern agriculture, while anti-science groups are hailing it as a victory. US Right To Know, an outreach group funded by organic food corporations and aided by the partisan attack site SourceWatch, is certainly declaring this a big win for their clients.

In the rush to solve mainstream media stories about airline passengers sitting on the place on the tarmac for hours and hours, the U.S. Department of Transportation's 2010 Tarmac Delay Rule glossed over concerns that it would lead to more delays and cancellations - exactly what has happened.

As a result, it takes most air passengers far more time to reach their destination for all pasangers than ever occurred for a few during lengthy tarmac delays, according to a study in Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice.

At this time of year it is common to see food drives for the less fortunate - and then we see reports saying that low-income people are disproportionately obese and can't control themselves and need to be taxed more heavily in order to eat less.

How can it be both? Welcome to modern American food policy.

Academics writing in Marketing Science want poor people to spend more on food and analyzed six years of sales data from over 1,700 supermarkets across the U.S. to make the case that poor people will behave as elites want if the price of food is changed. 

The Code of Federal Regulations, which govern ‘standards of identity’, was created in 1938 specifically to prevent companies from selling fake food using established names and duping customers into thinking they got one thing while spending money on another.
With the release of a study that found gender bias in federal agencies that fund Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) research, Congresswomen Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) are demanding immediate action to ensure gender equality in publicly funded research. 

Over half of patients with controlled type 2 diabetes have many more tests than is currently recommended by national guidelines, and this has been associated with overtreatment of the condition, suggests a large US study published in The BMJ.

Overtreatment is a concern because it can lead to higher costs in the healthcare system,  a concern due to runaway expenses causes by the Affordable Care Act, called Obamacare by officials and the public.

Since Type 2 diabetes is usually caused by lifestyle rather than a predisposition, "patients and doctors should question the value of routine tests."

Though most government workers enjoy a good life - in the last decade salaries rose to 'compete with the private sector' and they were the only group that has not suffered unemployment under the lingering recession - they are not immune from criticism. Recently there have been calls to reduce benefits for teachers and a group of academics are proactively defending them.

Coastal communities around the world are being increasingly exposed to the hazards of rising sea levels, with global sea levels found to be rising faster over the past two decades than for the bulk of the 20th century.

But managing the impacts of rising seas for some communities is being made more difficult by the actions of governments, homeowners – and even some well-intentioned climate adaptation practitioners.

Representatives from more than 190 countries will travel to Paris next week in emissions-belching vehicles to dine on five-course meals and talk about creating a process to reduce greenhouse gases over time.  Then 170 of them will ignore it while the ones with few CO2 emissions will claim they are doing their part. 

An economics paper in Science estimates that the Paris pledges can reduce the probability of the highest levels of warming, and increase the probability of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, if they are implemented and numerical models are accurate.