Principal Deputy Director of the NIH, Lawrence Tabak, visits UGA
On Friday, September 21, UGA hosted the Principal Deputy Director of the NIH, Lawrence A. Tabak, for a seminar. Among his enormous list of accomplishments, Dr. Tabak can also add a great sense of humor, which he used to delight his audience while addressing some of the most important topics in science. He discussed the $2 billion boost the NIH is receiving in the final 2019 spending bill, which you can read more about here. He also talked about the importance of rigor and reproducibility in science, the importance of the next generation of researchers, and the NIH’s stance on harassment (check out the next article for more on this).
Science community cracks down on sexual harassment
This month was full of news on how science funding sources and the science community will crack down on sexual harassment. NSF has taken a decided stance against harassment. They have set up a secure online portal for submitting harassment claims in addition to requiring awardee organizations to notify the agency of any determinations that an NSF-funded principal investigator committed harassment. Once a claim has been made to NSF they will work with the awardee institution to decide a course of action. For the brief article on the NSF stance you can look here and for a fact sheet relating to this topic you can check out this site. Although the NIH did not roll out any new policy on harassment at funded institutions, it has vowed to make its procedures within NIH labs better. NIH stated they cannot take the same stance as NSF because the funds garnered from an NIH grant are going to an institution, not an individual; however, NIH is investigating how they can change this to follow more closely with NSF. The NIH stance has been met with mixed reviews, which you can read about here. Additionally, the AAAS will begin to strip the title of AAAS fellow from those scientists found to be sexual harassers. A glacier was even renamed this month because its namesake had a harassment charge against him.
President Trump’s biodefense plan will improve collaboration and coordination across different agencies
President Trump’s administration has announced a new strategy for a biodefense plan aimed at better coordination of the 15 departments and 16 branches of the intelligence community. A senior administration official, who did not want to be named, commented that previously there seemed to be a lack of accountability within the different departments and no department was clearly in charge. In the new biodefense plan, the National Security Council will oversee biodefense policy while the Department of Health and Human Services will carry out the policies set forth. Annual reviews will also aid in making sure new concepts are carried out, not just left as an idea. More information on the plan can be found here.
Mysterious malady affects U.S. diplomats in Havana, Cuba
This month in “weird-but-not-science-policy-related topics”, scientists and medical doctors from the United States and Cuba have come together to try to understand a mysterious malady hitting Havana-based diplomats. The U.S. Department of State has deemed the maladies hitting some 2 dozen personnel stationed at the U.S. embassy in Havana a “health attack.” The mysterious symptoms include headaches, dizziness, and insomnia after hearing strange noises or feeling a sensation of pressure. An explanation for the maladies has been hard to nail down with microwaves, acoustic devices, and even psychological contagion being blamed for the sickness. Read all about this bizarre happening here.
Georgia Water Coalition recognizes the 2018 Clean 13 in annual report on water quality advocates
The Georgia Water Coalition (GWC), a group focused on protecting Georgia’s water resources, has released its annual Clean 13 report, a collection of individuals, businesses, and municipalities that are making active strides in preserving the state’s water quality. This year’s list includes two mentions of Athens’ area efforts: Dr. Jenna Jambek, UGA professor of Engineering, and the removal of the White Dam on the Middle Oconee river. Dr. Jenna Jambeck works to reduce plastic debris in the oceans through a variety of projects, ranging from quantitative study to the development of a marine debris logging smartphone app, and has even spoke on the issue to the United Nations. In Athens, a two-year effort to see the removal of the White Dam came to completion thanks to the joint efforts of various federal agencies with departments at UGA. This removal will allow for expanded recreational access along the river as well as habitat improvement for fish throughout the Middle Oconee River. See the full report on all 13 stories here and look for the sister publication, the Dirty Dozen, to be released shortly.
EPA approved temporary Clean Air Act Fuel Waiver for Virginia and Georgia in preparation for Hurricane Florence
To avoid potential fuel shortages during Hurricane Florence, Virginia and Georgia requested waivers on the Reid vapor pressure (RVP) limits set for gasoline during the summer months. These limits were established to lower the volatility of gasoline to reduce air pollution caused by the formation of ozone. In times of emergency, states can submit a request to the EPA to waive these limits so that all gasoline can be sold and used, regardless of its volatility. The waivers granted to Virginia and Georgia were effective from September 12-30th. You can learn more about the Clean Air Act RVP and find the specific regulations for Georgia here. The actual waiver itself and an article covering it can be found here and here.
An overview of ongoing projects in Athens-Clarke County can be found here, but for some highlights keep reading!
UGA faculty member Susan Sanchez elected to NIH council
UGA College of Veterinary Medicine faculty member Dr. Susan Sanchez was elected to the National Institute of Health Council of Councils. The NIH Council of Councils is a select, 27-member group responsible for advisement of the NIH director with regards to policies and activities of the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives. Click here to learn more about the role of this elite group of representatives. Dr. Sanchez is the assistant director at UGA Biomedical Health Science Institute and chair of One Health, a division that focuses on the interplay between animal, environmental, and human health. To read more about Dr. Sanchez and her work at UGA and beyond, click here.
ACC LED Lighting Program reduces CO2 emissions and saves energy
As a part of the Energy Sustainability Program, the sustainability division of the ACC government aims to replace existing lighting fixtures throughout government buildings with LED bulbs. You can read more about the project here. To date, 1,000 lighting fixtures have been replaced, $20,000 saved on energy costs, and 80 tons eliminated in CO2 emissions. The specific data can be found in this month’s manager’s snapshot, which highlights ongoing projects.
ACCUG Invasive Plant Species application development
Invasive plant species are responsible for decreasing water quality, impairing ecosystem functions, deterring native habitat, harming native conditions, and increasing sedimentation. In an attempt to better track, control, and eliminate invasive plant species, the ACC Geographic Office, in coordination with the Office of Sustainability, developed a mobile application available to staff, volunteers, and contractors. By better addressing the invasive plant species, the staff is able to better coordinate the removal of said species, thus restoring native conditions. More on non-native species and the threat they pose can be found here.