Sometimes a filter gets overloaded and clogs, and The Filtrate doesn't come out that week. When it re-starts, though, the result is an even more concentrated distillation of news, because it's been accumulating for an additional week. Wow, this metaphor holds up well, doesn't it?
In a couple of recent posts we've mentioned some disturbing news from the NIH, which appeared to be carrying out some kind of purge of Chinese-American scientists. As often happens, the full story has a lot more nuances, and in this case that context makes it far less disturbing. Check out Jeffrey Mervis's continuing coverage, in which he finally got a detailed response from the NIH official responsible for the recent investigations. It seems at least some of the targets of these recent firings may not be so innocent after all.
Elsewhere, though, the science policy news isn't so great. In Brazil, a right-wing government has been waging an aggressive "war on drugs," while simultaneously suppressing the results of a study that apparently undercuts that policy's entire premise. It's a good thing stable, developed countries like the US don't put science denialists in positions of power. Oh, right. Nevermind.
When all the anti-science nonsense gets you down, maybe it's time to get outdoors, enjoy the summer weather, and maybe visit a park. If you've done that lately, have you noticed that it's more crowded than it used to be? It's not your imagination, and while more people getting outside is ostensibly a good thing, it's putting a tremendous strain on park budgets, which in turn threatens the very resources people are going to the parks to see. I'm sure there's some excellent reason we can't just fund the parks better, right?
Another summer tradition is the internship, through which young, ambitious students provide free labor in labs all over the country. The idea is that these interns are getting "paid" in valuable experience that will help them get better paying jobs later. But is that true, or is this just a form of exploitation that also entrenches structural biases by excluding people from non-wealthy backgrounds? If you're hoping for a feel-good answer, don't read this paper, which makes a pretty damning case against unpaid internships.
Once the summer is over, kids will be heading back to the great microbial incubator called school. We've known for awhile that schools are major nodes of disease transmission, especially for influenza virus in autumn and winter. As a result, health officials sometimes close schools during major flu outbreaks. This analysis from Russian schools shows that these closures really do decrease contacts and reduce viral spread.
Back in the lab, researchers spend a lot of time these days building and using software. Anyone who's tried to install an old version of an application on a current operating system, though, understands that all this computational science poses a major archiving problem. If a project uses a program that nobody can run a few years from now, the work becomes irreproducible. That's why it's good to see some folks outlining standards for accessibility and archival stability in research software. I wish Apple had done something like that a couple of decades ago when I was saving all my notes and drafts in their proprietary format.
That's it for this fortnight. As always, if you'd like to respond to something in The Filtrate, and you've actually clicked through the links to read the underlying stories first, feel free to contact me on Twitter.