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African Science Academies Meet, Discuss Biotechnology for Africa’s Development

The 9th annual meeting of the African Science Academies recently convened officials of national science academies in Africa, Europe, and the U.S., as well as policymakers and researchers from around the world, to discuss the role of biotechnology in Africa's development. Hosted by the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the meeting featured a series of presentations and discussions on the potential for biotechnology to improve food security and human health and to transform economies across Africa.  The event also explored how science academies can inform policy decisions about the use of biotechnology and facilitate collaboration among the academic, governmental, non-governmental, and industrial sectors to spur innovation in biotechnology and develop biosafety guidelines.
 
The annual meeting of African science academies grew out of the African Science Academy Development Initiative (ASADI), a multiyear, collaborative effort with the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and others to strengthen the capacity of African academies to inform national policy and public discourse through evidence-based advice. "We are pleased to partner with our colleagues at the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences and have them join this broader effort to bring the full expertise of the African scientific, engineering, and medical communities to bear in addressing critical development issues on the continent," said Michael T. Clegg, foreign secretary, U.S. National Academy of Sciences.
 
Find more information about the conference, including photos and the full agenda, at the ASADI website: http://www.nationalacademies.org/asadi.

Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World Ultimate Mentor Adventure Celebrates Girls Interested in STEM Careers

Ten exceptional young women have been recognized for their dedication to pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) through Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World Ultimate Mentor Adventure contest. The contest is a partnership of the National Academy of Sciences’ Science & Entertainment Exchange, UL (Underwriters Laboratories), Dolby Laboratories, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and Discovery Science Center.
 
The winners have an opportunity to travel to Southern California to meet women in science, participate in experiments, see Hollywood behind-the-scenes, and more—all leading up to the release of Thor: The Dark World, in which Natalie Portman portrays astrophysicist Jane Foster, an independent spirit who follows her heart and journeys to a new world. Watch a video highlighting the 10 winners.
 
The Science & Entertainment Exchange summed up the goals of the collaborative project in a blog post: “By exposing girls to the exciting possibilities of a stem education, and subsequent careers, early on, we hope to engage, inspire and cultivate our next great generation of strong women scientists.”

November 14: DC Art Science Evening Rendezvous Discusses Drones

Join the next D.C. Art Science Evening Rendezvous (DASER) on Thursday, November 14 at 6:00 p.m. for an exploration of the theme of drones. DASER, a monthly discussion forum on art and science projects in the national capital region and beyond, takes place at the Keck Center, 500 Fifth St., N.W., Washington, D.C.
 
Registration and photo IDs are required. Register here.
 
The event will be webcast live starting at 5:30 p.m. EST. Click here to access the webcast.
 
This month’s guest speakers include:

  • Missy Cummings, Visiting Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA; Associate Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, the Duke Institute of Brain Sciences, and Director, Humans and Autonomy Laboratory, Duke University, Durham, NC
  • Marko Peljhan, Artist, Professor, Interdisciplinary Studies, Director Systemics lab, MAT/ART, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Peter Singer, Director, Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, The Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C.

Moderated by Niels Van Tomme, Visiting Curator, Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture, University of Maryland, Baltimore County. A reception will follow starting at 8:00 p.m.
 
DASER is co-sponsored by Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences (CPNAS) and Leonardo, the International Society for the Arts, Sciences, and Technology.

New Chip-Based Method Could Lead to Quick Screening for New Vaccines

Vaccines are responsible for many of the dramatic public health achievements of the 20th century. But as new diseases emerge and old ones persist, finding new vaccines can be a complex and expensive endeavor. New research published recently in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) offers a way to quickly predict how well a vaccine will work in a specific individual. The research represents an important step forward that could help streamline vaccine development, as well as help guide distribution of vaccines during a pandemic to those who will benefit most.
 
The researchers used a tool called a microarray, a tiny “lab-on-a-chip,” that can be used to generate a complete readout of an individual’s immune profile—essentially the biological signature of any disease or vaccine the person has had. Since everyone responds slightly differently to a given vaccine, the method could help researchers determine which vaccines will be effective in the greatest number of people.
 
Learn more in a PNAS blog post about the paper, or access the paper online.
 
The Koshland Science Museum’s popular interactive online exhibit, Infectious Disease: Evolving Challenges to Human Health, has more information about vaccines and human immunity.

Video: Frontiers in Massive Data Analysis

How can “Big Data” transform our understanding of the world? Massive data sets are changing the way we think about crisis response, marketing, entertainment, cybersecurity, national intelligence and more. A new video from the National Academies unscrambles the benefits, risks and challenges of working with big data.

Resources on Disaster Resilience

One year after Superstorm Sandy hit the eastern United States, local, state, and federal leaders as well as community groups and businesses are working to strengthen the nation's resilience to future disasters. Learn more about the reports and activities from the National Academies that can help advance the conversation.
 
Disaster Resilience in America: Launching a National Discussion
The 2012 report Disaster Resilience: A National Imperative was released just months before Sandy hit and launched a series of discussions around the country about community resilience. The yearlong activities were bookended by workshops at the National Academy of Sciences. Full webcasts and video interviews with the participants are available online.
 
The Resilience of the Electric Power Delivery System in Response to Terrorism and Natural Disasters
Following the 2012 Research Council report Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System, this workshop summary expands the discussion of vulnerabilities to the electric grid to include natural disasters.
 
The National Research Council's Disaster Roundtable facilitates the exchange of ideas on a variety of topics related to disasters and resilience.
 
Koshland Science Museum will host an event on Nov. 16 for families to participate in hands-on activities, meet disaster experts and emergency responders, and learn how to build a more resilient community.
 
More Resources

New Report: Sports-Related Concussions in Youth

Rates of concussion-related ER visits for children and teens have risen in recent years, with many concussions occurring as a result of participation in sports. An expert committee convened by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) conducted an extensive study on concussions in youth sports and found that young athletes in the U.S. face a "culture of resistance" to reporting when they might have a concussion and to complying with treatment plans, potentially endangering their well-being.
 
The committee’s report, Sports-Related Concussions in Youth: Improving the Science, Changing the Culture, found rates of concussions were highest in football, ice hockey, lacrosse, wrestling, soccer, and women's basketball. High-school athletes in some sports report a higher rate of concussions than college athletes. The report also found little evidence that current sports helmet designs reduce the rate of concussions.

November 3: Four Nations Ensemble with Rosa Lamoreaux, Soprano

Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences (CPNAS) presents the Four Nations Ensemble with guest soprano Rosa Lamoreaux at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 3 at the NAS Auditorium, 2101 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required.
 
With a core ensemble of harpsichord or fortepiano, violin(s), flute, and cello, the Four Nations Ensemble explores and performs the major masterpieces of the 17th and 18th centuries, from trio sonata to piano trio and quartet. Guest soprano Rosa Lamoreaux is known for her flawless sense of style, incandescent presence, "a wonderfully rich timbre and an amazingly flexible voice" (The Washington Post).
 
Learn more and register here.

Enhancing Public Engagement in Science

Both scientists and the public can benefit from frequent and meaningful public engagement about the scientific process and new scientific findings. The Public Interfaces of the Life Sciences Initiative of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) provides leadership to the scientific community on public engagement in science.
 
The initiative focuses on two main goals: (1) raising awareness in the life sciences community about the importance of, and effective methods for, public engagement in science; and (2) building a community of practice and encouraging networks among life scientists, communication scientists, informal education experts, and science communicators to explore challenging issues that may be unique to the life sciences and develop informed public engagement strategies.
 
The initiative also offers an internships program that provides real-world experiences in science communication, science journalism, and science policy for undergraduate and graduate level students. Explore internship opportunities here.

Celebrating Academy History

Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy spoke movingly about science's importance to society and the Academy's role as adviser to the nation at a convocation celebrating the centennial of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). As the NAS celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, we reflect on the Academy’s history and its continuing role in the American democracy.

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