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tv   Discussion on Science  CSPAN  May 5, 2018 5:57am-7:29am EDT

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american history tv on c-span3. working with our cable affiliates as we explore ameri america. >> good afternoon everyone. it's a pleasure to have you
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here. we welcome you on behalf of the virginia humanities which is the producer of virginia festival of the books. my name is dana and i'm professor at the university of virginia school and i had to pause there for seconds because i just returned back to my alma mater six months ago. i want to thank today's sponsors include charlottesville community unity and the science policy initiative at uba, women in math and science at you ba and they support possible and we ask that you support the possible. it is free of charge and that's no cost to you but go online for information about how he might also support this festival and keep it going for many years to come. we also ask that you go online
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and give your evaluation of this program and provide useful information that will help us in the future. at the end of this program there will be an opportunity for you to meet the authors that will present today and to purchase their book. they would love not to take any of those back with them and they will be happy to sign them to whomever you would like them signed two. please support them in that way. program title today is called to gain science, brilliant, floppy or mangled. i am a lawyer and you might wonder why is a lawyer talking
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about science? many years and i will tell you how many days to practice law not too far from here at mcguire woods and used science as often as expert witnesses. i will tell you whatever they spoke everyone listened so today we will be listening to the panel to see if it is warranted or not. i also write a lot about public health and one of the reasons i argue in favor of more just loss for vulnerable populations is a science and i might learn whether my law suggest are supported or not. today will hear from 3 billion scientists and certainly i will introduce each briefly in the order they will speak. that will allow them to go ahead and speak without me interrupting them further. after their ten or 15 minute presentation i will start the conversation with a few provocative questions that i hope will get them speaking among each other and at the end of the hour i will open the floor so that you can get involved in the conversation as well.
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when you do please wait for the microphone because we are being recorded and i have something i was told to say in addition to all of that. this program is being broadcast on the city government access channel, charlottesville's own tv ten and screened live on the city's facebook page at charlottesville city hall. because this is a recorded event during question and answers please raise your hand and wait for a volunteer to any of the microphone before speaking. deep breath. now, we'll get started. let me tell you who you hear from. first meredith and her book is the vaccine race. i will tell you that it's been recently nominated and made shortlist for the welcome price so we are excited about that. meredith has covered biomedical politics from washington for 20 years as a reporter at science magazine. she's written for the wall street journal and others. for joining science use and editorial follow at a think take washington dc. she graduated from stanford and
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from columbia university and she's the position among us. she began her medical school at the university of british columbia and finished as a rhodes scholar at the university of oxford. she's -- if that is not enough for the journalism degree at columbia university in new york. you will hear from meredith first. dave is our second speaker and his book is called not a scientist politicians mistake, represent an utterly mangled science. [laughter] dave is a freelance journalist based in philadelphia and write articles focusing on an array of scientific topics especially those that are in intersection of policy and politics. these articles have been published in a host of places and i will list a few, waiters, wired, the atlantic, the guardian and "the washington post". i the pleasure of reading a
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couple that i will recommend to you. one is called when a president finishes science from the white house. another called radical proposal which will pop up the whole power industry. that will surprise you. next to hear from richard harris, his book is called rigor mortis how sloppy science creates worthless cures, crèches hopes and waste billions. this is his first book but not his first rodeo. he's one of the nation's most celebrated scientists and covered science from medicine and science for 30 years since 1986 for npr and he is the very time when her for the advancement of science journalism award. his award-winning report included 2010 report that revealed that the us government was vastly underestimating the amount of oil spills from the cotto blowout in mexico. he shared a peabody price for their 1994 report about the
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tobacco industry's secret documents showing that they were well aware of the hazards of smoking. richard lives in washington dc and asked me not to say all the things about him but i cannot help myself. start now to hear from meredith first. >> such a pleasure to be here but thank you for the info and thank you for your interest and for the organizations that are making the books successful and possible. it's wonderful to be with people who care about writing and reading is wonderful to find an audience. will be as quick as i can because this is usually a longer talk so cut me off i go too fast for too long. why write a book about the vaccine race? it began with the book the immortal life of henrietta which i devoured and read and reread the book after came out in 2010. the writer tracked down the
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family of the descendents of henrietta who was an impoverished nearly illiterate african-american woman who she was dying at age 31 and was turned into an enormously valuable research and you want to have a page turner in this area i would highly recommend this if you have not read it already. the book was on my mind a couple years later i was working as a reporter and reading the competition of what it does and science and policy had published a discussion between ephesus and other dignitaries whether people should be paid when their tissues are turned into medicines and therapies. in response to this printed argument came in a letter paying for tissue in the case of wi 38 and this is from amanda identified himself as leonard and he said the henrietta lacks cells are getting attention but in 1962 i derived cells from an aborted fetus that was legally aborted in sweden and i turned
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the cells into miniature vaccine factories the perspectives that protected hundreds of millions of people from diseases and not only that but he got into a huge fight us government and who owned the cells and that raises questions that are unanswered to stay. i read this and thought, this is not been turned into a book and i immediately formed leonard and said sounds like there's a story that has been told in he was 84 at the time living where he retired with his wife in california and it sounds like there might be a story and he said is there ever. at that point i happen to be going to california anyway for a college reunion and i was able to visit with him and spend literally hours and was so generous with his time at of plastic storyteller. curious in 2013 with his wife,
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ruth. to this place in 1960 -ish the institute an independent research and institute touch way on the campus of pennsylvania because the been neglected by a board of trustees for years and years when in 1957 the man in the middle this larger-than-life polish immigrant and polio vaccine pioneer hillary was offered to take over. he took it over and rescued it from the state and filled it with world-class biologist and hired this young man, age 30 in 1958, leonard, and up by the chaps philadelphian came from nowhere and no money and there were immigrants from eastern europe and his parents the last generation have been raised in the horrible slums of south philadelphia he was brilliant and ambitious and he was darned if he would be hired as hillary
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had hired him to be a servant to the brilliant biologist that they had recruited to make subcultures for them they could use in their brilliant experiments. he said i will not just do this but i will make discoveries myself in his biggest discovery was that normal cells which were thought to be immortal when they were grown in the lab actually aged and died in lab dishes just like you or me and unless they were cancerous cells in the lab were mortal and this became known as the limit the limited number of times that the cells would divide before dying an opinion on the map. yes any young cell biologist if you've heard of leonard he said oh yes, i know the limit. it's a tremendous discovery but was met with a huge amount of pushback. he had begun life with a chip on the shoulder and rejection by
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large of his discovery by biologist and figures graded on him. in any event, he made this discovery using fetal cells from abortions performed across the street at hospital of the university of pennsylvania now come back to that. he decided of the time -- he published this in the nih set up and paid attention and was like normal cells to divide a lab dish and now we can study aging now we can study how viruses infect cells and can do all these things that they said we will pay you to have leonard derive the cells for use by any funded paid handsomely which in 1962 was a lot of money and he began under contract driving the cells and read the fine print in the contract. as any lawyer can tell us, this will become important looks boring but it basically says when his contract is up the
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contractor, that is he slick and institute, turns over to the government and materials developed under this contract so file that in mind for a minute. he his ambition with the solstice to turn his normal human cells into many vaccine factories that could pump out viruses for vaccines and quickly virus reproduction -- you have got to have them reproduce in quantity and cells. there was a problem. the monkey was the cells have been used to make the famous polio vaccines which were the great public-health victory of the day have been discovered to house the silent monkey viruses and these viruses were thought to be not harmful to humans and they were monkey viruses and who cares and then on the left polio vaccine scientists at nh discovered a virus in the cells that caused laboratory hamsters to develop tumors and i in their
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hundreds. when she pronounced that discovery to her boss she was demoted and put in a broom closet and most of her staff stripped and she was left with two assistants and basically punished but eventually the truth came out and not usually your greatest source of information but in this case actually correct in the national enquirer of the story while in your times and other major media ignored it. basically they had to move on and they had to get two different species of animal to make polio vaccine because it was not known whether this particular virus would in fact cause cancer in human beings over time. enter mrs. x, this was a woman who in 1962 in sweden was married to a no good, hard drinking ex-con was often out of town for his manual labor and therefore children already when
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she discovered she was pregnant and early 1962 she couldn't place it. it was legal but not easy to get an abortion in sweden at the time but in fact it was the fourth month and she was 17 weeks pregnant before she found a rear and sympathetic gynecologist who agreed to perform the abortion. her fetus was taken without her knowledge or consent and it was dissected at the institute with home of the famous nobel prize and the lungs were shipped and he was waiting for them in philadelphia he arrived that summer of 196-2800 [inaudible] like those pictured here. they had up to 4 million cells of replicated cells that had replicated in the lab dish to a certain point derive from the lungs of fetus ex. he throws them and began handing them out to vaccine makers and scientists to say here, you can use the cells now to make clean,
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safe antiviral vaccines because we can ascertain and testify to the cleanliness of this particular sales but we tested them backwards and forwards not only that he sent a position in sweden back to mrs. x to say by the way, we took her fetus now we need to make sure that it's been used in research the don't have x, y and c problems in her family and infections and cancers and so on. that was hurt rude awakening several months after the abortion she did testify that was provided and the cells are certified. in his mind it was clean and safe. the sky controlled the us vaccine licensing process. robert murray of the nh but he was extremely cautious and risk diverse and have been through several vaccine disasters where they had been harmed or killed under his oversight and he witnessed these events up close and personal wanted to stick with the monkey self.
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he preferred the evil he knew what he did not. for ten years prevented any cells made in his clean, human fetal cells from being licensed in the us. there was a reason these fetal cells were needed and is called rubella. if you or i get it is also known as german measles is so mild were not where we have it in two in three people don't notice when they have it but if you feel ill you have a fever or couple lymph nodes here and he stay home a day from our knesset but in 1964 there was no vaccine against rubella and private women got rubella it was devastating on the fetus. the virus infected virtually every fetal organ particularly if a woman was affected in the first trimester. nineteen to four there was a massive historic epidemic rubella and country they can see the rubella virus particles with the buck particles moving between two cells and 20000 or more this is probably underreported but 20000 babies were born and 64, 65 and blinded
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by cataracts and affected by rubella and heart defects and profoundly deaf and intellectually disabled because what you see in the second virus babies and often times they have commendations of these conditions. it was devastating. steven was propelling death in 1964 and all but blind and had heart defects and this is a picture of him at about age eight. women were just, women of childbearing age wanted to vaccine and fast in the political pressure came from congress and i'm going to race ahead because of talk too long but the pediatrician named stanley was a colleague took his cells and developed a rubella vaccine virus vaccine in them and there they are the wi38 and those were first tested at the
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catholic orphanage in southwest philadelphia with the permission of the arch bishop. this is common practice in the day. institutionalized populations be they prisoners or preemies on hospital charity wards or orphans under the care of the catholic church were routinely tested. this is how it was done. for almost two decades and sometimes three after world war ii. ultimately the vaccine did prevail and robert murray the temperature was regular at nih was forced out of office and became the are in the market vaccine was proved and 79 and 2005 resulted with rubella being eliminated from this country and in 2013 in the entire western was. the rubella vaccine is virtually used throughout the world. sadly only about 20% of countries vaccinated against
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rubella childhood and therefore there's about hundred thousand babies born still every year afflicted by numerous birth defects because of rubella and the lack of the use of the vaccine that could prevented it. what happened as he felt like a second-class citizen at because he was never acknowledged first contributions and at one point when he decided to move to a better job it's deferred quietly to the basement and took every vaccine although he been ordered to return them to the nih impact them into the backseat of his car with his kids in the family sedan and they went to stanford with the cells in the liquid nitrogen strapped in the backseat. this would come back to bite him at the height of his power at stanford when nih chief investigator of waste, fraud and abuse came after him would be gone a company and began selling the cells. that was highly problematic but
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i'll encourage you and i hope you will be interested in buying the book in order to get the whole story because i don't want to give it all away. with that, i want to give the take-home message which is that his cells have prevented thousands and thousands of lives being lost particularly to rubella and this child happens to be in south africa during the apartheid era and i took this picture two days later the baby died of measles which invaded his lungs. in all, more than 6 billion vaccine doses have been made in either a flex wi 36 cells. that is it. >> i don't know if i can be with that kind of story. [laughter] for small, thank you to everyone who came and to dan for moderating and for the various
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sponsoring bodies and everything. i thought i would tell you about the origin of my book and what the point is there. basically i got started when i got a full-time job in a staff writer at fact check .org to spend most of my career as a freelancer but i spent a year as their first-ever full-time science writer and i assume most people are familiar with backcheck but it basically comes out when politicians get things wrong. the guy grant specifically to cover science and had done some coverage of science before but it was not in a methodical fashion but they got a grant to start a section of their site specifically dedicated to sign so they hired me to do that. the corner of the site is called [inaudible] and encourage you to check it out.
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basically my day job this was the beginning of 2015 so my day job was to pay attention to what politicians were saying about scientific topics and when they got it wrong explain why they were wrong and i didn't like for material effort and i basically started to notice patterns with the way they talk about science. sometimes these are repeated talking points on the same thing almost word for word said by different politicians about the same topics but also it came up a lot that they would use similar techniques and not necessarily the exact words but similar styles of speech or return all devices to talk about science and they would get signs wrong and in doing so i started collecting these techniques. it quickly became clear there was a fairly extensive list of these that i thought might be useful to gather together in one place. that is what the book is. it's a playbook of the various
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techniques that politicians use to get signs wrong. i specifically don't try to sign intent to a lot of these errors in the book. obviously, a lot of the time they're doing this on purpose however i find it difficult to say definitively when politician asked said scientific thing why that they were 100% line so i tried to explain the reasons they are wrong and the reasons this rhetorical device is working against us. so, the first sort of main talking point that i came across was the title of the book. i thought it give you the origin story. i'm sure a lot of people have heard that but i'm not a scientist but and there's always the but that comes after that matters most. i found this line infuriating and you heard a lot in the 2009,
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ten, 11, 12 range of years and almost universally when politicians were talking about climate change is probably used for other things in that time. but, changes most commonly discussed topic. the line, i guess, was intended to act as a smokescreen than anything else. science is unknowable. we can possibly know the actual answers here but i will go ahead and answer on whatever the topic was. once i use that as the title i figured i should figure out the origin of the line because it was so commonly used and it seemed to everyone got a memo that they would have to use this line and so i tried to figure out working from and it goes back a decent showing farther than i thought it did and since the whole point of this book was about evidence i cannot promise this is the very first time someone use this line in exactly the same way that the very first
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one that i could find was september 1980 during the presidential campaign ronald reagan use the line and i'm sorry to pick up my own book but i will read it because it's fun. it will sound familiar even though the topic is different. he was asked during a campaign event about various environmental issues that were relevant at the time. he said i have phoned twice over announcing helen on the west coast and i'm not a scientist and i don't know the figures but i just have a suspicion that one little mountain out there has probably released more sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere in the world is been released in the last ten years of e-mail driving or things of that kind that people are so concerned about. so, i will explain just how wrong he was in second but i find this fascinating because it's about a topic we don't hear about anymore that sulfur dioxide is a primary component of acid rain and there was a big
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deal in 1980 am sure a lot of people remember that but you won't hear abocid rain anymore. we fixed that problem but at the time this was a big deal and it was a common topic of discussion among politicians because it would require government regulation to do something about it. real quick, at the time mount saint helens was emitting about 2000 tons of sulfur dioxide a day on average. it sounds like a lot at all human sources in the united states 81000 tons a day. globally, 300,000 tons a day and if he was talking just the irruption, mount saint helens and this is the reason to even discuss it was because of the eruption in may 1980 and obviously a catastrophic event in that irruption released 1.5 million tons but he also said ten years of automobile driving and things of that sort. that would've been closer to
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200 million tons just from the united states alone in of course global is more relevant over here anyway. the point was he was way, way off. it almost doesn't matter. the use of this line and i'm not a scientist is basically to give them an excuse to get things wrong "after words". it doesn't make sense beyond that. you don't hear people use the same formulation for other topics. you don't hear a politician say i'm not a lawyer or i'm not in the commonest or i'm not an expert in north korean diplomacy and you just don't hear that. you trust that they have experts around you know the thing that they're trying to legislate on or regulate or whatever it is they are doing. science for some reason gives politicians permission for shenanigans, i guess. they think that so far there out
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of the norm but they make an excuse first and it's a bizarre talking points and i sound ridiculous and want to point out that is not the only one to find this request. one of my favorite lines there's a gop consultant and strategist named mike mckenna he once called that line the i'm not a scientist line the dumbest talking point in history of mankind. i feel pretty good about tapping the title (anyway, i will pretty much stop there and say these techniques but i'm talking about in here and most of what i wrote about it go back in history for some them but most are semi- recent examples. obviously, these type of techniques are relevant today and there is and not breaking new ground to say that the current government is not exactly science friendly. i think it has become ever more important for all of us to be able to hear when you're trying to get things passed us. that's the point, i guess.
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[applause] >> i just picked up your book today and it's like a field guide to political rhetoric. it's very handy. also cup cherry picking. anyway, a good read. thank you all for coming and i will start my conversation with henrietta because this is a story about scientist getting things wrong they don't need to get wrong which is a recurrent theme in my book and i remember when i was a young reporter in san francisco in the mid- 1980s there was a scientific paper published saying many, many experience and research laboratories in cell cultures in the test tube or in petri dishes or whatever and turns out that in many cases scientists were mistaken about what cells they were using. turns out that henrietta's cells were the consumer of the world of medicine because they were growing incredibly rapidly and if you even had some contamination the cell got
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overrun and what you are studying is cervical cancer cell so it's to say that in the early 1980s unpublished paper saying this is a really big problem in biomedicine and many, many experiments are wrong. i thought this is a huge thing what will people do and how will they kick these results that are in scientific literature and admit that these were mistaken results and fix the problem and move forward and i sat and watched and absolutely nothing happened. it was like really? this is a major contamination of the scientific literature and it was scientific response was nothing to see here, move along. this persisted for a long, long time. in fact, a study published last year try to tone up how many papers have been published calling a cell something when it
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turned out to be what is called the henrietta lacks online and they found 33000 papers in the scientific literature mostly things that us taxpayers have paid for over the years that were claimed to be oneself were other cells in the said how many papers cited those 33000 papers of mistaken identity and the answer was half a million papers in scientific literature appointed to these 33000 studies that are basically a case of mistaken identity. if it wasn't bad enough there were an international committee of people who got together to say this is a problem not just for these cell lines but many, many cell lines identified and they been templating them and they now have a list of 400 cell lines that are said to be one kind of self that are another selling. in the early days these are hard things to figure out a little bit and had to do careful
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testing to figure out what was and maybe look at it under the microscope and it was a fussy business to do but for the last ten or 20 years it has been easy and fairly civil test and now quite inexpensive to sort out these cases of misidentified cells. this is the kind of issue i was looking at in my book to say is taxpayers put $30 billion a year in nih funding and more than that according to what congress tested the other day and why are there so many deadens in science? one reason i should say upfront is science is hard.
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you should not expect and i do not expect that science will get everything right and if they did i would be worried because they are supposed to be looking at frontiers of science in you expect missteps and restrictions and so on. that is all part of the normal process of science but we shouldn't be mad about that and say this is how exploration works. you go this way and it doesn't work that way so you go the other way and eventually find a path forward. what a focus on in my book is the source of things you can and should be preventing things like looking at bad cell lines and not taking the time to say been using the cells overlap for long time so i don't find out what they really are. scientist have been reluctant to do that. i started to peel back the layers and say why is is going on what other kinds of problems are there and i mentioned that ingredients which is clearly the cell lines are good example but there are others about ingredients. bad experimental design. it turns out that people in biomedical research don't learn the best techniques for designing in experiments. i talked to a professor who said he went on the hall and said why did you stick mice in that
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experiment and he said everyone uses mice and he said that's not a good experimental design. think about how many mice you need and why you need a certain number of mice from experiments. also, their libel to use bad statistics. there is a trick people may use deliberately a lot of it is unconscious and a lot of it is not really fully understanding what is going on. i remember talking to another scientist named keith yamamoto in san francisco who said when i went into biology is older than i am but he said our philosophy was in biology we wouldn't because we didn't want to do math in our sense was if you have to use statistics to analyze your results think of a better experiment. that actually made sense in a descriptive era of biology but, you know, it has become quantitative field now and it makes no sense now but there's a long tradition of biologist not thinking deeply about statistics
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is a need to do. finally, and last but not least, that incentives in the world of biomedical research. unfortunately, scientists respond to the motivation that are put in front of them in unfortunately we are now in a hypercompetitive world of biomedical research and funding for nih doubled between 1998 and 2003 which is fabulous or so they thought for the field in amount of laboratory space and universities increased by 50% in the us during the time and then congress is set in 2003 taking care of nih and they basically stopped increasing the funding for nih. in real dollar terms that declined 20% over the following decade so he built up his huge community of people and then he started slowly but surely cracking down the money was available for experiments. you can clearly understand this became a really big issue of survival. scientist would say i need to keep my lab alive whatever it takes and i'm responsible for my
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graduate students and postdocs and all the rest of this and they are not saying what i need to do that and it's not necessarily to the best and careful science but to flush the experiments and to get attention for themselves and so on and to get their grants going in the labs coming along. unfortunately, it means publishing in high-profile scientific journals which expect perfect results and if you have one funny thing that's not quite perfect you say i just won't mention that in my paper because i might not get published. if it was in another journal they would say you know, this is as exploration and i don't understand everything but here something that doesn't quite fit in but they're afraid if they put that in their paper all of a sudden nature or sell or science will say don't have a clean story here so take it to another journal. the incentives are also a myth. what are the consequences of this? as i mentioned, we, taxpayers,
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from this research and would like a return on our investment and we hope that people move in the right direction to improve treatments for diseases and diagnoses and maybe even [inaudible] and as you undoubtedly know drugs are getting more and more expensive and harder and harder to get meaningful new drugs out of the drug pipeline in this is all part and parcel of this process unfortunately where we want to get the most bang for our buck but the incentives for the scientists are not to do that. one of the people i talk with in the course of reporting the book is tom murphy, has lou gehrig's disease and he was put into a clinical trial and chose the clinical trial to get into and got in the trial in turns out the drug he was part of the experiment to see if it would work didn't work in fact there's no drug for als that has worked. it turns out that there are more than a dozen drugs that have been tried and failed and
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someone went back and looked at those drugs to understand what is going on and they looked the mouse experiments that had initially been done and discovered the initial stakes were incredible small and the initial experiments were promising with these mice but when they redid the experiments with proper number of mice and so on none of the drugs were successful. let's take a little more time up front and figure things out were carefully and think about fundamental things like how to design experiment crackly to get the right results. my book, despite the horrible title, or frightening title, is not all bad news. my preferred title was science-fiction because this is of story of slowing down scien science. it's certainly been a dead in science moving forward but it could be moving forward faster if we could reduce the science-fiction. what can and should we do? a couple of things i talk about in my book. one of them is couple of years ago the nih finally said to scientists if you're using cell lines in your experience respect you to validate them and go get
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them tested and find out if they are what you really think they are and if they are you thought you were studying lung cancer, guess what, maybe you got to start your experiments over again. the nih has opened up to this and to their credit they have not where the problems and the director stepped up and said we have problems that we need to address them. they have been thinking about how to do that in dealing with the low-paying fruit which is easier to get to. the second thing there is now a movement to improve the education in this area and i talked to a wonderful professor at johns hopkins who is saying we need to get the phd scientists thinking about the philosophy of science and begin about how to design experiments and to think more deeply about what to do. said so often if the science
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test gets a result they don't understand they do another experiment to get more data and figured out. i like people to stop and think more and to be more philosophical about how they approach their science. my feeling is that if we did less science and more carefully we would, you know, we would benefit as a public is so much of this published is just off and a good million peoples a year published in the scientific literature art most of them are never cited again by anyone also lets publish fewer papers to make sure that each one has greater clout. another thing that can and should be done is to increase the standards for how science is done. i talked to a pathologist who is now at arizona state university who says it is hard to get money is assigned to develop and work on standards because she's concerned about tissue that is gathered during autopsies or
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during surgeries and so on when someone has a colon cancer moved from the tissue gets handled between the time is removed from the patient until the time it gets put into the repository and is handled in crazy ways. people don't pay attention to it and she says that could be affecting the way that tissue is up in the molecules inside the tissue and we don't understand that we can't make good use of that so she's frustrated because it's hard to get money to do something that is seen as boring. as opposed to whatever says i have a new idea that may work for cancer and obviously we need to do both and figure out how to do both. last but not least, thinking about how to change the incentives in the system. i'm delighted to see brian in the audience and the center for open science here in virginia because he's been begin about these issues and there are other people around the country also thinking how do we change the incentive system. one of the resource brian told
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me when i interviewed him for my book was when he was up promotion at uva his professor or his german said bring me all your scientific papers and brian said, i've written hundred papers and we publish a lot of papers. you don't want to read 100 papers. he said bring us the hundred papers. so they did and as brian told us the story or call the story he said he talked about it and when he talks about the department when he started his career they said when you're up for promotion we want you to bring your three most interesting exciting papers and evaluate you from that. ...
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>> and their careers funded. thank you for your attention. >> i want to start with a question to all three authors and ask to talk about what we had last week on the white house science will be well-funded and 7 billion. so for each of you is the problem that you have isolated
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will they get better or worse? >> and from 1998 through 2003 it is a cautionary note. and then you have this hypercompetitive world and then to spend three quarters of your time. and that it is to the extent that money actually goes to alleviate that pressure it is good to that extent there is another excuse to expand a sustainable funding structure.
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it really depends upon how the nih ends up using that funding. >> the white house never would have done that. but i would add to what richard said about 9% it's all great and thinking back to the stimulus the fire hydrant was open. it is hard when it is changing that quickly but funding alzheimer's disease at nih
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$400 million every year growing on the base of 1.8 on this 100 billion now 1.2 .2 billion so it one way that is great because it draws new scientist into the field but and to the degree there is some crossover and with those more fundamental processes but i think it is hard to spend that new money well fast. >> i have new bullish on the new money than you are. >> just in terms of nih in particular what is that 14% is
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and toward the single digits this will allow them to raise the rate and generally speaking with those experiments or studies that are out there that are unfunded. so the details are important if it is tough to spend x amount of dollars i'm sure there are issues there but as a general principle it is a good thing. and with that those that they think are wasteful to do this
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exact thing. it is called ridicule and dismiss as a way to undermine science. who should do this better? and there always be people who try to undermine the message. >> you talk about the way it is talked about our negotiated and ideas for fewer articles at better incentives but the silent if you turn on the tv talk about gun violence.
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the cdc can't research this and they are forbidden so talk about the unscientific way that we censor science and your thought thoughts. >> i will just say i think that i don't know if there is another example like that there is an anomaly so the amendment from the '90s is an incredible anti- scientific mindedness. i don't know of another example like that. >> it was 5 million new dollars and then to imitate california. there is some movement i do
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say this is an outlier. i am not inexpert. but you cannot predict it is the nature of that process where breakthrough will come and it doesn't work well. >> and there is some language to keys restriction on funding but they do take some rhetorical effort that with research on gun violence. but it seems that you cannot
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suggest solutions to include restricting access. obviously that is the genesis of the amendment so there is an act of debate -- inactive debate for gun research that there is more rhetoric the cdc is afraid to step into. >> sows some individual questions i cannot help but ask how women fare. and one who got demoted it was the genesis of this all. can you talk about the gendered nature of your story?
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>> one of the things in looking at philadelphia when the abortions were at the university of pennsylvania and then the fetuses were taken across the street, that whole issue and it turns out as we know abortion was a criminal offense in all 50 states but in philadelphia or in pennsylvania wasn't even an exception to save the life of the mother it was still illegal there was a parallel universe in terms of what really happened and then chasing those back alley butchers with the self-inflicted abortions and then the hospital university of pennsylvania and others around the country of therapeutic proportions were
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allowed and the authorities tolerated them. but by and large they were wider and walther better connected women. it was very tough to get an abortion and also the new mississippi 15 week law that is challenged in the courts has a larger proportion of african-americans than any state in the country so the one clinic cannot provide abortions after 15 weeks and you know who that affects. i don't know that answers your question. >> it does. devils advocate so talk about
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the critic that the vulnerable is population is the fetus and is a loser to talk about the ends justifying the means? does it really? or should we think any other way? >> and totally obviously legitimate. those would have happened anyway and my interest in that
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my question went to the disposal of the fetal tissue without the woman's consent. and how to respect that. and these days fetal tissue is still important in certain areas of research particularly for hiv and hepatitis c. that consent is required. with that separate decision to abort. and there cannot be money beyond but getting to that era with new techniques and then
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it is important to advancing the science. what happened to the fetal tissue after an abortion if it should be allowed at all. >> so continue talking about vulnerable populations so in biomedical research to see the underrepresentation of minorities in clinical trials and i wonder if any of those fixes that you have will address that or should? and with those distribution.
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there are many scientists that are out there. still not representative of the population at all but it is a more diverse pool of the senior members of the scientific community. most of those are not able to get a career. that is a structural issue with biomedical research. how do you say to somebody in their 70s pulling down the grant you have done a wonderful job step aside. we need some new perspective. and to have a chance to test their ideas. that is another dimension of this and with those that are
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structured in this country about if they are sloppy and the broken system that needs to be fixed to make one of the favorite things is to understand how the inquiry proceeds and it builds slowly and incrementally upon another. it is counterintuitive about the suggestion that we slow down and push fewer papers. that we privilege fewer people to create these designs or lou gehrig's disease or alzheimer's and we need more of that slow process to happen. don't we need to get people going?
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>> i actually don't think that means today less research but for example many scientists use that to do six experiments i only have money to do mine now you end up with experiments that are robust enough to give you meaningful results. and those that do fewer experiments with that meaningful sample so yes you may test fewer ideas if you get an answer but we are in a situation that tells about a cancer researcher looking at 53 experience -- experiments
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these are all greatly for new cancer drugs and could only get six of them to work then set i'm having trouble reproducing your experiment. but then they would say at work last time but we are moving on. and now with those subsidiary labs. and then we could do that spot checking. or if it is just a dead end? so that brings more robust results.
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and then to actually can move science forward. >> can i talk about your recommendation? you know what his list is but with bait and switch in the categories you have in your book. >> if i had a good answer it would be difficult. [laughter] but i don't have a solid list of ways to fix this as long as there are politicians will get things wrong intentionally or unintentionally because they are not experts we cannot expect it to go away i have a very long-term solution which is scientific literacy and education if we could improve our appreciation for method and some of the under the
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radar stuff that your books talk about that the general public appreciated those a little more or understood better it would be harder for politicians to do this sort of thing. obviously that is reform the entire education system is not useful to say. that's one thing. so that is one thing. i guess the other thing is just money. i have really useful ideas, honestly. take money out of politics and politicians have less incentive to get science wrong. it is not an actionable thing necessarily. the reason i wanted to write something like this is there are not a ton of actionable things other than us calling them out for it. you can do a little better than
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that, fixing the root problem, education and money and if you have ideas for that. >> i love the humor in it and you talk about the oversimplification, the jedi mind trick. and ask if you if it is a jedi mind trick to obfuscate things, make them more complicated than they need to be. the simple statement, babies feel pain at 20 weeks, you said that is not right. this is what is right. the response may look like the fetus is experiencing pain but let's go back to the 2005 review which jane and joe did not read. flex jan withdraw from stimuli is a noncritical spinal reflex
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exhibited by infants with incessantly by individuals in a persistent vegetative state who lack cortical function. i'm thinking that is not a soundbite. >> not catchy enough for you. we do not expect our elected officials to talk about science in the same way a paper will talk about it. i don't expect them to do that. in fact it is a skill to be able to simplify complicated scientific topics in ways people can understand and grab a hold of. but if you are using that technique to pull the will out of someone's eyes that is different than trying to explain things in simple terms. in that example, the book isn't all just quotes but i tried to explain why there's a better
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way to say what the politicians are saying. in this case they are taking advantage of some very sketchy research that tries to claim a fetus feels pain at 20 weeks when in fact the vast bulk of actual research and experts think that is not remotely true. you could as easily say something simply, science is unsure exactly when a fetus feels pain because of venus cannot tell us when it feels pain. in terms of anatomy is closer to 27 weeks or afterword. there are ways to users that aren't the same level of deception. >> i have taken up much of the conversation. i would like to hear from some of you in the audience. i would like to know where the mic is. but can we start in the front?
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the gentleman in the gray sweater. >> two questions. one for meredith and i have lost that meredith. i remember. what is unique about the two cell lines, henrietta locks and the lung cells that were imported from europe it makes them so valuable for these decades of research? is it understood what makes them immortal. there are people in silicon valley pretending or claiming to be researching immortality. it seems those cell lines might have relevance to that and the question for richard harris regarding design experience, the committee for responsible medicine advocates doing more with technology endless with animals. my question is how critical is
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that in terms of getting better experiment design, faster results and doing less nasty things perhaps to animals? >> because i have to go so fast i didn't perhaps make it clear the fetus's lungs are not immortal cells, they are normal, that was part of their tremendous value in vaccine making, they go through 50 divisions before they die but the power of exponential growth and the huge number of files as that developed mean for practical purposes we created an infinite supply. cells go on average 50 divisions, and it is so powerful he already froze 800 files but if you thought those cells a year later, 10 years later, 50 years later, today
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those cells remember how many divisions they have gone through and start merrily dividing again. >> what about the cells from europe. >> they are not unique in the sense that one could in principle derive another cell line very similar from a paraphilia one from an abortion that happens tomorrow. what is valuable now about the ms. vaccinemakers have decades of experience with them. they like have their own little personalities and get to be known in the lab by those working with them. if it ain't broke don't fix it. why would you want to make rubella vaccine with a new cell line when we already understand the cells so well and have these decades long record of safety and effectiveness in producing the rubella vaccine. that is why they are valuable, knowledge base that has been built up around them and the fact they are still sitting in
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manassas at the american culture connection deeply frozen that will last until our great-grandchildren are in their graves and beyond. >> they are cancer cells so they are cancer, cells proliferate uncontrollably. some people consider it to be so different from the original cells that they think of it as a new species. it was adapted to growing plastic antioxidant concentrations so it is a very even though we still think of it as a human cell line it is really different from what human cells look like. you ask about the prospect of getting away from animal research and animals are an imperfect stand in for us, often quite imperfect and sometimes misleadingly so and there's a great deal of hope
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that there are other ways of doing this and their ideas percolating along, not quite ready for prime time but moving in that direction and when it interests me is organized where you can take human cells that will reproduce and form little balls, if you take neurological tissue, they will form little balls, they don't think that have electrical signals like brains do. is that good for studying something like a brain tumor? is the close enough model? there's a lot of excitement going on right now, it takes a while, how good is this, how do you compare that animal research and so on. there have been so many missteps from animal research that have not translated into human research but it is the best thing, we are stuck with
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it. ideally we will find something that is more powerful stand in for us as opposed to these animals. >> i will stay in this section and move across the room. >> feel free to chime in. you mentioned the long-term solution to the scientific communication on improving science literacy for everyone in the public. do you think the burden is mostly on politicians, journalists, the public to up their scientific literacy or should scientists and academics be able to communicate their work in a way more understandable? >> that is a good question and my first answer is a question. of scientists, a lot of scientists are great communicators but yes, if tomorrow suddenly they were incredible communicators about their work does that mean politicians suddenly start getting it wrong just because
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scientists are better at telling us about it? my guess is probably no. i'm not sure, yes it would be great for people doing the actual research to be better at telling us what they are doing and i think there's a lot of movement in that direction, a lot of universities have workshops for scientists to improve their communication and everything like that. it is and all of the above thing. unless you have a way to solve the whole money in politics thing they are going to keep doing it so it is up to people listening to them and voting for them to be able to understand better what they are saying. is part of the way we all get better at understanding the science they are trying to legislate on, part of that is scientists are better than telling us that us about it absolutely.
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not sure it is a matter of dividing up the blame necessarily. did that answer your question? >> then we go to the middle section. >> my question is primarily for mr. harris. i enjoyed your book although i'm not sure enjoy is the right word. your book is about biomedical research and social science research. are you a little more sanguine about the physical sciences and if so, why? >> i am. it has not been examined as closely as biological science has and the national academy of science is doing a study to ask the question, what is happening in other areas of science in terms of reproducibility but they deal with different issues. for one thing, one of the struggles in biomedical science is we are dealing with living systems that are highly variable to begin with so in a
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small sample size, you're likely to be fighting really hard to see some sort of signal of what is happening above the noise, the cacophony of what is happening anyway so biomedical sciences have that huge problem and behavioral scientists do because human beings -- if you are studying adams there is less variability but from one calcium adam to the next and physical scientists think about these problems more deeply. the hunt for the higgs but on in switzerland, a huge experiment involving thousands of scientists and what they did when they set up that experiment was this that this is how hard the signal we are looking for, we are going to build two separate detectors with different principles and
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see if we can get the same answer. this is that verification in the beginning and that is why they were confident with those results but it cost $4 billion, when experiment basically so we can't afford to do that for every biomedical experiment but i think there are issues sometimes. the coldfusion story where people were fooled about whether fusion was happening in a test tube that my expectation is physical science will see less reproducibility issues than we have had in biomedicine and social science. >> can i throw in one quick thing? climate change falls under that umbrella and that has required a whole ton of reproducibility studies because of the scrutiny the field gets. michael mann's hockey-stick graph has been repeated in 25 different ways at this point showing the paly of climate record so there are some fields that demanded of themselves for
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weird reasons i guess. >> one question in the front and one there. thank you. >> thank you for sharing this afternoon, really appreciate it. from an administrative standpoint it sounds like a potential hurdle to doing good sciences volatility in terms of funding, a decline in real dollars in funding in earlier years and all of a sudden $400 million more for alzheimer's disease and hard to spend that money well. can you speak -- do you have a vision or guiding principle that would be helpful in terms of creating a sustainable future to increase quality and quantity of scientific research but from the economic standpoint and the funding standpoint so you're not worrying about will my lab shutdown tomorrow or will i get $400 billion tomorrow? >> one thing we are seeing is
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the cost shifting. when i went to the university of california back in the 1970s it was the university of california, more than half the money from the university came from the state of california. i was talking to reacher said -- researchers in san francisco. how much is from california? only 5%. i went to fact check that. it is actually 3%. the university of virginia, small proportion of the money comes from virginia and that creates huge volatility. the financing, make scientists raise their own money and get these federal grants and that has been very damaging over the long run. a cheaper way to keep their universities going. it is a political question how can voters in states say we value this work and wish the state taxpayers would fund
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universities so scientists are less dependent on grants. i'm not too optimistic that could happen but pie in the sky, that is one thing that would help a lot. >> there are inconvenient things called elections and changes congress, you wish you could say nih will have a 2.5% increase in budget each year for the next 25 years and then people have a framework in which to work but i don't know how to get away from the funding and the politics. i wish i had an answer. >> the white center, i will ask you. >> very similar question has to do with the grant process, seems like a great idea to give grant money to the winners who have demonstrated it is a great idea but what that does, makes the science go to the most
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conventional science possible. an alternative i would like a comment from is it takes a third of the budget, doesn't go to a specific grant process but institutions to hire young people. and set for philanthropy that says i will have a blue ribbon panel, the next -- going to fund the first three years of junior faculty at a great institution and have comments related to that. >> the that goes on but not very much. there are investigative grants and institutions like the howard hughes medical institute that says we will not -- not fund specific projects but the best of the best and give them a huge pile of money so they don't have to spend so much time scrambling for grants but the reality is they still do and trying to get more money
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from the nih but because we have shortage of funding, i think particularly there should be more focus on getting diverse people diverse points of view and letting scientists have a chance to get their feet on the ground and see what is going on. there could be a lot more money for that. >> this is for mr. harris. you had mentioned the switch from public funding to federal funding, scientists funding -- finding their own funding. a lot of this funding is from corporations and associations of the sugar industry or the meatpacking industry. have you any figures for how much of that funding is, shall we say, commercially funded as opposed to nsf type funding and
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how much of an influence is that on the overall quality of research? >> if you look globally at funding for biomedical research a lot of his research starts in the university but gets picked up for drug companies. if you look at what drug companies are doing to develop drugs they are going to sell, that is the biggest pool of money. the next is the nih funding, $37 billion a year. lots of associations and things like that, a minor share of total funding, and research at universities, if it is funded by drug companies and need to be mindful where funding comes from to make sure these are grants, research trying to expand knowledge and not trying to promote a particular product or whatever so we journalists think about where the money is
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coming from and a study in the new england journal of medicine. was affronted by drug company, important things to bear in mind. there is also philosophical biases that come in as well, choosing not to believe various things in science not just for economic reasons but maybe philosophical reasons. if climate change means the government has to have a heavier hand in the way we regulate things and people don't like the government's heavy-handed they will say i don't believe in climate change. it is important not to get sidetracked or think only about the financial conflicts but be aware of other conflicts that everyone comes to, with bias. we need to be aware of what they are.
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>> before i do, make sure i didn't miss a question on this side of the room, there is one on the corner, let that be the last formal question. >> i should have given you a warning. >> i am following up on the last question, there's more of a trend of super super wealthy billionaires sort of finding a priority, cancer, immunotherapy of cancer, and a big amount of money. and in favor of the transaction and the politics of it.
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and all of you, is this problematic if science is a greater percentage for individuals. with more of an effort as mr. harris was saying to address these issues like reproducibility, rigor, new criteria now where these issues are addressed, authentication and resources, it is in the past years of review, and all bets are off with privately funded science. is this going to be a big step back if this represents a bigger proportion of the science happening now. are you seeing -- privately funded science is paying attention to these issues, there are medical legal
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implications. some could be privately owned, the advances that happens with superwealthy funding science. and address the political level, there will be agendas and superwealthy have, and superwealthy with a personal agenda, it is a complicated nature. >> asking them to speak to it, we thank them for their insights. >> i welcome philanthropy from an individual, they are doing top drawer stuff into my knowledge, my hands off, and
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best scientists looking for one. i don't think billionaires are hugely, financially, is driving, the concerns you do. >> you are right that we shouldn't give blanket approval kind of thing to us. of someone with $1 billion feels like spending on als because their parents has als, that doesn't seem like a bad thing to me. obviously there are weird exceptions to that, silicon valley billionaires, the blood of teenager becomes the thing. you know what i'm talking about.
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i kind of think it is an okay one, you asked about they might own the things they discover. in terms of the agenda put forth here, i don't see a difference with drug companies. one company, one company owns a test for breast cancer risk gene and there will be more of those, a lot more and it will be a rich person who funded this and it will be novartis or pfizer, not sure there's a difference. in terms of the political side of it, it would be nice if we didn't have just billionaires able to lobby congress as well as pfizer able to lobby congress but not sure it is more than a difference in degree rather than kind. >> i will read a little bit.
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i will give two examples, the gates foundation, which is a huge supporter of global health research, they are looking at what is best for mankind in a way but also pick and choose what they think is important and not important. if they think malaria is important there will be a lot of money in malaria and if they change their mind it goes away. the other one i'm paying close attention to is the zuckerberg initiative and multibillionaire's pouring money into research and it is not well appreciated but they are funding university scientists -- the zuckerberg initiative is not a nonprofit, the liability of corporations and i think there are serious questions who owns the intellectual property generated from university scientists we
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as taxpayers are supporting if that comes along. i don't have a full story but it is something we need to be aware of that those relationships are changing, the way we designed them. we need to keep an eye on this. >> let that be the last from the podium. "not a scientist," abca 15, and let's thank them. [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> this weekend on c-span, tonight at 8:30 p.m. eastern, journalists and law experts
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discuss first amendment protections in the digital age. sunday at 6:30 p.m. former clinton white house chief of staff leon panetta, for a trump white house chief of staff rines priebus and carl bernstein and bob woodward for the american presidency and the american dream. on booktv c-span2, tonight at 10:00 eastern on afterwards. facebook cofounder chris hughes on his plan to reduce poverty and strengthen the middle-class. at 7:20 p.m. sunday, sam sorbo and joel pollock talk about conservatism in the age of donald trump and on american history tv c-span3 tonight at 8:00 pm eastern on lectures in history, sam houston state university professor brian matthew jordan on the 1864 civil war overland campaign and sunday 11 am eastern a new monument at arlington national cemetery dedicated to one of the 5000 helicopter pilots and


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