Pulse


Pulse

By GCN Staff


lab testing (Shutterstock image)

Biotech advances may stress regulatory agencies

Federal agencies involved in regulation of biotechnology products should increase their scientific capabilities, tools and expertise to get ready for the expected wave of new products, according to a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

Regulating new biotechnology products that have not been evaluated by the current regulatory system -- such as genetically modified plants, engineered microbes and even insects -- will impact agencies that currently conduct evaluation and testing, the report said.

“The rate at which biotechnology products are introduced -- and the types of products -- are expected to significantly increase in the next five to 10 years, and federal agencies need to prepare for this growth,” said committee chair Richard Murray of the California Institute of Technology.

To prepare, the report suggests, agencies should:

  • Evaluate current risk-analysis approaches to determine those most appropriate for new products entering the regulatory system.
  • Create pilot projects that evaluate future product types as they move from laboratory scale, to field- or prototype-scale, to full-scale operation.
  • Review existing statutes to ensure adequate oversight will cover a wider range of biotechnology products.
  • Determine whether ethical, cultural and social implications should be factored into risk assessments.
  • Ensure staffing levels, expertise and resources are sufficient to address the expected scope and scale of future biotechnology products.
  • Establish appropriate federal funding levels for sustained, multiyear research to develop the necessary advances in regulatory science.

Overall, the federal government should develop a strategy that scans the horizon for new biotechnology products, identifying and prioritizing those products that are less familiar or that present a need for more complex risk analysis, the report said.

The study was sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Department of Agriculture.

Posted on Mar 16, 2017 at 3:23 PM0 comments


Maps track early arrival of spring (USA National Phenology Network)

Maps track early arrival of spring

If it feels like spring is early this year, that's not just your imagination. A new set of maps from the USA National Phenology Network shows just how ahead of schedule spring has sprung across the county.

To build the maps, the researchers used the Spring Leaf and Bloom Indices, which are climate change indicators based on nationwide field observations collected about when enough heat has accumulated to initiate leafing and blooming in common and temperature-sensitive flowering plants.

That information was combined with recent nationwide heat and temperature data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, including daily data used for the National Weather Service, and historical daily data from a database maintained by Oregon State University, all adjusted each day to a two-mile resolution, according to a report from the U.S. Geological Survey, the lead agency in the National Phenology Network.

When the researchers applied the plant models to the recent weather data, they were able to create national-scale daily maps of leaf emergence for these plant species.  By comparing the daily maps from this year to historical maps created the same way, they were able to show differences between this year and the long-term average (1981-2010).

Data used to develop these maps was collected by volunteers who recorded and shared phenological observations across the nation.

The USA National Phenology Network is a partnership among governmental and nongovernmental science and resource management agencies and organizations, the academic community and the public. 

Posted on Feb 28, 2017 at 11:05 AM0 comments


Digital gov increasingly meeting expectations

Governments are doing an increasingly good job of meeting citizens’ expectations for online services, according to newly released numbers from a 2016 Accenture survey.

The survey found that 85 percent of respondents “expect the same or higher quality from government digital services as they do from commercial.” That’s up more than 10 percent from an Accenture survey done two years prior.

Over that same period, the percentage of people who said they are satisfied with government’s digital services doubled from 27 percent in 2014 to 58 percent in the 2016 survey.

The survey results are based on an online survey of 3,300 voting-age citizens and interviews with 118 public service leaders in 16 states. Accenture also found that a growing number of people want to be able to connect with government through their smartphone and on social media -- about four out of 10 respondents for both.

These numbers show that governments have done a good job of meeting citizens where they want to get information, but agencies have work to do, according to Peter Hutchinson, the Accenture strategy lead for state and local government consulting.

“With around 40 percent of citizens remaining unsatisfied with digital government, and clear evidence that digital services are generally well-received when implemented, the public sector must continue expanding the scope and increasing the quality of its digital capabilities,” he said.

Posted on Feb 16, 2017 at 2:19 PM0 comments


open data portal

NJ to create central open data site

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has signed an open data law that requires agencies to publish their data on the internet so that citizens, businesses and other executive branch agencies have free and easy access to information.

Signed on Feb. 6, the New Jersey Open Data Initiative will expand on the state’s current Open Data Center and the Transparency Center — which house the state’s financial data as well as some mapping files and a licensed child care center search function, according to NJ Spotlight.

Responsibility for overseeing and implementing the open data site falls to the Treasury Department’s Liz Rowe, the deputy CTO for policy and New Jersey’s chief data officer.

For the central site, agencies can provide non-proprietary, machine-readable datasets or provide a link to open data on their own sites.

The law is similar to those passed in cities and states around the country. The measure received strong support in both houses, passing the Senate by a 30-9 vote last June and the Assembly 72-2 last December.

Posted on Feb 08, 2017 at 11:17 AM0 comments


city hall (shutterstock image)

Opening up city councils

An open source web app is making it easier for cities to connect residents to local city council offices, encouraging greater online public dialog about issues in their communities.

Councilmatic, which relies on such open source building block as Python, PostgreSQL and Apache Solr, allows residents to subscribe to email updates on specific issues, council members and meetings. It also allows users to get email updates based on Councilmember and committee.

Participatory Politics Foundation led the effort to create the online tool and worked with DataMade to build it. The app is currently used by New York City, Philadelphia and Chicago.

The code for the website is available on GitHub.

Posted on Feb 02, 2017 at 12:38 PM0 comments