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SMC Heads-Up: Climate consensus, Budget, mental disorders

SMC Heads-Up: Climate consensus, Budget 2013, and redefining mental disorders


Issue 231 17 - 23 May 2013


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Climate consensus measured
A team of citizen scientists backed by the University of Queensland have analysed 20 years of peer-reviewed literature on climate change, showing 97 per cent of papers endorse the position that humans are contributing to climate change.

The research, published in Environmental research Letters, is part of the Consensus Project, headed by Queensland University researcher and Skeptical Science founder John Cook. The project was designed to illustrate with evidence the consensus in the scientific community on human-induced climate change.

"This underscores the importance of correcting the mis-perception that scientists are still debating whether humans are causing global warming," said Cook in a comment piece on the research.

"An important step towards stronger public support for meaningful climate action is closing the consensus gap."

Of the 4,014 abstracts authored by 10,188 scientists that stated a position on human-caused global warming, 97.1% of the abstracts endorsed the consensus while 98.4% of the authors endorsed the consensus.

The science communication project builds on the work of author and climate researcher Naomi Oreskes who surveyed 928 papers published between 1993 and 2003 whose abstracts matched the search term "global climate change". She found zero papers rejecting the consensus position that humans are causing global warming.
On the science radar this week...
NASA Kepler break down, billion-year-old water life, solar flare-up, flexing your political muscle (literally) and electrical arithmetic boosters .
Detail slight on R&D tax deductions
While science received a modest top-up in the Budget this year, with a net increase of $50 million allocated to science and innovation initiatives, an intriguing tax provision aimed at helping start-ups engaged in R&D is potentially significant.

The scheme would allow small companies engaged in research and development to claim tax losses on that activity. Presumably it means that, for instance, software companies spending the first years of their existence as loss-making entities while they develop their products, could claim tax back against the amount of spending they do on researching and developing their software products.

You might be thinking that loss-making New Zealand companies don't pay any tax anyway - and you'd be right. As IRD explains:

"If a company's total expenses exceed its total income, it will generally have a loss for tax purposes. Companies in a loss position do not have to pay income tax."

So how will the tax break work - tax losses brought forward or converted to cash payments? No detail has been released about the scheme. But key questions will include:

- How is research and development defined?
- Will there be a limit on the amount that can be claimed in any one year or over successive years?
- Will IRD basically write a cheque to the start-up annually based on the taxed amount of the R&D it has done?

The UK's tax relief scheme for R&D allows small and medium sized companies engaged in R&D to claim tax relief on revenue expenditure:

"Generally, this means costs incurred in the day-to-day running of the business - not capital expenditure on assets."

In the UK, R&D-related tax expenses, under certain circumstances, could be carried forward as tax loses or converted to tax credits as the below scenario illustrates:

Other costs eligible for tax relief in the UK scheme include employee salaries, contractor fees, materials, software and even fees paid to participants in clinical trials.

Revenue Minister Peter Dunne said in a statement that the scheme would encourage early-stage companies to spend more on R&D.

"That expenditure can be crippling for small ventures, given their capital constraints. With this proposal, we are effectively recognising that and looking to make sure these small companies are not disadvantaged".

Details of the proposed scheme will be released next month with a period of public consultation to follow. The SMC was unable to obtain further detail on the tax provision from Peter Dunne's office by press time.

Over-diagnosis concern for 'bible'
The latest edition of the manual defining criteria for mental illness is set to have a major impact on how patients are diagnosed and how their treatment is funded.
Often called the 'psychiatric bible', the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and contains descriptions, symptoms, and other criteria for diagnosing mental disorders.

The Manual's fifth edition, DSM-5, is to be launched at a press briefing at the APA conference in San Francisco this Sunday (NZT).

Some of of the proposed changes likely to be included in the new DSM -- which hasn't been updated since 2000 -- have gathered considerable criticism from both experts and the public. Controversial proposed changes include:

- Re-classifying Asperger's Syndrome under the broader Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis.
- Removal of certain exclusion criteria separating bereavement grief and depression.
- A broader definition of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- A reshuffle of diagnostic criteria for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

An open letter criticising some of the DSM-5 revisions has gathered more that 14,000 signatures.
Ahead of Sunday's launch of the DSM-5, the SMC contacted New Zealand experts for comment on the new edition and its implications for NZ.

Mr Peter Coleman, President of the NZ Psychological Society, said:
"The fact that the DSM-5 has lowered the threshold for some diagnoses and added a number of additional diagnoses raises the risk of giving a mental health diagnosis to someone who may simply be experiencing normal problems of living."

Assoc Prof David Menkes, from the department of Psychological Medicine, University of Auckland, commented:
"There are both benefits and harms that can come from use of a classification system, and DSM-5 is no exception. It's important to keep the benefits in mind but also to be fair and honest in the criticism of such systems. With regard to DSM-5, the main criticisms are likely to centre on 'over-diagnosis', the process by which medical diagnoses are applied inappropriately and/or harmfully."

You can read more about the DSM-5 revisions and further commentary on the SMC website. An AusSMC background briefing is available for playback here.
Quoted: New York Times

"Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of."


Angelina Jolie on her double mastectomy after learning she carried the cancer-associated BRCA1 gene variant.

Vacuum investor puts up the cash
British industrial designer Sir James Dyson is challenging young engineers and scientists in New Zealand and 17 other countries around the world to 'design something that solves a problem.'

The James Dyson Award provides an opportunity for an emerging New Zealand product designer to travel to the United Kingdom to check out the British design scene, network and mingle with inspiring inventors and designers.

You can read more about the 2013 Award here.

Last year, New Zealand industrial designer James McNab was the international runner up with his design, Revival Vest, a safety vest worn by free fall divers.

Entrants have until 1st August 2013 to enter by submitting prototypes along with stories detailing their design process and inspiration.
SAVVY workshop for Wellington

Applications are open for the Science Media SAVVY media training programme Wellington this June - don't miss out!

Science Media SAVVY is a two-day course designed to give scientists and researchers the confidence and skills they need to engage effectively with the wider public through broadcast, print and social media.

Participants gain practical techniques to improve their communication, deal with nerves, adapt their message to their audience, capture attention, influence headlines, and respond effectively when an interview becomes challenging.

The Wellington workshop will be held at the Royal Society buildings on the 20-22, June.
Find out how to apply here.

You can read more about the workshop and what past participants have to say about it here.

Help us spread the word by downloading an information flyer (PDF) and highlighting this opportunity to colleagues and peers.

New from the SMC

Experts Respond:

Coronavirus: Experts comment on the latest WHO announcement regarding the emerging novel corona virus.

Stem cells: The creation of 'therapeutically cloned' stems cells has been hailed as a breakthrough by some experts, while other are more sceptical of the implications.

IFV success: Research reveals IVF technology that proponents claim will significantly increase live birth rates in fertility clinics.

DSM-5: Experts comment ahead of the international launch of new edition of the guide for diagnosing mental disorders.
In the News:

Kiwi genetics: A study on the the genetic diversity of the little spotted kiwi suggests all modern members of the species descended from five kiwis rescued in 1912.

Reflections on Science:

Te Papa backlash: Scientists are far from happy regarding cutbacks and restructuring at NZ's national museum, reports Campbell Live.

Restarting the debate? An article in The Atlantic reflects on the social and ethic ramifications of recent stem cell research.

Briefings:

Budget 2013: Read commentary and a rundown of science related changes from this weeks Budget 2013 release.


Sciblogs highlights

Some of the highlights from this week's posts:

Will Lord Winston's medicinal labelling bill get off the ground? The famed scientist is pushing for medicines that have utilised animal testing in their development to be labelled as such, reports Peter Griffin.
Griffins Gadgets

New Zealanders - opportunity to learn how our immune systems work - Grant Jacobs highlights Nobel Laureate Peter Doherty's NZ speaking tour.
Code for Life

The 10 most WANTED - New Zealand's conservation wishlist - Wayne Linklater and his colleagues have been hammering out some pest control priorities.
PolitEcol Science

Research highlights

Please note: hyperlinks point, where possible, to the relevant abstract or paper.

Auditing cardiac care: A 'snapshot' audit of acute cardiac care in Australia and New Zealand has found pockets of excellence, but also alarming variations in terms of patient care. Researcher tracked 4,350 Acute Coronary Syndrome patients over two weeks, covering 470 hospitals across Australia and New Zealand. The results of the study identified substantial variation in the quality of care, especially for patients suffering other conditions simultaneously.
Medical Journal of Australia

Climate consensus (yet again): A comprehensive analysis of climate change research has revealed an overwhelming consensus among scientists that recent warming is human-caused. The study is the most comprehensive yet and identified 4000 abstracts from the past 21 years that stated a position on the cause of recent global warming - 97 per cent of these endorsed the consensus that we are seeing man-made, or anthropogenic, global warming.
Environmental Research Letters

Glaciers and sea level rise: When it comes to rising sea levels, the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets are at the center of attention. But what about all the glaciers -- distinct from these Ice Sheets -- melting around the world? New research drawing on satellite data shows that melting glaciers (including those in NZ) may be contributing to up to 30 percent of recent sea level rise.
Science

Getting artificial skin to feel: US researchers have developed a flexible pressure sensor which is around 20 times more sensitive than commercially available carbon-based devices. Coupled with low power consumption, the sensor may open up new possibilities in health monitoring and in realising human skin that mimics our own. Video available.
Nature Communications

Saving fertility in chemotherapy: Undergoing chemotherapy for cancer often leads to a loss of fertility in women. A new animal study has uncovered how chemotherapy drugs cause this infertility and has identified a new drug, dubbed AS101, that protects the ovarian egg reserve during treatment and may even have cancer fighting properties of its own.
Science Translational Medicine


Policy updates

Some of the policy highlights from this week:

Psa Plan: A national management plan for dealing with the kiwifruit Psa virus has been formally approved by Ministry for Primary Industries.

Laser limits: Hand-held lasers strong enough to be a hazard to aircraft will be subject to new import, sale and supply controls under Health and Customs legislation, according to the Ministry of Health.

Stated Intentions: The office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has released an official Statement of Intent, as has the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment and Ministry of Health.


Upcoming sci-tech events

The Killer Defence - Nobel Laureate Prof Peter Doherty - 21 May, Wellington.
"At best a neutralitie" - how might we measure well-being? - Prof Rob McGee, Inaugural Professorial Lecture - 21 May, Dunedin.
Science Communicator's photography masterclass - led by experienced science photographer Gerry Le Roux, May 21, Wellington.
For these and more upcoming events, and more details about them, visit the SMC's Events Calendar.


ENDS

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