The Daily Dose: EU shortchanges scientific research; Venus isn’t so dead after all

At a time when it would seem logical to allot more money for science research, the European Union plans to pull back from planned increases in spending. As per Science, “Following a marathon EU summit in Brussels, national leaders this morning agreed to a €1.8 trillion seven-year budget and pandemic recovery fund that will spend €81 billion on Horizon Europe, the main EU research program. That’s far less than what researchers had hoped for—and €13.5 billion less than a proposal two months ago from the European Commission, the EU executive arm.” A health program designed to prepare for the next pandemic will receive €1.7 billion. It falls well short of the €9.4 billion that the Commission wanted, but it is more than triple the size of the current EU health budget.

A study conducted by STAT News and Applied XL has shown that the overall push to develop treatments and vaccines for COVID-19 has been chaotic and inefficient. According to the authors, “The findings show, he said, that too often studies are too small to answer questions, lack real control groups, and put too much emphasis on a few potential treatments, as occurred with hydroxychloroquine… Indeed, the analysis found many of the studies are so small — 39% are enrolling or plan to enroll fewer than 100 patients — that they are unlikely to yield clear results. About 38% of the studies have not actually begun enrolling patients.” A significant number of studies have been dedicated to hydroxychloroquine, a therapy shown to be ineffective.

As far as planets go, Venus has been shortchanged in some senses since it is uninhabitable for humans, being the hottest in the solar system. Scientists have discovered that there’s still a lot going on there. As per Reuters, “Scientists have identified 37 volcanic structures on Venus that appear to be recently active – and probably still are today – painting the picture of a geologically dynamic planet and not a dormant world as long thought.” Unfortunately, the discovery does nothing to make the planet seem cooler and more inhabitable.

Speaking of the inhabited universe, discoveries under the ice in Antarctica are also providing new insights into what life might be like in other parts of the galaxy. Quanta Magazine has profiled John Priscu, a scientist who has dedicated his life to exploring life in regions thought to be uninhabitable due to extreme cold conditions. “In Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost point in the United States, Priscu has worked with Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) engineers to develop a buoyant rover that could explore the ice-covered oceans of Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus. During several trips to Greenland, he and NASA researchers tested a drill that can cut through hundreds of feet of ice, measuring organic matter and other “biosignatures” as it goes down. A tool like this might soon be deployed on Mars and eventually on Europa.”

IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons

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