The Daily Dose: Nature addresses the toxic mixing of science and politics; Scientific independence under attack globally.

As distasteful as mixing science and politics can be, it’s more the norm than the outlier. It’s only a question of how apparent the mixture is. COVID-19 has taken this to a whole new level. These days, scientific data has been weaponized to score political points. That’s not all. According to an editorial in Nature, politicians have introduced dangerous new precedents. According to the authors, “Perhaps even more troubling are signs that politicians are pushing back against the principle of protecting scholarly autonomy, or academic freedom. This principle, which has existed for centuries — including in previous civilizations — sits at the heart of modern science.” History has shown that, more often than not, greater political meddling is inversely proportional to the advancement of science. If anything it calls for the addition of another level of bureaucracy to shield scientists from politicians.

While we’re on the issue of scientific independence, there is trouble at one of France’s most revered popular science magazines. Per Science, “Science & Vie, France’s largest popular science magazine, has put out its monthly issues for more than 100 years, covering science, health, and technology for the broad public. Now, the magazine’s top editor has resigned after articles, written by a corporate employee, were published on the magazine’s website without the knowledge of its editors.”As long as publishing business models remain challenged, so-called sponsored content will continue to seep into publications.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a deluge of scientific data. First journals faced the wave of information and they have struggled to keep track. Inevitably, quality suffers. That tsunami has now hit the drug approval process. According to Fierce Biotech, “The FDA has found itself between overwhelming public demand for COVID-19 diagnostics, ventilators and other devices on one side, and a tsunami of companies submitting over 1,200 products for review on the other—and the workload is beginning to take its toll.” Any lapses in quality from a drug approval POV is troubling. Failure on the FDA’s end can translate to loss of life.

While bacterial biofilms continue to perplex scientists, experts are learning more about them with each passing day. One thing that is not understood how the structures affect resistant and susceptible bacteria who often live alongside each other in these “bacteria cities.” A study published in PLOS reported on the dynamics of biofilms. “Here we show that accounting for structured or spatially-heterogeneous host populations and variability in antibiotic consumption can lead to persistent coexistence over a wide range of treatment coverages, drug efficacies, costs of resistance, and mixing patterns.” Their findings also appears to address the differences in antibiotic resistance seen in from country to country.

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