All posts by Daniel Davies

China could surpass the US and become the world’s leading investor in scientific and medical research by 2022

A new study has claimed that the US’ status as the world’s leading nation in scientific and medical research is under threat.

University of Michigan researchers reviewed every issue of six top-tier international journals and four mid-tier journals from 2000 to 2015.

While the researchers concluded that the US is still the world leader in research and development spending, and ranks first in the world for scientific discoveries, China’s increased investment in science over the past two decades means that it can now provide the US with serious competition and ranks fourth in the world for total number of new discoveries.

However, proposed budget cuts in the US, and the belief that Chinese R&D spending will surpass the US total by 2022 could mean that China eventually becomes the leading nation for scientific and medical research.

“It’s time for US policy makers to reflect and decide whether the year-to-year uncertainty in National Institutes of Health budget and the proposed cuts are in our societal and national best interest,” said Bishr Omary, M.D., Ph.D. and chief scientific officer of Michigan Medicine, U-M’s academic medical center.

“If we continue on the path we’re on, it will be harder to maintain our lead and, even more importantly, we could be disenchanting the next generation of bright and passionate biomedical scientists who see a limited future in pursuing a scientist or physician-investigator career.”

Rather than being a dominant force in scientific and medical research, the researchers discovered that the US were now more likely than ever to cooperate with other nations on peer-reviewed papers.

It is thought that stagnating budgets in the US, Great Britain and other European countries, as well as Canada and Australia, have ushered in an era of “team science” in the last 15 years.

In 2000, 25% of papers in the six top-tier journals were by teams that included researchers from at least two countries.

However, in 2015 that figure was closer to 50%. The increasing need for multidisciplinary approaches to make major advances, coupled with the advances of Internet-based collaboration tools were likely have something to do with this, Omary said.

The researchers noted that while their study was based on data up to 2015, in the current 2017 federal fiscal year, National Institutes of Health budget increased thanks to bipartisan Congressional appropriations.

But the proposed cuts to research funding in the 2018 budget could hinder many areas of research and negatively impact the next generation of aspiring scientists.

“Our analysis, albeit limited to a small number of representative journals, supports the importance of financial investment in research,” Omary says.

“I would still strongly encourage any child interested in science to pursue their dream and passion, but I hope that our current and future investment in NIH and other federal research support agencies will rise above any branch of government to help our next generation reach their potential and dreams.”

UK and French governments ready fines for tech firms who don’t search and destroy “terrorist content”

French president Emmanuel Macron and current UK prime minister Theresa May have announced a joint initiative that will see tech companies penalised for failing to remove content.

Plans drawn up by the two premiers include exploring the possibility of creating a new legal liability for tech companies if they fail to remove content, which could see companies being fined for failing to take action against criminal and terrorist content.

“The counter-terrorism cooperation between British and French intelligence agencies is already strong, but president Macron and I agree that more should be done to tackle the terrorist threat online,” said May.

“In the UK we are already working with social media companies to halt the spread of extremist material and poisonous propaganda that is warping young minds.”

Theresa May, UK Prime Minister. Image courtesy of Frederic Legrand – COMEO / Shutterstock.com

The prime minister and president Macron have also stressed the need for tech firms to urgently establish an industry-led forum, which was originally agreed at the G7 summit last month.

The two countries and their leaders want tech companies to work together to develop shared technical and policy solutions that will tackle terrorist content on the internet.

“Today I can announce that the UK and France will work together to encourage corporations to do more and abide by their social responsibility to step up their efforts to remove harmful content from their networks, including exploring the possibility of creating a new legal liability for tech companies if they fail to remove unacceptable content,” said May.

Image and featured image courtesy of Frederic Legrand – COMEO / Shutterstock.com

Theresa May has been criticised in the past for seeking to create a legal liability that could force tech companies to monitor all online activity.

“The kneejerk ‘blame the internet’ that comes after every act of terrorism is so blatant as to be embarrassing,” said Paul Bernal, a law lecturer at the University of East Anglia, in an interview with the Guardian.

However, despite concerns that her approach is heavy-handed, in announcing the possibility of creating a legal liability May remained as steadfast as ever.

“We are united in our total condemnation of terrorism and our commitment to stamp out this evil,” said May.