Archive for Nature

put the data aside [SCOTUS v. evidence]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2022 by xi'an

Reposted from a Nature editorial:

(…) Moving in the opposite direction runs contrary to 50 years of research from around the world showing that abortion access is a crucial component of health care and is important for women’s equal participation in society. After the Supreme Court agreed to hear Mississippi’s case last year, Nature covered some of this evidence, submitted to the court by US scientific societies and more than 800 US researchers in public health, reproductive health, social sciences and economics, to the court in advance of the case’s hearing in December.

Some outcomes of outlawing abortion can be predicted by what’s known. Researchers expect overall infant and maternal health to decline in the United States in the wake of abortion bans, because more unintended pregnancies will be brought to term. Unintended pregnancies are associated with an increased risk of health problems for babies, and often for mothers, for several reasons — including reduced prenatal care.

Maternal health is also expected to decline overall. One straightforward reason is that the risks of dying from pregnancy-related causes are much greater than the risks of dying because of a legal abortion. A predicted rise in maternal mortality among Black women in the United States is particularly distressing, because the rate is already unacceptably high. In one study, sociologist Amanda Stevenson at the University of Colorado Boulder modelled a hypothetical situation in which abortions are banned throughout the United States, and found that the lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy-related causes for non-Hispanic Black women would rise from 1 in 1,300 to 1 in 1,000.

One claim made by abortion opponents in this case is that abortions no longer benefit women and even cause them harm, but dozens of studies contradict this. In just one, health economist Sarah Miller at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and her colleagues assessed around 560 women of comparable age and financial standing who sought abortions. They found that, five years after pregnancy, women who were denied the procedure had experienced a substantial increase in debt, bankruptcies, evictions and other dire financial events — whereas the financial standing of women who had received an abortion had remained stable or improved. A primary reason that women give for wanting an abortion is an inability to afford to raise the child, and this study suggests that they understand their own situations.

Abortion bans will extract an unequal toll on society. Some 75% of women who choose to have abortions are in a low income bracket and nearly 60% already have children, according to one court brief submitted ahead of the December hearing and signed by more than 150 economists. Travelling across state lines to receive care will be particularly difficult for people who do not have the funds for flights or the ability to take time off work, or who struggle to find childcare.

Unfortunately, some of the justices seem to be disregarding these data. At the December hearing, Julie Rikelman, a lawyer at the non-profit Center for Reproductive Rights, headquartered in New York City, brought up studies presented in the economists’ brief; Roberts interrupted her and suggested “putting that data aside”. In the leaked draft opinion, Alito also elides a body of research on abortion policy, writing that it’s “hard for anyone — and in particular for a court — to assess” the effect of the right to abortion on women’s lives.

Such an attitude suggests that the justices see research as secondary to the question of whether the US Constitution should protect abortion. But the outcome of this ruling isn’t an academic puzzle. The Supreme Court needs to accept that the consensus of research, knowledge and scholarship — the evidence on which societies must base their laws — shows how real lives hang in the balance. Already, the United States claims the highest rate of maternal and infant mortality among wealthy nations. Should the court overturn Roe v. Wade, these grim statistics will only get worse.

brain overload

Posted in Books, pictures with tags , , , on May 2, 2022 by xi'an

Le Pen election win would be disastrous for research, France and Europe [Nature editorial]

Posted in Kids, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 21, 2022 by xi'an

(…) Science is not often a big factor in France’s elections, and this one is no different. But Le Pen is appealing to scientists by pledging to repeal controversial reforms to research institutions enacted between 2007 and 2009 by centre-right president Nicolas Sarkozy — which Macron has continued. Both presidents sought to align France’s universities, research and funding systems more closely with those of the United States and the United Kingdom by giving universities more autonomy; improving links between academics and businesses; and increasing financial support for research-intensive corporations.

Sarkozy changed the law so that funders and university administrations could have more independence in making decisions. His government also provided generous tax breaks to businesses that invest in research and development.

(…) Although Le Pen’s [repeal] policy on the Sarkozy reforms might be welcomed by some researchers, National Rally’s wider programme for government will be anything but. For one, the party’s policy on restricting immigration is likely to hit collaborations with scientists in other countries. And minority communities would face severe discrimination under Le Pen. For example, she has said she wants to ban the wearing of headscarves in public by extending a law that prohibits them in [public] schools.

Furthermore, a Le Pen presidency would put France on a collision course with the EU. Her party is intending to violate European laws and regulations by restricting employment or state benefits for EU citizens from outside France; withholding payments into the EU budget; and ending free movement of people between France and its EU neighbours. Universities and research funders must also confront the possibility that a Le Pen government would seek to restrict academic freedom.

(…) Researchers should consider that any short-term gains in terms of funding would be completely outweighed by the disaster of a Le Pen win. And those dissatisfied with both presidential candidates and considering not voting at all should realize that this, too, is likely to be of benefit to Le Pen. Everyone should look at Hungary for an EU case study of what happens when a far-right leader is elected.

which representation is best?

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , on April 12, 2022 by xi'an

Ukraine’s call [Національної академії наук України]

Posted in University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 20, 2022 by xi'an

A call for solidarity from the President of the National Academy of Sciences (HAH) of Ukraine as a letter in Nature. To help Ukraine scientists to relocate in European countries, if temporarily, #scienceforukraine is posting available positions. Worldwide. In a tribune, Nature has also opened a debate on whether or not “a comprehensive and worldwide boycott of all Russian research [should be enforced], and scientific journals [should] refuse to consider papers by researchers from Russia”. Reflecting on an earlier call from Ukraine’s scientific community to a similar effect, albeit limited to Russian Federation citizens getting access to EU grants [this is already in effect], academic mobility programs [as well], and to journal editorships. And to run international scientific events [like the ICM and EMS 2022 meetings]. While a complete boycott would add to the other sanctions adopted by some countries towards stopping the war, sanctions that impact the ordinary citizen more than the ruling nomenklatura, I doubt it would have any [short-term] significant effect: The Russian Science Foundation has already dropped its requirement to publish in indexed journals outside Russia. It would also most difficult to implement in practice (although I seem to remember SIAM journals rejecting papers co-signed by Iranian authors at some point…)

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