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1.  Promoting synergistic research and education in genomics and bioinformatics 
BMC Genomics  2008;9(Suppl 1):I1.
Bioinformatics and Genomics are closely related disciplines that hold great promises for the advancement of research and development in complex biomedical systems, as well as public health, drug design, comparative genomics, personalized medicine and so on. Research and development in these two important areas are impacting the science and technology.
High throughput sequencing and molecular imaging technologies marked the beginning of a new era for modern translational medicine and personalized healthcare. The impact of having the human sequence and personalized digital images in hand has also created tremendous demands of developing powerful supercomputing, statistical learning and artificial intelligence approaches to handle the massive bioinformatics and personalized healthcare data, which will obviously have a profound effect on how biomedical research will be conducted toward the improvement of human health and prolonging of human life in the future. The International Society of Intelligent Biological Medicine ( and its official journals, the International Journal of Functional Informatics and Personalized Medicine ( and the International Journal of Computational Biology and Drug Design ( in collaboration with International Conference on Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (Biocomp), touch tomorrow's bioinformatics and personalized medicine throughout today's efforts in promoting the research, education and awareness of the upcoming integrated inter/multidisciplinary field. The 2007 international conference on Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (BIOCOMP07) was held in Las Vegas, the United States of American on June 25-28, 2007. The conference attracted over 400 papers, covering broad research areas in the genomics, biomedicine and bioinformatics. The Biocomp 2007 provides a common platform for the cross fertilization of ideas, and to help shape knowledge and scientific achievements by bridging these two very important disciplines into an interactive and attractive forum. Keeping this objective in mind, Biocomp 2007 aims to promote interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary education and research. 25 high quality peer-reviewed papers were selected from 400+ submissions for this supplementary issue of BMC Genomics. Those papers contributed to a wide-range of important research fields including gene expression data analysis and applications, high-throughput genome mapping, sequence analysis, gene regulation, protein structure prediction, disease prediction by machine learning techniques, systems biology, database and biological software development. We always encourage participants submitting proposals for genomics sessions, special interest research sessions, workshops and tutorials to Professor Hamid R. Arabnia ( in order to ensure that Biocomp continuously plays the leadership role in promoting inter/multidisciplinary research and education in the fields. Biocomp received top conference ranking with a high score of 0.95/1.00. Biocomp is academically co-sponsored by the International Society of Intelligent Biological Medicine and the Research Laboratories and Centers of Harvard University – Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Indiana University - Purdue University, Georgia Tech – Emory University, UIUC, UCLA, Columbia University, University of Texas at Austin and University of Iowa etc. Biocomp - Worldcomp brings leading scientists together across the nation and all over the world and aims to promote synergistic components such as keynote lectures, special interest sessions, workshops and tutorials in response to the advances of cutting-edge research.
PMCID: PMC3226105  PMID: 18366597
2.  Air toxics and asthma: impacts and end points. 
Environmental Health Perspectives  1995;103(Suppl 6):209-211.
The National Urban Air Toxics Research Center (NUATRC) hosted a medical/scientific workshop focused on possible asthma/air toxics relationships, with the results of the NUATRC's first research contract with the University of Cincinnati as the point of discussion. The workshop was held at the Texas Medical Center on 4 February 1994 and featured presentations by distinguished academic, government, and industry scientists. This one-day session explored the impact of various environmental factors, including air toxics, on asthma incidence and exacerbation; an emphasis was placed on future research directions to be pursued in the asthma/air toxics area. A key research presentation on the association of air toxics and asthma, based on the study sponsored by NUATRC, was given by Dr. George Leikauf of the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. Additional presentations were made by H. A. Boushey, Jr., Cardiovascular Research Institute/University of California at San Francisco, who spoke on of the Basic Mechanisms of Asthma; K. Sexton, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, who spoke on hazardous air pollutants: science/policy interface; and D. V. Bates, Department of Health Care and Epidemiology at the University of British Columbia, who spoke on asthma epidemiology. H. Koren, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and M. Yeung, of the Respiratory Division/University of British Columbia, Vancouver General Hospital, discussed occupational health impacts on asthma. Doyle Pendleton, Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, reviewed air quality measurements in Texas. The information presented at the workshop suggested a possible association of asthma exacerbations with ozone and particulate matter (PM10); however, direct relationships between worsening asthma and air toxic ambient levels were not established. Possible respiratory health effects associated with air toxics will require considerably more investigation, especially in the area of human exposure assessment. Two major recommendations for future research resulted from this workshop and an accompanying NUATRC Scientific Advisory Panel meeting: a need for more complete individual personal exposure assessments so that accurate determinations of actual personal exposures to various pollutants can be made; and a need for field experiments utilizing biomarkers of exposure and effect to more accurately assess the extent and variability of the biological effects, if any, of individual air toxics.
PMCID: PMC1518917  PMID: 8549475
3.  Tobacco Company Efforts to Influence the Food and Drug Administration-Commissioned Institute of Medicine Report Clearing the Smoke: An Analysis of Documents Released through Litigation 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(5):e1001450.
Stanton Glantz and colleagues investigate efforts by tobacco companies to influence Clearing the Smoke, a 2001 Institute of Medicine report on harm reduction tobacco products.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Spurred by the creation of potential modified risk tobacco products, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioned the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to assess the science base for tobacco “harm reduction,” leading to the 2001 IOM report Clearing the Smoke. The objective of this study was to determine how the tobacco industry organized to try to influence the IOM committee that prepared the report.
Methods and Findings
We analyzed previously secret tobacco industry documents in the University of California, San Francisco Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, and IOM public access files. (A limitation of this method includes the fact that the tobacco companies have withheld some possibly relevant documents.) Tobacco companies considered the IOM report to have high-stakes regulatory implications. They developed and implemented strategies with consulting and legal firms to access the IOM proceedings. When the IOM study staff invited the companies to provide information on exposure and disease markers, clinical trial design for safety and efficacy, and implications for initiation and cessation, tobacco company lawyers, consultants, and in-house regulatory staff shaped presentations from company scientists. Although the available evidence does not permit drawing cause-and-effect conclusions, and the IOM may have come to the same conclusions without the influence of the tobacco industry, the companies were pleased with the final report, particularly the recommendations for a tiered claims system (with separate tiers for exposure and risk, which they believed would ease the process of qualifying for a claim) and license to sell products comparable to existing conventional cigarettes (“substantial equivalence”) without prior regulatory approval. Some principles from the IOM report, including elements of the substantial equivalence recommendation, appear in the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.
Tobacco companies strategically interacted with the IOM to win several favored scientific and regulatory recommendations.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Up to half of tobacco users will die of cancer, lung disease, heart disease, stroke, or another tobacco-related disease. Cigarettes and other tobacco products cause disease because they expose their users to nicotine and numerous other toxic chemicals. Tobacco companies have been working to develop a “safe” cigarette for more than half a century. Initially, their attention focused on cigarettes that produced lower tar and nicotine yields in machine-smoking tests. These products were perceived as “safer” products by the public and scientists for many years, but it is now known that the use of low-yield cigarettes can actually expose smokers to higher levels of toxins than standard cigarettes. More recently, the tobacco companies have developed other products (for example, products that heat aerosols of nicotine, rather than burning the tobacco) that claim to reduce harm and the risk of tobacco-related disease, but they can only market these modified risk tobacco products in the US after obtaining Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. In 1999, the FDA commissioned the US Institute of Medicine (IOM, an influential source of independent expert advice on medical issues) to assess the science base for tobacco “harm reduction.” In 2001, the IOM published its report Clearing the Smoke: Assessing the Science Base for Tobacco Harm and Reduction, which, although controversial, set the tone for the development and regulation of tobacco products in the US, particularly those claiming to be less dangerous, in subsequent years.
Why Was This Study Done?
Tobacco companies have a long history of working to shape scientific discussions and agendas. For example, they have produced research results designed to “create controversy” about the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke. In this study, the researchers investigate how tobacco companies organized to try to influence the IOM committee that prepared the Clearing the Smoke report on modified risk tobacco products by analyzing tobacco industry and IOM documents.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers searched the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library (a collection of internal tobacco industry documents released as a result of US litigation cases) for documents outlining how tobacco companies tried to influence the IOM Committee to Assess the Science Base for Tobacco Harm Reduction and created a timeline of events from the 1,000 or so documents they retrieved. They confirmed and supplemented this timeline using information in 80 files that detailed written interactions between the tobacco companies and the IOM committee, which they obtained through a public records access request. Analysis of these documents indicates that the tobacco companies considered the IOM report to have important regulatory implications, that they developed and implemented strategies with consulting and legal firms to access the IOM proceedings, and that tobacco company lawyers, consultants, and regulatory staff shaped presentations to the IOM committee by company scientists on various aspects of tobacco harm reduction products. The analysis also shows that tobacco companies were pleased with the final report, particularly its recommendation that tobacco products can be marketed with exposure or risk reduction claims provided the products substantially reduce exposure and provided the behavioral and health consequences of these products are determined in post-marketing surveillance and epidemiological studies (“tiered testing”) and its recommendation that, provided no claim of reduced exposure or risk is made, new products comparable to existing conventional cigarettes (“substantial equivalence”) can be marketed without prior regulatory approval.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that tobacco companies used their legal and regulatory staff to access the IOM committee that advised the FDA on modified risk tobacco products and that they used this access to deliver specific, carefully formulated messages designed to serve their business interests. Although these findings provide no evidence that the efforts of tobacco companies influenced the IOM committee in any way, they show that the companies were satisfied with the final IOM report and its recommendations, some of which have policy implications that continue to reverberate today. The researchers therefore call for the FDA and other regulatory bodies to remember that they are dealing with companies with a long history of intentionally misleading the public when assessing the information presented by tobacco companies as part of the regulatory process and to actively protect their public-health policies from the commercial interests of the tobacco industry.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Thomas Novotny
The World Health Organization provides information about the dangers of tobacco (in several languages); for information about the tobacco industry's influence on policy, see the 2009 World Health Organization report Tobacco interference with tobacco control
A PLOS Medicine Research Article by Heide Weishaar and colleagues describes tobacco company efforts to undermine the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an international instrument for tobacco control
Wikipedia has a page on tobacco harm reduction (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The IOM report Clearing the Smoke: Assessing the Science Base for Tobacco Harm Reduction is available to read online
The Legacy Tobacco Documents Library is a public, searchable database of tobacco company internal documents detailing their advertising, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and scientific activities
The University of California, San Francisco Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education is the focal point for University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) scientists in disciplines ranging from the molecular biology of nicotine addiction through political science who combine their efforts to eradicate the use of tobacco and tobacco-induced cancer and other diseases worldwide
SmokeFree, a website provided by the UK National Health Service, offers advice on quitting smoking and includes personal stories from people who have stopped smoking, from the US National Cancer Institute, offers online tools and resources to help people quit smoking
PMCID: PMC3665841  PMID: 23723740
4.  OBML – Ontologies in Biomedicine and Life Sciences 
Journal of Biomedical Semantics  2011;2(Suppl 4):I1.
The OBML 2010 workshop, held at the University of Mannheim on September 9-10, 2010, is the 2nd in a series of meetings organized by the Working Group “Ontologies in Biomedicine and Life Sciences” of the German Society of Computer Science (GI) and the German Society of Medical Informatics, Biometry and Epidemiology (GMDS). Integrating, processing and applying the rapidly expanding information generated in the life sciences — from public health to clinical care and molecular biology — is one of the most challenging problems that research in these fields is facing today. As the amounts of experimental data, clinical information and scientific knowledge increase, there is a growing need to promote interoperability of these resources, support formal analyses, and to pre-process knowledge for further use in problem solving and hypothesis formulation.
The OBML workshop series pursues the aim of gathering scientists who research topics related to life science ontologies, to exchange ideas, discuss new results and establish relationships. The OBML group promotes the collaboration between ontologists, computer scientists, bio-informaticians and applied logicians, as well as the cooperation with physicians, biologists, biochemists and biometricians, and supports the establishment of this new discipline in research and teaching. Research topics of OBML 2010 included medical informatics, Semantic Web applications, formal ontology, bio-ontologies, knowledge representation as well as the wide range of applications of biomedical ontologies to science and medicine. A total of 14 papers were presented, and from these we selected four manuscripts for inclusion in this special issue.
An interdisciplinary audience from all areas related to biomedical ontologies attended OBML 2010. In the future, OBML will continue as an annual meeting that aims to bridge the gap between theory and application of ontologies in the life sciences. The next event emphasizes the special topic of the ontology of phenotypes, in Berlin, Germany on October 6-7, 2011.
PMCID: PMC3194167  PMID: 21996496
5.  Overview of the BioCreative III Workshop 
BMC Bioinformatics  2011;12(Suppl 8):S1.
The overall goal of the BioCreative Workshops is to promote the development of text mining and text processing tools which are useful to the communities of researchers and database curators in the biological sciences. To this end BioCreative I was held in 2004, BioCreative II in 2007, and BioCreative II.5 in 2009. Each of these workshops involved humanly annotated test data for several basic tasks in text mining applied to the biomedical literature. Participants in the workshops were invited to compete in the tasks by constructing software systems to perform the tasks automatically and were given scores based on their performance. The results of these workshops have benefited the community in several ways. They have 1) provided evidence for the most effective methods currently available to solve specific problems; 2) revealed the current state of the art for performance on those problems; 3) and provided gold standard data and results on that data by which future advances can be gauged. This special issue contains overview papers for the three tasks of BioCreative III.
The BioCreative III Workshop was held in September of 2010 and continued the tradition of a challenge evaluation on several tasks judged basic to effective text mining in biology, including a gene normalization (GN) task and two protein-protein interaction (PPI) tasks. In total the Workshop involved the work of twenty-three teams. Thirteen teams participated in the GN task which required the assignment of EntrezGene IDs to all named genes in full text papers without any species information being provided to a system. Ten teams participated in the PPI article classification task (ACT) requiring a system to classify and rank a PubMed® record as belonging to an article either having or not having “PPI relevant” information. Eight teams participated in the PPI interaction method task (IMT) where systems were given full text documents and were required to extract the experimental methods used to establish PPIs and a text segment supporting each such method. Gold standard data was compiled for each of these tasks and participants competed in developing systems to perform the tasks automatically.
BioCreative III also introduced a new interactive task (IAT), run as a demonstration task. The goal was to develop an interactive system to facilitate a user’s annotation of the unique database identifiers for all the genes appearing in an article. This task included ranking genes by importance (based preferably on the amount of described experimental information regarding genes). There was also an optional task to assist the user in finding the most relevant articles about a given gene. For BioCreative III, a user advisory group (UAG) was assembled and played an important role 1) in producing some of the gold standard annotations for the GN task, 2) in critiquing IAT systems, and 3) in providing guidance for a future more rigorous evaluation of IAT systems. Six teams participated in the IAT demonstration task and received feedback on their systems from the UAG group. Besides innovations in the GN and PPI tasks making them more realistic and practical and the introduction of the IAT task, discussions were begun on community data standards to promote interoperability and on user requirements and evaluation metrics to address utility and usability of systems.
In this paper we give a brief history of the BioCreative Workshops and how they relate to other text mining competitions in biology. This is followed by a synopsis of the three tasks GN, PPI, and IAT in BioCreative III with figures for best participant performance on the GN and PPI tasks. These results are discussed and compared with results from previous BioCreative Workshops and we conclude that the best performing systems for GN, PPI-ACT and PPI-IMT in realistic settings are not sufficient for fully automatic use. This provides evidence for the importance of interactive systems and we present our vision of how best to construct an interactive system for a GN or PPI like task in the remainder of the paper.
PMCID: PMC3269932  PMID: 22151647
6.  A self-evaluation tool for integrated care services: the Development Model for Integrated Care applied in practice 
The purpose of the workshop is to show the applications of the Development Model for Integrated Care (DMIC) in practice. This relatively new and validated model, can be used by integrated care practices to evaluate their integrated care, to assess their phase of development and reveal improvement areas. In the workshop the results of the use of the model in three types of integrated care settings in the Netherlands will be presented. Participants are offered practical instruments based on the validated DMIC to use in their own setting and will be introduced to the webbased tool.
To integrate care from multiple providers into a coherent and streamlined client-focused service, a large number of activities and agreements have to be implemented like streamlining information flows and adequate transfers of clients. In the large range of possible activities it is often not clear what essential activities are and where to start or continue. Also, knowledge about how to further develop integrated care services is needed. The Development Model for Integrated Care (DMIC), based on PhD research of Mirella Minkman, describes nine clusters containing in total 89 elements that contribute to the integration of care. The clusters are named: ‘client-centeredness’, ‘delivery system’, ‘performance management’, ‘quality of care’, ‘result-focused learning’, ‘interprofessional teamwork’, ‘roles and tasks’, ‘commitment’, and ‘transparant entrepreneurship’ [1–3]. In 2011 a new digital webbased self-evolution tool which contains the 89 elements grouped in nine clusters was developed. The DMIC also describes four phases of development [4]. The model is empirically validated in practice by assessing the relevance and implementation of the elements and development phases in 84 integrated care services in The Netherlands: in stroke, acute myocardial infarct (AMI), and dementia services. The validation studies are recently published [5, 6]. In 2011 also other integrated care services started using the model [7]. Vilans developed a digital web-based self-evaluation tool for integrated care services based on the DMIC. A palliative care network, four diabetes services, a youth care service and a network for autism used the self-evaluation tool to evaluate the development of their integrated care service. Because of its generic character, the model and tool are believed to be also interesting internationally.
Data sources
In the workshop we will present the results of three studies in integrated diabetes, youth and palliative care. The three projects consist of multiple steps, see below. Workshop participants could also work with the DMIC following these steps.
One: Preparation of the digital self-evolution tool for integrated care services
Although they are very different, the three integrated care services all wanted to gain insight in their development and improvement opportunities. We tailored the digital self-evaluation tool for each specific integrated care services, but for all the basis was the DMIC. Personal accounts for the digital DMIC self-evalution survey were sent to multiple partners working in each integrated care service (4–16 partners).
Two: Use of the online self-evaluation tool each partner of the local integrated care setting evaluated the integrated care by filling in the web-based questionnaire. The tool consists of three parts (A-C) named: general information about the integrated care practice (A); the clusters and elements of the DMIC (B); and the four phases of development (C). The respondents rated the relevance and presence of each element in their integrated care practice. Respondents were asked to estimate in which phase of development their thought their service was.
Three: Analysing the results
Advisers from Vilans, the Centre of excellence for long-term care in the Netherlands, analysed the self-evolution results in cooperation with the integrated care coordinators. The results show the total amount of implemented integrated care elements per cluster in spider graphs and the development phase as calculated by the DMIC model. Suggestions for further development of the integrated care services were analysed and reported.
Four: Discussing the implications for further development
In a workshop with the local integrated care partners the results of the self-evaluation were presented and discussed. We noticed remarkable results and highlight elements for further development. In addition, we gave advice for further development appropriate to the development phase of the integrated care service. Furthermore, the professionals prioritized the elements and decided which elements to start working on. This resulted in a (quality improvement) plan for the further development of the integrated care service.
Five: Reporting results
In a report all the results of the survey (including consensus scores) and the workshops came together. The integrated care coordinators stated that the reports really helped them to assess their improvement strategy. Also, there was insight in the development phase of their service which gave tools for further development.
Case description
The three cases presented are a palliative network, an integrated diabetes services and an integrated care network for youth in the Netherlands. The palliative care network wanted to reflect on their current development, to build a guiding framework for further development of the network. About sixteen professionals within the network worked with the digital self-evaluation tool and the DMIC: home care organisations, welfare organizations, hospice centres, health care organisations, community organizations.
For diabetes care, a Dutch health care insurance company wished to gain insight in the development of the contracted integrated care services to stimulate further development of the services. Professionals of three diabetes integrated care services were invited to fill in the digital self-evaluation tool. Of each integrated care service professionals like a general practitioner, a diabetes nurse, a medical specialist, a dietician and a podiatrist were invited. In youth care, a local health organisation wondered whether the DMIC could be helpful to visualize the results of youth integrated care services at process- and organisational level. The goal of the project was to define indicators at a process- and organisational level for youth care services based on the DMIC. In the future, these indicators might be used to evaluate youth care integrated care services and improve the quality of youth care within the Netherlands.
Conclusions and discussion
It is important for the quality of integrated care services that the involved coordinators, managers and professionals are aware of the development process of the integrated care service and that they focus on elements which can further develop and improve their integrated care. However, we noticed that integrated care services in the Netherlands experience difficulties in developing their integrated care service. It is often not clear what essential activities are to work on and how to further develop the integrated care service. A guiding framework for the development of integrated care was missing. The DMIC model has been developed for that reason and offers a useful tool for assessment, self-evaluation or improvement of integrated care services in practice. The model has been validated for AMI, dementia and stroke services. The latest new studies in diabetes, palliative care and youth care gave further insight in the generic character of the DMIC. Based on these studies it can be assumed that the DMIC can be used for multiple types of integrated care services. The model is assumed to be interesting for an international audience. Improving integrated care is a complex topic in a large number of countries; the DMIC is also based on the international literature. Dutch integrated care coordinators stated that the DMIC helped them to assess their integrated care development in practice and supported them in obtaining ideas for expanding and improving their integrated care activities.
The web-based self-evaluation tool focuses on a process- and organisational level of integrated care. Also, the self assessed development phase can be compared to the development phase as calculated by the DMIC tool. The cases showed this is fruitful input for discussions. When using the tool, the results can also be used in quality policy reports and improvement plans. The web-based tool is being tested at this moment in practice, but in San Marino we can present the latest webversion and demonstrate with a short video how to use the tool and model. During practical exercises in the workshop the participants will experience how the application of the DMIC can work for them in practice or in research. For integrated care researchers and policy makers, the DMIC questionnaire and tool is a promising method for further research and policy plans in integrated care.
PMCID: PMC3617779
development model for integrated care; development of integrated care services; implementation and improvement of integrated care; self evaluation
7.  The Chilling Effect: How Do Researchers React to Controversy? 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(11):e222.
Can political controversy have a “chilling effect” on the production of new science? This is a timely concern, given how often American politicians are accused of undermining science for political purposes. Yet little is known about how scientists react to these kinds of controversies.
Methods and Findings
Drawing on interview (n = 30) and survey data (n = 82), this study examines the reactions of scientists whose National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded grants were implicated in a highly publicized political controversy. Critics charged that these grants were “a waste of taxpayer money.” The NIH defended each grant and no funding was rescinded. Nevertheless, this study finds that many of the scientists whose grants were criticized now engage in self-censorship. About half of the sample said that they now remove potentially controversial words from their grant and a quarter reported eliminating entire topics from their research agendas. Four researchers reportedly chose to move into more secure positions entirely, either outside academia or in jobs that guaranteed salaries. About 10% of the group reported that this controversy strengthened their commitment to complete their research and disseminate it widely.
These findings provide evidence that political controversies can shape what scientists choose to study. Debates about the politics of science usually focus on the direct suppression, distortion, and manipulation of scientific results. This study suggests that scholars must also examine how scientists may self-censor in response to political events.
Drawing on interview and survey data, Joanna Kempner's study finds that political controversies shape what many scientists choose not to study.
Editors' Summary
Scientific research is an expensive business and, inevitably, the organizations that fund this research—governments, charities, and industry—play an important role in determining the directions that this research takes. Funding bodies can have both positive and negative effects on the acquisition of scientific knowledge. They can pump money into topical areas such as the human genome project. Alternatively, by withholding funding, they can discourage some types of research. So, for example, US federal funds cannot be used to support many aspects of human stem cell research. “Self-censoring” by scientists can also have a negative effect on scientific progress. That is, some scientists may decide to avoid areas of research in which there are many regulatory requirements, political pressure, or in which there is substantial pressure from advocacy groups. A good example of this last type of self-censoring is the withdrawal of many scientists from research that involves certain animal models, like primates, because of animal rights activists.
Why Was This Study Done?
Some people think that political controversy might also encourage scientists to avoid some areas of scientific inquiry, but no studies have formally investigated this possibility. Could political arguments about the value of certain types of research influence the questions that scientists pursue? An argument of this sort occurred in the US in 2003 when Patrick Toomey, who was then a Republican Congressional Representative, argued that National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants supporting research into certain aspects of sexual behavior were “much less worthy of taxpayer funding” than research on “devastating diseases,” and proposed an amendment to the 2004 NIH appropriations bill (which regulates the research funded by NIH). The Amendment was rejected, but more than 200 NIH-funded grants, most of which examined behaviors that affect the spread of HIV/AIDS, were internally reviewed later that year; NIH defended each grant, so none were curtailed. In this study, Joanna Kempner investigates how the scientists whose US federal grants were targeted in this clash between politics and science responded to the political controversy.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Kempner interviewed 30 of the 162 principal investigators (PIs) whose grants were reviewed. She asked them to describe their research, the grants that were reviewed, and their experience with NIH before, during, and after the controversy. She also asked them whether this experience had changed their research practice. She then used the information from these interviews to design a survey that she sent to all the PIs whose grants had been reviewed; 82 responded. About half of the scientists interviewed and/or surveyed reported that they now remove “red flag” words (for example, “AIDS” and “homosexual”) from the titles and abstracts of their grant applications. About one-fourth of the respondents no longer included controversial topics (for example, “abortion” and “emergency contraception”) in their research agendas, and four researchers had made major career changes as a result of the controversy. Finally, about 10% of respondents said that their experience had strengthened their commitment to see their research completed and its results published although even many of these scientists also engaged in some self-censorship.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that, even though no funding was withdrawn, self-censoring is now common among the scientists whose grants were targeted during this particular political controversy. Because this study included researchers in only one area of health research, its findings may not be generalizable to other areas of research. Furthermore, because only half of the PIs involved in the controversy responded to the survey, these findings may be affected by selection bias. That is, the scientists most anxious about the effects of political controversy on their research funding (and thus more likely to engage in self-censorship) may not have responded. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that the political environment might have a powerful effect on self-censorship by scientists and might dissuade some scientists from embarking on research projects that they would otherwise have pursued. Further research into what Kempner calls the “chilling effect” of political controversy on scientific research is now needed to ensure that a healthy balance can be struck between political involvement in scientific decision making and scientific progress.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The Consortium of Social Science Associations, an advocacy organization that provides a bridge between the academic research community and Washington policymakers, has more information about the political controversy initiated by Patrick Toomey
Some of Kempner's previous research on self-censorship by scientists is described in a 2005 National Geographic news article
PMCID: PMC2586361  PMID: 19018657
8.  New experimental and theoretical investigations of hematopoietic stem cells and chronic myeloid leukemia 
We report on a focused workshop of The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society that was held at Goldsmiths, University of London in 2008. During this workshop we discussed new clinical and experimental data in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) research, particularly focusing on the validity (or otherwise) of corresponding mathematical models and simulations. We were specifically interested in whether the models could shed light on any of the fundamental mechanisms underlying this disease. Moreover, we were aiming to form a new community of clinicians and modelers looking at this disease and to define a common language and theoretical framework within which collaboration could flourish.
The workshop showed the role that models can play, not just in trying to fit to existing data or predicting what individual mechanisms or system behaviors might occur, but also in challenging the orthodoxy of the concept of a stem cell and concepts such as “differentiation” and “determination”. For years the prevailing view of a stem cell has been an entity (object) with a fixed set of behaviors and with a pre-determined fate. New perspectives in modeling, coupled with the new data that are being accumulated in the genesis of CML and its treatment, questions these assumptions. We propose how we can reach a consensus about a functional view of stem cells in a more continuous and flexible way and how, within this context, we can investigate the significance of modeling results and how they might impact on our interpretation of experimental observations and the development of new clinical strategies.
This paper reports on the workshop and the state-of-the-art models and data from experimental and clinical trials, and sets out a roadmap for more interdisciplinary collaboration between modelers, wet-lab experimentalists, and clinicians interested in CML. It is our strong belief that a more integrated and coherent interdisciplinary approach will further advance the treatment of CML in future years.
PMCID: PMC3741041  PMID: 19411181
Mathematical modelling; Computer simulation; Hematopoietic stem cells; Chronic myeloid leukemia
9.  Highlights of a Workshop to Discuss Targeting Inflammation in Cystic Fibrosis 
A workshop to discuss anti-inflammatory approaches in the treatment of CF was held at Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research (NIBR, Horsham, UK) in March 2008.
Key opinion leaders in the field (Hugo De Jonge, Stuart Elborn, Erich Gulbins, Mike Konstan, Rick Moss, Scott Randell and Adriano Rossi), and NIBR scientists were brought together to collectively address three main aims: (i) to identify anti-inflammatory targets in CF, (ii) to evaluate the pros and cons of targeting specific cell types and (iii) to discuss model systems to profile potential therapeutic agents.
The highlights of the workshop are captured in this review.
PMCID: PMC4133129  PMID: 19022708
10.  A Roadmap for caGrid, an Enterprise Grid Architecture for Biomedical Research 
caGrid is a middleware system which combines the Grid computing, the service oriented architecture, and the model driven architecture paradigms to support development of interoperable data and analytical resources and federation of such resources in a Grid environment. The functionality provided by caGrid is an essential and integral component of the cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid (caBIG™) program. This program is established by the National Cancer Institute as a nationwide effort to develop enabling informatics technologies for collaborative, multi-institutional biomedical research with the overarching goal of accelerating translational cancer research. Although the main application domain for caGrid is cancer research, the infrastructure provides a generic framework that can be employed in other biomedical research and healthcare domains. The development of caGrid is an ongoing effort, adding new functionality and improvements based on feedback and use cases from the community. This paper provides an overview of potential future architecture and tooling directions and areas of improvement for caGrid and caGrid-like systems. This summary is based on discussions at a roadmap workshop held in February with participants from biomedical research, Grid computing, and high performance computing communities.
PMCID: PMC3292259  PMID: 18560123
11.  Proceedings of a GOG Workshop on Intraperitoneal Therapy for Ovarian Cancer 
Gynecologic oncology  2006;103(3):783-792.
Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of gynecologic cancer deaths in the U.S. The concept of intraperitoneal drug delivery for therapy of intraperitoneal cancers, such as ovarian cancer, arose in the 1960s. The field of intraperitoneal cisplatin therapy for ovarian cancer was initiated in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The markedly improved survival data resulting from a third phase III trial of intraperitoneal cisplatin for ovarian cancer in early 2006 led to an NCI Clinical Announcement and a Gynecologic Oncology Group-sponsored workshop on Intraperitoneal Therapy in January, 2006, in San Diego, California. The proceedings of this workshop summarize both research trial results and practical implementation issues associated with intraperitoneal therapy discussed at this workshop.
PMCID: PMC1987372  PMID: 17070570
12.  The Toxic Effects of Cigarette Additives. Philip Morris' Project Mix Reconsidered: An Analysis of Documents Released through Litigation 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(12):e1001145.
Stanton Glantz and colleagues analyzed previously secret tobacco industry documents and peer-reviewed published results of Philip Morris' Project MIX about research on cigarette additives, and show that this research on the use of cigarette additives cannot be taken at face value.
In 2009, the promulgation of US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tobacco regulation focused attention on cigarette flavor additives. The tobacco industry had prepared for this eventuality by initiating a research program focusing on additive toxicity. The objective of this study was to analyze Philip Morris' Project MIX as a case study of tobacco industry scientific research being positioned strategically to prevent anticipated tobacco control regulations.
Methods and Findings
We analyzed previously secret tobacco industry documents to identify internal strategies for research on cigarette additives and reanalyzed tobacco industry peer-reviewed published results of this research. We focused on the key group of studies conducted by Phillip Morris in a coordinated effort known as “Project MIX.” Documents showed that Project MIX subsumed the study of various combinations of 333 cigarette additives. In addition to multiple internal reports, this work also led to four peer-reviewed publications (published in 2001). These papers concluded that there was no evidence of substantial toxicity attributable to the cigarette additives studied. Internal documents revealed post hoc changes in analytical protocols after initial statistical findings indicated an additive-associated increase in cigarette toxicity as well as increased total particulate matter (TPM) concentrations in additive-modified cigarette smoke. By expressing the data adjusted by TPM concentration, the published papers obscured this underlying toxicity and particulate increase. The animal toxicology results were based on a small number of rats in each experiment, raising the possibility that the failure to detect statistically significant changes in the end points was due to underpowering the experiments rather than lack of a real effect.
The case study of Project MIX shows tobacco industry scientific research on the use of cigarette additives cannot be taken at face value. The results demonstrate that toxins in cigarette smoke increase substantially when additives are put in cigarettes, including the level of TPM. In particular, regulatory authorities, including the FDA and similar agencies elsewhere, could use the Project MIX data to eliminate the use of these 333 additives (including menthol) from cigarettes.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
The tobacco industry in the United States has recognized that regulation of its products was inevitable as early as 1963 and devoted increasing attention to the likelihood of regulation by the US Food and Drug Administration in the mid-1990s, which finally became law in 2009. In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), which came into force in June 2003, includes provisions addressing the regulation of the contents of tobacco products and the regulation of tobacco product disclosures. Although these steps represent progress in tobacco control, the events of the past few decades show the determination of the tobacco industry to avoid regulation, including the regulation of additives. In the United States, executives of the tobacco company Philip Morris (PM) recognized the inevitability of regulation and responded by initiating efforts to shape legislation and regulation by reorganizing its internal scientific activities and conducting scientific research that could be used to shape any proposed regulations. For example, the company conducted “Project MIX,” a study of chemical constituents in and toxicity of smoke produced by burning cigarettes containing three different combinations of 333 cigarette additives that “were constructed to resemble typical commercial blended cigarettes.” The resulting four papers published in Food and Chemical Toxicology in January 2002 concluded that there was no evidence of substantial toxicity attributable to the cigarette additives studied.
Why Was This Study Done?
The use of cigarette additives is an important concern of the WHO, FDA, and similar national regulatory bodies around the world. Philip Morris has used the published Project MIX papers to assert the safety of individual additives and other cigarette companies have done similar studies that reached similar conclusions. In this study, the researchers used documents made public as a result of litigation against the tobacco industry to investigate the origins and design of Project MIX and to conduct their own analyses of the results to assess the reliability of the conclusions in the papers published in Food and Chemical Toxicology.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers systematically examined tobacco industry documents in the University of California San Francisco Legacy Tobacco Documents Library (then about 60 million pages made publicly available as a result of litigation) and used an iterative process of searching, analyzing, and refining to identify and review in detail 500 relevant documents.
The researchers found that in the original Project MIX analysis, the published papers obscured findings of toxicity by adjusting the data by total particulate matter (TPM) concentration. When the researchers conducted their own analysis by studying additives per cigarette (as was specified in the original Project MIX protocol), they found that 15 carcinogenic chemicals increased by 20%. The researchers also reported that, for unexplained reasons, Philip Morris deemphasized 19 of the 51 chemicals tested in the presentation of results, including nine that were substantially increased in smoke on a per cigarette basis of additive-added cigarettes, compared to smoke of control cigarettes.
The researchers explored the possibility that the failure of Project MIX to detect statistically significant changes in the toxicity of the smoke from cigarettes containing the additives was due to underpowered experiments rather than lack of a real effect by conducting their own statistical analysis. This analysis suggests that a better powered study would have detected a much broader range of biological effects associated with the additives than was identified in Philip Morris' published paper, suggesting that it substantially underestimated the toxic potential of cigarette smoke and additives.
The researchers also found that Food and Chemical Toxicology, the journal in which the four Project MIX papers were published, had an editor and 11 of its International Editorial Board with documented links to the tobacco industry. The scientist and leader of Project MIX Edward Carmines described the process of publication as “an inside job.”
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that the tobacco industry scientific research on the use of cigarette additives cannot be taken at face value: the results demonstrate that toxins in cigarette smoke increase substantially when additives are put in cigarettes. In addition, better powered studies would probably have detected a much broader range of adverse biological effects associated with the additives than identified to those identified in PM's published papers suggesting that the published papers substantially underestimate the toxic potential combination of cigarette smoke and additives.
Regulatory authorities, including the FDA and similar agencies elsewhere who are implementing WHO FCTC, should conduct their own independent analysis of Project MIX data, which, analyzed correctly, could provide a strong evidence base for the elimination of the use of the studied additives (including menthol) in cigarettes on public health grounds.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
For PLoS Medicine's own policy on publishing papers sponsored by the tobacco industry see
The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)
The documents that the researchers reviewed in this paper can be found at the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library
PMCID: PMC3243707  PMID: 22205885
13.  Something going on in Milan: a review of the 4th International PhD Student Cancer Conference 
ecancermedicalscience  2010;4:198.
The 4th International PhD Student Cancer Conference was held at the IFOM-IEO-Campus in Milan from 19–21 May 2010
The Conference covered many topics related to cancer, from basic biology to clinical aspects of the disease. All attendees presented their research, by either giving a talk or presenting a poster. This conference is an opportunity to introduce PhD students to top cancer research institutes across Europe.
The core participanting institutes included: European School of Molecular Medicine (SEMM)—IFOM-IEO Campus, MilanBeatson Institute for Cancer Research (BICR), GlasgowCambridge Research Institute (CRI), Cambridge, UKMRC Gray Institute of Radiation Biology (GIROB), OxfordLondon Research Institute (LRI), LondonPaterson Institute for Cancer Research (PICR), ManchesterThe Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI), Amsterdam
‘You organizers have crushed all my prejudices towards Italians. Congratulations, I enjoyed the conference immensely!’ Even if it might have sounded like rudeness for sure this was supposed to be a genuine compliment (at least, that’s how we took it), also considering that it was told by a guy who himself was the fusion of two usually antithetical concepts: fashion style and English nationality.
The year 2010 has marked an important event for Italian research in the international scientific panorama: the European School of Molecular Medicine (SEMM) had the honour to host the 4th International PhD Student Cancer Conference, which was held from 19–21 May 2010 at the IFOM-IEO-Campus ( in Milan.
The conference was attended by more than one hundred students, coming from a selection of cutting edge European institutes devoted to cancer research. The rationale behind it is the promotion of cooperation among young scientists across Europe to debate about science and to exchange ideas and experiences. But that is not all, it is also designed for PhD students to get in touch with other prestigious research centres and to create connections for future post docs or job experiences. And last but not least, it is a golden chance for penniless PhD students to spend a couple of extra days visiting a foreign country (this motivation will of course never be voiced to supervisors).
The network of participating institutes has a three-nation core, made up of the Netherlands Cancer Institute, the Italian European School of Molecular Medicine (SEMM) and five UK Cancer Research Institutes (The London Research Institute, The Cambridge Research Institute, The Beatson Institute for Cancer Research in Glasgow, The Patterson Institute for Cancer Research in Manchester and the MRC Gray Institute for Radiation Oncology and Biology in Oxford).
The conference is hosted and organised every year by one of the core institutes; the first was in Cambridge in 2007, Amsterdam in 2008 and London in 2009, this year was the turn of Milan.
In addition to the core institutes, PhD students from several other high-profile institutes are invited to attend the conference. This year participants applied from the Spanish National Cancer Centre (CNIO, Madrid), the German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ, Heidelberg), the European Molecular Biology Labs (EMBL, Heidelberg) and the San Raffaele Institute (HSR, Milan). Moreover four ‘special guests’ from the National Centre for Biological Sciences of Bangalore (India) attended the conference in Milan. This represents a first step in widening the horizons beyond Europe into a global worldwide network of talented PhD students in life sciences.
The conference spread over two and a half days (Wednesday 19th to Friday 21st May) and touched on a broad spectrum of topics: from basic biology to development, from cancer therapies to modelling and top-down new generation global approaches. The final selection of presentations has been a tough task for us organisers (Chiara Segré, Federica Castellucci, Francesca Milanesi, Gianluca Varetti and Gian Maria Sarra Ferraris), due to the high scientific level of the abstracts submitted. In the end, 26 top students were chosen to give a 15-min oral presentation in one of eight sessions: Development & Differentiation, Cell Migration, Immunology & Cancer, Modelling & Large Scale approaches, Genome Instability, Signal Transduction, Cancer Genetics & Drug Resistance, Stem Cells in Biology and Cancer.
The scientific programme was further enriched by two scientific special sessions, held by Professor Pier Paolo di Fiore and Dr Giuseppe Testa, Principal Investigators at the IFOM-IEO-Campus and by a bioethical round table on human embryonic stem cell research moderated by Silvia Camporesi, a senior PhD student in the SEMM PhD Programme ‘Foundation of Life Science and their Bioethical Consequences’.
On top of everything, we had the pleasure of inviting, as keynote speakers, two leading European scientists in the fields of cancer invasion and biology of stem cells, respectively: Dr Peter Friedl from The Nijmegen Centre for Molecular Life (The Netherlands) and Professor Andreas Trumpp from The Heidelberg Institute for Stem Cell Technology and Experimental Medicine (Heidelberg).
All the student talks have distinguished themselves for the impressive quality of the science; an encouraging evidence of the high profile level of research carried out in Europe. It would be beyond the purposes of this report to summarise all 26 talks, which touched many different and specific topics. For further information, the Conference Abstract book with all the scientific content is available on the conference Web site ( In what follows, the special sessions and the keynote lectures will be discussed in detail.
PMCID: PMC3234021  PMID: 22276043
14.  Conflicting Biomedical Assumptions for Mathematical Modeling: The Case of Cancer Metastasis 
PLoS Computational Biology  2011;7(10):e1002132.
Computational models in biomedicine rely on biological and clinical assumptions. The selection of these assumptions contributes substantially to modeling success or failure. Assumptions used by experts at the cutting edge of research, however, are rarely explicitly described in scientific publications. One can directly collect and assess some of these assumptions through interviews and surveys. Here we investigate diversity in expert views about a complex biological phenomenon, the process of cancer metastasis. We harvested individual viewpoints from 28 experts in clinical and molecular aspects of cancer metastasis and summarized them computationally. While experts predominantly agreed on the definition of individual steps involved in metastasis, no two expert scenarios for metastasis were identical. We computed the probability that any two experts would disagree on k or fewer metastatic stages and found that any two randomly selected experts are likely to disagree about several assumptions. Considering the probability that two or more of these experts review an article or a proposal about metastatic cascades, the probability that they will disagree with elements of a proposed model approaches 1. This diversity of conceptions has clear consequences for advance and deadlock in the field. We suggest that strong, incompatible views are common in biomedicine but largely invisible to biomedical experts themselves. We built a formal Markov model of metastasis to encapsulate expert convergence and divergence regarding the entire sequence of metastatic stages. This model revealed stages of greatest disagreement, including the points at which cancer enters and leaves the bloodstream. The model provides a formal probabilistic hypothesis against which researchers can evaluate data on the process of metastasis. This would enable subsequent improvement of the model through Bayesian probabilistic update. Practically, we propose that model assumptions and hunches be harvested systematically and made available for modelers and scientists.
Author Summary
Mathematical models and scientific theories fail not only from internal inconsistency, but also from the poor selection of basic assumptions. Assumptions in computational models of biomedicine are typically provided by scientists who interact directly with empirical data. If we seek to model the dynamics of cancer metastasis and ask experts regarding valid assumptions, how widely will they agree and on which assumptions? To answer this question, we queried 28 faculty-level experts about the progression of metastasis. We demonstrate an unexpected diversity of assumptions across experts leading to a striking lack of agreement over the basic stages and sequence of metastasis. We suggest a formal model and framework that builds on this diversity and enables researchers to evaluate divergent hypotheses about metastasis with experimental data. We conclude that modeling biomedical processes could be substantially improved by harvesting scientific assumptions and exposing them for formalization and experiment.
PMCID: PMC3188482  PMID: 21998558
15.  Proceedings of the First International Optogenetic Therapies for Vision Symposium 
Optogenetics is a research field that uses gene therapy to deliver a gene encoding a light-activated protein to cells providing light-regulated control of targeted cell pathways. The technology is a popular tool in many fields of neuroscience, used to transiently switch cells on and off, for example, to map neural circuits. In inherited retinal degenerative diseases, where loss of vision results from the loss of photoreceptors, optogenetics can be applied to either augment the function of surviving photoreceptors or confer light sensitivity to naturally nonlight sensitive retinal cells, such as a bipolar cells. This can be achieved either by the light sensitive protein integrating with native internal signaling pathways, or by using a dual function membrane protein that integrates light signaling with an ion channel or pump activity. Exposing treated cells to light of the correct wavelength activates the protein, resulting in cellular depolarization or hyperpolarization that triggers neurological signaling to the visual cortex.
While there is a lot of interest in optogenetics as a pan-disease clinical treatment for end-stage application in the inherited degenerative diseases of the retina, research to date has been limited to nonhuman clinical studies. To address the clinical translational needs of this technology, the Foundation Fighting Blindness and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary cohosted an International Optogenetic Therapies for Vision Workshop, which was held at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston, Massachusetts on June 1, 2012.
PMCID: PMC3860355  PMID: 24349882
optogenetics; vision; retina; gene therapy
16.  The Role of Viral Introductions in Sustaining Community-Based HIV Epidemics in Rural Uganda: Evidence from Spatial Clustering, Phylogenetics, and Egocentric Transmission Models 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(3):e1001610.
Using different approaches to investigate HIV transmission patterns, Justin Lessler and colleagues find that extra-community HIV introductions are frequent and likely play a role in sustaining the epidemic in the Rakai community.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
It is often assumed that local sexual networks play a dominant role in HIV spread in sub-Saharan Africa. The aim of this study was to determine the extent to which continued HIV transmission in rural communities—home to two-thirds of the African population—is driven by intra-community sexual networks versus viral introductions from outside of communities.
Methods and Findings
We analyzed the spatial dynamics of HIV transmission in rural Rakai District, Uganda, using data from a cohort of 14,594 individuals within 46 communities. We applied spatial clustering statistics, viral phylogenetics, and probabilistic transmission models to quantify the relative contribution of viral introductions into communities versus community- and household-based transmission to HIV incidence. Individuals living in households with HIV-incident (n = 189) or HIV-prevalent (n = 1,597) persons were 3.2 (95% CI: 2.7–3.7) times more likely to be HIV infected themselves compared to the population in general, but spatial clustering outside of households was relatively weak and was confined to distances <500 m. Phylogenetic analyses of gag and env genes suggest that chains of transmission frequently cross community boundaries. A total of 95 phylogenetic clusters were identified, of which 44% (42/95) were two individuals sharing a household. Among the remaining clusters, 72% (38/53) crossed community boundaries. Using the locations of self-reported sexual partners, we estimate that 39% (95% CI: 34%–42%) of new viral transmissions occur within stable household partnerships, and that among those infected by extra-household sexual partners, 62% (95% CI: 55%–70%) are infected by sexual partners from outside their community. These results rely on the representativeness of the sample and the quality of self-reported partnership data and may not reflect HIV transmission patterns outside of Rakai.
Our findings suggest that HIV introductions into communities are common and account for a significant proportion of new HIV infections acquired outside of households in rural Uganda, though the extent to which this is true elsewhere in Africa remains unknown. Our results also suggest that HIV prevention efforts should be implemented at spatial scales broader than the community and should target key populations likely responsible for introductions into communities.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
About 35 million people (25 million of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa) are currently infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and about 2.3 million people become newly infected every year. HIV destroys immune system cells, leaving infected individuals susceptible to other infections. HIV infection can be controlled by taking antiretroviral drugs (antiretroviral therapy, or ART) daily throughout life. Although originally available only to people living in wealthy countries, recent political efforts mean that 9.7 million people in low- and middle-income countries now have access to ART. However, ART does not cure HIV infection, so prevention of viral transmission remains extremely important. Because HIV is usually transmitted through unprotected sex with an infected partner, individuals can reduce their risk of infection by abstaining from sex, by having one or a few partners, and by using condoms. Male circumcision also reduces HIV transmission. In addition to reducing illness and death among HIV-positive people, ART also reduces HIV transmission.
Why Was This Study Done?
Effective HIV control requires an understanding of how HIV spreads through sexual networks. These networks include sexual partnerships between individuals in households, between community members in different households, and between individuals from different communities. Local sexual networks (household and intra-community sexual partnerships) are sometimes assumed to be the dominant driving force in HIV spread in sub-Saharan Africa, but are viral introductions from sexual partnerships with individuals outside the community also important? This question needs answering because the effectiveness of interventions such as ART as prevention partly depends on how many new infections in an intervention area are attributable to infection from partners residing in that area and how many are attributable to infection from partners living elsewhere. Here, the researchers use three analytical methods—spatial clustering statistics, viral phylogenetics, and egocentric transmission modeling—to ask whether HIV transmission in rural Uganda is driven predominantly by intra-community sexual networks. Spatial clustering analysis uses the geographical coordinates of households to measure the tendency of HIV-infected people to cluster spatially at scales consistent with community transmission. Viral phylogenetic analysis examines the genetic relatedness of viruses; if transmission is through local networks, viruses in newly infected individuals should more closely resemble viruses in other community members than those in people outside the community. Egocentric transmission modelling uses information on the locations of recent sexual partners to estimate the proportions of new transmissions from household, intra-community, and extra-community partners.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers applied their three analytical methods to data collected from 14,594 individuals living in 46 communities (governmental administrative units) in Rakai District, Uganda. Spatial clustering analysis indicated that individuals who lived in households with individuals with incident HIV (newly diagnosed) or prevalent HIV (previously diagnosed) were 3.2 times more likely than the general population to be HIV-positive themselves. Spatial clustering outside households was relatively weak, however, and was confined to distances of less than half a kilometer. Viral phylogenetic analysis indicated that 44% of phylogenetic clusters (viruses with related genetic sequences found in more than one individual) were within households, but that 40% of clusters crossed community borders. Finally, analysis of the locations of self-reported sexual partners indicated that 39% of new viral transmissions occurred within stable household partnerships, but that among people newly infected by extra-household partners, nearly two-thirds were infected by partners from outside their community.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The results of all three analyses suggest that HIV introductions into communities are frequent and are likely to play an important role in sustaining HIV transmission in the Rakai District. Specifically, within this rural HIV-endemic region (a region where HIV infection is always present), viral introductions combined with intra-household transmission account for the majority of new infections, although community-based sexual networks also play a critical role in HIV transmission. These findings may not be generalizable to the broader Ugandan population or to other regions of Africa, and their accuracy is likely to be limited by the use of self-reported sexual partner data. Nevertheless, these findings indicate that the dynamics of HIV transmission in rural Uganda (and probably elsewhere) are complex. Consequently, to halt the spread of HIV, prevention efforts will need to be implemented at spatial scales broader than individual communities, and key populations that are likely to introduce HIV into communities will need to be targeted.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
NAM/aidsmap provides basic information about HIV/AIDS, and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on HIV and AIDS in Uganda and on HIV prevention strategies (in English and Spanish)
The UNAIDS Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic 2013 provides up-to-date information about the AIDS epidemic and efforts to halt it
The Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (University of California, San Francisco) has a fact sheet about sexual networks and HIV prevention
Wikipedia provides information on spatial clustering analysis (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
A PLOS Computational Biology Topic Page (a review article that is a published copy of record of a dynamic version of the article as found in Wikipedia) about viral phylodynamics is available
Personal stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through Avert, NAM/aidsmap, and Healthtalkonline
PMCID: PMC3942316  PMID: 24595023
17.  An e-learning application on electrochemotherapy 
Electrochemotherapy is an effective approach in local tumour treatment employing locally applied high-voltage electric pulses in combination with chemotherapeutic drugs. In planning and performing electrochemotherapy a multidisciplinary expertise is required and collaboration, knowledge and experience exchange among the experts from different scientific fields such as medicine, biology and biomedical engineering is needed. The objective of this study was to develop an e-learning application in order to provide the educational content on electrochemotherapy and its underlying principles and to support collaboration, knowledge and experience exchange among the experts involved in the research and clinics.
The educational content on electrochemotherapy and cell and tissue electroporation was based on previously published studies from molecular dynamics, lipid bilayers, single cell level and simplified tissue models to complex biological tissues and research and clinical results of electrochemotherapy treatment. We used computer graphics such as model-based visualization (i.e. 3D numerical modelling using finite element method) and 3D computer animations and graphical illustrations to facilitate the representation of complex biological and physical aspects in electrochemotherapy. The e-learning application is integrated into an interactive e-learning environment developed at our institution, enabling collaboration and knowledge exchange among the users. We evaluated the designed e-learning application at the International Scientific workshop and postgraduate course (Electroporation Based Technologies and Treatments). The evaluation was carried out by testing the pedagogical efficiency of the presented educational content and by performing the usability study of the application.
The e-learning content presents three different levels of knowledge on cell and tissue electroporation. In the first part of the e-learning application we explain basic principles of electroporation process. The second part provides educational content about importance of modelling and visualization of local electric field in electroporation-based treatments. In the third part we developed an interactive module for visualization of local electric field distribution in 3D tissue models of cutaneous tumors for different parameters such as voltage applied, distance between electrodes, electrode dimension and shape, tissue geometry and electric conductivity. The pedagogical efficiency assessment showed that the participants improved their level of knowledge. The results of usability evaluation revealed that participants found the application simple to learn, use and navigate. The participants also found the information provided by the application easy to understand.
The e-learning application we present in this article provides educational material on electrochemotherapy and its underlying principles such as cell and tissue electroporation. The e-learning application is developed to provide an interactive educational content in order to simulate the "hands-on" learning approach about the parameters being important for successful therapy. The e-learning application together with the interactive e-learning environment is available to the users to provide collaborative and flexible learning in order to facilitate knowledge exchange among the experts from different scientific fields that are involved in electrochemotherapy. The modular structure of the application allows for upgrade with new educational content collected from the clinics and research, and can be easily adapted to serve as a collaborative e-learning tool also in other electroporation-based treatments such as gene electrotransfer, gene vaccination, irreversible tissue ablation and transdermal gene and drug delivery. The presented e-learning application provides an easy and rapid approach for information, knowledge and experience exchange among the experts from different scientific fields, which can facilitate development and optimisation of electroporation-based treatments.
PMCID: PMC2770511  PMID: 19843322
18.  Episodic Sexual Transmission of HIV Revealed by Molecular Phylodynamics 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(3):e50.
The structure of sexual contact networks plays a key role in the epidemiology of sexually transmitted infections, and their reconstruction from interview data has provided valuable insights into the spread of infection. For HIV, the long period of infectivity has made the interpretation of contact networks more difficult, and major discrepancies have been observed between the contact network and the transmission network revealed by viral phylogenetics. The high rate of HIV evolution in principle allows for detailed reconstruction of links between virus from different individuals, but often sampling has been too sparse to describe the structure of the transmission network. The aim of this study was to analyze a high-density sample of an HIV-infected population using recently developed techniques in phylogenetics to infer the short-term dynamics of the epidemic among men who have sex with men (MSM).
Methods and Findings
Sequences of the protease and reverse transcriptase coding regions from 2,126 patients, predominantly MSM, from London were compared: 402 of these showed a close match to at least one other subtype B sequence. Nine large clusters were identified on the basis of genetic distance; all were confirmed by Bayesian Monte Carlo Markov chain (MCMC) phylogenetic analysis. Overall, 25% of individuals with a close match with one sequence are linked to 10 or more others. Dated phylogenies of the clusters using a relaxed clock indicated that 65% of the transmissions within clusters took place between 1995 and 2000, and 25% occurred within 6 mo after infection. The likelihood that not all members of the clusters have been identified renders the latter observation conservative.
Reconstruction of the HIV transmission network using a dated phylogeny approach has revealed the HIV epidemic among MSM in London to have been episodic, with evidence of multiple clusters of transmissions dating to the late 1990s, a period when HIV prevalence is known to have doubled in this population. The quantitative description of the transmission dynamics among MSM will be important for parameterization of epidemiological models and in designing intervention strategies.
Using viral genotype data from HIV drug resistance testing at a London clinic, Andrew Leigh Brown and colleagues derive the structure of the transmission network through phylogenetic analysis.
Editors' Summary
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), is mainly spread through unprotected sex with an infected partner. Like other sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS spreads through networks of sexual contacts. The characteristics of these complex networks (which include people who have serial sexual relationships with single partners and people who have concurrent sexual relationships with several partners) affect how quickly diseases spread in the short term and how common the disease is in the long term. For many sexually transmitted diseases, sexual contact networks can be reconstructed from interview data. The information gained in this way can be used for partner notification so that transmitters of the disease and people who may have been unknowingly infected can be identified, treated, and advised about disease prevention. It can also be used to develop effective community-based prevention strategies.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although sexual contact networks have provided valuable information about the spread of many sexually transmitted diseases, they cannot easily be used to understand HIV transmission patterns. This is because the period of infectivity with HIV is long and the risk of infection from a single sexual contact with an infected person is low. Another way to understand the spread of HIV is through phylogenetics, which examines the genetic relatedness of viruses obtained from different individuals. Frequent small changes in the genetic blueprint of HIV allow the virus to avoid the human immune response and to become resistant to antiretroviral drugs. In this study, the researchers use recently developed analytical methods, viral sequences from a large proportion of a specific HIV-infected population, and information on when each sample was taken, to learn about transmission of HIV/AIDS in London among men who have sex with men (MSM; a term that encompasses gay, bisexual, and transgendered men and heterosexual men who sometimes have sex with men). This new approach, which combines information on viral genetic variation and viral population dynamics, is called “molecular phylodynamics.”
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers compared the sequences of the genes encoding the HIV-1 protease and reverse transcriptase from more than 2,000 patients, mainly MSM, attending a large London HIV clinic between 1997 and 2003. 402 of these sequences closely matched at least one other subtype B sequence (the HIV/AIDS epidemic among MSM in the UK primarily involves HIV subtype B). Further analysis showed that the patients from whom this subset of sequences came formed six clusters of ten or more individuals, as well as many smaller clusters, based on the genetic relatedness of their HIV viruses. The researchers then used information on the date when each sample was collected and a “relaxed clock” approach (which accounts for the possibility that different sequences evolve at different rates) to determine dated phylogenies (patterns of genetic relatedness that indicate when gene sequences change) for the clusters. These phylogenies indicated that at least in one in four transmissions between the individuals in the large clusters occurred within 6 months of infection, and that most of the transmissions within each cluster occurred over periods of 3–4 years during the late 1990s.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This phylodynamic reconstruction of the HIV transmission network among MSM in a London clinic indicates that the HIV epidemic in this population has been episodic with multiple clusters of transmission occurring during the late 1990s, a time when the number of HIV infections in this population doubled. It also suggests that transmission of the virus during the early stages of HIV infection is likely to be an important driver of the epidemic. Whether these results apply more generally to the MSM population at risk for transmitting or acquiring HIV depends on whether the patients in this study are representative of that group. Additional studies are needed to determine this, but if the patterns revealed here are generalizable, then this quantitative description of HIV transmission dynamics should help in the design of strategies to strengthen HIV prevention among MSM.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Read a related PLoS Medicine Perspective article
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including a list of organizations that provide information for gay men and MSM
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on HIV/AIDS and on HIV/AIDS among MSM (in English and Spanish)
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on HIV, AIDS, and men who have sex with men
The Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (University of California, San Francisco) provides information on sexual networks and HIV prevention
The US National Center for Biotechnology Information provides a science primer on molecular phylogenetics
UK Collaborative Group on HIV Drug Resistance maintains a database of resistance tests
HIV i-Base offers HIV treatment information for health-care professionals and HIV-positive people
The NIH-funded HIV Sequence Database contains data on genetic sequences, resistance, immunology, and vaccine trials
PMCID: PMC2267814  PMID: 18351795
19.  Phosphatidylenthanolamine Binding Protein aka Raf Kinase Inhibitor Protein: A Brief History of Its Discovery and the Remarkable Diversity of Biological Functions 
Phosphatidylethanolamine-binding protein (PEBP) was identified almost three decades ago as an abundant protein in bovine brain. PEBP is the prototype of a highly conserved family of proteins represented in all three major phylogenetic divisions, eukaryota, bacteria, and archaea, with no significant sequence homology to other proteins. PEBP proteins have been studied in many species. The most thoroughly explored biological role of PEBP is that of a modulator of intracellular signaling pathways, which is mediated by its ability to bind and inhibit a number of protein kinases. The first such interaction that came to light was with the Raf1 kinase, and PEBP is thus widely referred to in the literature under its alternate name RKIP (Raf kinase inhibitory protein). The activity of RKIP itself is subject to regulation by phosphorylation. Intriguingly, PEBP has also been reported to possess additional, and diverse, biological functions unrelated to protein kinase networks that remain to be investigated in detail. Recent findings that RKIP may function as a suppressor of cancer metastasis are of great interest and importance. Prognostic and therapeutic applications of RKIP in human cancer were the subject of the first international workshop on RKIP that was held at the University of California, Los Angeles, in March 2010. This paper was presented at the workshop as a summary of the history of this still small but rapidly evolving field.
PMCID: PMC3516847  PMID: 23227430
cancer; signal transduction; metastasis; tumor suppression; phosphorylation; apoptosis; MAP kinase pathway; NF-κB pathway; G protein–coupled receptor pathway
20.  The Impact of Monitoring HIV Patients Prior to Treatment in Resource-Poor Settings: Insights from Mathematical Modelling 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(3):e53.
The roll-out of antiretroviral treatment (ART) in developing countries concentrates on finding patients currently in need, but over time many HIV-infected individuals will be identified who will require treatment in the future. We investigated the potential influence of alternative patient management and ART initiation strategies on the impact of ART programmes in sub-Saharan Africa.
Methods and Findings
We developed a stochastic mathematical model representing disease progression, diagnosis, clinical monitoring, and survival in a cohort of 1,000 hypothetical HIV-infected individuals in Africa. If individuals primarily enter ART programmes when symptomatic, the model predicts that only 25% will start treatment and, on average, 6 life-years will be saved per person treated. If individuals are recruited to programmes while still healthy and are frequently monitored, and CD4+ cell counts are used to help decide when to initiate ART, three times as many are expected to be treated, and average life-years saved among those treated increases to 15. The impact of programmes can be improved further by performing a second CD4+ cell count when the initial value is close to the threshold for starting treatment, maintaining high patient follow-up rates, and prioritising monitoring the oldest (≥ 35 y) and most immune-suppressed patients (CD4+ cell count ≤ 350). Initiating ART at higher CD4+ cell counts than WHO recommends leads to more life-years saved, but disproportionately more years spent on ART.
The overall impact of ART programmes will be limited if rates of diagnosis are low and individuals enter care too late. Frequently monitoring individuals at all stages of HIV infection and using CD4 cell count information to determine when to start treatment can maximise the impact of ART.
Using a stochastic model based on data from Africa, Timothy Hallett and colleagues find that starting HIV treatment based on regular CD4 monitoring, rather than on symptoms, would substantially increase survival.
Editors' Summary
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) has killed more than 25 million people since the first case in 1981, and about 33 million people are currently infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. HIV destroys immune system cells (including CD4 cells, a type of lymphocyte), leaving infected individuals susceptible to other infections. Early in the AIDS epidemic, most HIV-positive individuals died within 10 years but in 1996, combination antiretroviral therapy (ART)—a mixture of powerful but expensive antiretroviral drugs—was developed. For HIV-positive people living in affluent, developed countries who could afford ART, AIDS then became a chronic disease, but for those living in low- and middle-income countries it remained a death sentence—ART was too expensive. In 2003, this lack of access to ART was declared a global health emergency and governments, international organizations, and funding bodies began to implement plans to increase ART coverage in developing countries.
Why Was This Study Done?
The roll-out of ART in developing countries has concentrated so far on finding HIV-positive people who currently need treatment. In developing countries, these are often individuals who have AIDS-related symptoms such as recurrent severe bacterial infections. But healthy people are also being diagnosed as HIV positive during voluntary testing and at antenatal clinics. How should these HIV-positive but symptom-free individuals be managed? Should regular health-monitoring appointments be scheduled for them and when should ART be initiated? Management decisions like these will determine how well patients do when they eventually start ART, as well as the demand for ART and other health-care services. The full range of alternative patient management strategies cannot be tested in clinical trials—it would be unethical—but public-health officials need an idea of their relative effectiveness in order to use limited resources wisely. In this study, therefore, the researchers use mathematical modeling to investigate the impact of alternative patient management and ART initiation strategies on the impact of ART programs in resource-poor settings.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers' mathematical model, which includes data on disease progression collected in Africa, simulates disease progression in a group (cohort) of 1,000 HIV-infected adults. It tracks these individuals from infection, through diagnosis and clinical monitoring, and into treatment and predicts how many will receive ART and their length of survival under different management scenarios and ART initiation rules. The model predicts that if HIV-positive individuals receive ART only when they have AIDS-related symptoms, only a quarter of them will ever start ART and the average life-years saved per person treated will be 6 years (that is, they will live 6 years longer than they would have done without treatment). If individuals are recruited to ART programs when they are healthy and are frequently monitored using CD4 cell counts to decide when to start ART, three-quarters of the cohort will be treated and 15 life-years will be saved per person treated. The impact of ART programs will be increased further, the model predicts, by preferentially monitoring people who are more than 35 years old and the most immunosuppressed individuals. Finally, strategies that measure CD4 cells frequently will save more life-years because ART is more likely to be started before the immune system is irreversibly damaged. Importantly for resource-poor settings, these strategies also save more life-years per year on ART.
What Do These Findings Mean?
As with all mathematical models, the accuracy of these predictions depends on the assumptions built into the model and the reliability of the data fed into it. Also, this model does not estimate the costs of the various management options, something that will need to be done to ensure effective allocation of limited resources. Nevertheless, these findings provide several general clues about how ART programs should be implemented in poor countries to maximize their effects. Early diagnosis of infections, regular monitoring of patients, and using CD4 cell counts to decide when to initiate ART should all help to improve the number of life-years saved by ART. In other words, the researchers conclude, effectively managing individuals at all stages of HIV infection is essential to maximize the impact of ART.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Information from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS.
Information from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on global HIV/AIDS topics (in English and Spanish)
HIV InSite, comprehensive and up-to-date information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS from the University of California, San Francisco
Information from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on HIV and AIDS in Africa and on HIV/AIDS treatment and care, including universal access to ART
Progress toward universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment, the latest report from the World Health Organization (available in several languages)
Guidelines for antiretroviral therapy in adults and adolescents are provided by the World Health Organization and by the US Department of Health and Human Services
PMCID: PMC2265759  PMID: 18336064
21.  Representation and Misrepresentation of Scientific Evidence in Contemporary Tobacco Regulation: A Review of Tobacco Industry Submissions to the UK Government Consultation on Standardised Packaging 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(3):e1001629.
Selda Ulucanlar and colleagues analyze submissions by two tobacco companies to the UK government consultation on standardized packaging.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Standardised packaging (SP) of tobacco products is an innovative tobacco control measure opposed by transnational tobacco companies (TTCs) whose responses to the UK government's public consultation on SP argued that evidence was inadequate to support implementing the measure. The government's initial decision, announced 11 months after the consultation closed, was to wait for ‘more evidence’, but four months later a second ‘independent review’ was launched. In view of the centrality of evidence to debates over SP and TTCs' history of denying harms and manufacturing uncertainty about scientific evidence, we analysed their submissions to examine how they used evidence to oppose SP.
Methods and Findings
We purposively selected and analysed two TTC submissions using a verification-oriented cross-documentary method to ascertain how published studies were used and interpretive analysis with a constructivist grounded theory approach to examine the conceptual significance of TTC critiques. The companies' overall argument was that the SP evidence base was seriously flawed and did not warrant the introduction of SP. However, this argument was underpinned by three complementary techniques that misrepresented the evidence base. First, published studies were repeatedly misquoted, distorting the main messages. Second, ‘mimicked scientific critique’ was used to undermine evidence; this form of critique insisted on methodological perfection, rejected methodological pluralism, adopted a litigation (not scientific) model, and was not rigorous. Third, TTCs engaged in ‘evidential landscaping’, promoting a parallel evidence base to deflect attention from SP and excluding company-held evidence relevant to SP. The study's sample was limited to sub-sections of two out of four submissions, but leaked industry documents suggest at least one other company used a similar approach.
The TTCs' claim that SP will not lead to public health benefits is largely without foundation. The tools of Better Regulation, particularly stakeholder consultation, provide an opportunity for highly resourced corporations to slow, weaken, or prevent public health policies.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Every year, about 6 million people die from tobacco-related diseases and, if current trends continue, annual tobacco-related deaths will increase to more than 8 million by 2030. To reduce this loss of life, national and international bodies have drawn up various conventions and directives designed to implement tobacco control measures such as the adoption of taxation policies aimed at reducing tobacco consumption and bans on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship. One innovative but largely unused tobacco control measure is standardised packaging of tobacco products. Standardised packaging aims to prevent the use of packaging as a marketing tool by removing all brand imagery and text (other than name) and by introducing packs of a standard shape and colour that include prominent pictorial health warnings. Standardised packaging was first suggested as a tobacco control measure in 1986 but has been consistently opposed by the tobacco industry.
Why Was This Study Done?
The UK is currently considering standardised packaging of tobacco products. In the UK, Better Regulation guidance obliges officials to seek the views of stakeholders, including corporations, on the government's cost and benefit estimates of regulatory measures such as standardised packaging and on the evidence underlying these estimates. In response to a public consultation about standardised packaging in July 2013, which considered submissions from several transnational tobacco companies (TTCs), the UK government announced that it would wait for the results of the standardised packaging legislation that Australia adopted in December 2012 before making its final decision about this tobacco control measure. Parliamentary debates and media statements have suggested that doubt over the adequacy of the evidence was the main reason for this ‘wait and see’ decision. Notably, TTCs have a history of manufacturing uncertainty about the scientific evidence related to the harms of tobacco. Given the centrality of evidence to the debate about standardised packaging, in this study, the researchers analyse submissions made by two TTCs, British American Tobacco (BAT) and Japan Tobacco International (JTI), to the first UK consultation on standardised packaging (a second review is currently underway and will report shortly) to examine how TTCs used evidence to oppose standardised packaging.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers analysed sub-sections of two of the four TTC submissions (those submitted by BAT and JTI) made to the public consultation using verification-oriented cross-documentary analysis, which compared references made to published sources with the original sources to ascertain how these sources had been used, and interpretative analysis to examine the conceptual significance of TTC critiques of the evidence on standardised packaging. The researchers report that the companies' overall argument was that the evidence base in support of standardised packaging was seriously flawed and did not warrant the introduction of such packaging. The researchers identified three ways in which the TTC reports misrepresented the evidence base. First, the TTCs misquoted published studies, thereby distorting the main messages of these studies. For example, the TTCs sometimes omitted important qualifying information when quoting from published studies. Second, the TTCs undermined evidence by employing experts to review published studies for methodological rigor and value in ways that did not conform to normal scientific critique approaches (‘mimicked scientific critique’). So, for example, the experts considered each piece of evidence in isolation for its ability to support standardised packaging rather than considering the cumulative weight of the evidence. Finally, the TTCs engaged in ‘evidential landscaping’. That is, they promoted research that deflected attention from standardised packaging (for example, research into social explanations of smoking behaviour) and omitted internal industry research on the role of packaging in marketing.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the TTC critique of the evidence in favour of standardised packaging that was presented to the UK public consultation on this tobacco control measure is highly misleading. However, because the researchers' analysis only considered subsections of the submissions from two TTCs, these findings may not be applicable to the other submissions or to other TTCs. Moreover, their analysis only considered the efforts made by TTCs to influence public health policy and not the effectiveness of these efforts. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that the claim of TTCs that standardised packaging will not lead to public health benefits is largely without foundation. More generally, these findings highlight the possibility that the tools of Better Regulation, particularly stakeholder consultation, provide an opportunity for wealthy corporations to slow, weaken, or prevent the implementation of public health policies.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The World Health Organization provides information about the dangers of tobacco (in several languages) and an article about first experiences with Australia's tobacco plain packaging law; for information about the tobacco industry's influence on policy, see the 2009 World Health Organization report ‘Tobacco industry interference with tobacco control’
A UK parliamentary briefing on standardised packaging of tobacco products, a press release about the consultation, and a summary report of the consultation are available; the ideas behind the UK's Better Regulation guidance are described in a leaflet produced by the Better Regulation Task Force
Cancer Research UK (CRUK) has a web page with information on standardised packaging and includes videos
Wikipedia has a page on standardised packaging of tobacco products (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopaedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies is a network of UK universities that undertakes original research, policy development, advocacy, and teaching and training in the field of tobacco control, an online resource managed by the University of Bath, provides up-to-date information on the tobacco industry and the tactics it uses to influence tobacco regulation
SmokeFree, a website provided by the UK National Health Service, offers advice on quitting smoking and includes personal stories from people who have stopped smoking, from the US National Cancer Institute, offers online tools and resources to help people quit smoking
PMCID: PMC3965396  PMID: 24667150
22.  Workgroup Report: Indoor Chemistry and Health 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2005;114(3):442-446.
Chemicals present in indoor air can react with one another, either in the gas phase or on surfaces, altering the concentrations of both reactants and products. Such chemistry is often the major source of free radicals and other short-lived reactive species in indoor environments. To what extent do the products of indoor chemistry affect human health? To address this question, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health sponsored a workshop titled “Indoor Chemistry and Health” on 12–15 July 2004 at the University of California–Santa Cruz. Approximately 70 experts from eight countries participated. Objectives included enhancing communications between researchers in indoor chemistry and health professionals, as well as defining a list of priority research needs related to the topic of the workshop. The ultimate challenges in this emerging field are defining exposures to the products of indoor chemistry and developing an understanding of the links between these exposures and various health outcomes. The workshop was a step toward meeting these challenges. This summary presents the issues discussed at the workshop and the priority research needs identified by the attendees.
PMCID: PMC1392240  PMID: 16507469
allergies; asthma; biomarkers; environmental cancer; free radicals; hydroperoxides; indoor pollutants; inhalation exposure; lung damage
23.  Environmental air toxics: role in asthma occurrence? 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2002;110(Suppl 4):501-504.
The National Urban Air Toxics Research Center (NUATRC) hosted its first scientific workshop in 1994 that focused on possible relationships between air toxics and asthma. From that meeting came recommendations for future research including a need for more complete individual personal exposure assessments so that determinations of personal exposures to pollutants could be made. In the spring of 2001, NUATRC held a second such workshop to review progress made in this area during the intervening 7 years. Peer-reviewed articles from the workshop are published in this issue of (italic)Environmental Health Perspectives Supplements(/italic). As in 1994, academic, government, and industry scientists participated. Dave Guinnup of the Environmental Protection Agency discussed the nature of air toxics, their definition, and the basis for federal regulation. George Leikauf from the University of Cincinnati reviewed the 1994 workshop and subsequent research in this field. Current research funded by NUATRC that is addressing individual personal exposure was presented by Clifford Weisel (Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey), Patrick Kinney (Columbia University) and Candis Claiborn (Washington State University). David Corry from Baylor College of Medicine highlighted new insights into asthma pathogenesis while Stephen Redd from the Centers for Disease Control presented an overview of asthma epidemiology as well as the societal costs of the disease. Mary White (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) discussed recent epidemiologic investigations by public health agencies into community concerns about asthma and hazardous air pollutants. David Peden (University of North Carolina) reviewed scientific studies into the links between asthma and air toxics as well as criteria air pollutants. In a session on occupational asthma, Lee Petsonk (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) discussed risk factors for work-related asthma, whereas Ralph Delfino (University of California, Irvine) addressed limitations of extrapolating from occupational asthma to asthma in the general population. These presentations were followed by panel discussions focusing on future research programs, both for NUATRC and similar research institutions. Recommendations for future research included improved assessments of personal exposure to air toxics as well as research focused on specific hazardous air pollutants. The latter recommendation was based on medical literature that suggests certain pollutants from the list of 188 air toxics are most likely to adversely affect respiratory health.
PMCID: PMC1241199  PMID: 12194880
24.  Introduction to the special issue from the proceedings of the 2006 International Workshop on Virtual Reality in Rehabilitation 
New technologies are rapidly having a great impact on the development of novel rehabilitation interventions. One of the more popular of these technological advances is virtual reality. The wide range of applications of this technology, from immersive environments to tele-rehabilitation equipment and care, lends versatility to its use as a rehabilitation intervention. But increasing access to this technology requires that we further our understanding about its impact on a performer. The International Workshop on Virtual Reality in Rehabilitation (IWVR), now known as Virtual Rehabilitation 2007, is a conference that emerged from the need to discover how virtual reality could be applied to rehabilitation practice. Individuals from multiple disciplines concerned with the development, transmission, and evaluation of virtual reality as a technology applied to rehabilitation attend this meeting to share their work. In this special issue of the Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation we are sharing some of the papers presented at the 2006 meeting of IWVR with the objective of offering a description of the state of the art in this research field. A perusal of these papers will provide a good cross-section of the emerging work in this area as well as inform the reader about new findings relevant to research and practice in rehabilitation.
PMCID: PMC1891302  PMID: 17553159
25.  Assuring quality and performance of sustained and controlled release parenterals: EUFEPS workshop report 
AAPS PharmSci  2004;6(1):100-111.
This is a summary report of the workshop, organized by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Scientists in association with the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products, the European Pharmacopoeia, the US Food and Drug Administration and the United States Pharmacopoeia, on “Assuring Quality and Performance of Sustained and Controlled Release Parenterals” held in Basel, Switzerland, February 2003. Experts from the pharmaceutical industry, regulatory authorities and academia participated in this workshop to review, discuss and debate formulation, processing and manufacture of sustained and controlled release parenterals, and identify critical process parameters and their control. This workshop was a follow-up workshop to a previous workshop on Assuring Quality and Performance of Sustained and Controlled Release Parenterals that was held in Washington, DC in April 2001. This report reflects the outcome of the Basel 2003 meeting and the advances in the field since the Washington, DC meeting in 2001. As necessary, the reader is referred to the report on the 2001 meeting. Areas were identified at the 2003 Basel meeting where research is needed in order to understand the performance of these drug delivery systems and to assist in the development of appropriate testing procedures. Recommendations were made for future workshops and meetings.
PMCID: PMC2750946  PMID: 18465263

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