• Gene drivesThree ways synthetic biology could annihilate Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases

    By Andrew Maynard

    There are tried and tested approaches in the arsenal of weapons against the mosquito-borne disease, but to combat Zika and other mosquito-borne disease, more is needed. Gene drives, synthetic biology-based genetic engineering techniques, offer one solution by reengineering mosquitoes or obliterating them altogether. Yet we still have only the vaguest ideas of how the systems we’re hacking by using gene drives actually work. It’s as if we’ve been given free rein to play with life’s operating system code, but unlike computers, we don’t have the luxury of rebooting when things go wrong. As enthusiasm grows over the use of synthetic biology to combat diseases like Zika, greater efforts are needed to understand what could go wrong, who and what might potentially be affected, and how errors will be corrected.

  • Gene drivesGene-drive modified organisms not yet ready to be released into environment: Scientists

    The emerging science of gene drives has the potential to address environmental and public health challenges, but gene-drive modified organisms are not ready to be released into the environment and require more research in laboratories and highly controlled field trials, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences.

  • view counter
  • Policy makingDo think-tanks matter? Expert says “think again”

    A recently published study found that public sector workers judged studies and reports generated by scholars affiliated with universities to be more credible than reports or studies purported to be from a think-tank or advocacy group.

  • EducationNew UAlbany undergrad major in emergency preparedness, homeland security, cybersecurity

    The University of Albany’s College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity has received approval from the New York State Education Department to establish the bachelor’s degree program in emergency preparedness, homeland security, and cybersecurity at the start of the 2016-2017 academic year. The college is the first stand-alone academic institution in the United States dedicated to emergency preparedness, homeland security, and cybersecurity.

  • Coastal threatsNew research predicts a doubling of coastal erosion by mid-century in Hawai’i

    Chronic erosion dominates the sandy beaches of Hawai’i, causing beach loss as it damages homes, infrastructure, and critical habitat. Researchers have long understood that global sea level rise will affect the rate of coastal erosion. Newresearch team developed a simple model to assess future erosion hazards under higher sea levels.

  • Water securityCape Cod susceptible to potential effects of sea-level rise

    Cape Cod is vulnerable to rising water tables and, in some areas, groundwater inundation as a result of rising sea levels, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study (USGS). Groundwater inundation occurs when the water table reaches or exceeds land surface. The challenges associated with the issue are likely to become more prevalent as seas rise. Depending on the severity, it may make areas unsuitable for residential and commercial development.

  • EducationPenn State adds new homeland security offerings

    Penn State is expanding its portfolio in homeland security with a new graduate-level certificate that focuses on how to ensure that hospitals and medical care facilities stay functional during emergencies and disasters. In the coursework for the 15-credit certificate, students will learn the ways to prepare hospitals for and respond to emergencies, such as mass-casualty events, floods, earthquakes, disease outbreaks, or terrorist attacks.

  • STEM educationEnrollment in U.S. science and engineering graduate school increases

    After remaining essentially flat for the past two years, the number of full-time graduate students enrolled in science and engineering (S&E) programs rose by 2.4 percent in 2013, to nearly 425,000 students. The increase was largely due to a 7.9 percent rise in full-time enrollment of foreign graduate students on temporary visas. Foreign enrollment hit an all-time high of 168,297 students in 2013, or 39.6 percent of the full-time S&E graduate student population—up from 35.9 percent in 2008.

  • Water securityManaging the endangered Rio Grande River across the U.S.-Mexico border

    The Rio Grande (called Rio Bravo in Mexico) is the lifeline to an expansive desert in the southwest United States and northern Mexico. From Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico, over 3,000 km, people depend on the river to quench their thirst and irrigate their crops. Yet as the river flows from the United States, it brings with it conflicts and challenges. The water level in the river is declining as use exceeds supply. Water demand is rising as the population in the region grows, and corresponding economic growth drives continued development. Moreover, climate change is expected to lower water levels even further, exacerbating the problems.

  • Emerging threatsBreaking records: The first six months of 2016 the warmest half-year on record

    Two key climate change indicators — global surface temperatures and Arctic sea ice extent — have broken numerous records through the first half of 2016. While these two key climate indicators have broken records in 2016, NASA scientists said it is more significant that global temperature and Arctic sea ice are continuing their decades-long trends of change. Both trends are ultimately driven by rising concentrations of heat-trapping carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

  • Guns3D printing: a new threat to gun control and security policy?

    By Daniel C. Tirone and James Gilley

    The threat of self-manufactured firearms is not new, but a critical barrier is collapsing. Until recently, most people did not have the skills to make a weapon as capable as commercially available ones. However, recent developments in the field of additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, have made home manufacturing simpler than ever before. The prospect of more stringent gun safety legislation is also fueling interest in at-home production. The worst threats 3D printing poses to human life and safety are likely some distance in the future. However, the harder policymakers and others work to restrict access to handguns or unconventional weapons, the more attractive 3D printing becomes to those who want to do harm.

  • R&DDHS report highlights R&D priorities for technologies used in the field

    The Department of Homeland Security has released the Integrated Product Teams for Department of Homeland Security R&D Fiscal Year 2016 Report. The report identifies twenty-four focus areas for technological research and development (R&D), which fall under five mission areas: aviation security, biological threats, border security, cybersecurity, and counterterrorism.

  • RoboBoatsThe future of naval force and RoboBoats

    The future of naval engineering was on display earlier this month, as thirteen teams of high school and college students did battle at the ninth annual RoboBoat Competition in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The competition is a robotics contest where teams program their student-built autonomous surface vehicles to navigate through a series of water-based challenges.

  • Emerging threatsWhat do climate tipping points mean for society

    The phrase “tipping point” passed its own tipping point and caught fire after author Malcolm Gladwell’s so-named 2000 book. It is now frequently used in discussions about climate change, but what are “climate tipping points”? And what do they mean for society and the economy? In a new study, scientists tackle the terminology and outline a strategy for investigating the consequences of climate tipping points. The authors recommend using the phrase “climatic tipping elements” to describe portions of the climate system that may be abruptly committed to major shifts as a result of the changing climate.

  • First response technologyDHS S&T demonstrates integration of first responder technologies

    More ruggedized protective equipment. Reliable and interoperable communications. The capability to filter vast amounts of data. These are all things DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) Next Generation First Responder (NGFR) program envisions  to ensure future first responder are better protected, connected, and fully aware.