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Review of the Formaldehyde Assessment in the National Toxicology Program 12th Report on Carcinogens

August 13, 2014 Comments off

Review of the Formaldehyde Assessment in the National Toxicology Program 12th Report on Carcinogens
Source: National Research Council

Many people in the United States are exposed to formaldehyde. Exposure can occur from environmental sources (for example, combustion processes, building materials, and tobacco smoke) or in occupational settings (for example, the furniture, textile, and construction industries). Formaldehyde exposure also has endogenous sources–it is produced intracellularly as a component of the one carbon pool intermediary metabolism pathway. Scientists have studied formaldehyde for decades to determine whether exogenous formaldehyde exposure may be associated with cancer in humans. In 1981, The National Toxicology Program (NTP) first listed formaldehyde in the 2nd Report on Carcinogens as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen”. In 2011, NTP upgraded the listing of formaldehyde to “known to be a human carcinogen”. Following the new listing, Congress directed the Department of Health and Human Services to arrange for the National Academy of Sciences to independently review formaldehyde’s substance profile and listing. This report presents the findings and conclusions of the committee formed in response to the congressional request.

Review of the Formaldehyde Assessment in the National Toxicology Program 12th Report on Carcinogens concurs with NTP that there is sufficient evidence in studies that had adequate characterization of relevant exposure metrics to enable a strong conclusion about the association between formaldehyde exposure and cancer in humans. Additionally, the authoring committee independently reviewed the scientific evidence from studies in humans, experimental animals, and other studies relevant to the mechanisms of carcinogenesis and made level-of-evidence conclusions. This report finds clear and convincing epidemiologic evidence of an association between formaldehyde exposure and nasopharyngeal and sinonasal cancers in humans.

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Hearing Loss and Healthy Aging: Workshop Summary (2014)

May 27, 2014 Comments off

Hearing Loss and Healthy Aging: Workshop Summary (2014)
Source: Institute of Medicine/National Research Council

Being able to communicate is a cornerstone of healthy aging. People need to make themselves understood and to understand others to remain cognitively and socially engaged with families, friends, and other individuals. When they are unable to communicate, people with hearing impairments can become socially isolated, and social isolation can be an important driver of morbidity and mortality in older adults. Despite the critical importance of communication, many older adults have hearing loss that interferes with their social interactions and enjoyment of life. People may turn up the volume on their televisions or stereos, miss words in a conversation, go to fewer public places where it is difficult to hear, or worry about missing an alarm or notification. In other cases, hearing loss is much more severe, and people may retreat into a hard-to-reach shell. Yet fewer than one in seven older Americans with hearing loss use hearing aids, despite rapidly advancing technologies and innovative approaches to hearing health care. In addition, there may not be an adequate number of professionals trained to address the growing need for hearing health care for older adults. Further, Medicare does not cover routine hearing exams, hearing aids, or exams for fitting hearing aids, which can be prohibitively expensive for many older adults.

Hearing Loss and Healthy Aging is the summary of a workshop convened by the Forum on Aging, Disability, and Independence in January 2014 on age-related hearing loss. Researchers, advocates, policy makers, entrepreneurs, regulators, and others discussed this pressing social and public health issue. This report examines the ways in which age-related hearing loss affects healthy aging, and how the spectrum of public and private stakeholders can work together to address hearing loss in older adults as a public health issue.

At the Nexus of Cybersecurity and Public Policy: Some Basic Concepts and Issues

May 20, 2014 Comments off

At the Nexus of Cybersecurity and Public Policy: Some Basic Concepts and Issues
Source: National Research Council

We depend on information and information technology (IT) to make many of our day-to-day tasks easier and more convenient. Computers play key roles in transportation, health care, banking, and energy. Businesses use IT for payroll and accounting, inventory and sales, and research and development. Modern military forces use weapons that are increasingly coordinated through computer-based networks. Cybersecurity is vital to protecting all of these functions. Cyberspace is vulnerable to a broad spectrum of hackers, criminals, terrorists, and state actors. Working in cyberspace, these malevolent actors can steal money, intellectual property, or classified information; impersonate law-abiding parties for their own purposes; damage important data; or deny the availability of normally accessible services. Cybersecurity issues arise because of three factors taken together – the presence of malevolent actors in cyberspace, societal reliance on IT for many important functions, and the presence of vulnerabilities in IT systems. What steps can policy makers take to protect our government, businesses, and the public from those would take advantage of system vulnerabilities?

At the Nexus of Cybersecurity and Public Policy offers a wealth of information on practical measures, technical and nontechnical challenges, and potential policy responses. According to this report, cybersecurity is a never-ending battle; threats will evolve as adversaries adopt new tools and techniques to compromise security. Cybersecurity is therefore an ongoing process that needs to evolve as new threats are identified. At the Nexus of Cybersecurity and Public Policy is a call for action to make cybersecurity a public safety priority. For a number of years, the cybersecurity issue has received increasing public attention; however, most policy focus has been on the short-term costs of improving systems. In its explanation of the fundamentals of cybersecurity and the discussion of potential policy responses, this book will be a resource for policy makers, cybersecurity and IT professionals, and anyone who wants to understand threats to cyberspace.

U.S. Should Significantly Reduce Rate of Incarceration; Unprecedented Rise in Prison Population ‘Not Serving the Country Well,’ Says New Report

May 2, 2014 Comments off

U.S. Should Significantly Reduce Rate of Incarceration; Unprecedented Rise in Prison Population ‘Not Serving the Country Well,’ Says New Report
Source: National Research Council

Given the minimal impact of long prison sentences on crime prevention and the negative social consequences and burdensome financial costs of U.S. incarceration rates, which have more than quadrupled in the last four decades, the nation should revise current criminal justice policies to significantly reduce imprisonment rates, says a new report from the National Research Council.

A comprehensive review of data led the committee that wrote the report to conclude that the costs of the current rate of incarceration outweigh the benefits. The committee recommended that federal and state policymakers re-examine policies requiring mandatory and long sentences, as well as take steps to improve prison conditions and to reduce unnecessary harm to the families and communities of those incarcerated. In addition, it recommended a reconsideration of drug crime policy, given the apparently low effectiveness of a heightened enforcement strategy that resulted in a tenfold increase in the incarceration rate for drug offenses from 1980 to 2010 — twice the rate for other crimes.

Developing a 21st Century Global Library for Mathematics Research (2014)

April 24, 2014 Comments off

Developing a 21st Century Global Library for Mathematics Research (2014)
Source: National Research Council

Like most areas of scholarship, mathematics is a cumulative discipline: new research is reliant on well-organized and well-curated literature. Because of the precise definitions and structures within mathematics, today’s information technologies and machine learning tools provide an opportunity to further organize and enhance discoverability of the mathematics literature in new ways, with the potential to significantly facilitate mathematics research and learning. Opportunities exist to enhance discoverability directly via new technologies and also by using technology to capture important interactions between mathematicians and the literature for later sharing and reuse.

Developing a 21st Century Global Library for Mathematics Research discusses how information about what the mathematical literature contains can be formalized and made easier to express, encode, and explore. Many of the tools necessary to make this information system a reality will require much more than indexing and will instead depend on community input paired with machine learning, where mathematicians’ expertise can fill the gaps of automatization. This report proposes the establishment of an organization; the development of a set of platforms, tools, and services; the deployment of an ongoing applied research program to complement the development work; and the mobilization and coordination of the mathematical community to take the first steps toward these capabilities. The report recommends building on the extensive work done by many dedicated individuals under the rubric of the World Digital Mathematical Library, as well as many other community initiatives. Developing a 21st Century Global Library for Mathematics envisions a combination of machine learning methods and community-based editorial effort that makes a significantly greater portion of the information and knowledge in the global mathematical corpus available to researchers as linked open data through a central organizational entity-referred to in the report as the Digital Mathematics Library. This report describes how such a library might operate – discussing development and research needs, role in facilitating discover and interaction, and establishing partnerships with publishers.

New Directions in Child Abuse and Neglect Research (2014)

April 16, 2014 Comments off

New Directions in Child Abuse and Neglect Research (2014)
Source: National Research Council

Each year, child protective services receive reports of child abuse and neglect involving six million children, and many more go unreported. The long-term human and fiscal consequences of child abuse and neglect are not relegated to the victims themselves — they also impact their families, future relationships, and society. In 1993, the National Research Council (NRC) issued the report, Understanding Child Abuse and Neglect, which provided an overview of the research on child abuse and neglect. New Directions in Child Abuse and Neglect Research updates the 1993 report and provides new recommendations to respond to this public health challenge. According to this report, while there has been great progress in child abuse and neglect research, a coordinated, national research infrastructure with high-level federal support needs to be established and implemented immediately.

New Directions in Child Abuse and Neglect Research recommends an actionable framework to guide and support future child abuse and neglect research. This report calls for a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to child abuse and neglect research that examines factors related to both children and adults across physical, mental, and behavioral health domains–including those in child welfare, economic support, criminal justice, education, and health care systems–and assesses the needs of a variety of subpopulations. It should also clarify the causal pathways related to child abuse and neglect and, more importantly, assess efforts to interrupt these pathways. New Directions in Child Abuse and Neglect Research identifies four areas to look to in developing a coordinated research enterprise: a national strategic plan, a national surveillance system, a new generation of researchers, and changes in the federal and state programmatic and policy response.

Linkages Between Arctic Warming and Mid-Latitude Weather Patterns: Summary of a Workshop (2014)

April 11, 2014 Comments off

Linkages Between Arctic Warming and Mid-Latitude Weather Patterns: Summary of a Workshop (2014)
Source: National Research Council

The Arctic has been undergoing significant changes in recent years. Average temperatures are rising twice as fast as they are elsewhere in the world. The extent and thickness of sea ice is rapidly declining. Such changes may have an impact on atmospheric conditions outside the region. Several hypotheses for how Arctic warming may be influencing mid-latitude weather patterns have been proposed recently. For example, Arctic warming could lead to a weakened jet stream resulting in more persistent weather patterns in the mid-latitudes. Or Arctic sea ice loss could lead to an increase of snow on high-latitude land, which in turn impacts the jet stream resulting in cold Eurasian and North American winters. These and other potential connections between a warming Arctic and mid-latitude weather are the subject of active research.

Linkages Between Arctic Warming and Mid-Latitude Weather Patterns is the summary of a workshop convened in September 2013 by the National Research Council to review our current understanding and to discuss research needed to better understand proposed linkages. A diverse array of experts examined linkages between a warming Arctic and mid-latitude weather patterns. The workshop included presentations from leading researchers representing a range of views on this topic. The workshop was organized to allow participants to take a global perspective and consider the influence of the Arctic in the context of forcing from other components of the climate system, such as changes in the tropics, ocean circulation, and mid-latitude sea surface temperature. This report discusses our current understanding of the mechanisms that link declines in Arctic sea ice cover, loss of high-latitude snow cover, changes in Arctic-region energy fluxes, atmospheric circulation patterns, and the occurrence of extreme weather events; possible implications of more severe loss of summer Arctic sea ice upon weather patterns at lower latitudes; major gaps in our understanding, and observational and/or modeling efforts that are needed to fill those gaps; and current opportunities and limitations for using Arctic sea ice predictions to assess the risk of temperature/precipitation anomalies and extreme weather events over northern continents.

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