Free online tool could help women decide on breast reconstruction

A new study published in Psycho-Oncology has revealed that a free web-based decision aid that helps women with breast cancer make decisions regarding reconstruction surgery after mastectomy is likely cost-effective. BRECONDA (Breast Reconstruction Decision Aid) is a tool that helps people make decisions about breast reconstruction surgery. It was developed in collaboration with an international team of […] The post Free online tool could help women decide on breast reconstruction appeared first on Sciblogs.

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What role should courts have in fighting climate change?

A federal trial pitting two cities against major oil companies took a surprising turn when an oil company lawyer largely confirmed the science that connects the burning of oil to climate change damages—but not the blame.

The case in San Francisco is weighing the question of whether climate change damages, including increasingly frequent droughts, floods, and other extreme weather, connected to the burning of oil are specifically the fault of the companies that extract and sell it.

The judge in People of the State of California v. BP P.L.C. et al. had both the plaintiffs—the cities of Oakland and San Francisco—and the defendants—several major oil companies—answer basic questions about climate change in a tutorial format.

Katharine Mach, a senior research scientist at the Stanford University School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Science, and Deborah Sivas, professor of environmental law, gave their perspectives on the climate tutorial, the science in question, and the role of the judiciary in confronting climate change challenges.

The post What role should courts have in fighting climate change? appeared first on Futurity.

Democracy Threatened When Census Undercounts Populations

Census is still two years away, but experts and civil rights groups are already disputing the results.

At issue is whether the census will fulfill the Census Bureau’s mandate to “count everyone once, only once, and in the right place.”

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This article by originally appeared at The Conversation, a Social Science Space partner site, under the title “Democracy is in danger when the census undercounts vulnerable populations

The task is hardly as simple as it seems and has serious political consequences. Recent changes to the 2020 census, such as asking about citizenship status, will make populations already vulnerable to undercounting even more likely to be missed. These vulnerable populations include the young, poor, nonwhite, non-English-speaking, foreign-born and transient.

An accurate count is critical to the functioning of the U.S. government. Census data determine how the power and resources of the federal government are distributed across the 50 states. This includes seats in the House, votes in the Electoral College and funds for federal programs. Census data also guide the drawing of congressional and other voting districts and the enforcement of civil and voting rights laws.

Places where large numbers of people go uncounted get less than their fair share of political representation and federal resources. When specific racial and ethnic groups are undercounted, it is harder to identify and rectify violations of their civil rights. My research on the international history of demography demonstrates that the question of how to equitably count the population is not new, nor is it unique to the United States. The experience of the United States and other countries may hold important lessons as the Census Bureau finalizes its plans for the 2020 count.

Let’s take a look at that history.

Census pioneer and promoter

In 1790, the United States became the first country to take a regular census. Following World War II, the U.S. government began to promote census-taking in other countries. U.S. leaders believed data about the size and location of populations throughout the Western Hemisphere could help the government plan defense. What’s more, U.S. businesses could also use the data to identify potential markets and labor forces in nearby countries.

The U.S. government began investing in a program called the Census of the Americas. Through this program, the State Department provided financial support and the Census Bureau provided technical assistance to Western Hemisphere countries taking censuses in 1950.

United Nations demographers also viewed the Census of the Americas as an opportunity. Data that were standardized across countries could serve as the basis for projections of world population growth and the calculation of social and economic indicators. They also hoped that censuses would provide useful information to newly established governments. The U.N. turned the Census of the Americas into a global affair, recommending that “all Member States planning population censuses about 1950 use comparable schedules so far as possible.” Since 1960, the U.N. has sponsored a World Census Program every 10 years. The 2020 World Census Program will be the seventh round.

Counting everyone isn’t easy

Not all countries went along with the program. For example, Lebanon’s Christian rulers feared that a census would show Christians to be a minority, undermining the legitimacy of their government. However, for the 65 sovereign countries taking censuses between 1945 and 1954, leaders faced the same question the U.S. faces today: How can we make sure that everyone has an equal chance of being counted?

In 1950, Ecuador’s democratic government saw the census as a means of “conquering the national territory administratively.” The military mapped rural areas that had not previously been drawn so that the census wouldn’t miss people living in remote places. They believed the census would help them establish control in areas that had previously remained out of reach due to decades of political turmoil and economic crisis.

In the process, indigenous communities who feared that the census would be used to further oppress them took up armed resistance. The government promised indigenous leaders that participation would help, not hurt their communities. However, the census did not include any racial or ethnic classification. As a result, the data it produced could not be used to address racial discrimination faced by Ecuador’s indigenous communities. It wasn’t even possible to determine the size of the indigenous population or to judge whether it had been counted completely.

Meanwhile in Nigeria, the government expected that its first post-independence census in 1962 would provide an empirical basis for representation in what was then a new democracy. Officials in Nigeria’s Western Region feared that residents would be unable to participate because the census asked for age, which many people didn’t know, simply because there had never been a reason to know. To facilitate participation, officials instructed local leaders to compile lists of dates of local historical events that people could use to determine when they had been born.

Despite these efforts, Nigeria’s 1962 census was plagued by accusations from officials in the various regions that some areas had been counted more completely than others. The government ultimately repudiated the results and repeated the count in 1963. The failure of this census weakened public faith in the ability of the government to either count or rule such a large and diverse population.

In the U.S., demographers began to recognize during World War II that the census was not counting everyone equally. Research showed that African-Americans were less likely to be counted than were white Americans. As a result, places with large nonwhite populations were underrepresented in the House and Electoral College. While the U.S. census has been able to reduce the overall undercount since then, it still disproportionately misses African-Americans and other people of color today.

Historical challenges to census-taking show that widespread participation is key to an accurate census count. These events have helped demographers understand that people are more likely to participate when they understand the process; are not worried that their participation will be used against them; and can easily identify themselves in the categories used by the census. Adequate funding to follow up with people who don’t respond by mail, internet or telephone is also critical.

A census that counts everyone is probably impossible. But if the census is to guide the equitable distribution of political power and federal resources, it must also strive to count people as equitably as possible.

The post Democracy Threatened When Census Undercounts Populations appeared first on Social Science Space.

New models better predict how much methane cows make

Researchers have found a way to predict methane emissions from dairy cattle using more accurate models.

Because feed dry-matter intake is the key factor for methane production prediction, the new models require readily available feed-related variables.

The study involved individual data from more than 5,200 lactating dairy cows, assembled through a collaboration of animal scientists from 15 countries.

These more accurate models could be useful in the development of region-specific enteric—intestinal—methane inventories, explains lead researcher Alex Hristov, professor of dairy nutrition at the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences.

“Developing such a large database of individual animal data has never been done before,” he says. “When we put this project together four years ago, we contacted researchers around the world with a consortium agreement so we could collect confidential data from their studies, and they provided individual animal data for methane emissions and all related measurements. That gave us the opportunity to develop more robust, more accurate prediction models for enteric methane emissions.”

Although complex models that use both feed intake and detailed chemical composition had the best performance in predicting methane production, models requiring only feed dry-matter intake and dietary fiber content had the second-best predictive ability. Those offer an alternative to complex models that regulatory agencies such as the US Environmental Protection Agency currently use.

“The EPA inventory is based on a complicated set of equations with high uncertainty,” Hristov says.

In the study, which appears in Global Change Biology, researchers found that revised methane emission conversion factors for specific regions should improve emission estimates in national inventories.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change introduced the concept of applying a methane emission conversion factor to indicate the proportion of an animal’s energy intake they convert to energy in methane.

National greenhouse gas emission inventories and global research on mitigation strategies widely use this factor. The research by the consortium, Hristov notes, offers opportunities to include region-specific methane conversion factors in national inventories. This is essential to improve the accuracy of carbon footprint assessments of dairy cattle production systems in regions around the world and to help devise mitigation strategies.

“Dairy cows in different regions of the world, depending on their diets, their genetics, and their management systems, belch different amounts and intensities of methane,” Hristov says.

The team that conducted the study—part of the Feeding and Nutrition Network of the Livestock Research Group within the Global Research Alliance for Agricultural Greenhouse Gases—is currently developing similar databases for predicting enteric methane emissions from beef cattle, sheep, and goats.

Feed supplement cuts methane burps in cows

“We started with dairy cattle because more research data is available for dairy animals,” Hristov says.

Having more robust and accurate models for predicting enteric methane emissions from livestock is important, Hristov points out, because these emissions represent a significant portion of global greenhouse gases blamed for causing climate change. And if regulatory agencies plan to measure and analyze current and future mitigation efforts for their effectiveness, they must have accurate data for existing enteric methane levels and resulting decreases.

Thirty-six researchers from the US, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand contributed to the study.

A consortium of eight countries—the US, UK, Netherlands, France, Spain, Ireland, Switzerland, and Finland—developed the core project, GLOBAL NETWORK, led by Penn State.

National governments funded the project mostly via the Joint Programming Initiative on Agriculture, Food Security, and Climate Change. The US Department of Agriculture funded the US researchers.

Source: Penn State

The post New models better predict how much methane cows make appeared first on Futurity.

Kelp jerky start-up blows through crowdfunding goal

One of the most sustainable foods on the planet is, apparently, in high demand.
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