Monthly Archives: February 2009

Stem Cell Debates

New Post article updates discussion regarding impending federal policy changes. One possible change:

Among the issues the guidelines will address is whether funding should be limited to cells from leftover embryos that are destined for destruction at infertility clinics.

The arguments by opponents to “liberalization” of federal policy include:

Opponents have argued that research on human embryonic stem cells has become unnecessary because of scientific advances in the interim, including promising studies involving adult stem cells and the ability to turn adult cells into cells that appear to have many of the properties of embryonic cells..

Legislation has been proposed, include SB 169 in Georgia, to prohibit the use of  “left over” embryo’s from IVF procedures.  And, the definition within SB 169 would also seem to prohibit using adult stem cells that mimic embryonic stem cells as such stem cells may indeed lead to cloning a human, or at the very least fulfill the definition of cloing, see:

‘Human embryo’ means an organism with a human or predominantly human genetic
constitution from the single-celled stage to approximately eight weeks development that
is derived by fertilization (in vitro or in utero), parthenogenesis, cloning (somatic cell
nuclear transfer), or any other means from one or more human gametes or human diploid
cells.

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Cyber Security Policy Tools – parental control

What you don’t know, can hurt your kids:

Because parents generally don’t understand that Internet features exist on these devices, they are not supervising their use (other than for choice of game content for sex or violence). They are often shocked to learn that their kids are using voice-over-Internet phone technologies (VoIP) to scream at or chat with anyone else playing the game.

Even when strong parental controls exist, such as with Xbox 360 or Wii, parents don’t think about setting them and rarely know they are available.

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Evolving governance issues

BBC story on the Facebook policy dispute is interesting from a policy perspective.  First the chronology:

  1. Facebook publishes a change in terms regarding Facebook’s “ownership” of individual data published on the site
  2. Individuals protest via social network tools
  3. Organizations, mainly nonprofit groups focused on privacy issues, raise the stakes, threaten action via judicial and regulatory (FTC) venues
  4. Facebook withdraws proposed terms
  5. Facebook creates online group to discuss “Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities
  6. Organizations withdraw their threatened legal/regulatory actions

And this happened within a week.  Is this a new “governance” paradigm that can resolve societal issues within short periods of time, with little “old” government interference?

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Implications of InVitro research

NYT post on risks of IVF — interesting in light of efforts by the BioEthics Defense Fund to curtail IVF in light of the California octuplets story.

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EMR – Need for standards and training critical to stimulus success

Post notes several barriers to successful implementation of an EMR system for US.

Although the federal government set a goal five years ago of creating an electronic health record for every American by 2014, the effort has lagged for several reasons. Roadblocks include concerns over lack of universal protocols for collecting data as well as rules that establish how, with whom and under what circumstances the data can be shared. Many health-care providers — physician practices, testing facilities, hospitals and clinics — fear liability if private information gets into the wrong hands. Embedded in all these issues is the cost, an estimated $150 billion, which has proven to be a significant barrier to that 2014 target.

So, who is responsible for defining the standards?  Who will define liabilities?  How many stakeholders are there to be included to construct a realistic evaluation model?

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Education Policy – Efficiency

Can colleges be both efficient and serve as the incubator for future discoveries and future leaders?

… public colleges, which serve two-thirds of all four-year college students, are also increasingly expensive and inaccessible, he said. Tuitions there have increased at the same rate as that of the private institutions—about 3 percent above inflation—and promise to increase even more as declining revenue forces states to lessen their support.

Given those pressures, Mr. Ehrenberg said, “it is questionable whether we will be able to increase the fraction of our population that receives college degrees and to reduce the inequality of college-completion rates.”  Chronicle Feb 16, 2009

How does one measure effiency in college programs?

Is the “business model” the correct one to evaluate the success/failure of higher education policy?

College ought not to be merely a place where someone learns “skills” and racks up credentials, but rather an environment and an experience in which students learn, in addition to history and literature and mathematics, also how to begin to navigate the adult civilized world in an adult, civilized, and responsible manner. Their naïve assumptions about life and nature should be tempered by the rigors of discourse, debate, and discussion. Higher education should be training for life as it is — not as it is imagined by the child’s mind.

When colleges adhere to the “business model” they create dangerous expectations for their students and do no service to the larger community.

How do you evaluate a program whose goal is to “train for life as it is?”  Can you make an evaluation in a short time frame when the goals of a program are “life long”?

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Education Policy – Effective Spending

Downey’s editorial cites research in NC showing that the most effective expenditure of public funds in relation to achievement is that spent in the classroom.

In their High School Resource Allocation Study, Henry and Charles Thompson of East Carolina University found that money spent in the regular classroom produced far greater achievement than money spent on after-school programs, summer school or Saturday classes.

In fact, spending on supplemental programs outside the classroom —- including guidance counseling and psychological services —- was linked to lower student test scores

Can you construct an evaluation model that would systematically record classrrom expenditures school-by-school (which would then aggregate to district, system, state) to validate this finding?

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Rebuilding the Internet

Current internet policy debate seems to focus on incremental evolution of the Internet — protocols, physical layer infrastructure, security, etc.  But, what if we started from scratch?  Can the ROI on incremental “improvements” beat the ROI (and all the multiples from the ripples of such investment through the economy) of a start from scratch venture?

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Evaluating Education Policy

Susan Lacettie Meyers makes some conclusive evaualations of the current education system.  And, she notably states:

After two decades of following public education as a journalist then a legislative policy advisor, I have witnessed no return on escalating taxpayer investment in public education. We’ve dropped from 41st to 49th in graduation rates since the Quality Basic Education Act was drafted in the mid 1980s, according to a new study by The Center for an Educated Georgia. We’re still at the bottom, 47th in SAT scores.

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Drug Policy In Brazil

NYT story on rising use of ecstasy in upper class Brazil.

Couple of interesting twists:

  1. If you have a college degree, you get sentenced differently.
  2. Use of illicit drugs gets you treatment
  3. Financiers of drug dealers get harsher punishment than drug dealers

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