2020 SCIENCE

Reflections on emerging technologies, responsible innovation, communication, and risk, from University of Michigan Risk Science Center Director Andrew Maynard.

RECENT ARTICLES

Five things worth knowing about concussion and contact sports
Five things worth knowing about concussion and contact sports – video

The health impacts of concussions suffered while playing sports have been receiving increased attention in recent years.  According to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association,  An estimated 3.8 million concussions occur ...

Could we one day 3D print an artificial mind?
Is 3D printing an artificial brain plausible? And what are ...

Could we one day 3D print Arnold Schwarzenegger’s brain?  Before you ask, yes, this is a post about risk.  And no, I’m not talking about the dangers of immortalizing the star of ...

Academic press releases exaggerate research
Researchers should take more responsibility for exaggeration in press releases

According to a new paper in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), exaggerated claims in health-related news stories — including advice that isn’t supported by evidence — may often have their roots in ...

BPA-free Label on water bottle
Has anyone heard of BPA?

While writing a recent article on BPA-free labeling, I happened to mention the topic of bisphenol-A to a couple of smart people I know.  “bis-what?” came the response.  Thinking they just weren’t familiar ...


Study shows BPA-free labels may increase risky behavior
New study shows “BPA-free” labels may increase risky behavior

Products with the label “BPA-free” have become ubiquitous on store shelves in recent years.  It’s a trend that has been driven by consumer concerns that the chemical bisphenol-A, or BPA, may be ...

The low-down on vaping and health
The low-down on vaping and health

Vaping has come of age it seems – at least according to the Oxford Dictionaries.  The word “vape”, which is synonymous with electronic cigarette use, has been selected as the Oxford Dictionaries ...

A Decade of Uncertainty in nanotechnology 750x400
A decade of uncertainty in nanoscale science and engineering

First published in Nature Nanotechnology, 5 March 2014.  Nature Nanotechnology 9, 159–160 (2014) doi:10.1038/nnano.2014.43 Ten years after the publication of an influential report on the uncertainties in nanoscale science and ...

A Scientist's Manifesto
A Scientist’s Manifesto

Four years ago I posted Professor Robert Winston’s “Scientist’s Manifesto” on 2020 Science.  Having just gone back and read this, it still resonate deeply with me – so I’m reposting it in ...


Mapping global risks and opportunities in 2015
Mapping global risks and opportunities in 2015

Over the next few days, I’ll be joining experts from around the world to address emerging global trends and challenges at the World Economic Forum Summit on the Global Agenda.  Framing ...

Risk Bites" Five awesome reasons to subscribe #RiskBites10k
Risk Bites: Five awesome reasons to subscribe

Between now and the end of the year, we’re aiming to reach 10,000 subscribers on the Risk Bites YouTube channel, and we need your help.  To find out how, click ...

Framing Emerging technologies 750x400
Framing Emerging Technologies

How do we chart a path forward toward the effective and responsible development and use of new technologies?  For the next two years, the World Economic Forum Meta-Council on Emerging ...

BPA and cash register receipts: should you be worried?
BPA and cash register receipts: should you be worried?

I’m a bit of a cash register receipt junkie.  I obsessively stuff my wallet with those little slips of thermal paper telling me how much I’ve spent.  And it has ...



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NOTES …


The Lima Accord on Climate Change – A New Hope for Health?

December 16, 2014

Two days ago the Washington Post summarized the outcome of the recent Climate Change Conference held in the Peruvian capital in these words:  “… the Lima Accord may nudge countries to do better on climate change (but won’t solve the problem)”. It looks like we might have to live with ...

Five things worth knowing about concussion and contact sports – video

December 15, 2014

The health impacts of concussions suffered while playing sports have been receiving increased attention in recent years.  According to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association,  An estimated 3.8 million concussions occur each year as a result of sport and physical activity in the U.S., with sport-related concussions account for 58% of ...

The health risks of mobile phones – an African perspective

December 12, 2014

A few days ago the Nigerian government published a press release refuting statements alleging that the use of mobile phones can cause cancer. The statements in question were made recently by Ngozi Ogunjiofor, a deputy director in the Nigerian Ministry of Communication Technology. While representing the Minister for Communication Technology at an ...

Is 3D printing an artificial brain plausible? And what are the risks?

December 11, 2014

Could we one day 3D print Arnold Schwarzenegger’s brain?  Before you ask, yes, this is a post about risk.  And no, I’m not talking about the dangers of immortalizing the star of Terminator Genisys‘ real-life biological brain. But to begin somewhere near the beginning: 3D Printing 3D printing – and additive manufacturing more broadly – are ...

Risk Science Center director recognized for public communication excellence

December 10, 2014

We are thrilled to announce that the Society of Toxicology (SOT) has honored Professor Andrew Maynard, Director of the University of Michigan Risk Science Center, as the recipient of its 2015 Public Communications Award! The SOT Public Communication award is made annually to an individual who has made a major contribution to broadening the awareness of the general public ...

Researchers should take more responsibility for exaggeration in press releases

December 10, 2014

According to a new paper in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), exaggerated claims in health-related news stories — including advice that isn’t supported by evidence — may often have their roots in academic press releases and the scientists that sanction them.   The paper highlights conflicting interests in the flow of information from ...

Power Lines, Electricity and Health

December 8, 2014

In last week’s Retro Report, the New York Times examined the reasons why American suspicion of electrical power lines continues to prevail. David Ropeik, who was interviewed for the documentary, sums it up well: “We have to recognize that there are very real risks out there,” he said, “but one of them ...

Skin color and health: it’s not about race?

December 3, 2014

In a recent publication, Science magazine quotes biological anthropologist Nina Jablonski as saying “Skin color is not about race”. She made this statement during a face-off with comedian Stephen Colbert. Her comment is built on over three decades of studying the evolution of the human skin. Dr. Jablonski’s observations have added important ...

Has anyone heard of BPA?

December 1, 2014

While writing a recent article on BPA-free labeling, I happened to mention the topic of bisphenol-A to a couple of smart people I know.  “bis-what?” came the response.  Thinking they just weren’t familiar with the chemical’s full name, I went on “you know, BPA – the chemical that all the fuss was about in ...

New study shows “BPA-free” labels may increase risky behavior

December 1, 2014

Products with the label “BPA-free” have become ubiquitous on store shelves in recent years.  It’s a trend that has been driven by consumer concerns that the chemical bisphenol-A, or BPA, may be harmful at low doses.  Yet a recent study suggests that the label may mislead consumers into thinking that “free” means “safer” — even when ...

What that ‘BPA-free’ label isn’t telling you

December 1, 2014

By Brian Zikmund-Fisher, University of Michigan and Laura Scherer, University of Missouri Purchase a plastic water bottle, and there’s a good chance that it will feature a “BPA-free” label. You might be seeing it more often because the industrial chemical Bisphenol-A has now been removed from a wide array of products. ...

Nobel prize winner James Watson unrepentant of racism

November 29, 2014

This morning The Telegraph reported that world-famous biologist James Watson said he is selling the Nobel Prize medal he won in 1962 for discovering the structure of DNA because he has been ostracized. The Nobel laureate is also having financial trouble because of remarks he made seven years ago; remarks ...

Why don’t more people get flu shots?

November 29, 2014

A few weeks ago I talked with Katie Wells at Michigan Radio about why some people are reluctant to get flu shots – myself included up to last year. The interview was rebroadcast on Marketplace this last week, and can be heard here: The prompt for the story was this video I ...

Will calorie labels counter cancer?

November 26, 2014

Two related news items caught my eye this morning: First, the World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has just published a new study in The Lancet claiming that in 2012, between 3% – 6% of all cancers around the world were attributable to high Body Mass Index ...

Why would robbers steal Ebola blood samples?

November 25, 2014

Reports that vials containing blood samples from Ebola infected patients were recently stolen by highway bandits further underscore the importance of public infrastructure to health systems. The samples were being transported in a commercial taxi on a road known for banditry to a laboratory facility 265 kilometers away. This unfortunate event ...

What do U.S immigration reforms mean for global health?

November 22, 2014

President Obama’s Immigration Accountability Executive Actions are likely to have far reaching political and social implications. They also have serious implications for public health here in the United States and for global health as well. Depending on how this issue is settled in the long run, a reform of the U.S immigration ...

What has Boko Haram got to do with Polio?

November 20, 2014

The recent call to arms against the terrorist group, Boko Haram, serves as a reminder of an ugly situation playing out in northern Nigeria. Established 12 years ago as a radical Islamic resistance movement to what the group called the corrupting influence of Western education, Boko Haram has since grown into ...

The low-down on vaping and health

November 19, 2014

Vaping has come of age it seems – at least according to the Oxford Dictionaries.  The word “vape”, which is synonymous with electronic cigarette use, has been selected as the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2014. So what is vaping, and what are the health risks?  Vaping does after all mimic cigarette smoking, and ...

A decade of uncertainty in nanoscale science and engineering

November 18, 2014

First published in Nature Nanotechnology, 5 March 2014.  Nature Nanotechnology 9, 159–160 (2014) doi:10.1038/nnano.2014.43 Ten years after the publication of an influential report on the uncertainties in nanoscale science and engineering, are we in danger of creating a new metaphorical grey goo? In 2004, the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering ...

A Scientist’s Manifesto

November 16, 2014

Four years ago I posted Professor Robert Winston’s “Scientist’s Manifesto” on 2020 Science.  Having just gone back and read this, it still resonate deeply with me – so I’m reposting it in the hope that it will also resonate with others: 1.  We should try to communicate our work as effectively as possible, because ...

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