Daily TIPS: Tech Policy Poll, Open-Source Healthcare, Tropical Disease, & More

Science Debate Needed, Tech Advisor Says

Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama ought to have a debate focusing on science and technology policy, a former White House technology advisor says. Mike Nelson, who worked in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy under Bill Clinton, tells Wired‘s Threat Level blog that the topics should include universal broadband Internet access. But he’d reframe a debate on science as a debate about America’s future, Nelson said.

Public Opinion on Tech Policy Sought

To help frame the debate on science, TechCrunch, which has been covering the just-finished Personal Democracy Forum in New York City, offers a poll to find out what technology policies its readers would give priority to. Among the choices, “mandate net neutrality,” “promote renewable energy,” and “appoint an engineer to the FCC.” Netscape creator Mark Andreessen suggests “brain draining the world” by offering work visas to anyone with a college education.

Visa Rules Leaving Tech Jobs Unfilled

Andreessen may be onto something. An insufficient number of work visas and green cards is forcing foreign students educated in the United States to take their skills and go home, leaving “a tremendous number of unfilled jobs,” warns an industry trade group. The New York Times reports that a technology industry trade association, AeA, has released a report, Cybercities 2008, saying the US is not producing enough of its own technology graduates to fill its needs.

Open Source Ideas May Improve Healthcare

Getting medical records online so doctors can be assured of complete and up-to-date information on their patients is turning out to be a huge task. John Halamka, chief information officer at Harvard Medical School, thinks the healthcare world ought to take a page from Linux and bring the community together to develop open standards for collecting and sharing the data, according to CNET News.

RFID Can Interfere with Hospital Devices, Study Finds

The Food and Drug Administration may want to turn its attention to a Dutch study that found radio frequency identification tags can cause electronic interference that can switch off ventilators, reset intravenous drips, or reprogram pacemakers. New Scientist reports that the researchers are calling for better engineering of RFID devices to avoid such problems. The FDA last year issued a draft of proposed guidelines, but says so far it has received no reports of injuries due to interference.

Tropical Diseases Attacking Poor Americans

Public health officials need to keep better track of 24 exotic diseases that are spreading among the poor in places like Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta, a new study says. Peter Hotez of George Washington University, who published the study in the Public Library of Science journal Neglected Tropical Diseases, tells the Los Angeles Times that the diseases–including the parasitic infection schistosomiasis, the bacterial infection brucellosis, and the virus dengue fever–are under everyone’s radar, but affect at least 300,000 Americans.

Washington Should Promote “Internet for Everyone,” Campaign Says

The quality and accessibility of broadband in the U.S. is falling behind that of Europe and Asia, groups from the ACLU to Google believe. So the groups have joined together in a campaign called “Internet for Everyone,” to urge the next administration to make universal broadband access a priority. The Google Public Policy blog explains the company’s reasons for joining the push.

Solar Thermal Power Burns Up the Track

When people talk about solar energy, they’re usually talking about photovoltaics. But the Environmental News Network reports that, thanks to technology improvements, concentrated solar power is actually the second fastest growing utility-scale alternative energy source, following wind power. Concentrated solar power plants use mirrors or lenses to focus sunlight that heats up fluid-filled pipes.

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