Ben Shepard
Ben Shepard

Science & Society News

Learn what is happening inside the Duke Initiative for Science & Society. Stay up-to-date on our research, events, and student activities.

Mon, Oct 23

Health Policy Career Advice from the Private Sector

Duke alum Andrew Barnhill returned to campus to discuss his career path and current responsibilities as the Director of Federal Policy for GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a multinational pharmaceutical and consumer healthcare giant whose drug portfolio includes Advair and Flovent.

At GSK, Barnhill provides healthcare policy thought leadership and strategy to advance business processes. His tasks change from day-to-day but may begin with conversations with public officials discussing a particular piece of legislation that may alter the company’s business processes. Barnhill then translates his discussion internally to his team at GSK, who must craft a plan of action in response to the legislation. Soon after, the company releases its stance on the policy issue to officials on Capitol Hill.

Though Barnhill’s education and work experiences are diverse in scope–he holds a JD, an MA of Divinity, and a BA in Political Science and Rhetoric–he attributes much of his success to his time spent on Capitol Hill as a congressional staffer. He offered advice on starting a career path in health policy, recommending experiences working with legislators as first steps. Barnhill suggested entry-level policy analyst roles for Master’s students interested in careers at the intersection of science and policy. Specifically, in the pharmaceutical industry, a policy analyst identifies implications of legislative policy and projects outcomes affecting business processes. Barnhill also advised students interested in medical careers to consider work in medical affairs policy after some time practicing in the field of medicine.

Regardless of what career path a person chooses, “[work in the] private sector has to push the boundaries of government,” said Barnhill, as he described healthcare as “fundamentally human” and “imperfect”. His discussion was informative and provided insight into the private sector, and characterized his work in the pharmaceutical industry as challenged with the need to balance the interests of patients, an individual company, and the industry at large.


Chelsey Pitts

Chelsey PittsChelsey is a student in the Duke Bioethics & Science Policy Graduate Program. She is interested in studying bioethics and healthcare policy as it relates to healthcare disparities in gender, religious and ethnic minority communities, and socio-economically disadvantaged areas.

Sun, Oct 08

Will assisted suicide always provide a quick and gentle death?

Sean Riley, MA Bioethics & Science Policy ’16 and end-of-life researcher, reviews the patchy record of the drugs used in executions and physician-assisted suicide.

Read Article Summary | Link To Full Paper

Sun, Sep 24

Beyond Bobbleheads: One NFL Team Wants To Offer Fans Free Genetic Testing

Nothing goes together like professional football and genetic testing, amiright?

That’s what the Baltimore Ravens and Orig3n, a Boston direct-to-consumer genetic testing company, apparently thought when they came up with the idea for “DNA Day” at the team’s M&T Bank Stadium.

The plan was to provide free genetic test kits, emblazoned with the Ravens logo, to fans at this past Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns. Interested folks could swab some cells off the inside of their cheek and hand them off at the stadium. Orig3n (and no, that is not a typo) would then analyze four genes in those cells. Easy peasy.

But shoot, DNA Day was postponed at the last minute. The Baltimore Sun reported Monday that both federal and state agencies had raised questions about the promotion.

Read the Full Article on Forbes

Wed, Sep 20

Much Movement in Policy Discussion Over Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous Vehicle Safety IllustrationAs companies race to be the first to deliver autonomous vehicle technology to the public, the question remains as to how this new technology should be regulated. Should we limit regulations to give manufacturers the ability to deploy autonomous vehicles (and their related benefits) as quickly as possible or should we proceed with caution by regulating the technology to manage their impact on society? These questions took center stage last week as multiple government entities weighed in on the debate.

On Tuesday, September 12, US Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao announced the release of NHTSA’s updated guidance on highly automated vehicles, called “Automated Driving Systems: A Vision for Safety.” The updated guidance, which replaces last year’s “Federal Automated Vehicles Policy,” emphasizes a hands-off approach to speed the release of automated vehicle technology. While this updated guidance will likely benefit the manufacturers, safety advocates raise concerns that it may put drivers at risk.

These risks were highlighted just a few hours earlier that same day when the NTSB released its findings from the investigation of a fatal Tesla crash from May, 2016. The NTSB issued seven safety recommendations resulting from the crash and reported that the probable cause was a combination of the truck driver’s failure to yield the right of way and the Tesla driver’s “inattention due to overreliance on vehicle automation.” The NTSB’s findings present a contrasting view to the results of NHTSA’s investigation of the same crash, which did not identify any safety-related defects with Tesla’s technology.

To date, much of the conversation on autonomous vehicles has related to consumer use, which was the main motivation behind a bill on driverless vehicles, called the “Self Drive Act,” which recently passed in the House. However, there are concerns that the release of autonomous commercial vehicles could disrupt other facets of the transportation industry, and, as a result, the topic of commercial vehicles has been delaying Senate legislation on driverless vehicles. With this issue in mind, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation convened a hearing on Wednesday titled “Transportation Innovation: Automated Trucks and our Nation’s Highways” to discuss automated truck safety technology and its potential impacts on transportation jobs.

The companies developing autonomous vehicles promise a brave new world of improved safety, increased access to transportation, and reduced congestion on our roads. But as the events of the last week show, their societal impacts include negative consequences that need to be weighed against the benefits. The question remains as how much of that debate will be driven by policymakers, or by the vehicle manufacturers.

Michael Clamann

Dr. Michael ClamannMichael Clamann oversees the development and publication of SciPol content related to robotics and AI. He is also a Senior Research Scientist in the Humans and Autonomy Lab (HAL) within Duke Robotics and an Associate Director at the Collaborative Sciences Center for Road Safety.

Wed, Sep 06

SciPol Development Brief: Rapid DNA Act of 2017 Signed Into Law

On August 18, the President signed into law the Rapid DNA Act of 2017, removing barriers for the incorporation of automated DNA analysis technology into US law enforcement.

Read the full article on SciPol

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