Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Prima facie


As companies, countries, and governments consider investments in vaccine production for routine immunization and outbreak response, understanding the complexity and cost drivers associated with vaccine production will help to inform business decisions. Leading multinational corporations have good understanding of the complex manufacturing processes, high technological and R&D barriers to entry, and the costs associated with vaccine production. However, decision makers in developing countries, donors and investors may not be aware of the factors that continue to limit the number of new manufacturers and have caused attrition and consolidation among existing manufacturers. This paper describes the processes and cost drivers in acquiring and maintaining licensure of childhood vaccines. In addition, when export is the goal, we describe the requirements to supply those vaccines at affordable prices to low-resource markets, including the process of World Health Organization (WHO) prequalification and supporting policy recommendation. By providing a generalized and consolidated view of these requirements we seek to build awareness in the global community of the benefits and costs associated with vaccine manufacturing and the challenges associated with maintaining consistent supply. We show that while vaccine manufacture may prima facie seem an economic growth opportunity, the complexity and high fixed costs of vaccine manufacturing limit potential profit. Further, for most lower and middle income countries a large majority of the equipment, personnel and consumables will need to be imported for years, further limiting benefits to the local economy.

Concepts: Immune system, Decision making, Costs, Vaccination, Economics, Manufacturing, Corporation, Prima facie


Cephalopods show behavioral parallels to birds and mammals despite considerable evolutionary distance [1, 2]. Many cephalopods produce complex body patterns and visual signals, documented especially in cuttlefish and squid, where they are used both in camouflage and a range of interspecific interactions [1, 3-5]. Octopuses, in contrast, are usually seen as solitary and asocial [6, 7]; their body patterns and color changes have primarily been interpreted as camouflage and anti-predator tactics [8-12], though the familiar view of the solitary octopus faces a growing list of exceptions. Here, we show by field observation that in a shallow-water octopus, Octopus tetricus, a range of visible displays are produced during agonistic interactions, and these displays correlate with the outcome of those interactions. Interactions in which dark body color by an approaching octopus was matched by similar color in the reacting octopus were more likely to escalate to grappling. Darkness in an approaching octopus met by paler color in the reacting octopus accompanied retreat of the paler octopus. Octopuses also displayed on high ground and stood with spread web and elevated mantle, often producing these behaviors in combinations. This study is the first to document the systematic use of signals during agonistic interactions among octopuses. We show prima facie conformity of our results to an influential model of agonistic signaling [13]. These results suggest that interactions have a greater influence on octopus evolution than has been recognized and show the importance of convergent evolution in behavioral traits. VIDEO ABSTRACT.

Concepts: Signal, Mollusca, Cuttlefish, Chromatophore, Cephalopod, Octopus, Prima facie


Luciuranus Silveira, Khattar Mermudes, 2016 is a firefly genus whose species bear an intricate, species-specific lock-and-key mechanism of reproductive isolation. Here we propose four new species, Luciuranus magnoculus sp. nov., L. desideratus sp. nov., L. takiyae sp. nov. and L. carioca sp. nov., and provide illustrations of their diagnostic features and an updated key to species. As previously reported for their congenerics, each of the four new species have stereotypical morphology of both male and female terminalia, and are regarded as prima facie endemics of single massifs of the Serra da Mantiqueira and Serra do Mar, in the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest.

Concepts: Human, Male, Reproduction, Species, Brazil, Firefly, Phengodidae, Prima facie


Reproductive genetic technologies (RGTs) allow parents to decide whether their future children will have or lack certain genetic predispositions. A popular model that has been proposed for regulating access to RGTs is the ‘genetic supermarket’. In the genetic supermarket, parents are free to make decisions about which genes to select for their children with little state interference. One possible consequence of the genetic supermarket is that collective action problems will arise: if rational individuals use the genetic supermarket in isolation from one another, this may have a negative effect on society as a whole, including future generations. In this article we argue that RGTs targeting height, innate immunity, and certain cognitive traits could lead to collective action problems. We then discuss whether this risk could in principle justify state intervention in the genetic supermarket. We argue that there is a plausible prima facie case for the view that such state intervention would be justified and respond to a number of arguments that might be adduced against that view.

Concepts: Organism, Innate immune system, Cognition, Logic, Common law, Argument, Prima facie, 1990s American television series


Initiation of cellular DNA replication is tightly controlled to sustain genomic integrity. In eukaryotes, the heterohexameric origin recognition complex (ORC) is essential for coordinating replication onset. Here we describe the crystal structure of Drosophila ORC at 3.5 Å resolution, showing that the 270 kilodalton initiator core complex comprises a two-layered notched ring in which a collar of winged-helix domains from the Orc1-5 subunits sits atop a layer of AAA+ (ATPases associated with a variety of cellular activities) folds. Although canonical inter-AAA+ domain interactions exist between four of the six ORC subunits, unanticipated features are also evident. These include highly interdigitated domain-swapping interactions between the winged-helix folds and AAA+ modules of neighbouring protomers, and a quasi-spiral arrangement of DNA binding elements that circumnavigate an approximately 20 Å wide channel in the centre of the complex. Comparative analyses indicate that ORC encircles DNA, using its winged-helix domain face to engage the mini-chromosome maintenance 2-7 (MCM2-7) complex during replicative helicase loading; however, an observed out-of-plane rotation of more than 90° for the Orc1 AAA+ domain disrupts interactions with catalytic amino acids in Orc4, narrowing and sealing off entry into the central channel. Prima facie, our data indicate that Drosophila ORC can switch between active and autoinhibited conformations, suggesting a novel means for cell cycle and/or developmental control of ORC functions.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Cell, Bacteria, Eukaryote, DNA replication, Prima facie, ORC4L


The adverse effects of artificial nighttime lighting, known as light pollution, are emerging as an important environmental issue. To address these effects, current scientific research focuses mainly on identifying what is bad or undesirable about certain types and uses of lighting at night. This paper adopts a value-sensitive approach, focusing instead on what is good about darkness at night. In doing so, it offers a first comprehensive analysis of the environmental value of darkness at night from within applied ethics. A design for values orientation is utilized to conceptualize, define, and categorize the ways in which value is derived from darkness. Nine values are identified and categorized via their type of good, temporal outlook, and spatial characteristics. Furthermore, these nine values are translated into prima facie moral obligations that should be incorporated into future design choices, policy-making, and innovations to nighttime lighting. Thus, the value of darkness is analyzed with the practical goal of informing future decision-making about urban nighttime lighting.

Concepts: Scientific method, Light, Research, Lighting, Philosophy of life, Morality, Light pollution, Prima facie


Sustainability of wildlife harvests is critical but difficult to assess. Evaluations of sustainability typically combine modelling with the measurement of underlying abundances. For many taxa harvested in developing countries, however, abundances are near-impossible to survey and a lack of detailed ecological information impedes the reliability of models. In such cases, repeated surveys of the attributes of harvested individuals may provide more robust information on sustainability. If the numbers, sizes and other demographic attributes of animals taken for the commercial trade do not change over biologically significant time intervals (decades), there is a prima facie case that the harvest is indeed sustainable. Here, we report the results of examinations of > 4,200 reticulated pythons (Python reticulatus) taken for the commercial leather industry in northern and southern Sumatra, Indonesia. The numbers, mean body sizes, clutch sizes, sizes at maturity and proportion of giant specimens have not decreased between our first surveys (1995) and repeat surveys (2015). Thus, despite assumptions to the contrary, the harvest appears to be sustainable. We use our data to inform the design of future monitoring programs for this species. Our study underpins the need for robust science to inform wildlife trade policy and decision-making, and urges wildlife managers to assess sustainability of difficult-to-survey terrestrial wildlife by drawing inferences directly from the harvest itself.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Conservation biology, Agriculture, Ecology, Natural environment, Harvest, Ecological economics, Prima facie


There are fundamental differences between countries with regard to legislation on assisted reproduction. Many infertility patients are looking to evade the law of their own country and make use of reproductive services abroad. The role of the local physician in cross-border reproductive care for law evasion has been characterized as “channeling local patients to foreign medical establishments” and “against the spirit and essence of the law”. The logical view is that by supporting CBRC for law evasion, physicians are essentially supporting immoral behavior. We will tackle this position on two levels. First, we will argue that governments should generally be tolerant toward people with different positions on assisted reproduction. Second, we will show that contributing to cross-border reproductive care for law evasion is not necessarily immoral, because the prima facie wrongness of complicity in law evasion can be outweighed by the fact that physicians should act in the best interest of the patient. Several countries have tried to prevent local physicians from helping patients to make use of reproductive services abroad, but they should rather leave it up to the individual physicians to decide whether or not to support a particular patient.

Concepts: Human, Reproduction, Patient, Hospital, Physician, Doctor-patient relationship, Patience, Prima facie


Critics of non-therapeutic male and female childhood genital cutting claim that such cutting is harmful. It is therefore puzzling that ‘circumcised’ women and men do not typically regard themselves as having been harmed by the cutting, notwithstanding the loss of sensitive, prima facie valuable tissue. For female genital cutting (FGC), a commonly proposed solution to this puzzle is that women who had part(s) of their vulvae removed before sexual debut ‘do not know what they are missing’ and may ‘justify’ their genitally-altered state by adopting false beliefs about the benefits of FGC, while simultaneously stigmatising unmodified genitalia as unattractive or unclean. Might a similar phenomenon apply to neonatally circumcised men? In this survey of 999 US American men, greater endorsement of false beliefs concerning circumcision and penile anatomy predicted greater satisfaction with being circumcised, while among genitally intact men, the opposite trend occurred: greater endorsement of false beliefs predicted less satisfaction with being genitally intact. These findings provide tentative support for the hypothesis that the lack-of-harm reported by many circumcised men, like the lack-of-harm reported by their female counterparts in societies that practice FGC, may be related to holding inaccurate beliefs concerning unaltered genitalia and the consequences of childhood genital modification.

Concepts: Sexual intercourse, Penis, Vulva, Circumcision, Sex organ, Female genital cutting, Prima facie, Genital modification and mutilation


The investigation and classification of deaths in England and Wales relies upon the application by medical practitioners of diverse reporting standards set locally by coroners and thereafter upon the effectively unconstrained decision process of those same coroners. The author has conducted extensive comparative analysis of Ministry of Justice data on reports to the coroner and their inquest and verdict returns alongside Office of National Statistics data pertaining to the numbers of registered deaths in equivalent local jurisdictions. Here, he analyses 10 jurisdictions characterised by almost identical inquest return numbers in 2011. Substantial variation was found in reporting rates to the coroner and in the profile of inquest verdicts. The range of deaths reported varied from 34% to 62% of all registered deaths. Likewise only 2 of the 10 jurisdictions shared the same ranking of proportions in which the six common verdicts were reached. Individual jurisdictions tended to be consistent over time in their use of verdicts. In all cases, proportionately more male deaths were reported to the coroner. Coroners generally seemed prima facie to be ‘gendered’ in their approach to verdicts; that is, they were consistently more likely to favour a particular verdict when dealing with a death, according to the sex of the deceased. The extent to which coroners seemed gendered varied widely. While similar services such as the criminal courts or the Crown Prosecution Service are subject to extensive national guidance in an attempt to constrain idiosyncratic decision making, there seems no reason why this should apply less to the process of death investigation and classification. Further analysis of coroners' local practices and their determinants seems necessary.

Concepts: Decision making, Death, Jury, Prima facie, Inquest