Declan Butler, reporter This is the personal blog of Declan Butler, a senior reporter at Nature. All views expressed here are mine, and not those of Nature. Contact me at

April 30, 2008

Science data needs to be more spatially-enabled, says Nature

Filed under: GIS — admin @ 9:55 pm

Here’s an Editorial from tomorrow’s Nature — link here — on the need for scientists to routinely record spatial data with samples, viral sequences, field observations, and other entities. It proposes a major change in the policies of journals and databases to mandate recording of such data as a prerequisite for having a scientific paper accepted. Feel free to use this blog’s comment facility to express your opinion on this, or email me at

During the research for this Editorial, Nature picked up considerable frustration from spatial scientists in many fields about the fact lack of spatial data in otherwise valuable datasets made them all but useless for more quantitative spatial analysis. For the sake of brevity and readability in this short article, we reduced the concept of spatial data to latitude and longitude, but clearly any working system would require more detailed spatial standards, depending on fields.

April 16, 2008

Agent Orange studies stalled

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 6:07 pm

I’ve the lead news article tonight in Nature with an exclusive — Further delays to full Agent Orange study — on a complex story behind efforts to get done a large-scale epidemiological study of the health effects, and other combat factors — on Vietnam veterans, almost 30 years after it was first mandated. Nature has an accompanying Editorial — A ghost of battles past.

NOTE: All Nature news stories are free online for at least a week to registered users — and registration is FREE.

A few excerpts from the long news article, and the Editorial, below:

A study to investigate the health effects of Agent Orange on Vietnam War veterans is being obstructed by the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), claim scientists and veterans’ organizations.


April 2, 2008

Fighting climate change by architectural design

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 6:55 pm

Ultra-low energy homes are not necessarily architectural boutique projects: above are low-income “passive” terrace houses in Lindas, Sweden

I’ve a 4-page feature in Nature tonight on the huge potential of green architecture for mitigating climate change (pdf file here).

It’s been one of the most challenging articles I’ve had to write, as I had to leave out so much, but at the same time one of the most satisfying. This is a hugely important topic. Buildings account for up to half of all energy consumption, and are the biggest single contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Much attention is given to exotic future remedies, such as carbon sequestration and clean coal. But a way to slash emissions using existing technologies is sitting under our noses: simply rethinking how we design the buildings we live and work in, to use much less energy.

The arguments for building with energy needs met largely by marrying with the local environment and passive strategies are so compelling that the research for this article is persuading me to switch my own plans to buy a place in French Touraine, where I live, to instead build a zero-energy home — no small challenge though, given that French builders are far behind their German, Swiss, and Austrian neighbours here.

I’ve posted just a few of the links I collected during the research to here on Connotea, and hope to add more.

It’s impossible to excerpt from an article of this length in any sensible way, but just to give you a flavour, here below are a few:


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