Nell Greenfieldboyce

Nell Greenfieldboyce is a NPR science correspondent.

With reporting focused on general science, NASA, and the intersection between technology and society, Greenfieldboyce has been on the science desk's technology beat since she joined NPR in 2005.

In that time Greenfieldboyce has reported on topics including the narwhals in Greenland, the ending of the space shuttle program, and the reasons why independent truckers don't want electronic tracking in their cabs.

Much of Greenfieldboyce's reporting reflects an interest in discovering how applied science and technology connects with people and culture. She has worked on stories spanning issues such as pet cloning, gene therapy, ballistics, and federal regulation of new technology.

Prior to NPR, Greenfieldboyce spent a decade working in print, mostly magazines including U.S. News & World Report and New Scientist.

A graduate of Johns Hopkins, earning her Bachelor's of Arts degree in social sciences and a Master's of Arts degree in science writing, Greenfieldboyce taught science writing for four years at the university. She was honored for her talents with the Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award for Young Science Journalists.

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Space
2:13 am
Fri May 18, 2012

NASA, SpaceX Aim To Launch Private Era In Orbit

NASA and SpaceX partnered closely to make the mission to the International Space Station possible. Above, the SpaceX control room.
SpaceX

Originally published on Fri May 18, 2012 3:49 pm

A private spaceship owned by a company called SpaceX is scheduled to blast off from Cape Canaveral in Florida early Saturday morning.

If all goes well, the unmanned capsule will rocket up on a mission to deliver food and other supplies to the International Space Station, becoming the first commercial spacecraft to visit the outpost.

The highly anticipated mission could mark the beginning of what some say could be a new era in spaceflight, with private companies operating taxi services that could start taking people to orbit in just a few years.

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Space
4:14 pm
Tue April 24, 2012

Tech Entrepreneurs Bet Big On Asteroid Mining

Originally published on Tue April 24, 2012 4:37 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Today, a group of entrepreneurs unveiled a new company that aims to mine precious metals and other resources from asteroids. The idea of exploiting the natural resources on asteroids has been around for more than a century, and this is not the first company to lay out such grand plans.

But as NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce reports, this one does have the financial backing of some big names in high tech.

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Shots - Health Blog
1:25 pm
Tue April 24, 2012

Bird Flu Scientist Has Applied For Permit To Export Research

The Dutch scientist at the center of the controversy over recent bird flu experiments says that his team applied for government permission today to submit a paper describing their research to a science journal.

The Dutch government has asserted that the studies, which describe how to make bird flu virus more contagious, fall under regulations that control the export of weapons technology.

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Shots - Health Blog
1:25 pm
Fri April 20, 2012

Dutch Government Set To Reconsider Restrictions On Bird Flu Study

Chickens were killed in Hong Kong last December in an effort to halt the spread of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu.
Aaron Tam AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon April 23, 2012 9:08 am

A Dutch virologist is considering his full range of legal options if his government refuses to lift the restrictions it has put on his controversial bird flu research, and matters could quickly come to a head after a meeting next Monday that will be attended by U. S. observers.

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Research News
2:36 am
Thu April 19, 2012

Death Penalty Research Flawed, Expert Panel Says

Originally published on Thu April 19, 2012 7:17 am

Proponents of the death penalty often argue that the threat of being executed acts as a deterrent that prevents people from committing murder. But those who oppose capital punishment challenge that claim. And some researchers argue that state-sanctioned execution might actually increase homicide rates.

Now, a panel of independent experts convened by the prestigious National Research Council has taken a look at this question and decided that the available research offers no useful information for policymakers.

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The End Of The Space Shuttle Era
4:02 pm
Mon April 16, 2012

Aboard 747, Shuttle Discovery To Make Final Flight

The space shuttle Discovery is loaded onto the back of a modified 747 at Kennedy Space Center on April 15. The plane will ferry the shuttle to Washington, D.C., on April 17, where it will be permanently installed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
Kim Shiflett NASA

Originally published on Mon April 16, 2012 5:12 pm

On Tuesday morning, space shuttle Discovery will become the first of NASA's three shuttles — plus a shuttle prototype — to travel to its new retirement home.

NASA flew its last shuttle flight in July. Since then, it's been prepping the spaceships to become museum displays. And even though the shuttles are headed to places like Los Angeles and New York rather than the space station, figuring out how to get them there has still been a major undertaking.

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Shots - Health Blog
2:40 am
Tue April 10, 2012

Bird Flu Studies Mired In Export Control Law Limbo

An electron microscope view of the bird flu virus.
PR Newswire

Originally published on Tue April 10, 2012 6:50 am

Scientists who created mutant forms of bird flu want to see their research published, and an influential advisory committee recently gave them the green light after a debate that lasted for months.

But one of the manuscripts is now being blocked from publication because of Dutch legal controls on the export of technology that could potentially be used for weapons.

It's just the latest example of how complicated international export control laws have affected the debate over what to do about two studies on bird flu.

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Environment
1:54 pm
Thu April 5, 2012

Feds Interview New Witnesses In Polar Bear Probe

Two polar bears spar on the shoreline of the Hudson Bay in November 2007.
Paul J. Richards AFP/Getty Images

Federal agents interviewed new witnesses this week in an ongoing investigation of government scientists that's been called "polar bear-gate," according to the scientists' lawyer.

The controversial probe, now entering its third year, is looking into allegations of scientific misconduct related to a 2006 report by wildlife researchers Charles Monnett and Jeffrey Gleason, who described seeing dead polar bears floating in Arctic waters.

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Shots - Health Blog
2:50 pm
Tue April 3, 2012

FDA To Fund Controversial Research Foundation

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg says there is a desperate need to have the Reagan-Udall Foundation up and running.
Win McNamee Getty Images

Originally published on Tue April 3, 2012 10:05 pm

A nonprofit foundation set up to support scientific research of interest to the Food and Drug Administration is finally starting to take off after years of struggling financially — and it's about to get some long-promised funding from the FDA.

But some critics worry that this foundation, which will also raise money from private sources including industry, could provide a way for the food and medical industries to sway FDA decisions.

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Shots - Health Blog
4:49 pm
Fri March 30, 2012

Scientific Journals Plan To Publish Contentious Bird Flu Research

Originally published on Fri March 30, 2012 5:12 pm

A government advisory committee has reconsidered its advice to keep certain details of bird flu experiments secret.

Revised versions of manuscripts that describe two recent studies can be openly published, the committee now says. The decision could help end a contentious debate that has raged within the scientific community for months.

In response, the editors of two journals immediately said they planned to publish the research soon.

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Science
2:50 am
Fri March 30, 2012

Policy On High-Risk Biological Research Tightened

The Obama administration has announced a new policy to handle the risks posed by legitimate biological research that could, in the wrong hands, threaten the public.

The move comes in response to a huge debate over recent experiments on bird flu virus that got funding from the National Institutes of Health. Critics say the work created mutant viruses that could potentially be dangerous for people, or give terrorists a road map for making a bioweapon.

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Shots - Health Blog
11:01 pm
Sun March 25, 2012

Bird Flu Studies Getting Another Round Of Scrutiny By Panel

Health Department officials cull birds and put them in sacks after bird flu virus was detected in Bhubaneswar, India.
Biswaranjan Rout AP

Originally published on Mon March 26, 2012 7:50 am

In June of 2009, a committee met at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to do a routine safety review of proposed research projects.

One of those projects involved genetically modifying flu viruses. And during the review, the committee brought up the idea of "dual-use" research. "Dual use" means legitimate scientific work that's intended to advance science or medicine, but that also might be misused with the intent to do harm.

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Animals
4:08 pm
Thu March 15, 2012

Just How Big Are The Eyes Of A Giant Squid?

This giant squid was caught about 10 miles off the shores of Oahu, Hawaii, in 1981. The pupil of its eye measured more than 3.5 inches across.
Current Biology

Originally published on Thu March 15, 2012 8:32 pm

Giant and colossal squids can be more than 40 feet long, if you measure all the way out to the tip of their two long feeding tentacles. But it's their eyes that are truly huge — the size of basketballs.

Now, scientists say these squids may have the biggest eyes in the animal kingdom because they need to detect a major predator, the sperm whale, as it moves toward them through the underwater darkness.

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Shots - Health Blog
10:05 am
Wed March 7, 2012

FDA Scientists Feel A Little Better About Where They Work

A survey of scientists at the Food and Drug Administration finds they're feeling more optimistic about the integrity of decisions made at headquarters (seen here) and elsewhere in the agency.
FDA

Scientists who work for the Food and Drug Administration are feeling more optimistic about the future of their agency than they did back in 2006, according to a survey just out from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

But they still report concerns about outside pressures on the FDA's decisions and policies.

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Shots - Health Blog
11:44 am
Wed February 29, 2012

Expert Panel To Give Controversial Bird Flu Research A Second Look

An health official wearing protective gear culls a bird at a poultry farm after a naturally occurring bird flu virus was detected near Agartala, India, in January.
Sushanta Das AP

Originally published on Wed February 29, 2012 7:34 pm

Two controversial studies on bird flu will once again be reviewed by an expert committee that advises the government on what to do with biological research that could pose potential dangers.

The move is just the latest development in a fierce ongoing debate about genetically altered flu viruses created in laboratories at Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Shots - Health Blog
2:25 pm
Fri February 17, 2012

WHO Panel Supports Publication Of Bird Flu Details, Eventually

The full details of two controversial experiments on bird flu should be published openly, says a panel convened by the World Health Organization.

But information about the studies should remain secret a while longer so that there's time to address public concerns, the group recommends. The experiments should stay on hold, too.

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Shots - Health Blog
2:05 am
Fri February 17, 2012

Questions About Bird Flu Research Swirl Around Private WHO Meeting

H5N1 avian flu viruses (seen in gold) grow inside canine kidney cells (seen in green).
Cynthia Goldsmith CDC

Originally published on Fri February 17, 2012 9:37 am

A closed-door meeting to discuss controversial bird flu research is drawing to a close at the World Health Organization in Geneva, and the WHO plans to publicly report on what happened once it's officially over.

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Shots - Health Blog
10:49 am
Thu February 16, 2012

The 'WHO's Who' Of Virologists Meet To Talk Bird Flu In Geneva

Virologists and other scientists are meeting at the World Health Organization's Geneva headquarters to talk about the bird flu.
Pierre Virot WHO

A closed-door summit on controversial bird flu research starts today, and the newly released guest list reveals that the event will be dominated by virologists.

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Shots - Health Blog
4:52 pm
Wed February 15, 2012

Scientists Debate How To Conduct Bird Flu Research

H5N1 avian flu viruses (seen in gold) grow inside canine kidney cells (seen in green).
Cynthia Goldsmith CDC

Originally published on Tue February 21, 2012 4:58 pm

Scientists working with bird flu recently called a 60-day halt on some controversial experiments, and the unusual move has been compared to a famous moratorium on genetic engineering in the 1970s.

But key scientists involved in that event disagree on whether history is repeating itself.

"I see an amazing similarity," says Nobel Prize winner Paul Berg, of Stanford University.

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Health
11:01 pm
Sun February 12, 2012

Scientists Take Cautious Tack On Bird Flu Research

A government veterinarian worker sprays anti-bird flu disinfectant over birds and fowls at Medan city market in North Sumatra province. Indonesia reported its second human death from bird flu this year in late January.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon February 13, 2012 10:24 am

Last month, scientists around the world agreed to temporarily halt certain genetic experiments with bird flu viruses. More than three weeks of that 60-day moratorium have already passed. And the scientific community is in the midst of a fierce debate about what needs to happen next.

The suspension of the research came in response to fears that researchers had created dangerous new germs that could cause a devastating pandemic in people if they ever escaped the lab or fell into the wrong hands.

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Shots - Health Blog
8:42 am
Thu February 9, 2012

International Meeting On Controversial Bird Flu Research Draws Near

H5N1 avian flu viruses (seen in gold) grow inside canine kidney cells (seen in green).
Cynthia Goldsmith CDC

The World Health Organization has just one week left to prepare for a highly anticipated meeting on controversial bird flu research. One official says that 22 invitations have gone out and the WHO is still waiting to hear back from some of the invitees.

Recent experiments involving the H5N1 bird flu virus have caused a furor in the science community, and the WHO was urged to convene an international discussion.

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Science
11:01 pm
Tue January 31, 2012

New Silica Rules Languish In Regulatory Black Hole

Controlling dust from activities like this was on the minds of those in the Department of Labor in the 1930s, as silicosis, a lung disease, was taking a toll on American workers. Above, a worker jackhammers into rock in Lassen National Forest in California in 1934, preparing to shoot explosives.
U.S. Forest Service Oregon State University Libraries

Originally published on Wed February 1, 2012 6:50 am

Any job that involves breaking up rock or concrete or brick can potentially expose workers to dangerous silica dust, and last year it looked like the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration was about to put stricter controls in place to limit this health hazard.

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Shots - Health Blog
1:08 pm
Fri January 20, 2012

Researchers Agree To Temporary Halt For Bird Flu Experiments

H5N1 avian flu viruses (seen in gold) grow inside canine kidney cells (seen in green).
Cynthia Goldsmith CDC

Originally published on Mon January 23, 2012 2:41 pm

Scientists have said that they are voluntarily putting some controversial bird flu research on hold.

The move to suspend the work for 60 days comes in response to critics who say their work is dangerous.

People rarely get sick with bird flu, caused by the H5N1 virus, and when they do, they're generally not contagious.

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Research News
11:01 pm
Sun January 15, 2012

Labs Size Up New Guidelines For Rodent Cages

The standard rat cage used in the U.S. (right) has 140 square inches of floor space. One interpretation of the new guidelines says this cage wouldn't be big enough to hold a male rat, a female rat and their babies. Instead, labs would have to house the rat family in a larger cage, like the 210-square-inch one on the left.
Courtesy of Joseph Thulin Biomedical Resource Center, Medical College of Wisconsin

Scientists do experiments with millions of rats and mice each year, to study everything from heart disease to cancer to diabetes. Recently, some new recommendations about how to house female lab rodents and their babies caused an uproar, with experts at major research institutions now saying they're unsure of what they'll have to do to keep their government funding.

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Science
4:54 am
Sun December 25, 2011

Trees In Trouble: Grim Future For Frankincense

Frankincense comes from the Boswellia sacra tree, which grows mainly in the Horn of Africa. The number of trees that produce the fragrant resin could decline by 90 percent in the next 50 years.
scott.zona flickr

The original Christmas presents were gold, frankincense and myrrh. That's what wise men brought to the baby Jesus, according to the Gospel of Matthew. Frankincense is still used today — for perfumes, incense and traditional medicines — but a new study suggests that its future looks grim.

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