The gut microbiome and bone health, a plea to make Zika data more accessible, and the downside in Obama’s research budget. This week in Abstract Science.

Guts and Bones

(Scientific American, 2/10/2016, Rana Samadfam)

The huge and dizzying ecosystem of tiny critters, mostly bacteria, referred to as the gut microbiome helps make us who we are. It may also help heal our bones. Some of the best evidence for this link comes from studying mice that were raised in sterile environments. In the context of bone health, these germ-free mice have increases volume and density. Interestingly, if you introduce a microbial community to germ-free mice at young ages, these effects can be reversed, suggesting that the microbiome can regulate bone health.

Groups Urge Sharing of Zika Data

(Science, 2/10/2016, Gretchen Vogel)

Given the urgent public health need, 11 journal publishers, including The New England Journal of Medicine, PLOSSpringer Nature, and Science, signed a pledge this week to make all papers concerning Zika virus freely available to anyone, and that data or preprints that are made publicly available won’t pre-empt their journals from later publishing the work. Countries are sometimes reticent to share data or samples with foreign researchers or organizations and scientists often fret that releasing data early will make it difficult to publish them in top-notch journals, which prize exclusivity. But this lack of transparency can also slow down both the international response and the scientific understanding of an epidemic.

Obama’s Science Budget

(Nature, 2/10/2016, Heidi Ledford, Sara Reardon, Richard Monastersky, Alexandra Witze & Jeff Tollefson)

In his fiscal 2017 budget plan released on Feb. 9, US President Barack Obama included a 4% bump in research and development funding across the federal government. While one might expect this to draw applause, science directors and lawmakers aren’t happy with Obama’s decision to boost science by relying on mandatory spending, which is often used to offset or supplement a flat or reduced discretionary budget. For instance, if Congress, which appropriates the money, does not adopt the mandatory spending proposal for the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), the NIH budget would drop by US$1 billion, based on the president’s budget. The budget of the National Science Foundation (NSF) would increase by roughly 1%.

—Compiled by Senior Scientific Writer Regina McEnery