Friday, June 10, 2011

National Academies Press

Getting correct and detailed information about the applications of physics to biology and medicine is important. The 4th edition of Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology is an excellent source of such information. Yet I know that you, dear reader, are probably saying “Yes, but I want a FREE source of information.” Well, for those cheapskates like me, there is some good news this week from the National Academies Press (forwarded to me via Russ Hobbie). First, what is the National Academies Press? Their website explains:
“The National Academies Press (NAP) was created by the National Academies to publish the reports issued by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council, all operating under a charter granted by the Congress of the United States. The NAP publishes more than 200 books a year on a wide range of topics in science, engineering, and health, capturing the most authoritative views on important issues in science and health policy. The institutions represented by the NAP are unique in that they attract the nation’s leading experts in every field to serve on their award-wining panels and committees. The nation turns to the work of NAP for definitive information on everything from space science to animal nutrition.”
Now, what is the good news? An email from the NAP states
“As of June 2, 2011, all PDF versions of books published by the National Academies Press (NAP) will be downloadable free of charge to anyone. This includes our current catalog of more than 4,000 books plus future reports published by NAP.

Free access to our online content supports the mission of NAP--publisher for the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council--to improve government decision making and public policy, increase public education and understanding, and promote the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge in matters involving science, engineering, technology, and health. In 1994, we began offering free content online. Before today's announcement, all PDFs were free to download in developing countries, and 65 percent of them were available for free to any user.

Like no other organization, the National Academies can enlist the nation's foremost scientists, engineers, health professionals, and other experts to address the scientific and technical aspects of society's most pressing problems through the authoritative and independent reports published by NAP. We invite you to sign up for MyNAP --a new way for us to deliver free downloads of this content to loyal subscribers like you, to offer you customized communications, and to reward you with exclusive offers and discounts on our printed books.”
Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology cites several NAP reports. For instance, in Section 9.10 about the possible effects of weak external electric and magnetic fields, Russ and I cite and quote from the NAP report Possible Health Effects of Exposure to Residential Electric and Magnetic Fields. I tested the website (free just seemed too good to be true), and was able to download a pdf version of the document with no charge (although I did have to give them my email address when I logged in). I got 379 pages of expert analysis about the biological effects of powerline fields. Russ and I quote the bottom line of this report in our book:
“There is no convincing evidence that exposure to 60-Hz electric and magnetic fields causes cancer in animals.... There is no evidence of any adverse effects on reproduction or development in animals, particularly mammals, from exposure to power-frequency 50- or 60-Hz electric or magnetic fields.”
In Chapter 16 on the medical use of X rays, we cite three of the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR) reports: V, VI, and VII. These reports provide important background about the linear nonthreshold model of radiation exposure. Then in Chapter 17 on nuclear physics and nuclear medicine we cite BEIR reports IV and VI when discussing radiation exposure caused by radon gas. The full citations listed in our book are:
"BEIR IV (1988). Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiations. Health Risks of Radon and Other Internally Deposited Alpha-Emitters. Washington, D.C., National Academy Press.

BEIR Report V (1990). Health Effects of Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation. Washington, DC, National Academy Press. Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation.

BEIR VI (1999). Committee on Health Risks of Exposure to Radon. Health Effects of Exposure to Radon. Washington, D.C., National Academy Press.

BEIR Report VII (2005). Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation. Washington, DC, National Academy Press. Committee to Assess Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation."
Besides the reports cited in our book, there are many others you might like to read. In a previous blog entry, I discussed the report BIO2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists, published by NAP. You can download a copy free. It discusses how we should teach physics to future life scientists. In another blog entry I discussed the book In the Beat of a Heart, which explores biological scaling. It is also published by the NAP.

Yet another report, published just last year, that will be of interest to readers of Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology is the NAP report Research at the Intersection of the Physical and Life Sciences. The report summary explains the goals of the report.
“Today, while it still is convenient to classify most research in the natural sciences as either biological or physical, more and more scientists are quite deliberately and consciously addressing problems lying at the intersection of these traditional areas. This report focuses on their efforts. As directed by the charges in the statement of task (see Appendix A), the goals of the committee in preparing this report are several fold. The first goal is to provide a conceptual framework for assessing work in this area—that is, a sense of coherence for those not engaged in this research about the big objectives of the field and why it is worthy of attention from fellow scientists and programmatic focus by funding agencies. The second goal is to assess current work using that framework and to point out some of the more promising opportunities for future efforts, such as research that could significantly benefit society. The third and final goal of the report is to set out strategies for realizing those benefits—ways to enable and enhance collaboration so that the United States can take full advantage of the opportunities at this intersection.”
An older report that covers much of the material that is in the last half of Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology is Mathematics and Physics of Emerging Biomedical Imaging (1996). Finally, yet another useful report is Advancing Nuclear Medicine Through Innovation (2007).

All this and more is now available free. Who says there is no such thing as a free lunch?

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