News Article | May 25, 2017
Researchers analysed data of hundreds of UK children who had been born through IVF or ICSI (when the man has a low sperm count), testing the same groups of children every few years up to the age of 11. They found a positive association between artificial conception and cognitive development when a child was between the ages of three and five. The study published in the journal, Human Reproduction, also shows that parents who undergo such treatments are generally older, more educated and have a higher socio-economic status than parents who had naturally conceived children. Artificially conceived babies are more likely to be part of a multiple birth or have low birth weight, however, this study finds their family backgrounds 'override' the possible negative effects to health that could lessen cognitive ability. The findings are significant given previous studies show a mixed picture, with some research suggesting assisted reproductive treatments can harm a child's cognitive abilities. Researchers Professor Melinda Mills and doctoral student Anna Barbuscia, from the University of Oxford's Department of Sociology and Nuffield College, used data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study, a nationally representative group of 18,552 families. They analysed a sample of babies born in 2000-1 who were resident in the UK at nine months, using data from the Department of Social Security Child Benefit Registers. Out of 15,281 artificially conceived children born in 2000-1, 8,298 were followed up for cognitive ability tests in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2012. Out of 15,218 children born in 2000-2001, who were followed up for cognitive ability tests in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2012, 214 were conceived artificially through IVF or ICSI. Standardised tests (British Ability Scales) were used at each stage to assess the children's vocabulary skills (at three and five); reading at seven, and use of verbs at 11. The scores were compared with those of children who had been naturally conceived. Analyses show that mothers and fathers are on average four to five years older, respectively, than parents of naturally conceived children. This group of parents is also likely to have a higher income and belong to a higher social class, with the mothers more likely to be highly educated and employed than mothers of naturally conceived babies. The study notes that these factors are 'consistent and statistically significant' and highlights that they are widely accepted as being linked with children with higher cognitive abilities in the early years. Researcher Professor Melinda Mills, from the Department of Sociology, said: 'The findings suggest that the positive effect of the family background of children conceived through artificial reproduction techniques "overrides" the risks of related poor health impairing their cognitive ability. Although artificially conceived babies have a higher risk of being born prematurely or as a multiple birth, we have found they also have parents who are older, better educated and from a higher income bracket. 'These are all factors linked with better outcomes for children. What is significant is that this positive effect is over the long term up to the age of 11. The findings support other studies showing that on balance such fertility treatments do not impair a child's higher thinking skills.' Lead author Anna Barbuscia said: 'The strong desire and considerable psychological and financial effort involved in having a child through artificial conception treatments undoubtedly contributes to more attentive parenting. 'Parents may perceive their children as more fragile but once past the period of greatest risk, their parenting style may change to become more like other parents. This might account for the fact that the gap in higher cognitive ability has closed by the time both groups of children had reached the age of 11 with only slightly better scores for artificially conceived children at this later stage .' The paper explains that since the first IVF baby was born in 1978, there has been a rapid increase in the use of artificial reproductive technology, with more than 5 million children conceived this way (up to 2012). To date, results on the long-term effects on children have been mixed. Some studies reported an increased risk of damage to their behavioural, social, emotional and cognitive development, as well as mental disorders or physical problems such as low birthweight and premature delivery. By contrast, a series of systematic reviews concluded, however, that there were no developmental differences once the baby was a few weeks old. Other studies draw similar conclusions to the Oxford study, showing not only comparable but higher mental health and social development in IVF children.
News Article | April 20, 2017
"The principles of open society are being tested today, not only in the United States and Europe, but worldwide, and Caroline Anstey is the operational leader we need to help the Foundations perform at our very best," said Stone. "She's proven herself to be a great strategist and collaborator in global institutions who knows how to integrate an organization's inner systems with its frontline programs. I'm thrilled she is joining the Foundations." Anstey brings a wealth of experience in operational management across international contexts. Most recently, she was group managing director at UBS AG in Zurich, Switzerland, where she created and managed a cross-firm platform bringing together the bank's work on sustainable investment, philanthropy, and product development. She also oversaw the bank's Optimus Foundation. For 18 years, Anstey worked with the World Bank Group, most recently as managing director. Prior to that, she served as vice president of external affairs, chief of staff to then World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick, and country director for the Caribbean. She was previously an editor and senior producer at the BBC. She holds a PhD from the London School of Economics and was awarded a research fellowship from Nuffield College, Oxford University. "I am delighted to join the Open Society Foundations, particularly at a time when core issues, such as press freedom and open and accountable government, are under attack in many parts of the world," said Anstey. "In this current context, it is more vital than ever that Open Society leverage the operations of its global network." Established in 1984 by philanthropist George Soros, the Open Society Foundations are a family of offices and foundations that support individuals and organizations fighting for freedom of expression, transparency, accountability, and societies that promote justice and equality. The Foundations' expenditures to date total over $13 billion, with an annual budget of $940.7 million for 2017. The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. Working with local communities in more than 100 countries, the Open Society Foundations support justice and human rights, freedom of expression, and access to public health and education. To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/caroline-anstey-named-chief-operations-officer-of-the-open-society-foundations-300442848.html
News Article | October 31, 2016
Researchers have identified 12 specific areas of the DNA sequence that are robustly related with the age at which we have our first child, and the total number of children we have during the course of our life. The study, led by the University of Oxford, working together with the Universities of Groningen, The Netherlands and Uppsala, Sweden, includes an analysis of 62 datasets with information from 238,064 men and women for age at first birth, and almost 330,000 men and women for the number of children. Until now, reproductive behaviour was thought to be mainly linked to personal choices or social circumstances and environmental factors. However, this new research shows that genetic variants can be isolated and that there is also a biological basis for reproductive behaviour. The paper is co-authored by over 250 sociologists, biologists, and geneticists from institutions worldwide, and has been published in the journal, Nature Genetics. Lead author Professor Melinda Mills, from the Department of Sociology and Nuffield College at the University of Oxford, comments: 'For the first time, we now know where to find the DNA areas linked to reproductive behaviour. For example, we found that women with DNA variants for postponing parenthood also have bits of DNA code associated with later onset of menstruation and later menopause. One day it may be possible to use this information so doctors can answer the important question: "How late can you wait?" based on the DNA variants. It is important to put this into perspective, however, as having a child still strongly depends on many social and environmental factors that will always play a bigger role in whether or when we have babies.' The study shows that DNA variants linked with the age at which people have their firstborn are also associated with other characteristics reflecting reproduction and sexual development, such as the age at which girls have their first period, when the voice breaks in boys, and at what stage women experience their menopause. First author Nicola Barban, from the Department of Sociology and Nuffield College at the University of Oxford, comments: 'Our genes do not determine our behaviour, but for the first time, we have identified parts of the DNA code that influence it. This is another small piece to understanding this very large jigsaw puzzle.' The researchers calculated that variants in the 12 areas of the DNA together predict less than 1% of the timing at which men and women have their first child and of the number of children they have in the course of their lifetime. The paper says that while these numbers seem 'extremely small', their modelling shows that in some cases when the variants are combined, they can be used to predict the probability of women remaining childless. Importantly, by examining the function of the 12 DNA regions and the genes in these regions in detail, the researchers have identified 24 genes that are likely to be responsible for the effects of the 12 DNA variants on reproductive behaviour. Some of these genes were already known to influence infertility, while others have not yet been studied. According to study co-authors Professor Harold Snieder from the University of Groningen and Associate Professor Marcel den Hoed from Uppsala University, 'an improved understanding of the function of these genes may provide new insights for infertility treatments'. Human reproductive behaviour is defined by two measures: age at first birth (AFB) and number of children ever born (NEB). AFB is the self-reported age when subjects had their first child. In most cases, people were directly asked a question such as: "How old were you when you had your first child?" Alternatively, researchers calculated the measure based on several survey questions (e.g., date of birth of the individual and the date of birth of their first child). Number of children ever born (NEB) is the self-reported number of children that an individual has. It was often asked directly such as "How many children do you have?" They also calculated it based on several survey questions (for example, pregnancy histories and outcomes, number of deliveries). NEB has emerged as the gold standard to measure lifetime reproductive success indicating 'biological fitness'. In many industrialized societies, first-time parents are considerably older than decades before, which in turn has consequences for the number of children they can have and their reproductive health. Since the 1970s, there has been a rapid postponement by around 4-6 years in the age at first birth from women having their first child at around 24 years in 1970 to 29 years in 2012 in many industrialized societies. There has not only been postponement, but also significant increases in the levels of childlessness, with around 20-25% of women born from 1965-69 in Southern and Western European countries having no children. The biological ability to conceive a child starts to steeply decline for some women as of age 25, with almost 50% of women being sterile by the age of 40.5 This means that a growing number of women start to have their first and subsequent children exactly at the time that their ability to conceive starts to decrease. Birth postponement and a lower number of children has been largely attributed to social, economic and cultural environmental factors (i.e., individual and partner characteristics, socioeconomic status), with virtually no attention paid to the genetic or biological underpinnings of this behaviour. They searched across the entire human genome, examining each genetic locus (or region) one by one to see if there is a relationship (or what we call an association) between our outcomes (AFB, NEB) and a particular genetic locus. These genetic loci contain so-called SNPs (pronounced SNIPs), which refers to single-nucleotide polymorphisms, or in other words, the DNA variants that distinguish us from each other. In the largest GWAS on human reproduction to date, they combined results from 62 different studies into what is referred to as a meta-analysis with a total sample size of N=251,151 for AFB and N=343,072 for NEB. They also performed separate meta-analyses for women (AFB, N=189,656; NEB, N=225,230) and men (AFB, N=48,408; NEB, N=103,909). They went beyond simply finding the location of the genetic loci to determine whether they had any biological function or relevance. They identified 12 independent loci (10 of which were not previously anticipated to influence reproductive behaviour) that were significantly associated with AFB and/or NEB. They found that all 12 genetic loci combined can explain around 1 % of the variability in the average age at which someone has their first baby. They can also predict around 0.2% of the variability of the number of children we will have in the course of our lifetime using a combined polygenic score. Although it may seem low, the results showed that a 1 standard deviation increase of the NEB polygenic score is associated with a 9% decrease in the probability for women to remain childless (with no significant effect found for men). No - not at all. As described previously, since each individual SNP or genetic variant has such a small effect, prediction of AFB or NEB using genetic results alone is not possible. Even if they combine the genetic variants together into an index or what is termed a 'polygenic score' using all approximately 9 million SNPs in our data, they can still only predict 0.9% and 0.2% of the variation in AFB and NEB across individuals. As more and more genetic data becomes available, they anticipate that it will be possible to predict at most 15 to 20% of the variance in AFB and NEB, which would resemble more recent whole-genome results. A variable that predicts around 1% of the variation in human reproductive behaviour is large enough to be relevant and useful for experts in many disciplines. In the longer term, this study offers a better understanding of the genetic architecture of human reproductive behaviour. It likewise has the potential to enable the discovery of predictors of infertility, which would in turn greatly improve family planning but also increase the effectiveness of costly and invasive ART treatments as well as allow couples to realize their fertility intentions. Some of the lead SNPs or genetic loci are related to critical fertility related processes such as: follicle stimulating hormone, estrogen, growth in ovaries, spermatid differentiation, male germ cell development and diseases associated with female infertility (endometriosis, PCOS).
News Article | November 2, 2016
Researchers have identified 12 specific areas of the DNA sequence that are robustly related with the age at which we have our first child, and the total number of children we have during the course of our life. The study, led by the University of Oxford, working together with the Universities of Groningen, The Netherlands and Uppsala, Sweden, includes an analysis of 62 datasets with information from 238,064 men and women for age at first birth, and almost 330,000 men and women for the number of children. Until now, reproductive behaviour was thought to be mainly linked to personal choices or social circumstances and environmental factors. However, this new research shows that genetic variants can be isolated and that there is also a biological basis for reproductive behaviour. The paper is co-authored by over 250 sociologists, biologists, and geneticists from institutions worldwide, and has been published in the journal, Nature Genetics. Lead author Professor Melinda Mills, from the Department of Sociology and Nuffield College at the University of Oxford, comments: 'For the first time, we now know where to find the DNA areas linked to reproductive behaviour. For example, we found that women with DNA variants for postponing parenthood also have bits of DNA code associated with later onset of menstruation and later menopause. One day it may be possible to use this information so doctors can answer the important question: "How late can you wait?" based on the DNA variants. It is important to put this into perspective, however, as having a child still strongly depends on many social and environmental factors that will always play a bigger role in whether or when we have babies.' The study shows that DNA variants linked with the age at which people have their firstborn are also associated with other characteristics reflecting reproduction and sexual development, such as the age at which girls have their first period, when the voice breaks in boys, and at what stage women experience their menopause. First author Nicola Barban, from the Department of Sociology and Nuffield College at the University of Oxford, comments: 'Our genes do not determine our behaviour, but for the first time, we have identified parts of the DNA code that influence it. This is another small piece to understanding this very large jigsaw puzzle.' The researchers calculated that variants in the 12 areas of the DNA together predict less than 1% of the timing at which men and women have their first child and of the number of children they have in the course of their lifetime. The paper says that while these numbers seem 'extremely small', their modelling shows that in some cases when the variants are combined, they can be used to predict the probability of women remaining childless. Importantly, by examining the function of the 12 DNA regions and the genes in these regions in detail, the researchers have identified 24 genes that are likely to be responsible for the effects of the 12 DNA variants on reproductive behaviour. Some of these genes were already known to influence infertility, while others have not yet been studied. According to study co-authors Professor Harold Snieder from the University of Groningen and Associate Professor Marcel den Hoed from Uppsala University, 'an improved understanding of the function of these genes may provide new insights for infertility treatments'.
News Article | October 26, 2016
ALEXANDRIA, VA (Oct. 19, 2016) - Prominent British statistician Sir David Cox has been named the inaugural recipient of the International Prize in Statistics. Like the acclaimed Fields Medal, Abel Prize, Turing Award and Nobel Prize, the International Prize in Statistics is considered the highest honor in its field. It will be bestowed every other year to an individual or team for major achievements using statistics to advance science, technology and human welfare. Cox is a giant in the field of statistics, but the International Prize in Statistics Foundation is recognizing him specifically for his 1972 paper in which he developed the proportional hazards model that today bears his name. The Cox Model is widely used in the analysis of survival data and enables researchers to more easily identify the risks of specific factors for mortality or other survival outcomes among groups of patients with disparate characteristics. From disease risk assessment and treatment evaluation to product liability, school dropout, re-incarceration and AIDS surveillance systems, the Cox Model has been applied essentially in all fields of science, as well as in engineering. "Professor Cox changed how we analyze and understand the effect of natural or human-induced risk factors on survival outcomes, paving the way for powerful scientific inquiry and discoveries that have impacted human health worldwide," said Susan Ellenberg, chair of the International Prize in Statistics Foundation. "Use of the 'Cox Model' in the physical, medical, life, earth, social and other sciences, as well as engineering fields, has yielded more robust and detailed information that has helped researchers and policymakers address some of society's most pressing challenges." Successful application of the Cox Model has led to life-changing breakthroughs with far-reaching societal effects, some of which include the following: His mark on research is so great that his 1972 paper is one of the three most-cited papers in statistics and ranked 16th in Nature's list of the top 100 most-cited papers of all time for all fields. In 2010, Cox received the Copley Medal, the Royal Society's highest award that has also been bestowed upon such other world-renowned scientists as Peter Higgs, Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, Francis Crick and Ronald Fisher. Knighted in 1985, Cox is a fellow of the Royal Society, an honorary fellow of the British Academy and a foreign associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. He has served as president of the Bernoulli Society, Royal Statistical Society and International Statistical Institute. Cox's 50-year career included technical and research positions in the private and nonprofit sectors, as well as numerous academic appointments as professor or department chair at Birkbeck College, Imperial College of London, Nuffield College and Oxford University. He earned his PhD from the University of Leeds in 1949, after first studying mathematics at St. Johns College. Though he retired in 1994, Cox remains active in the profession in Oxford, England. Cox considers himself to be a scientist who happens to specialize in the use of statistics, which is defined as the science of learning from data. A foundation of scientific inquiry, statistics is a critical component in the development of public policy and has played fundamental roles in vast areas of human development and scientific exploration. Note to Editors: Ellenberg and Ron Wasserstein, director of the International Prize in Statistics Foundation and executive director of the American Statistical Association, will be available for interviews on October 20. About the International Prize in Statistics The International Prize in Statistics recognizes a major achievement of an individual or team in the field of statistics and promotes understanding of the growing importance and diverse ways statistics, data analysis, probability and the understanding of uncertainty advance society, science, technology and human welfare. With a monetary award of $75,000, it is given every other year by the International Prize in Statistics Foundation, which is comprised of representatives from the American Statistical Association, International Biometric Society, Institute of Mathematical Statistics, International Statistical Institute and Royal Statistical Society. Recipients are chosen from a selection committee comprised of world-renowned academicians and researchers and officially presented with the award at the World Statistics Congress.
News Article | March 14, 2014
The British economic recovery remains unbalanced – too driven by a credit and house price boomlet subsidised by the government's Help to Buy scheme. By raising prices of homes, especially in London and the south-east, Help to Buy defeats the purpose of extending access to housing. The six-point plan proposed here would result in a more durable recovery powered by much-needed investment in infrastructure and housing. It begins with two fundamental reforms: switching to a fiscal target that takes account not just of government debt but of assets, and setting up a national land bank, learning from international experience. The ratio of government debt to national income matters: interest has to be paid on debt, and current national income is a rough proxy for the future national income that will generate the tax revenue to service the debt. But the current exclusive concern with debt is a big mistake: the government's asset position is just as important because assets help to generate the future income to service the debt or can be sold to pay down debt. For example, roads generate revenue directly, even without road pricing or toll roads, from taxes on petrol and licences, and indirectly from the economic activity they lubricate. The real rate of return in Britain on such infrastructure investment – for example, upgrading the A1 in the north-east – greatly exceeds the current cost of funding. Further, much of government-owned land is obviously saleable and not hard to value. It makes no sense to include only financial assets in government net debt and exclude potentially saleable land. The first announcement of the budget should therefore state that, in future, the government will target the growth of debt minus assets. Increasing government debt would then not be a concern if it was matched by an increase in assets such as publicly owned productive infrastructure and land. This better target would also discourage the accounting practices of the Brown era, when expensive PFI contracts were used to fund public sector investment without recognising the underlying liabilities. The second fundamental announcement in the budget, made possible by the first, should be the setting up of a national land bank. This acquires land cheaply and holds it for future release for housing and commercial development. In countries such as South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong, national land banks have played major roles in urban development, supplying land for housing, generating planning gain to pay for infrastructure and in controlling real estate prices. In Britain, with sometimes hundred-fold price differences between land with and without planning permission, a government land bank could buy land without residential or commercial planning permission but with potential for future development. In future, this would be a source of land release for housing and other development, capturing planning gain for the taxpayer. Such land purchases would initially have zero impact on correctly measured net debt, but future revaluation gains would bring down net debt, while the cashflow from sales would lower future government deficits. This radical step, together with better incentives for local authorities to grant planning permissions, would transform the supply of housing in under-housed Britain. Currently, young people without wealthy and generous relatives have great difficulty getting onto the housing ladder. According to the census the fraction of owner occupiers among those aged 25 to 34 has declined from 58% in 2001 to 40% in 2011. The land bank proposal would allow house prices relative to income gradually to decline in coming decades, helping the "lost generation" of those born after 1979. The next four decisions would complement these two fundamentals: 2. Restrict Help to Buy to regions outside London and the south-east but retain Help to Build everywhere to encourage house building. 3. Announce a mansion tax in which the excess of current values above £3m is taxed at 1%. Britain has the lowest property tax rates for the super-rich among advanced countries. The proposed tax rate would still be lower than in many other countries such as the US. Measures 2 and 3 would take some of the heat out of housing markets in London and the south-east. 4. Take advantage of low borrowing costs in index-linked gilts to fund more than the current government deficit by issuing large amounts of index linked gilts. "Overfunding" of this kind was used in the 1980s. It would save the taxpayer money in the long run. It would also have the advantage of lifting current yields and so reducing the apparent deficits in defined-benefit pension schemes. This should boost company investment in the real economy. These measures for balanced and sustained growth and a more equal society need a government capable of taking the long view currently lacking in Westminster. • John Muellbauer is a professor of economics at Nuffield College and INET Oxford
Przepiorka W.,Nuffield College
Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society | Year: 2013
Social control and the enforcement of social norms glue a society together. It has been shown theoretically and empirically that informal punishment of wrongdoers fosters cooperation in human groups. Most of this research has focused on voluntary and uncoordinated punishment carried out by individual group members. However, as punishment is costly, it is an open question as to why humans engage in the punishment of wrongdoers even in one-time-only encounters. While evolved punitive preferences have been advocated as proximate explanations for such behaviour, the strategic nature of the punishment situation has remained underexplored. It has been suggested to conceive of the punishment situation as a volunteer's dilemma (VOD), where only one individual's action is necessary and sufficient to punish the wrongdoer. Here, we show experimentally that implementing the punishment situation as a VOD sustains cooperation in an environment where punishers and non-punishers coexist. Moreover, we show that punishment-cost heterogeneity allows individuals to tacitly agree on only the strongest group member carrying out the punishment, thereby increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of social norm enforcement. Our results corroborate that costly peer punishment can be explained without assuming punitive preferences and show that centralized sanctioning institutions can emerge from arbitrary individual differences.
Goldthorpe J.H.,Nuffield College
Journal of Social Policy | Year: 2013
A consensus has developed in political and also media circles that in Britain over recent decades social mobility has been in decline. According to the consensus view, as construed in political circles, educational policy is seen as the crucial instrument for increasing mobility. This article shows how the consensus emerged from the research of a group of economists into intergenerational income mobility. It is argued that, primarily on account of various limitations of the available data, the economists' finding of declining mobility is open to question; and, further, that, because no explicit distinction is made in their work between absolute and relative rates of mobility, its reception, among politicians especially, has been attended by considerable confusion. An alternative to the consensus view is put forward, based on extensive research by sociologists into social class mobility, which is seen as better capturing the intergenerational transmission of economic advantage and disadvantage. This research indicates that the only recent change of note is that the rising rates of upward, absolute mobility of the middle decades of the last century have levelled out. Relative rates have remained more or less constant back to the inter-war years. According to this alternative view, what can be achieved through education, whether in regard to absolute or relative mobility, appears limited. Copyright © 2013 Cambridge University Press.
Cox D.R.,Nuffield College
Biometrika | Year: 2014
So-called big data are likely to have complex structure, in particular implying that estimates of precision obtained by applying standard statistical procedures are likely to be misleading, even if the point estimates of parameters themselves may be reasonably satisfactory. While this possibility is best explored in the context of each special case, here we outline a fairly general representation of the accretion of error in large systems and explore the possible implications for the estimation of regression coefficients. The discussion raises issues broadly parallel to the distinction between short-range and long-range dependence in time series theory. © 2015 Biometrika Trust.
Gallagher J.,Nuffield College
British Journal of Politics and International Relations | Year: 2012
This article provides a commentary on the evolution of intergovernmental relations in the UK from one of its leading practitioners. As the former Director General for Devolution in the UK Cabinet Office and the UK Ministry of Justice, Jim Gallagher was at the centre of the process of intergovernmental exchange, and provides rich practice-based insights into both the character and dynamics of IGR before and after 2007. © 2012 The Authors. British Journal of Politics and International Relations © 2012 Political Studies Association.