Elsewhere in Science, 05 June 2015


Each week, the Science family of publications publishes articles that are likely to be of interest to Science Careers readers. So, every week, we’re pointing our readers toward articles relevant to careers in science and other technical fields. Many of the articles appearing in Science Translational Medicine (STM), Science Signaling, and Science require AAAS membership (AAAS is the publisher of Science Careers) or a site license.

► Last Friday, a Sifter pointed to a story about a “massive investigation by USA Today” that “revealed details of hundreds of accidents in recent years at U.S. high-containment laboratories studying dangerous pathogens.” The newspaper’s investigation also found that “[o]versight of biological research labs is fragmented, often secretive and largely self-policing. … And even when research facilities commit the most egregious safety or security breaches—as more than 100 labs have—federal regulators keep their names secret,” according to thestory.

► On Saturday, David Malakoff reported that Michael LaCour, “[t]he lead author of a now-retracted study of voter persuasion and gay marriage published by Science,” released a 23-page response “to some of the allegations that led to the retraction.” In the response, LaCour “confirms that he lied about some funding sources and the incentives used to attract participants. And he admits that he destroyed the data used to produce the study.” But he does not explain some important issues, “for example, why the company that he claimed had conducted his surveys says it has no knowledge of the researcher or his project and does not have the capability to conduct some of the claimed work.”

► In a Monday ScienceInsider, Dennis Normile reported the winners of this year’s $1 million Shaw Prizes. “William Borucki, of the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California,” won the astronomy prize for “conceiving the observational technique of transit photometry that raised the tantalizing prospect of sighting Earth-like planets orbiting other stars, and [for] leading the 25-year-long development of the Kepler mission.” “Bonnie Bassler, of Princeton University, and E. Peter Greenberg, of the University of Washington, Seattle, share the life science and medicine prize for discovering how bacteria communicate with each other.” Rounding out the winners, “Gerd Faltings, of the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in Bonn, Germany, and Henryk Iwaniec, of Rutgers University, New Brunswick, in New Jersey, won the mathematical sciences award for developing new techniques in number theory that have led to the resolution of some long-standing classical math problems.” The prize ceremony will take place on 24 September in Hong Kong.

► Also at ScienceInsider, on Tuesday Daniel Clery reported that a “group of high-profile scientists, economists, and business leaders has called on world governments to launch an Apollo space program–style effort to limit climate change to no more than a 2°C rise in temperature above preindustrial levels through more research into carbon-free energy production.” A report by six members of the U.K. House of Lords says that the proposed Global Apollo Programme “would commit to spend at least 0.02% of gross domestic product on energy research so that renewable technologies—principally wind and solar—become cheaper than coal in 10 years.” The program is expected to launch in November.

► In another Tuesday ScienceInsider, Frank van Kolfschooten reported that “[s]tatistical experts at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) in the Netherlands have dealt another blow to the reputation of disgraced German social psychologist Jens Förster, who worked at the university between 2007 and 2014.” The investigation found “‘strong evidence for low veracity’ of the results in eight of Förster’s articles, according to a UvA press release issued [on Tuesday]—a term that appears to suggest that he may have made up his results.” The next day, ScienceInsider found out that “Förster has posted a reaction on his website saying he says he needs time to process the report and that a previous version was ‘biased, misleading and lacking any evidence of data manipulation.’”

► International collaboration is crucial for the advancement of genomic medicine, according to a Policy perspective in this week’s STM that summarizes a 2014 Global Leaders in Genomic Medicine symposium. “The wealth of international programs actively engaged in genomic-medicine implementation and the potential for synergy and collaboration among them present exciting opportunities for speeding knowledge generation and improving patient care. Especially in this online age, none of these projects should have to labor in isolation,” the 44 authors wrote.

► On Wednesday, CRDF Global, a U.S. nonprofit, “announced … the creation of an emergency fund for displaced Ukrainian scientists” who are “refugees in their own country” due to “[f]ighting in eastern Ukraine,” Richard Stone reported at ScienceInsider. “CRDF Global hopes to throw those scientists a lifeline. But it must first raise the money. … [The] organization will work with Ukrainian government officials to decide how the funds are spent.”

► European researchers engaged in animal research can let out a sigh of relief. “The European Commission has rejected a plea to abolish animal research across the European Union, saying that doing so would harm biomedical research,” Tania Rabesandratana wrote at ScienceInsider on Thursday. This decision came in response to “a so-called European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) signed by 1.17 million signatories [that] formally urged the commission to … propose new rules phasing out animal research in favor of ‘more accurate, reliable, human-relevant methods.’” “‘[I]t is premature at this stage to abruptly put a stop to animal testing because too many scientific advances are dependent on this form of testing,’ [budget commissioner Kristalina] Georgieva told reporters.” But that doesn’t mean the commission is going to ignore the issue. “The commission said it will seek to speed up the development and uptake of alternative methods [to replace the use of animals in the lab], and to better monitor compliance with the directive in member states,” Rabesandratana wrote.  

► Researchers who use census data might find their futures in trouble as members of the U.S. House of Representatives cut census funding and push to make optional a previously mandatory component. On Wednesday night, the House passed “a series of amendments to a 2016 spending bill for the Department of Commerce, home of the Census Bureau,” Jeffrey Mervis wrote at ScienceInsider on Thursday. “House members took a total of $121 million from what officials say they will need in 2016 to prepare for the 2020 census and gave it to other federal agencies. … Last month, the House appropriations committee cut the agency’s requested 2016 budget for census-related activities by $374 million. After this week that amount has grown to nearly half a billion dollars less than the $1.2 billion the administration is seeking for those activities.” In addition to the funding cuts, “[t]he 2-day debate on the … bill also gave Representative Ted Poe (R–TX) an opportunity to win support for his long-running assault on the American Community Survey (ACS), a monthly questionnaire that goes out to 3.5 million people and supplements the decennial census.” The ACS contains questions about income, marital status, college major, and more, which can provide valuable data for researchers but also generate some concern, as Mervis reported in April.

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