Elsewhere in Science, 11 October 2013

Every week, Science publishes a few articles that are likely to be of interest to career-minded readers. But because those articles aren’t featured on Science Careers, our readers could easily overlook them.

To remedy that, every Friday we’re pointing readers toward articles appearing in Science—the print magazine as well as the other Science-family publications (ScienceInsider, ScienceNow, Science Translational Medicine—Sci. TM—and Science Signaling)—that hold some relevance or nuggets of advice for readers interested in furthering their careers in science. (Please note that while articles appearing in ScienceInsider and ScienceNow can be read by anyone, articles appearing in Sci. TM and Science may require AAAS membership/ subscription or a site license.)

• Science and Science Careers have been covering the U.S. government shutdown’s effects on researchers and research funds. Now, a News & Analysis article gives a glimpse of the possible long-term impact that the shutdown could have on research. “Uh-oh, this could get a whole lot worse. That’s what many U.S. scientists are realizing as a government shutdown stretches into its second week with no end in sight,” David Malakoff writes. 

“Astronomers shut down three powerful radio telescopes,” Malakoff writes. “The National Science Foundation (NSF) warned that it might have to cancel its upcoming Antarctic research season.” Some laboratories remain open because they are run by contractors who are using money that was not spent during the 2013 fiscal year, but that could soon all change, “[a]nd at the 10 national laboratories supported by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, managers warned that academia and industry could soon lose access to synchrotrons and other popular tools.”

Is your research being impacted by the government shutdown? Tell us how on Twitter @MyScienceCareer ScienceCareers.

And speaking of the Antarctic research season …

• On ScienceInsider Jeffrey Mervis interviews Jamie Collins, a third-year graduate student in chemical oceanography. When Collins arrived Wednesday at the National Science Foundation’s Palmer Station in Antarctica, he thought he was about to embark on a 5-month research trip. However “[o]n Tuesday,  NSF had announced that its contractor for Antarctic logistical support, Lockheed Martin, would begin putting the three U.S. stations on ‘caretaker’ status unless Congress passed an appropriations bill to continue funding the government by 14 October,” Mervis writes. “Although legislators will eventually adopt such a bill, nobody expects them to act in the next few days. Without an appropriation, NSF has no money to operate the stations.”   

This meant that the trip was over for Collins and others on the ship. “[The station manager] said we were to wait here for a week while they prepare to shut down the station. Then we’d sail back to Chile, and go home,” Collins says.

Collins remains excited about his career prospects in science. ” ‘I spent 5 years in the military and I’m used to dealing with bureaucracy,’ he explains. ‘And nothing that happens here is going to deter me from pursuing my goal of a career in science. But for some of the undergraduates on the trip, this is their first taste of what Congress thinks about the value of scientific research. And it’s sending them a pretty horrific message.’ “

• As Mervis writes in News & Analysis, NASA has blocked six Chinese scientists, including Yale University postdoc Ji Wang, from attending a conference held at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California. While some scientists blame congress, the policy that excludes the Chinese scientists originated at NASA. Mervis writes:

In reality, no law precludes Wang’s attendance. His registration was rejected because NASA Administrator Charles Bolden decided this spring to impose a “moratorium on granting any new access to NASA facilities to individuals [from] China, Burma, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan.” Bolden announced the new policy, which he called a temporary measure pending an outside review of NASA security policies, at a 20 March hearing before a U.S. House of Representatives spending panel that oversees NASA’s budget. The panel’s chairman, Representative Frank Wolf (R–VA), is an outspoken critic of China’s human rights record and has also criticized NASA for its vulnerability to espionage.

But Wolf himself thinks the policy has been misapplied. “In a letter this week to Bolden, Wolf explains that the law ‘places no restrictions on activities involving individual Chinese nationals’ and says Messersmith’s rejection letter to Wang ‘mischaracterizes the law and is inaccurate.’ Wolf asks Bolden to ‘correct the record.’ “

Most scientists reject the policy, and meeting organizers say that they agree with critics who call the policy “deplorable.” Some scientists, including three American students from Wang’s lab, are boycotting the meeting in protest.

In a follow-up post on ScienceInsider, Mervis reports a change of heart by Bolden, but it isn’t clear that it will make any practical difference. Bolden invited the Chinese scientists to reapply when the shutdown is over—but, Mervis writes:

They will still need to pass a security clearance, … a process that generally takes several weeks. The conference is scheduled to begin on 4 November, and its venue is also up in the air. NASA Ames remains closed because of the government shutdown, and some scientists are trying to get the conference moved to another, non-NASA location.

• In News Focus, Robert Service writes about a relatively new scientific discipline (or, if you prefer, a new science career path): lone investigators, like Stanford University’s Atul Butte, who do “dry lab” biology working on big-data problems with publically available data. Whereas most conventional scientists focus on a single system or disease, Butte earned tenure recently with a dossier of advances in diabetes, obesity, and transplant rejection, and the discovery of new drugs for lung cancer and other diseases. “For the new breed of dry lab biologists, the combination of new tools, new policies, and burgeoning databases holds nothing but opportunities. Says Heckerman: ‘I think we’re full steam ahead at this point.’ “

• Are you determined to land a faculty position at an esteemed research university? How’s your Japanese? Few would consider Japan’s Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) a major international research institution. After all, it only opened in 2005 and didn’t start taking students until last year. But if approved by the Diet, OIST’s annual budget will jump from $110 million to $204 million in just 2 years. The $94,000 in extra funds can support a lot of new faculty positions. Koji Omi, a politician who conceived the institute a decade ago, says the goal is “to make OIST the best research university in the world.” Read Dennis Normile’s story in News & Analysis.

• In the “As if you didn’t have enough to do already in managing your lab” category: In a Letter, Kristin L. Rising of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Nicole Lurie of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services argue that “[i]ndividual researchers must take responsibility for developing an emergency plan that protects their research material and data from unanticipated losses” in the event of a disaster such as Hurricane Sandy. They also suggest that research sponsors may want to require such a plan as a condition for funding.

• As widely expected, scientists associated with the Higgs particle were selected to receive the Nobel Prize in physics. The only mystery was over which scientists would get the award. The good money was on Peter Higgs and François Englert, two of the theorists “who proposed a mechanism that gives force-carrying fundamental particles mass and that required the existence of the now-famous boson,” Daniel Clery writes in News & Analysis. But there was speculation that the award could be split three ways: three scientists (and only three) can be named as winners, and there were many possibilities for the third slot.  The thousands of graduate students and postdocs who played important roles in the discovery of the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider were reportedly pleased by the award, and surely none of them expected to be named on the prize. Yet, their contributions surely deserve to be celebrated. Here’s hoping that those early-career scientists at least go on to bright futures.

• The other Nobel science prizes, in physiology or medicine and in chemistry, were also awarded this week.)

• Are you considering submitting your scientific article to a fee-based open-access publisher? If so then be careful which journal you choose. While most of the open-access journals you’ve heard of probably are legitimate, there are lots of predatory journals out there that don’t do what they promise, including proper peer review. Science reporter John Bohannon wrote his own, obviously bogus journal article and submitted it to many fee-based open-source journals. He found that 60% accepted the article. Watch Thursday’s ScienceLive for a discussion of John Bohannon’s controversial article, with Bohannon, Science writer Jon Cohen, Michael Eisen (the founder of the Public Library of Science), and Davis Roos, a biologist at the University of Pennsylvania.

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