Elsewhere in Science, 20 February 2015

Each week, the Science family of publications publishes articles that are likely to be of interest to Science Careers readers. So 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, Science Signaling, and Science require AAAS membership (AAAS is the publisher of Science Careers) or a site license.

► “[A] new National Academies panel examining how the government keeps tabs on its $40-billion-a-year investment” held its first meeting  from 12-13 February, Jeffrey Mervis reported last Friday at Insider. “The new study is the latest attempt by the academic research community to seek relief from what it sees as the steady accretion of unreasonable and costly government-wide regulations and policy directives from individual agencies,” he wrote. “The new panel has been asked to develop a ‘framework and supporting principles’ for how the government monitors university research.”

According to Committee Chair Larry Faulkner, “it would be a mistake to think that the only purpose of this study is to lighten the regulatory burden on universities. Regulation is required, it’s justified, and it’s needed. What we’re trying to do is guide both government and higher education to find more efficient ways to address those needs.”

► At the AAAS annual meeting in San Jose, California, Richard Stone caught up with Serhiy Kvit, Ukraine’s education and science minister. In a Tuesday ScienceInsider Q&A, Kvit described the country’s efforts to relocate institutions from Russian separatist-controlled regions of the country and the “ambitious attempts that Kvit is helping orchestrate to reform Ukraine’s higher education and science,” notably “a draft science law promising sweeping changes, including a new competitive grants body similar to the U.S. National Science Foundation, that’s expected to be introduced into parliament in March or April.”

Regarding the relocation efforts, Kvit says, “We didn’t move whole universities, just motivated students and teachers. Some people thought that if they left their labs … they would have no opportunity to continue to be researchers. For others, they did not want to leave their apartments or their relatives behind. Very few are on the side of the Russians and the terrorists.”

Addressing the reforms on his agenda, Kvit says, “Money is very important, of course. But we’re living in a time of continued revolution, which means that money will have to come later. Today is the best time for changing the rules.”

► On Wednesday at ScienceInsider, Mervis reported that Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) has requested information from the National Science Foundation (NSF) about 13 more “questionable” grants. “The letter, sent to NSF on 10 February, means that Smith has now asked NSF for detailed information on more than 60 grants. Most relate to climate, environmental, and social science, but the new request appears to reflect a much more ambiguous filter: For the first time, it contains several awards in the physical sciences, including one that has led to patented software to detect whether a computer has been taken over by malicious software and another that explores a long-standing mathematical puzzle.”

 ► In a Sifter posted today, we learned that supporters of Nobel Prize-winning physicist John Bell found a loophole in Belfast’s prohibition against naming streets after people and received official sanction for creating Bell’s Theorem Crescent.  

► “Even as the practice of science becomes ever more advanced, the observations more precise, and the applications more prevalent, there are signs of public misapprehension, distrust, and eroding support,” wrote Rush Holt, the new chief executive officer of AAAS and executive publisher of Science, in this week’s editorial. He continued:

AAAS will seek to further strengthen its membership, in both numbers and engagement. The organization will build its publications and communications ability to meet the modern needs of the scientific community and the general public. AAAS will enhance its programs in public affairs, education, law, and international relations, and continue to explore constructive relationships between science and religion, art, history, and other disciplines. I am committed to raising the necessary resources to do these things. Especially, AAAS intends to remain the world’s most effective advocate for science.

► An article by David Grimm in the 23 January issue of Science, “The insurgent,” told the story of Justin Goodman, who “is waging war against animal research as director of laboratory investigations at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals” or PETA. This week’s Letters section features two responses to that article.

In the first letter, John Pawlowski of Harvard Medical School wrote that “[i]n my work, the important shift we’ve seen from crude animal-based labs to sophisticated simulation for medical training has certainly been fueled in part by animal welfare concerns from PETA and others.”

In the second letter, Frankie L. Trull, writing on behalf of the National Association for Biomedical Research, expressed concern about what she perceived as an overly sympathetic tone, noting that “[f]or years, many biomedical researchers, their staff, and their families have been egregiously targeted by PETA and understandably are demoralized. It is shocking that Science would take the time and effort to highlight and chronicle the sentiments of someone whose sole mission is to derail biomedical research that is dependent on animal models.”

► In this week’s Science Careers-produced Working Life column, Richard Dasheiff describes his transformation from aspiring physicist to clinical neurologist via several decades as a physician scientist.

► In Books Et Al., Alex Wellerstein of Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, reviewed Half-Life: The Divided Life of Bruno Pontecorvo, Physicist or Spy, by Frank Close. Despite the intriguing title, “[t]here is no concrete evidence that Pontecorvo was ever a clandestine Soviet agent,” Wellerstein wrote. Still, “Close ultimately concludes that Pontecorvo was, in all likelihood, some kind of spy, citing the fact that someone gave the Soviets the blueprints for the NRX reactor and offering reasons to exclude other, known spies.”

► Finally, this week’s issue (pages 888-912) includes the schedule for this year’s Gordon Research Conferences.

The Brilliant Club

Barriers for women of color in science