Elsewhere in Science, 23 August 2013

Every week, Science publishes a few articles 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 may be read by anyone, articles appearing in Sci. TM and Science may require AAAS membership/ subscription or a site license.)

• Alan Leshner, AAAS’s chief executive officer and Science magazine’s executive publisher, wrote aeditorial this week focused on the challenges of maintaining the United States’ position as one of the most scientifically fruitful nations on Earth. Funding for scientific research and development (R&D) in this country hasn’t kept pace with inflation, Leshner says, and the sequester has only made matters worse. “These realities are coming at the same time as other countries are increasing their R&D investments, in spite of similar economic conditions, responding to the clear relationship between a nation’s research capacity, its economic strength, and the well-being of its people. The inequality in science funding trends is threatening America’s standing in the global scientific community,” Leshner writes.

For U.S. scientists, a loss in scientific prominence would likely mean “fewer U.S.-based science and technology breakthroughs, and fewer U.S. startup companies and jobs,” and even the threat of an American brain drain. Leshner cites American agricultural R&D as a cautionary tale: In the past decade, U.S. funding of agricultural science has fallen by 26%, while India, China, and Brazil each increased their spending. Those countries’ productivity in agricultural R&D has increased, and the Unites States’ productivity has stagnated. “Increased [federal] funding, focused new programs, and the strategic rebalancing of existing funding, programs, and policies” are all needed to get U.S. R&D back on track, Leshner writes.

• Scientific research isn’t immune from diplomatic goings-on, as demonstrated by Martin Enserink’s Science magazine article about an E.U.-Israeli dispute that could dampen funding for Israeli research and jeopardize international collaborations. The troubles stem from an addendum to the European Union’s research funding guidelines that states that, “starting in 2014, E.U. grants, prizes, and financial instruments may not support organizations or activities in areas not under Israel’s control before 1967—which include the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza strip, and the Golan Heights,” Enserink writes in the News & Analysis article.

The Israeli government, in response, threatened to pull out of the European Union’s forthcoming €70 billion research program, Horizon 2020. That could represent a big loss for Israeli scientists, and also for the many European scientists who collaborate with them. The article also teases some potential implications for U.S.-Israeli collaborations. For example, the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation places provisions similar to the European Union’s new regulations on its funding, Enserink notes, and it’s unclear whether Israel will rethink that arrangement, too.

• Also in the News & Analysis section of Science this week, Jocelyn Kaiser writes about a study by the European Commission, which found that “[o]ne-half of all papers are now freely available within a year or two of publication.” Éric Archambault, who is the lead author of the study and president of Science-Metrix Inc. in Montreal, Canada, says that this is a “tipping point” for open-access publishing.

Although some quibble about Archambault’s numbers, inclusion of delayed access articles, and definition of a “tipping point,” others commend the study. “When we’re on a long journey, we have a right to celebrate when the odometer rolls over at some round number of miles, even if we’re perfectly aware that the round number is somewhat arbitrary,” says Peter Suber, who is the director of Harvard University’s Office for Scholarly Communication.

• In the News Focus section of Science this week, Robert Irion, who directs the Science Communication Program at the University of California, Santa Cruz, writes about a private foundation that is raising money for a space mission to find asteroids that could harm Earth. NASA has detected an estimated 1% of the smaller Near-Earth Objects out there, and the cash-strapped agency would need at least half of a billion dollars to find the rest.

The B612 Foundation, which includes two former NASA astronauts, Edward Lu and Rusty Schweickart, and a team of planetary science veterans, now intends to raise $450 million to launch a mission by July 2018. Some see this project as a step in the right direction, Irion reports. “If we’re going to take the impact threat seriously, we have to do something like this,” says physicist Mark Boslough, who is an impact specialist at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

What does this mean to readers of Science Careers? With NASA’s tight budget and relatively bleak funding outlook for the foreseeable future, space scientists can take heart that some private foundations are willing to step in and help fund their research.

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