Elsewhere in Science, 25 July 2014

Each week, Science publishes a number of articles that are likely to be of interest to career-minded readers. Because those articles are published on the other Science sites, Science Careers readers could easily overlook them.

To remedy that, every Friday we’re pointing our readers toward articles appearing in Science (the print magazine), online news, Science Translational Medicine (Sci. TM), and Science Signaling—that hold some relevance to careers in science and other technical fields. (Note that articles appearing in Sci. TM, Science Signaling, and Science may require AAAS [the publisher of Science Careers] membership, a Science subscription, or a site license.)

► In a stark contrast to their House colleagues, the Senate panel responsible for funding NSF made nice late last week, as Mervis reported Monday at Insider. The Senate’s Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee called on Congress to increase NSF’s budget by 40% by 2019, to $9.9 billion. They endorsed current NSF grant-review methods and emphasized the importance of social sciences for a well-balanced funding portfolio.

► Are you worried about the social dynamics of your research group? Does it seem too fragmented, not friendly enough? If you’d like to help your staff come together like one big, happy family, you might consider hiring a liar. That’s right: A mathematical model found that “People formed small, tight cliques with occasional links between groups. And these connections, it turned out, were facilitated by people who told the most white lies, the researchers report online [on Tuesday] in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.” Sarah C. P. Williams covered the paper in a SHOT.

► NASA has issued a major call for proposals, inviting planetary scientists to propose scientific instruments for a ride to Jupiter’s moon Europa. (Hassan DuRant wrote for ScienceInsider.) Approved instruments would ride along on the proposed Clipper mission, “which NASA hopes to launch in the 2020s.” NASA “plans to pick 15 to 20 proposals to receive about $1 million each for further development.” “The last announcement of this scale was for the Cassini spacecraft in 1989,” says Curt Niebur, a NASA program scientist assigned to the Clipper mission.

► In this week’s In Depth section, Jocelyn Kaiser described a plan under consideration by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), one of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), to make a large-scale switch from project-based to investigator-based funding for basic biomedical science. NIGMS “is seeking feedback from the research community on the idea of giving all its roughly 3300 investigators the option of applying to swap their project grants for a single, long-term award based largely on their track record,” Kaiser wrote. “This is potentially for the entire constellation of investigators that NIGMS funds,” says NIGMS Director Jon Lorsch, quoted in the article. Other institutes are considering similar approaches but on a smaller scale. Some people are concerned, however, that the “people, not projects” approach will exclude young investigators and contribute to the graying of the scientific workforce.

► In this week’s Science news feature, “Fusion’s restless pioneers,” Daniel Clery writes, “Something strange is happening in the world of fusion energy research. There’s been an outbreak of entrepreneurship, maverick independence, and pioneering spirit. In a field that has come to epitomize the worst of ‘big science’—slow, overpriced, and heavily engineered—some people are finally saying ‘enough is enough’ and striking out on their own to find another way.” Clery’s story of privately financed, back-room efforts to achieve ignition is a fun read, featuring rogue scientists and “steampunk” machines. They may not be part of the scientific mainstream, but these efforts are at least “scientifically plausible,” Clery writes. “To get anywhere, you need sophisticated diagnostics, advanced materials, complex computer simulation—no? Who would be crazy enough to go out and try to build a fusion reactor?” To find out, keep reading.

► In this week’s Science Careers-produced Working Life column, Careers editor Jim Austin interviewed the authors of a recent Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences article—a Twitter software engineer and her cancer biologist boyfriend—which found that elite male scientists trail other scientists in hiring women for graduate student and postdoc positions.

► Finally, this week’s Science includes a feature from our business office on “digital lab management.” If you’ve been considering making the switch to digital documentation for your laboratory, this is a nice introduction.

Top Image: Cora Marrett, CREDIT: Sandy Schaeffer

Academic Science, I Just Can’t Quit You

Elsewhere in Science, 1 August 2014