Elsewhere in Science, 31 October 2014

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

► In September, a ScienceInsider by Kelly Servick told the story of Fazlul Sarkar, a Wayne State University researcher who had an offer from the University of Mississippi revoked after comments posted on the anonymous peer-review website PubPeer suggested that he had engaged in research misconduct. Sarkar’s attorney, Nicholas Roumel, says that in his view, the letter rescinding the offer “made it crystal clear the PubPeer postings were the reason.” On Sunday, Servick reported “that Sarkar has filed a libel suit in a Wayne County circuit court against several ‘John Does’ behind the comments he considers defamatory.” Sarkar is not suing PubPeer but “has filed a subpoena asking the site’s moderators to turn over “all identifying information” about the posters by 10 November.” The suit was filed in Michigan, where shield laws don’t apply to civil cases.

► On Monday, Jeffrey Mervis continued his ScienceInsider “After Election 2014” series, discussing two competing proposals to revise the 2010 COMPETES law, which addresses federal support for the physical sciences and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education.

From Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller (D-WV), chair of the commerce and science committee, comes a proposal with “aspirational goals” that “send a clear message that the agencies deserve additional resources because their work contributes to a vibrant economy and the nation’s well-being,” Mervis wrote. Those goals include doubling the budgets of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

On the other end of the spectrum, Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), chair of the commerce and science committee, is pushing a plan with elements that “have enraged most scientists,” Mervis wrote. “For starters, it would authorize NSF programs for only 1 year, at spending levels only marginally above current budgets. The bill also makes deep cuts in funding for the social sciences and spells out how much money NSF should allocate to each of its six research directorates. Those provisions reinforce his view that, when budgets are tight, federal agencies need to set priorities. However, many scientists heard a different message: Research isn’t important, and NSF can’t be trusted to make the right decisions.”

► It’s that time of year again: The “Dance Your Ph.D.” contest finalists have been announced. The contest asks participants to explain their Ph.D. research through dance. Previous winners judged 21 submissions, scoring them “on their scientific and artistic merits,” and “12 finalists made the cut,” John Bohannon wrote. The winning submission from each category will receive $500, and the overall winner will receive an additional $500. There will also be a pick for audience favorite. The winners will be announced on 3 November.

Two European conferences will impose no such limits. The European Scientific Conference on Applied Infectious Diseases Epidemiology, which will be held next week in Stockholm, expects attendees to come from affected countries—and welcomes them. The International Meeting on Emerging Diseases and Surveillance started today in Vienna, with no travel restrictions.

► A Thursday sifter pointed to a list of “the top 100 most-cited scientific papers.” The list, which was published by Nature, was composed from data in the Science Citation Index (a citation-tracking database owned by Thomson Reuters). “The exercise revealed some surprises, not least that it takes a staggering 12,119 citations to rank in the top 100 — and that many of the world’s most famous papers do not make the cut,” Richard Van Noorden, Brendan Maher, and Regina Nuzzo wrote at Nature. The No. 1 scientific paper: Protein measurement with the folin phenol reagent, which has 305,148 citations.

► “The next CEO of Australia’s leading research agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), is in hot water after suggesting the cash-strapped organization spend scarce research dollars investigating water divining, or dowsing.” ‘Nuff said.

►Responding to a recent news article on Venezuelan science, Venezuelan scientists Alberto Paniz-Mondolfi and Alfonso Rodriguez-Morales bemoan the current state of research in their country in a letter in this week’s Science. “[F]rom 1998 to 2008, there was a consistent increase in scientific production. … This honeymoon period ended in May 2009 when former President Hugo Chávez, during a national broadcast, stated: ‘Researchers should stop working on obscure projects, and instead should go into the barrios (slums) to make themselves useful,’ ” they wrote. This pronouncement, in addition to the broader economic and security issues the country faces, has led to a disastrous decline in the nation’s science. “Most research laboratories in Venezuela are surviving today thanks to regional and cross-continental collaborations and networking with other groups around the globe. … [M]ost basic science programs in Venezuela are currently destined to disappear.”

► In this week’sCareers-produced “Working Life” column, researchers George F. Gao and Yong Feng “urge young scientists planning their careers to consider studying communicable diseases, especially highly pathogenic ones like Ebola or Lassa fever.”

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