Elsewhere in Science, 6 June 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 as well as ScienceInsider, 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.)

► Last Friday, Jennifer Couzin-Frankel reported on Harvard University’s report on its misconduct investigation of “famed psychologist” Marc Hauser. The report was released, she noted, thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request from a reporter at The Boston Globe. “As the Globe reported earlier today, the report ‘paints a vivid picture of what actually happened in the Hauser lab and suggests it was not mere negligence that led to the problems,’ ” Couzin-Frankel wrote. “ ‘We found evidence that Prof. Hauser repeatedly valued the primacy and impact of his ideas above an accurate representation of his scientific methods and the integrity of the data obtained to support them,’ concluded the three investigators, described as ‘peer faculty’ ” at Harvard. The Office of Research Integrity found Hauser guilty of research misconduct in 2012.

► Also on Friday, Jeffrey Mervis reported the outcome of deliberations on the budget for the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the U.S. House of Representatives. The news is good: The budget survived several amendments and, in a close vote, emerged more or less intact, well above the funding level specified in the president’s budget proposal. The social and behavioral sciences directorate did less well than the agency as a whole, as Representative Lamar Smith (R–TX), joined by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R–VA), succeeded in blocking a $15 million increase to the directorate’s budget. The money was redistributed among the other directorates, however, so this did not affect the agency’s bottom line. The Census Bureau, Mervis reported, was harder hit.

Unfortunately, when a Senate spending panel took up the bill earlier this week, it embraced the president’s proposal—a 1.1% increase—instead of the level the House approved, which would give NSF 3.2% more money to spend than it had the previous year.

► On Monday, writing for Science, John Bohannon reported on a study in Current Biology showing that a handful of publication-related metrics can go a long way toward predicting success in academic science. At Science Careers, we presented a Q&A with the authors of the study—three computational biologists—and a tool that allows readers to input their own data and predict their own destinies.

► Writing for Insider, Martin Enserink reported that another psychologist facing misconduct allegations, Jens Förster, “has written another long open letter to defend himself, this time against fresh questions raised last week in a story in Science.”

► In a ScienceShot, Beth Skwarecki wrote that female hurricanes are deadlier than male hurricanes, but it’s not that the female versions are more violent. Rather, it is that people take those with female names less seriously, and so incur a greater share of the hurricanes’ wrath. The researchers suggest a new naming system—based, perhaps, on animals or objects. Hurricane Koala, anyone? Hurricane Paperclip?

► On Wednesday at ScienceInsider, Dennis Normile reported that stem cell scientist Haruko Obokata (lead author of the two STAP—stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency—papers in Nature) “has agreed to retract the two Nature papers that reported her work.” However, Satoru Kagaya, head of public relations for RIKEN, headquartered in Wako near Tokyo, said that “the institute would be notifying Nature and that the decision to formally retract the papers would be up to the journal,” Normile wrote.

► On Thursday at ScienceInsider, Emily Underwood reported that President Barack Obama’s Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative may get more expensive. President Obama “allocated about $100 million this year to BRAIN,” but now a National Institutes of Health working group has come to the conclusion that BRAIN will need “$4.5 billion over the course of a decade.”

► This week in Science, Science Careers presented a new Working Life story, “On the road again,” in which Jacopo Marino explains the benefits of going abroad to do science. “Going abroad to do science has disadvantages,” he writes, “but the advantages are greater.”

► In a feature in this week’s issue of , Mervis profiles applied mathematician Richard Tapia, who “created what is arguably the most successful university-based program in the nation for training minorities in mathematics and computer science. The Richard Tapia Center for Excellence and Equity has helped 89 minority students earn Ph.D.s in those fields over the past dozen years, a record unmatched by any other university, much less a single professor.”

“Richard is amazing. He’s a force of nature,” says Margaret Wright, who is now a professor of computer sciences at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University in New York City. Wright met Tapia at Stanford University in 1976 and has been an admirer of his work ever since.

Tapia, who was the first member of his family to go to college, doesn’t feel forced to choose between his two passions—advocacy for minorities and his branch of mathematics. “When I visit a campus,” he says, “I give an outreach talk on the first day, and the next day I give a math talk.” That approach has lifted him to the top of his profession—election to the National Academy of Engineering in 1992, recipient of the National Medal of Science in 2011, and, just last month, winner of the highest honor bestowed by the NSF for a lifetime of public service, the Vannevar Bush Award.

Tapia has another passion, for fast cars. When he was a teenager, he and his brother competed in drag races, and Tapia briefly held a world record. “Although he abandoned the track long ago, his enthusiasm for muscle cars has never waned,” Mervis writes.

One year, Josef Sifuentes, a gifted Mexican-American undergraduate student, was participating in a summer program combining engineering and computational sciences. Aiming to lure Sifuentes into research, Tapia approached him. “I have a 1970 Chevelle, full custom, that I’m still working on,” Tapia told him. “I want a music video that showcases the car, which is called Heavy Metal. And I want the special effects to be based in real mathematics. You’re an artist, you know how to do that, right?”

“No, I can’t do that,” replied Sifuentes, who was pursuing a minor in art. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Well, we can pay you,” Tapia said.

“Sure, I can do that,” Sifuentes replied.

Tapia used the video that Sifuentes created over the next 18 months to win the grand prize at the 2005 Pomona Super Chevy Show. It also made Sifuentes a minor celebrity in the applied mathematics community. Wright was so impressed by Sifuentes’s talk on the video at a conference that she offered him a postdoc at Courant on the spot—only to learn that he had just begun his Ph.D. program.

This is just a taste of a beautifully written, moving profile. This is required reading for people who care about these issues.

Top-image caption: Richard Tapia used his Chevelle show car to lure Josef Sifuentes (left) into mathematics.


On the Road Again

Building Blocks of Science Diversity