Elsewhere in Science, 6 September 2013

Every week, Science publishes a few articles that are 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.)

• An editorial, “Improving ERC Ethical Standards,” by the president and vice-president of the European Research Council (ERC), addresses the bureaucratic difficulties that the ERC faces in imposing ethical standards in its grant competitions. The editorial describes some remarkable ethical lapses that, due to bureaucratic constraints, have gone unpunished. (In one instance, “a highly recognized scientist” who had reviewed a proposal on another continent copied the proposal and submitted it to the ERC. The original author was an ERC reviewer and, of course, recognized the proposal. But due to arcane European Commission bureaucratic rules, the ERC was unable to take action. In another instance:

In 2011, an applicant from a respected European university forged a document. The researcher’s university was told, but reacted only after the person reapplied and forged another document. The ERC lacks the legal means to exclude such an applicant from future funding competitions.

• In science, success is boring. It is failure—most often, the failure of a theory to match up with a new experiment—that leads to exciting breakthroughs. “In cosmology,” writes Adrian Cho in News Focus, “satellite observations of the universe repeatedly confirm scientists’ picture of its composition and history. In particle physics, the discovery of the Higgs boson and measurements of its properties give equally compelling evidence that their ‘standard model’ of elementary particles and force-generating symmetries explains everything it’s supposed to. And that’s the problem: It’s hard to develop new and better models when the old ones stubbornly refuse to break down. To keep progress from grinding to a halt, physicists are devising ingenious new experiments aimed at shooting holes in their reigning theories—but no one knows which of them, if any, will hit the mark.

“We know that [our theories are] incomplete,” says George Efstathiou, a cosmologist at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. “So you just have to push until the models crack—and they will crack.”

• In Chile, a work stoppage at the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array radio telescope has shut down most research there. Local, unionized administrative workers, technicians, and members of the support staff are striking, seeking a new contract with, among other things, a 15% increase in pay. On Tuesday, when the story was posted on Insider, the strike had been going on for 12 days.

No observations are being made, but other scientific work is ongoing. (In an interview just posted on ScienceInsider, Victor Gonzalez, the president of the union, says that talks fell apart over the union’s insistence that workers be paid for the duration of the strike. He says that management has agreed to a pay increase, a bonus for the isolation and risk of working at the high site, and shorter hours. Management has not, however, agreed to pay for hours lost to the strike. Furthermore, management insists on paying a signing bonus of $2000 to workers who are not members of the union, a proposal that the union rejects.)

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