Elsewhere in Science: Reproducibility, research parasites, and more

Here is this week’s career-related news from across the Science family of publications.

► “Fed up with their country’s politicians, Italian scientists have launched a national debate about the dire state of their country’s research system,” Edwin Cartlidge wrote on Monday. “They want the government to reverse years of budget cuts and prevent increasing numbers of researchers moving overseas for work.” The protests began with a “letter published in Nature a few weeks ago by renowned Sapienza physicist Giorgio Parisi, which was co-signed by 69 other researchers,” and an online petition. Then, last “Thursday, several hundred researchers and students gathered at a heated meeting at the Sapienza University of Rome to discuss their plight.”

► “Science spending in India is slated to rise 11% in the 2016–17 fiscal year to $1.19 billion, according to the budget proposal presented [Monday] by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” but some scientists are worried that “inflation … will consume much of the increase,” Sanjay Kumar reported on Tuesday. The good news is that agricultural research spending will rise by 19% and “earth sciences and renewable energy [are] each set to increase 16%.” Kumar also noted that “the higher education sector overall is set to receive a 12% increase to $ 2.24 billion, [but] most of that rise will go to increasing teaching capacity to cope with India’s burgeoning population,” not research.

► Reproducibility was the topic of the day on Thursday. In a test of 18 experimental economics papers, “the researchers failed to reproduce the results in about 40% of cases,” John Bohannon wrote. Bohannon also noted that a 2015 study of reproducibility in psychology, which found that “60% of the 100 experimental results failed to replicate” and was “cautiously welcomed by the research community, … has … been called into question” in a Technical Comment published in this week’s issue of Science. Neither of these provide the final word on the question of reproducibility, and the topic is sure to continue to raise broad discussion and debate.

► “The two legislators with arguably the most clout over the budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) promised yesterday to give NIH ‘at least’ the $1 billion increase that President Barack Obama has requested,” Jeffrey Mervis wrote a few minutes later. “It would be the second step in ‘sustained’ annual boosts for the agency, said Representative Tom Cole (R–OK) and Senator Roy Blunt (R–MO). And they said the increase won’t rely on a spending gimmick in the president’s 2017 budget request last month, a tactic that Congress is almost certain to reject and that could leave NIH and several other research agencies with smaller budgets.” Read the full story to find out more about their plan.

► When you picture “the face of U.S innovation,” forget wunderkinds, a new study says. “[A] middle-aged male Ph.D. toiling at a large U.S. firm—and perhaps born abroad—is more likely to be behind the next big thing,” David Malakoff wrote later that day. “‘Contrary to popular conceptions about precocious college dropouts with big ideas, U.S. innovators actually tend to be experienced and highly educated,’ concludes the study, which is based on a survey of more than 900 people associated with ‘meaningful and marketable’ recent inventions. In addition, nearly half are immigrants or children of immigrants. But the research does confirm one stereotype: Just 12% of innovators were women, and less than 8% of those born in the United States were a member of a minority group.”

► “No more excuses: Let’s step up to data sharing,” wrote Science journals Editor-in-Chief Marcia McNutt in the editorial in this week’s issue of Science. She was responding to a recent editorial in another journal in which “[t]he authors described the concern of some scientists about the rise of an underclass of ‘research parasites’ who exploit data sets that are collected and curated by others.” McNutt noted that “[t]he research community immediately took to Twitter under the hashtag #IAmAResearchParasite to voice opposition to the editorial” and went on to describe the importance of data sharing, as well as the challenges.

Also in this week’s Science, McNutt co-authored a Policy Forum article urging improved data sharing in the field sciences, including geology, ecology, and archaeology. “Access to data, samples, methods, and reagents used to conduct research and analysis, as well as to the code used to analyze and process data and samples, is a fundamental requirement for transparency and reproducibility,” the authors wrote, but “field sciences, if they even address such access, commonly do so by simply noting ‘data and samples available upon request.’ … It is time for this to change.”

► Graduate student Ariel Marcy combined her loves of evolutionary biology and building games to create a board game called “Go Extinct!” Read about how she is pursuing her career as a scientist and game designer in this week’s Science Careers-produced Working Life story.

Critiquing climate coverage

Leaving academia