Elsewhere in Science: Syrian scholars, management blunders, and more

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

► “Carlo Doglioni, a geologist at the Sapienza University of Rome,” has been named the new president of Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), Edwin Cartlidge reported last Friday. The institute has a rocky history: The outgoing president “and other managers have been accused of nepotism, conflicts of interest, and misuse of funds, while two of the organization’s scientists, including previous boss Enzo Boschi, were put on trial and convicted to 6 years in prison in 2012 for allegedly giving false reassurances ahead of the deadly earthquake that struck L’Aquila, Italy, in 2009.” (They were later acquitted.) But Doglioni “says he hopes to restore INGV’s focus to its two main functions—basic research and monitoring of natural hazards.”

► “The 5-year-old Syrian civil war has displaced 4.8 million people, including some 2000 scholars,” Knvul Sheikh wrote on Monday. A number of these “exiled researchers gathered to tell their stories and highlight the urgent need for support at a symposium in New York City on 29 April put on by the nonprofit Institute of International Education (IIE). According to IIE, fewer than 10% of the displaced scholars have resumed their academic careers. Most are still refugees in neighboring countries, where they encounter resentment and bureaucratic obstacles to finding jobs.” Read the full piece for more on their stories.

► “Science got barely a mention in Australia’s 2016–17 federal budget,” Leigh Dayton reported Wednesday. Although the total numbers are not yet known, Dayton noted that “there is little to suggest any recovery from the $2.2 billion decline in support for science, innovation, and research since 2014.” For example, “[t]he budget includes previously announced funding of $77 million over 4 years for agencies developing clean and renewable energy. But there is no mention of the support, if any, for research into climate change,” and “the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization … got scant mention.”

► “Louisiana’s New Iberia Research Center (NIRC) announced [Tuesday] that it will move all 220 of its chimps to [Project Chimps] in Blue Ridge, Georgia,” David Grimm reported Wednesday afternoon. “The animals include Hercules and Leo, which have been the subject of an intense legal battle over the legal rights of chimps.” NIRC is calling it “the largest resettlement of chimpanzees from a U.S. research center.” The chimpanzees will be moved 10 at a time, so the 95-hectare sanctuary should receive all of them within the next 3 to 5 years.

► “The National Science Foundation (NSF) is … rethinking Science and Engineering Indicators—the agency’s massive biennial statistical bible covering everything from spending on research and education to regional development, trade, and public attitudes toward science,” Jeffrey Mervis reported late Wednesday. “Last week NSF sponsored a 2-day workshop, attended by some 70 people familiar with Indicators, on ways to improve its scope, content, accessibility, and timeliness,” Mervis continued. “One idea was that everyone could gain if the report goes on a diet.” Read the full story for the details, which could have implications for both “policymakers who set the nation’s scientific priorities and for a community of researchers, educators, lobbyists, journalists, and others who use the data.”  

► On Thursday, Mervis wrote that two reports presented to the National Science Board, NSF’s oversight body, that morning could shine some light on the troubled National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) project. “James Abrahamson, an independent consultant hired by NSF,” said that “NEON Inc. was like a high school team trying to tackle a job that requires the skills of the NBA [National Basketball Association] or the NFL [National Football League]. … Over a period of years they made progress. But they could no longer make up the time that they had left.” The second report, from an internal task force headed by “retiring board member Kelvin Droegemeier of the University of Oklahoma in Norman, pointed to problems within both NSF and the science board that contributed to NEON’s woes.” Droegemeier says, however, that “[i]n many respects, the lessons learned will make NSF stronger and NEON more successful.”

► In this week’s Working Life story, research assistant professor Peter Grace wrote about how he overcame his hesitance about networking and provided “some tips for those who want to develop a network without compromising their scientific or professional integrity but don’t know where to start.”

Grassroots Future of Research group makes it official

A networking playbook, part 2