Elsewhere in Science, 11 Dec 2015

Every Friday, Science Careers points to articles in the Science family of publications that are relevant to careers in science and other technical fields. Some of them are accessible to anyone, but access to articles appearing in Science Translational Medicine, Science Signaling, and Science may require AAAS membership (AAAS is the publisher of Science Careers) or a site license.

► “After losing U.S. $84 million in funding and 1400 jobs since 2013, the new [Australian] government will hand the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation … a welcome U.S. $166 million,” Leigh Dayton reported on Monday. The move is part of “Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s AU$1 billion (U.S. $730 million) signature National Innovation and Science Agenda.” Announced Monday in Canberra, the plan “[is] a ‘turning point,’ says Les Field, the Australian Academy of Science’s Secretary for Science Policy. The renewed government focus on science and innovation means ‘we can grow an economy based on our outstanding science,’ he adds.”

► Irish researchers may soon see increases in their budgets as well, Erik Stokstad reported Tuesday at ScienceInsider. That day, “[t]he Irish government … released an ambitious 5-year vision for stimulating innovation. Developed by several agencies, the plan calls for increasing total investment in R&D by about a third to 2.0% of gross domestic product. In cash terms, that would mean a rise in public and private spending from last year’s €2.9 billion to about €5 billion per year in 2020,” Stokstad wrote. Goals listed in the document include “a doubling of private investment in public R&D to €48 million per year” and “2250 masters and Ph.D. enrollments per year,” which would be a 30% increase from current levels.

► Today, in an update to a ScienceInsider story that Adrian Cho wrote earlier this year, we learned that “[t]he U.S. Senate yesterday confirmed, on a voice vote, [Harvard physicist] Cherry Murray to be the new head of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.”

► After a 1-year trial, it looks like Nature’s use of “an online tool called ReadCube that allowed subscribers to share a read-only version of the subscription journal content with anyone, for free … is here to stay,” John Bohannon reported later in the day. The overall usage numbers, however, are on the small side. “According to a report released today by the publisher, links to read-only articles were shared 815,000 times over the 12-month trial.”

► “Is tenure the best way to nurture scholarly growth and academic freedom, or has its cost become too much to bear?,” Science journals Editor-in-Chief Marcia McNutt asked in the editorial in this week’s issue of Science. Among other concerns, she discussed how the current tenure system can discourage women from pursuing academic careers. “[Y]oung academics must concentrate on their careers to earn tenure at the same time as they would be starting their families, and this issue affects women disproportionately more. … Whether women see the tenure hurdle and opt out for family instead, or just never opted in to begin with, the result is that there are too few women for a diverse academic enterprise, and if this process does not evolve, how can the highest institutes of learning promote academic freedom and progress?” While changing the system “is not going to be easy,” she wrote, “it’s time for universities to discuss unilateral action and institute some other mechanism.”

► “With biomedical science moving so fast that it might sound like fiction, one of our missions is to prepare students—the future scientists—for the ethical challenges they might encounter in their career,” Matthieu J. Guitton of Laval University in Quebec City, Canada, wrote in a letter in this week’s issue. He suggested that instructors can reach students about this important topic by “[s]ummoning Master Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, or even—may the Force protect us!—the Emperor. … Star Wars provides examples for almost all of the challenges we want students to consider. The vast majority of students are highly familiar with the popular culture phenomenon that is Star Wars, and they are motivated to actively engage in the debate process.”

► “[T]o realize the promise of widespread sharing of scientific data, intellectual property, data privacy, national security, and other legal and policy obstacles must be overcome,” wrote Jorge L. Contreras of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and Jerome H. Reichman of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, in a policy forum in this week’s issue. “[F]ailure to account for legal and policy issues at the outset of a large transborder data-sharing project can lead to undue resource expenditures and data-sharing structures that may offer fewer benefits than hoped,” they continued. To avoid such problems, they “propose a framework to help plan data-sharing arrangements with a focus on early-stage decisions including options for legal interoperability.” Read the full piece for their suggestions.

► In this week’s Books et al. section, Science’s Julia Fahrenkamp-Uppenbrink reviewed the MEL Chemistry starter kit. The $73.80 kit “currently targets the home-schooling market” and is “intended for children aged 12 years and older.” Fahrenkamp-Uppenbrink and her daughter conducted some experiments from the “Colorful chemistry” set. “In one experiment, addition of glycerol to a potassium permanganate solution changes its color gradually from purple to orange as the permanganate reacts with the glycerol,” she wrote. “In the other, the thymol blue dye changes the color of a solution depending on its acidity.” Overall, Fahrenkamp-Uppenbrink enjoyed working on the kit with her daughter, and feels that “we have only just scratched the surface of what the set has to offer. My daughter and her rapidly growing group of chemistry enthusiast friends are looking forward to exploring chemical erasers and the zinc-carbon battery set next.”

► In another review, Andrew Robinson, author of The Last Man Who Knew Everything, wrote about the Ada Lovelace exhibition at the Science Museum in London. Lovelace, the daughter of Romantic poet Lord Byron, was “the first person to discuss the concept of programming a computer: In the 1840s, she issued an extensive and farsighted commentary on a calculating machine known as the Analytical Engine, created by the mathematician and inventor Charles Babbage.” The exhibition honors the bicentenary of her birth. “In addition to a prototype of the Difference Engine and the unfinished Analytical Engine, the exhibition includes a model of a Jacquard loom,” original versions of her letters, and “two color portraits of Lovelace.”

► The life of an “M.D.-Ph.D. double agent” is not easy, especially when you are trying to balance long hours at the hospital with long hours doing doctoral work, but Jessica Tsai says that the challenges have been worth it. Read this week’s Science Careers-produced Working Life story to find out more.

From Academia to Industry: The Biomedical Industry Beckons

Nuclear Forensics