Elsewhere in Science, 29 August 2014

Each week, the Science family of publications publishes articles that are likely to be of interest to Science Careers readers. So, every Friday, we’re pointing our readers toward articles that hold some relevance to careers in science and other technical fields. Note that many of the articles appearing in Science Translational Medicine (STM), Science Signaling, and Science require AAAS membership (AAAS is the publisher of Science Careers), a Science subscription, or a site license.

► Last Friday at ScienceInsider, Hao Xin reported that China’s anticorruption campaign has ensnared Li Ning, one of China’s leading scientists, for allegedly transferring research funds to companies in which he has an interest. An animal-cloning expert, “Li is a principal investigator on 18 major research projects in China,” according to the website of the China Agricultural University, where Li is based. A Chinese news report says “Li has access to tens of millions of dollars of research funds,” wrote Xin.  

► Two weeks ago we reported (via ScienceInsider) on the case of James Doyle, the political scientist employed at Los Alamos National Laboratory, who was recently fired “after publishing a scholarly article questioning the value of nuclear weapons.” The reason for his firing wasn’t clear. Last Friday, David Malakoff reported at Insider, Charles Ferguson, the president of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, sent a letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, asking him “to take appropriate steps to see that Dr. Doyle is ‘made whole’ and that he is in no way penalized for his good faith efforts to participate in the national dialog over nuclear policy.” FAS has a long association with arms control.

► We have also been monitoring—via ScienceInsider—the stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP) cell controversy and the apparent research misconduct by Haruko Obokata, the main STAP investigator. STAP, a technique in which mature mouse cells subjected to an acid bath were said to be transformed into stem cells, was first reported in two papers published online in late January in Nature. In April, RIKEN found Obokata guilty of research misconduct, and in July, the two papers were retracted. Obokata, though, has continued to insist that the phenomenon is real. On Wednesday, Dennis Normile reported at Insider, a team of researchers from the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, which has been attempting to reproduce the result, reported that they have so far failed.

► Over the last few months, a number of incidents have brought lab safety into the spotlight: A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lab shipped live anthrax, 60-year-old vials of smallpox were discovered on a National Institutes of Health campus, and poultry flu samples at the CDC were contaminated with H5N1 bird flu.

In a Thursday ScienceInsider, Jocelyn Kaiser reported that the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy sent a memo to federal agencies on 19 August, asking “labs studying infectious agents to take ‘immediate action’ to inventory samples and review safety and security procedures.”

The memo, which was posted online on 28 August, urges “all federal labs that ship or work with animal or plant infectious agents or toxins … to perform a ‘Safety Stand-Down’.”  Allaying the fears of some scientists, the memo does not call for a complete work stoppage.

► In an In Depth article in this week’s Science, Jeffrey Mervis describes a new study—published online this week at Science—that concludes that the main reason negative social-science results are rarely published is that researchers rarely submit them for publication. “Nearly two-thirds of the social science experiments that produced null results, those that did not support a hypothesis, were simply filed away,” Mervis wrote. “In contrast, researchers wrote up 96% of the studies with statistically strong results.” The study’s authors propose depositing all such studies in public registries.

► In a Focus article in , a diverse team of authors based at academic and government laboratories looks to the private sector—specifically, to “high-performing corporate teams”—for models of how transdisciplinary research might be better carried out at academic medical centers. They focus in part on overcoming career incentives that conflict with the aims of transdisciplinary research.

► In this week’s Science Careers-produced Working Life column, neuroscientist Jyoti Mishra proclaims that it is possible for women (and men) to have fulfilling family lives and careers.

Scientific Careers in Biotech Startups, Part I

Career Breakthroughs of the Year, 2004