Elsewhere in Science, 4 April 2014

Each week, Science publishes a number of articles that are likely to be of interest to career-minded readers. Because those articles are published on the other Science sites, Science Careers readers could easily overlook them.

To remedy that, every Friday we’re pointing our readers toward articles appearing in Science—the print magazine as well as ScienceInsider, ScienceNOW, Science Translational Medicine (Sci. TM) and Science Signaling—that hold some relevance to careers in science and technical fields. (Note that while articles appearing in ScienceInsider and ScienceNOW can be read by anyone, articles appearing in Sci. TM, Science Signaling, and Science may require AAAS—publisher of Science Careers—membership/Science subscription or a site license.)

• The controversy continues over STAP—stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency—which was presented in two January Nature papers as a new method of creating stem cells. The validity of the papers was called into question after bloggers and PubPeer contributors “started pointing out possibly manipulated images and apparently plagiarized text.” At ScienceInsider on Tuesday, Dennis Normile wrote that a report by an investigation committee at Riken in Kobe, Japan, where the work was performed, found that “falsification and fabrication mar” the papers.  The committee concluded that the researchers’ actions constitute research misconduct but did not ask for the papers to be retracted.

Lead author Haruko Obokata of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology (RIKEN CDB) was the only author found guilty, “[b]ut the report notes that co-authors Teruhiko Wakayama, a former RIKEN researcher now at the University of Yamanashi in Kofu, and Yoshiki Sasai, of RIKEN CDB, who worked with Obokata to finalize the research, ‘allowed the papers to be submitted to Nature without verifying the accuracy of the data, and they bear heavy responsibility for the research misconduct that resulted from this failure on their part.’ “

“I am filled with feelings of indignation and surprise,” Obokata said in a statement.

• Last Friday, we mentioned embryologist Kenneth Ka-Ho Lee’s attempts to reproduce Obokata’s result. Last week, Lee, who works at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, started live-blogging the attempt on ResearchGate. Earlier this week, as thousands watched, Lee reported a surprising result: evidence of pluripotency in a sample that had been forced through very small pipettes—a step in the STAP technique—but had not been exposed to the acid solution. Lee insisted that it wasn’t an April Fools’ joke.

According to a Friday Insider post, Lee has now given up on reproducing the STAP experiment. “I don’t think STAP cells exist and it will be a waste of manpower and research funding to carry on with this experiment any further,” Lee wrote on his ResearchGate page yesterday. If he ever does decide to try again, he told Science in an interview, “I’m not going to live-blog it.”

• On Thursday at ScienceInsider, Kelly Servick reported a 1 April announcement that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) will be creating a new division “that will consolidate biology research scattered across its existing six divisions and possibly expand the arsenal of projects.” Focus areas will span a wide range: technology to support service members, synthetic biology research, and complex biological systems.

Alicia Jackson, deputy director of the new Biological Technologies Office, “wants to focus on recruiting new program managers—who normally serve 3- to 5-year stints—and reach out to ‘young researchers and start-ups who may have little idea of how to interact with DARPA or that DARPA exists at all.’ “

• This week’s big career-related offering in Science is a special News Focus package called “The Hunt for Money in Biomedicine.” The package leads off with an overview, “Chasing the Money” by Jennifer Couzin-Frankel.  The overview is followed by a series of funding-focused profiles:

• In a Policy Forum, Bruce Weinberg of the National Bureau for Economic Research and six co-authors—including corresponding author Julia Lane of the American Institutes for Research—begin to lay rigorous empirical foundations for an evidence-based science policy. Using data from 2012, they document the short-term “production” resulting from science investments at nine institutions. The data show that these funds lead to local economic activity and support scientists in diverse roles: one in three was a student (either graduate or undergraduate), about one in ten was a postdoc, and one in three was a member of the research staff or a staff scientist. The composition of the workforce supported by these funds varies across scientific fields. For example, in computational and information sciences, a large portion of the money goes to supporting graduate students. Funding from the various institutes within the National Institutes of Health, on the other hand, is more likely to support research staff.

• In this week’s Letters section, the latest NextGen VOICES survey presents short essays in which early-career scientists explain how they would use an extra 5 hours a week if they had it. Most—a surprisingly large proportion, in fact—would devote the extra time to science outreach. Most are eager to reach out to young people, but a few would aim their efforts at the broader public, at patients, or at lawmakers. My favorite response: Michael Kemp, of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, would use the time to do science, since right now he spends so much time writing and submitting grant proposals to try and make up for historically low funding rates.  It’s a vicious cycle.

Top Image: Blood Cells. CREDIT: Mustafa Mir, Sam Copeland, and Gabriel Popescu/National Science Foundation/DARPA

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