Elsewhere in Science, 7 February 2014

Each week, Science publishes a few articles that are likely to be of interest to career-minded readers. But because those articles aren’t featured on Science Careers, our readers could easily overlook them.

To remedy that, every Friday we’re pointing readers toward articles appearing in Science—the print magazine as well as the other Science-family publications (ScienceInsider, ScienceNOW, Science Translational Medicine—Sci. TM—and Science Signaling)—that hold some relevance or nuggets of advice for readers interested in furthering their careers in science. (Please 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.)

A few lucky academic scientists will have the opportunity to work alongside the drug companies on 3- to 5-year pilot projects, with free and open access to the company’s data, limited only by the need to protect patient privacy. NIH will issue a request for proposals later this year.

• Not everyone is crazy about the new farm bill. Some people are unhappy that it cuts food stamps while expanding some benefits to agribusiness. There is also some concern about how the research funds it provides will be distributed: “Some advocates are upset about what they see as an unfair bid by state land-grant universities to get an advantage in competitive grants,” wrote Erik Stokstad on Tuesday at Insider. The bill has matching-fund requirements for some grants—but exempts land-grant universities from that requirement. And then there’s the fact that the bill provides 3.8% less spending for research than its predecessor, on an annual basis.

But agricultural scientists and science advocates are pretty pleased overall. The bill provides $512 million over 5 years for agricultural science, which is better than expected in difficult fiscal times. “I’m really pleased and excited,” says Tom Van Arsdall, who heads the National Coalition for Food and Agricultural Research in Washington, D.C. The bill also creates the nonprofit, independent Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, which is modeled on similar foundations that benefit NIH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it provides up to $200 million in federal funds, to be matched by outside donations. The big loser: Funding for biofuels and bioproducts research was slashed. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.

• India plans to join the global effort to detect gravitational waves, reported Pallava Bagla on Wednesday at Insider. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) currently consists of optical interferometers in Hanford, Washington, and near Livingston, Louisiana. The National Science Foundation (NSF) is paying to upgrade LIGO’s instrumentation, making it 10 times more sensitive than previously. “In August 2012, NSF’s oversight body, the National Science Board, authorized NSF officials to approve at their discretion the plan to place one of the newly jazzed up interferometers and related instrumentation in India. … A global array would be able to pinpoint the cosmic source of any detected gravitational waves, over a much broader region of the sky,” Bagla wrote. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh endorsed the plan on Monday at the Indian Science Congress in Jammu.

While final approval may take months, scientists expect India to commit about $201 million to the project. “LIGO will bring some of the best international and Indian astrophysicists to work on Indian soil in a very exciting area of research,” says Ratan Kumar Sinha, a nuclear engineer and chair of India’s Atomic Energy Commission.

• It’s a major event for those who study the scientific workforce: the release of the biennialby the National Science Board, NSF’s governing body. The 2014 version was released this week, and Jeffrey Mervis gave readers a preliminary look on Thursday at ScienceInsider. Among the report’s more interesting conclusions, Mervis wrote, are two that seem dubious: an apparent 10% increase in the size of the science and engineering workforce in just 2 years (which the report’s authors acknowledge is likely the result of an undercount in the previous report) and a sudden, huge spike in the number of scientific authors (which Mervis attributes to an increase in papers with many authors, including those from the Large Hadron Collider).

Science Careers will be studying the new report and reporting what we discover over the next few weeks.

• This week’s print issue of Science—and its online representation—includes the results of the 2013 International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge. It’s always fun to see what new and interesting things scientists, artists, and designers are doing to help other scientists and the public visualize scientific phenomena. Related: See theCareers Q&A with computer scientist-quilter Lorrie Faith Cranor, who won an Honorable Mention in the contest.

• In this week’s Editorial, AAAS President Phillip A. Sharp and Alan I. Leshner, AAAS CEO and executive publisher of Science, wrote about meeting global challenges with science. The effort will require changes to training and incentives. “Education and training programs must be developed in what has come to be called ‘convergence science’: the integration of life, physical, and engineering sciences, so that S&T [science and technology] practitioners have a knowledge and experience base to participate in the kinds of integrated scientific efforts that are needed,” they wrote. Institutions where research is performed “should encourage and reward scientists and engineers for their work in large multidisciplinary, multinational teams.”

• In News Focus, Erik Stokstad profiled stream ecologist Margaret Palmer, whose circumstances led her from a career studying streams to passionate advocacy of the use of science in setting policy. “She’s helped shape national policy and appeared in contentious court battles as an expert witness. She even made a memorable appearance on The Colbert Report,” Stokstad wrote.

• Also in News Focus, Jeffrey Mervis peered into peer review, describing two recent studies that appear to show that peer review is failing to predict the impact of proposed scientific studies. According to the studies—by Michael Lauer, who heads the Division of Cardiovascular Sciences at NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in Bethesda, Maryland—high-scoring studies were cited no more often that low-scoring (but also funded) studies, even though the low-scoring studies received less money. “Peer review is not predicting outcomes at all. And that’s quite disconcerting,” Lauer says.

The article also asks why our major funding agencies—and the scientific community generally—are reluctant to seek ways to reform (or even to study) methods of peer review. “It’s amazing to me how scientists who believe in the scientific method don’t believe it should be applied to study what they do,” says economist Adam Jaffe, who directs the Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, an institute in Wellington. “It’s just so intuitively obvious to them that [the current system of peer review] is the best way to do things,” Jaffe adds. In a related article, Mervis described a recent, radical proposal to revamp the current funding system. That proposal was also the subject of an article atCareers.

• In a Policy Forum, a team of authors including Yale University’s Jo Handelsman suggested that persistent gender and ethnic biases could be slowing the progress of diversification in science, and “propose a scientific approach to the design, assessment, and broad implementation of diversity interventions.”

• Mel Greaves wrote a retrospective about geneticist Janet Rowley, who determined that a chromosomal translocation was the cause of leukemia and other types of cancer. Rowley died on 17 December 2013, at the age of 88, but “led a wonderfully balanced and fulfilled life, and she leaves us a magnificent legacy.”

Top Image: CREDIT: Peggy Greb/USDA   Caption: Geneticist Mallikarjuna Aradhya examines a cultivar at the USDA grape genebank in Davis, California.

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