Elsewhere in Science, 25 April 2014

25 April Science Cover

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 other technical fields. (Note that articles appearing in Sci. TM, Science Signaling, and Science may require AAAS membership, a Science subscription, or a site license.)

"A strikingly large amount of scientific material [was] stripped out." —David Victor

► According to a ScienceInsider piece by Rhitu Chatterjee posted on Monday, there are some interesting (and so far poorly understood) recent trends in applications from foreign graduate students to U.S. graduate schools. Applications from China have been falling slightly, 1% last year and 3% the year before. Meanwhile, "applications from India have skyrocketed," Chatterjee wrote—by 32% last year and 22% the previous year. "If current trends continue, India may soon surpass China in the number of graduate students it sends to the United States."

Why is it happening? "There's no shortage of ideas over what may be driving the disparate trends," but so far there's no clear, comprehensive explanation, Chatterjee wrote.

► I've long been fascinated by amateur scientists who, with lots of passion and few credentials, do important scientific work. One hears often these days about citizen scientists, who work in numbers under the direct or indirect guidance of science professionals. But amateur scientists have long worked alone and without supervision—like Robert Evans, the retired Australian minister who has discovered 42 supernovas. Such scientists often receive too little recognition from professional scientists.

This week, Dennis Normile recognized Josh Morgerman, an advertising executive who uses his professional downtime to chase storms. Morgerman's work, Normile wrote, has been crucial to understanding Haiyan, last year's "supertyphoon." "Some of the most revealing data about last year's Supertyphoon Haiyan—the strongest ever known to hit land—came not from a team of Ph.D.s but from an advertising executive named Josh Morgerman, who eagerly puts himself in the path of storms," Normile wrote in "The Cyclone Addict." "For Morgerman, who is based in the Los Angeles area, storm chasing is 'like an addiction,' he says.  "Some people need that adrenaline rush." Also see the related News Focus story, "After the Deluge."

► Scientists often are encouraged to get involved in policy debates; who better to make sure the facts are respected and the resulting policies make sense? But in recent weeks (and years), several very public—and widely reported—incidents illustrate that involvement in policy is not for the timid. First there was the L'Aquila earthquake case, in which four scientists, two engineers, and a government official were convicted of manslaughter for performing (the judge concluded) "a superficial analysis of seismic risk and providing false reassurances" prior to the quake, which killed 309 people. Their sentences are under appeal. Then there was the case in Uganda in which a report on homosexuality that was conscientiously prepared by a panel of scientists was distorted by President Yoweri Museveni and used to support a grossly discriminatory homosexuality law. Last week, one of the co-authors of the report wrote a letter to Science justifying his involvement.

This week's bruising policy issue is the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. Many of the scientists involved are still licking their wounds following negotiations over the wording of the 33-page "Summary for Policymakers." While the bulk of the report is the purview of scientists, this highly influential summary—the only part, probably, that most policymakers will read—"is the product of give-and-take with government diplomats and requires consensus," Eli Kintisch wrote on Tuesday at ScienceInsider. "The most contentious issue this year was whether to highlight economic groupings of nations, such as high or low income, and illustrations showing how each group was contributing to the growth of greenhouse gas emissions were particularly controversial," Kintisch wrote. "A strikingly large amount of scientific material [was] stripped out," says David Victor, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego, quoted in the article. "It left me depressed personally," economist Reyer Gerlagh, of Tilburg University in the Netherlands, told The Sydney Morning Herald. Some scientists "continue to smart from some disconcerting last-minute edits."

"There has always been a tension between the scientific content and the political approval of IPCC reports. But on the scientific issues that probably matter most to policymakers—such as which kinds of countries cause most emissions, who will bear the greatest burdens in controlling emissions, or how international trade affects emissions and policies—the pendulum has swung strongly toward the governments," Victor writes in an e-mail.

Follow Science Careers

Search Jobs

Enter keywords, locations or job types to start searching for your new science career.

Top articles in Careers