Elsewhere in Science, 23 May 2014

Career Story

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, 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—the publisher of Science Careers—membership, a Science subscription, or a site license.)

► The Meyerhoff Scholars Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) has long been the gold standard for increasing the representation of African Americans in U.S. graduate programs. (See our coverage here and here.) At ScienceInsider, Jeffrey Mervis reported that on Tuesday the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) announced that “it will spend $7.75 million over the next 5 years to support a partnership between UMBC and two major state institutions—the University of North Carolina [UNC], Chapel Hill, and the Pennsylvania State University [Penn State], University Park.”

Last year, UNC and Penn State implemented versions of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, so “[t]he HHMI funding will help faculty members and administrators at all three schools document what is essential for success and also create a road map for other universities to follow,” Mervis wrote.

► One of the most vexing issues in biomedical science is the slow pace of progress in medicine, especially in comparison to the rapid gains in biomedical understanding. A bipartisan initiative in the U.S. House of Representatives aims to address that problem. “The so-called 21st Century Cures initiative, launched by two senior lawmakers on 30 April, will spend several months soliciting feedback from scientists, regulators, patients, and industry experts. The lawmakers may then propose legislation aimed at more quickly moving potential treatments from the lab to the clinic.” Success would be good news not only for patients but also for the pharmaceutical industry, which for years has been an important industrial employer of scientists. Kelly Servick wrote about it at ScienceInsider.

► Realizing that they don’t have the votes to keep the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology  Act—which everyone from members of the  National Science Board to the White House science adviser has condemned—from emerging from the U.S. House of Representatives science committee, Democrats on the committee offered a dozen amendments this week aimed at addressing its most serious flaws, Mervis wrote Thursday at ScienceInsider. At the very least, they seem to have succeeded in delaying it for a few days. One amendment, which was passed, would shorten the time journals have to make accepted articles freely available to the public from 24 months to 12 months, Jocelyn Kaiser wrote Thursday at ScienceInsider.

► There’s a quote that’s been attributed to everyone from Laurie Anderson to Frank Zappa, via Elvis Costello and Thelonious Monk: “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” Fine—then why not try dancing about science?

No matter how hard you work on your elevator speech, explaining your research with words is likely to be difficult. So why not express it through dance and win money? This week, Science announced the latest version of its “Dance Your Ph.D.” competition. If you enter by 29 September 2014, you could win $500—if your entry is judged the best in your branch of science. If your entry is judged best overall, you’ll win an additional $500, and a free trip to Stanford University to screen your dance. You can find out more about the AAAS and Science-sponsored dance-off here.

► This week’s newly redesigned Science includes a special section on the science of inequality. While not explicitly related to careers in the sciences, the special issue has a lot to say about social mobility—apparently a hard thing to measure—and probably the best way to move up is  a good career. So in a sense it is a career issue, and the special section is very much worth reading. At Science Careers, Elisabeth Pain firmed up the connection in her story, “Breaking the Class Ceiling,” in which she examined the disadvantages faced by working-class students and faculty and offered advice on overcoming such hardships.

► In a Policy Forum in this week’s Science, sociologist Yu Xie argues that inequality—a natural feature of science—has trended upward in recent years. Xie uses Gini coefficient, a measure of inequality widely used in economics, to demonstrate that research funding and other resources are increasingly concentrated in some universities. His analysis echoes research showing increasing inequality in publication that Beryl Benderly reported in January.

► Science funding in Germany has been doing very well recently: Several “high-profile” programs have made German research more competitive. The €4.6 billion Excellence Initiative has allowed universities to compete for extra funding and “elite” status, Kai Kupferschmidt and Gretchen Vogel wrote in this week’s Science. The governing coalition is continuing to make science funding a priority, but an expensive new union contract, previous commitments, and disagreements over how money set aside for state (Länder) governments can be used are causing concern that a squeeze on resources may be imminent. Meanwhile, at universities, “[s]tudent numbers are rising every year, buildings are old and in need of repair, and many Länder are pressed for money. As a result, the gap between research at universities and at institutions like Max Planck is widening, says Horst Hippler, head of the German Rectors' Conference.”

► In Science’s new News section, In Depth, John Bohannon wrote about the results of an effort to replicate 27 well-known studies in social psychology. “In more than a third of the cases, the result was a complete failure,” he wrote.

Just about everybody believes that replication is important in science, right? “ ‘Replication helps us make sure what we think is true really is true,’ says Brent Donnellan, a psychologist at Michigan State University in East Lansing who has undertaken three recent replications of studies from other groups—all of which came out negative. ‘We are moving forward as a science.’ But not everyone sees it that way; a few scientists whose work wasn’t replicated are feeling bullied. “ ‘I feel like a criminal suspect who has no right to a defense and there is no way to win,’ says psychologist Simone Schnall of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, who studies embodied cognition, the idea that the mind is unconsciously shaped by bodily movement and the surrounding environment. Schnall's 2008 study finding that hand-washing reduced the severity of moral judgment was one of those Donnellan could not replicate.” Schnall believes that her work was “defamed,” and believes the results caused her to lose a grant. Some of her graduate students, she says, “are worried about publishing their work out of fear that data detectives might come after them and try to find something wrong.”

Isn’t that how science is supposed work?

► Finally, this week saw the introduction of a new feature, Working Life, produced by Science Careers. Henceforth, Working Life will appear each week on the last page of Science.

Top Image: Marc Rosenthal

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