Elsewhere in Science, 13 June 2014

Fun Science

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), online news, 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 apparent fact—reported by Emily Underwood on Monday—that rats regret their mistakes has little real importance to the everyday practice of science. We just find it poignant, and we thought that scientists—especially those who routinely work with rats—would want to know.

► On Monday at ScienceInsider, Jocelyn Kaiser reported that, according to a new report from a working group of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Advisory Committee to the Director, a shortage of physician-scientists—researchers with clinical degrees—is looming.

Given the long, sad history of false scientist-shortage claims (eloquently documented in Michael Teitelbaum’s recent book), any such claim should be greeted with skepticism and scrutiny. This latest claim, however, gains some credibility from the fact that almost exactly 2 years ago a similar NIH working group admitted that on the Ph.D. side there’s a glut, not a shortage, of biomedical scientists. (Our reporting on the issue also suggests that claims of an imminent physician-scientist shortage are credible.)

► The appointment—reported by Eli Kintisch at ScienceInsider—of Gavin Schmidt to lead the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, one of the top institutions for climate research, is interesting because Schmidt is best known (to the public and media at least) as a communicator, primarily via the blog RealClimate. That’s not to say that Schmidt’s scientific qualifications are thin: His 120-plus peer-reviewed publications reportedly have earned the respect his peers.

► On Tuesday, David Malakoff reported at ScienceInsider that the U.S. House of Representatives’ budget proposal would provide flat funding for the U.S. Department of Energy’s science programs. The budget clearly reflects Republican priorities: boosts for nuclear and fossil fuels coupled with big cuts for renewable energy programs and for the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy or ARPA-E, which is aimed at moving transformational energy technologies into the private sector.

Science Careers readers probably don’t need to be told that congressional meddling in peer review is a bad idea. Still, this ScienceInsider post by Jeffrey Mervis is very much worth a read. Mervis digs deeper into the work of plant scientist Selena Ahmed, the Montana State University, Bozeman, assistant professor who studies tea as a model system for how climate change affects specialty crops and the famers who grow them. An amendment to the House’s 2015 spending bill would prevent the National Science Foundation from spending any money on Ahmed’s work during the 2015 fiscal year; fortunately NSF funded the work upfront, so for now at least the impact on her research would be minimal.

► An In-Depth article in Science by Dennis Normile and Gretchen Vogel reviewed the STAP (stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency) controversy and provided some updates. “The saga has raised anew perennial questions about the responsibility of senior authors on a paper and the efficacy of the peer-review process,” the authors wrote. Cell, Science, and Nature rejected an earlier paper on the work, they reported. “Still, the work was ultimately published, leaving open a major question: How did leading stem cell scientists who were co-authors fail to detect the myriad apparent problems with the work?”

► If you haven’t caught up yet with the new Science Careers-produced column Working Life, which appears each week on the inside back cover of Science, this is a good week to do so. This week, graduate student Cathy Walker recounted a relaxing weekend at a lakefront cabin during which she rediscovered the fun of science by coming to see her everyday work through the eyes of old friends from her undergraduate days.

Top Image: CREDIT: Marc Rosenthal

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