Elsewhere in Science, 15 August 2014

CREDIT: Joel Bremen

Each week, the Science family of publications—the print magazine, online news, Science Translational Medicine (STM), and Science Signaling—publish articles that are likely to be of interest to Science Careers readers. So, every Friday, we're pointing our readers toward articles that hold some relevance to careers in science and other technical fields. Note that many of the articles appearing in STM, Science Signaling, and Science require AAAS (the publisher of Science Careers) membership, a Science subscription, or a site license.

► Last Friday afternoon at ScienceInsider, David Malakoff reported remarks by a senior government minister in Australia that suggest tying research funding to patents. Those remarks haven’t gone over well in the country’s academic research community. The suggestion was made by Ian Macfarlane, a former peanut farmer and the minister of industry in the conservative government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, during a 6 August speech. In the current system, Macfarlane observed, research funding is linked to scientific papers, “which are great if you're into producing papers, but I'm into producing jobs, and I'm into producing products that are commercialised from the IP [intellectual property] that that scientist or researcher may have developed. So I think that we need to ensure that commercialisation of IP and the registration of patents is part of the process of giving taxpayers' money to researchers generally, not just universities.”

ScienceInsider is doing something new: publishing edited excerpts of a memoir, Peter Piot’s No Time to Lose. Piot, the director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is “one of the world’s most respected epidemiologists because of his work on AIDS and Ebola.” It’s a great read. Part 2 is here.

► For the first time in its 78-year history, a woman has one the Field’s Medal, the most prestigious prize in mathematics, Barry Cipra reported at ScienceInsider. “Maryam Mirzakhani of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, joined the list of 52 previous winners, along with three other recipients of the prize this year: Artur Avila of the Institute of Mathematics of Jussieu in Paris, Manjul Bhargava of Princeton University, and Martin Hairer of the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom.”

"This is a great honor. I will be happy if it encourages young female scientists and mathematicians," Mirzakhani told Bjorn Carey of the Stanford Report. "I am sure there will be many more women winning this kind of award in coming years."

► In this week’s Science, Eric Hand describes how cheap, long-lasting sensors are revolutionizing seismology. “Academic geologists, who have long envied the detailed survey data of their industrial peers, will be able to see magma chambers and pipes underneath volcanos, map the geometry of faults, and pinpoint earthquake ruptures as never before,” Hand writes. “ ‘There is about to be a major turning point in earthquake and volcano seismology,’ says Florent Brenguier, a seismologist at the Institute of Earth Sciences in Grenoble, France, who last month completed a 300-seismometer passive survey of the active volcano on the island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean.” The sensors are useful in the oil and gas industry, too, so they’re likely to get even better and cheaper, experts say.

► Who knew that the Los Alamos National Laboratory employed political scientists? Today they employ one fewer than they did 2 weeks ago: James Doyle’s 17-year career with the Department of Energy ended last week when he was “fired after authoring a scholarly article that questions the dogma of nuclear deterrence,” Jeffrey Mervis writes in this week’s Science. The reason for the firing is unclear. “[I]n a 7 August e-mail to lab staff obtained by Science, Doyle's boss denies that Doyle was fired as a result of the article. ‘I would like to assure you that this is not the case,’ wrote division leader Michael Baker. He urged lab employees to continue publishing ‘thoughtful, articulate and technically sound work in the public domain, to the extent we can do so within laboratory policy.’ ” Outside experts say that Doyle hold’s mainstream views about nuclear deterrence, but they may not be mainstream at Los Alamos.

Further analysis by Mervis was posted Thursday at ScienceInsider. “The reasons behind Doyle’s termination, first reported by the Center for Public Integrity, an investigative news service based in Washington, D.C., may never be clear,” Mervis wrote.

► Afghanistan recently passed a mining law, positioning the country to begin exploiting its “prodigious mineral resources, valued at some $908 billion,” writes Richard Stone in this week’s Science. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has been sending scientists to Afghanistan to acquire data intended to help mining companies decide whether to invest in mineral extraction there. “As Science went to press, the final scoping mission was about to get under way to probe a potential reserve of lithium.”

What’s the work like? Stone describes scientists arriving at work in Blackhawk helicopters, flanked by military escorts. “Weighed down by flak jackets in the searing heat, the group had just a few hours to scale a ‘very, very steep’ volcano, collect samples, and hustle back to the choppers” says Robert Tucker, a research geologist with the USGS in Reston, Virginia. One of Tucker’s colleagues “collapsed from heat prostration.” Tucker has experience with rough terrain: He “has been clambering over rugged topography ever since his grad school days in the early 1980s, when he studied rock formations along Norway's coastal fjords,” Stone writes. Yet, Tucker says, “I’ve never experienced anything like it.”

► In the wake of a recent Science news feature on alternative fusion-energy research comes word—reported in a ScienceInsider post by Dan Clery—that “ARPA-E, the U.S. government agency for funding innovative energy technologies, is preparing to launch a program to support alternative approaches to fusion energy that have the potential to steal a march on existing mainstream projects.”

► In this week’s Science Careers-produced Working Life feature, industrial research chemist Blaise Arena, who is accustomed to well-equipped laboratories, encounters new challenges while working in the field, in a production facility in the Saudi Arabian heat.

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