Elsewhere in Science, 17 October 2014

Venezuela

Credit: AP photo/John Minchillo

Each week, the Science family of publications publishes 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 Science Translational Medicine (STM), Science Signaling, and Science require AAAS membership (AAAS is the publisher of Science Careers), a Science subscription, or a site license.

► What’s this got to do with careers? Nothing maybe—except that they may steal your job someday (kidding). After “Elsewhere in Science” went to press last week, News posted this slideshow showing 11 of the world’s coolest robots.

Objectivity and critical thinking—key values of science—‘are very much at odds with the prevailing winds’ in Venezuela, says Ricardo Hausmann.

► Economics is a science, too, right?

Right? On Monday, the Nobel committee announced the winner of this year’s economics Nobel Prize—more precisely, the 2014 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. The winner is Jean Tirole, “a French economist, for his work studying industries dominated by a few large, powerful firms.” His work addresses the question, “What sort of regulations and competition policy do you want in place so that large and mighty firms will act in society's best interest?” said Tore Ellingsen, chair of the prize committee, in an interview following the announcement in Stockholm.

► The “rarified world” of science publishing “is becoming more egalitarian,” John Bohannon wrote Tuesday at ScienceInsider.  “[A] study released 9 October by the team that develops Google Scholar, the free literature search engine now used by virtually every scientist in the world,” is “the strongest evidence yet that the dominance of the elite journals is eroding, thanks in part to how much easier it has become for scientists to find and cite obscure but relevant papers.”

► “Two computational biologists searching for trends in journals indexed in the search engine PubMed stumbled across signs that China’s paper-selling companies remain active, 1 year after Science published a detailed undercover investigation describing a highly sophisticated and lucrative industry,” wrote Mara Hvistendahl Tuesday at ScienceInsider.

The authors of the study—“Guillaume Filion of the Centre for Genomic Regulation and Lucas Carey from Pompeu Fabra University, both in Barcelona”—hypothesized that 32 “disturbingly similar” papers “might all be the work of a single company. With help from Yao Yu, a geneticist at Fudan University in Shanghai, the scholars identified an outfit whose website advertises tailored meta-analysis papers and contacted the company to inquire about its services. The company reportedly offers meta-analysis papers for journals with an impact factor of 2 or 3 for about $10,000.”

► It’s a difficult time to be a scientist in Venezuela, according to an “In Depth” article by Lizzie Wade in this week’s Science. “When Ángel Sarmiento discovered that eight patients had died of an unidentified fever in less than 2 weeks in Maracay, the capital of Aragua state in Venezuela,” he spoke out. But instead of commending him, “Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro accused the physician in a televised speech on 17 September of fomenting ‘psychological terrorism’ and instructed his attorney general to open a case against him, ” Wade wrote. “Objectivity and critical thinking—key values of science—‘are very much at odds with the prevailing winds’ in Venezuela, says Ricardo Hausmann, a Venezuelan economist who teaches at Harvard University. “ ‘What they want is to silence all of us,’ says Feder Álvarez, a pediatrician and secretary of Aragua's College of Physicians.”

► For scientists testing drugs in clinical trials, nonadherence is “the crazy uncle in the attic that nobody likes to talk about,” according to Phil Skolnick, who is the director of the Division of Pharmacotherapies and Medical Consequences of Drug Abuse at the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Bethesda, Maryland. Most trials depend on self-reporting by the trial participants, reports Kelly Servick in this week’s Science—and sometimes participants lie.

That’s a major problem because low adherence can mask drug benefits, effects, and side effects. “ ‘It's very uncomfortable to grapple with this, because I think it challenges the way we go about our business,’ says psychiatrist Robert Alexander, who works on drug development at AstraZeneca in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He and colleagues there are preparing a paper that reports an average nonadherence rate of roughly 20% across eight recent AstraZeneca psychiatry studies, based on testing drug levels in blood.” One man was found to be enrolled in seven schizophrenia studies. “He admitted that his strategy was to enroll in several schizophrenia trials, but take only the pills that made his head feel clearer.”

“At the end of the day, you can only speculate about what would have happened had the patients adhered,” says Craig Mallinckrodt, a statistician at Eli Lilly in Indianapolis and a member of the International Society for CNS Clinical Trials and Methodology working group on nonadherence. Scientists are working on the problem, going as far as to embed microprocessors in pills; the device sends a wireless signal when ingested.

► In a letter to Science, Gregory Goldsmith of the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland wrote that “Until we have a more complete body of research,” into the impact of social media on science, “perhaps we should withhold judgment on whether there is value to actually being a “Science Kardashian.”

► In another letter, several writers took on the bias against publishing negative results, proposing that technological solutions, penalties, and incentives must go hand in hand with a normative bias in favor of publishing negative results. “A single result may contain little truth but much information—even information about what does not work—which moves science forward,” they wrote. “A so-called weak result, seen in context, may prove a more valuable, informative contribution than a so-called strong result in isolation.”

► In this week’s issue of STM, Jayne S. Danska of the University Toronto in Canada argued for the inclusion of sex as a variable in preclinical studies. “A near-term reward for expanding preclinical studies to include sex as a variable will be the discovery of new biological mechanisms that may translate to improved human health,” Danska says. “For most researchers, there is no greater incentive.”

► In this week’s Science Careers-produced Working Life column, Sharon Ann Holgate wrote about David Smith, whose relationship with a cystic fibrosis sufferer provoked a move from basic to applied research.

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