Elsewhere in Science, 3 October 2014

Many paths

Credit: Robert Neubecker

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.

► Last Friday, after “Elsewhere in Science” went to press, ScienceInsider posted a piece by our own Elisabeth PainScience Careers’ contributing editor for Europe—about France's Sciences en Marche, which is “a 3-week relay race across the country by bike, foot, and even by kayak, aimed at pressuring the government to create more permanent jobs in science and better support universities and research centers.” The race started on 26 September at the Pic du Midi observatory in the Pyrenees and will culminate on 17 October with a march to Paris. Hundreds of scientists are expected to participate, but “the government has given little indication that it will listen,” Pain wrote.

► “Google Scholar has become a go-to resource for a growing number of researchers,” Jia You wrote Tuesday at ScienceInsider. “The powerful academic search engine seems to comb through every academic study in existence.” But just how big—and how comprehensive—is it? Coming up with a definitive answer is hard, but “bibliometricist Enrique Orduña-Malea of the Polytechnic University of Valencia in Spain and his colleagues used four different methods to estimate Google Scholar’s total number of documents.” They determined that Google Scholar indexes some 160 million scholarly articles, give or take 10%.  How does that number compare to the total number of scholarly articles in existence? A separate estimate—which put the number of indexed articles at 100 million—said that Google Scholar covered 88% of the available scholarly literature.

► On Tuesday, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the first round of research grants in the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. Emily Underwood wrote about it the same day, at ScienceInsider. “NIH reviewers selected 58 projects for” the 2014 fiscal year, from among about 600 applications. “The grants will fund more than 100 investigators in” 15 states and several foreign countries. “[N]euroscientist Cornelia Bargmann of Rockefeller University in New York City, who led the advisory group to” the NIH part of BRAIN, says, “ ‘Some are just a couple of years out of their Ph.D.s,’ while others are distinguished leaders of the field. ” You’ll find the list of research grants here.

► On Wednesday at ScienceInsider, David Grimm passed along the news that NIH would no longer fund experiments using dogs from “pounds, breeders, and other so-called random sources. The move is in response to a 2009 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report, which concluded that cats and dogs acquired from such places were not critical for biomedical research, and that using them could damage the reputation of the research enterprise with the public. NIH ended funding for random source cats in 2012.”

► On Thursday at ScienceInsider, Tania Rabesandratana reported on the new cross-border pension scheme for European researchers. Science Careers covered the issue from the Vitae meeting in mid-September.

► A government database reporting companies’ payments to physicians and teaching hospitals went live this week, Jocelyn Kaiser reported at ScienceInsider. The new database, a provision of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, lists “4.4 million payments reported by drug and device companies to 546,000 physicians and 1360 teaching hospitals from August 2013 to December 2013.” Those payments to physicians totaled $3.5 billion over 5 months, for free trips, meals, speaking fees, gifts, and—importantly—research funding. “Although one purpose of the site is to shine light on potential conflicts of interest in research,” Kaiser writes, “the site may fall short of that goal.”

► What were congressional staffers doing sniffing around the headquarters of the National Science Foundation (NSF) this past summer, reading confidential information about funded grant proposals? It’s “an unprecedented—and some say bizarre—intrusion into the much admired process that NSF has used for more than 60 years to award research grants,” wrote Jeffrey Mervis Thursday at ScienceInsider. “The Republican aides were looking for anything that Representative Lamar Smith (R–TX), their boss as chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, could use to support his ongoing campaign to demonstrate how the $7 billion research agency is ‘wasting’ taxpayer dollars on frivolous or low-priority projects, particularly in the social sciences. The Democratic staffers wanted to make sure that their boss, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D–TX), the panel’s senior Democrat, knew enough about each grant to rebut any criticism that Smith might levy against the research.”

► Scientists and transparency advocates have been trying for years to get reliable access to clinical trial data. They enjoyed a victory this week when the European Medicines Agency (EMA) “approved the details of a new system allowing researchers to scrutinize unpublished data from clinical trials,” wrote Rabesandratana earlier today at ScienceInsider.

“EMA is the ‘first entity in the world’ to introduce such rules, Executive Director Guido Rasi pointed out at an event in the European Parliament earlier this week, adding that the agency is ‘setting new standards for transparency.’ The plan, which was approved yesterday at a managing board meeting in London, ‘represents a real shift in favour of ensuring research data is shared routinely and re-used effectively in the public interest,’ agrees Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at the University of Oxford and co-founder of the AllTrials campaign, in a statement released yesterday.”

This week’s Science editorial, by former Science Editor-in-Chief Donald Kennedy, calls for a new commitment and substantial new investments in agricultural research, with an eye toward supporting the estimated nine billion people expected to occupy Earth in 2050.

► The rate of infection among health care workers treating Ebola patients is surprisingly high; as of 23 September, 375 workers had caught Ebola and 211 had died. Why are so many getting sick? “Surprisingly, no one has a firm answer,” wrote Jon Cohen, in this week’s Science.

► “In your experience, what is the biggest challenge to global scientific collaboration? How should it be addressed?” In July, NextGen VOICES asked young scientists these questions; selected responses are excerpted in this week’s Science. The full versions (and some additional responses) are here.

► In an STM editorial, Tomasz Sablinski, founder and CEO of Transparency Life Sciences, makes a pitch for crowdsourced clinical trials

► In this week’s Science Careers-produced Working Life column, David Anderson describes the detours his career was forced to take as a result of the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act. “There are many paths to a bright future,” he concluded.

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