Each week, the Science family of publications publishes articles that are likely to be of interest to Science Careers readers. So, every week, we're pointing our readers toward articles relevant to careers in science and other technical fields. Many of the articles appearing in Science Translational Medicine, Science Signaling, and Science require AAAS membership (AAAS is the publisher of Science Careers) or a site license.
► On 19 December, Kelly Servick reported potential good news for biotech companies: new guidance from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for evaluating “inventions derived from nature,” including DNA. Previous guidelines “raised a stink” because they were too strict. “University groups and industry representatives feared the rules would chill investment by rendering potential new therapies and diagnostics unpatentable.” The new guidance “goes a long way to quell those fears, though many are still uncertain how it will be implemented.”
► “There is a serious chink in the armor” of the peer-review process at elite medical journals, David Shultz wrote on 22 December. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported that, of 1008 articles, “[a]ll 14 of the most highly cited papers in the study were rejected by the three elite journals, and 12 of those were bounced before they could reach peer review. The finding suggests that unconventional research that falls outside the established lines of thought may be more prone to rejection from top journals, [study co-author Kyle] Siler [of the University of Toronto in Canada] says.”
Although this result “indicates that the gatekeeping process is far from perfect,” the authors “found that, by and large, the gatekeeping system was predictive of a paper’s eventual number of citations. Papers that were accepted outright by one of the three elite journals tended to garner more citations than papers that were rejected and then published elsewhere.”
► “A government plan to radically reform the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), a major research funding agency in the Netherlands, is causing an uproar among scientists,” Martin Enserink wrote on 23 December. “Many say that the attempt to streamline the agency … is a threat to basic science and will give nonscientists too much power in the distribution of research grants.” “The Dutch House of Representatives will debate the issue in January.”
► On 24 December, ScienceInsider published a list of its most popular stories of 2014. Topics include Ebola, scientific publishing, and the physicist who inspired the movie Interstellar.
► The RIKEN stem cell “fiasco” continued with a 26 December report concluding that three “supposed STAP [stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency] stem cell lines were actually likely to be…previously existing embryonic stem (ES) cell lines,” Dennis Normile wrote. “It is unlikely that there was accidental contamination by three different ES cells, and it is suspected that the contamination may have occurred artificially,” the investigating committee wrote in the report. “However the panel could not find conclusive evidence of deliberate contamination, nor of who might be responsible. ‘We cannot, therefore, conclude that there was research misconduct in this instance,’ the committee reported.”
► On Monday at ScienceInsider, David Grimm reported that four members of Congress have requested an investigation into experiments being carried out on monkeys at a National Institutes of Health (NIH) lab in Poolesville, Maryland, in a letter to NIH Director Francis Collins. “The letter, which comes in response to an aggressive campaign by the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), claims that for more than 30 years researchers at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) have been ‘removing [macaques] from their mothers at birth and subjecting them to distressful and sometimes painful procedures that measure their anxiety and depression.’ ”
“In an e-mail to Science, Justin Goodman, PETA’s director of laboratory investigations, says his group is “delighted” by Congress’s response to its campaign.”
► “Two of India’s major science funding agencies are joining the push to make the results of the research they fund freely available to the public,” wrote Dalmeet Singh Chawla on Tuesday at ScienceInsider. Researchers who receive even part of their funding from the biotechnology department or the science and technology department of India’s Ministry of Science and Technology, India’s largest life science funders, will be required to deposit copies of their papers in a publicly accessible repository. The policy is retroactive, applying to papers published in 2012 and later. It requires posting “metadata and supplementary materials” but “does not directly articulate a policy requiring the public posting and free use of all publicly funded data.”
► In this week’s Science editorial, Editor-in-Chief Marcia McNutt made a case for publicly accessible data. “Data, particularly those collected with public funding, should be used so that they do the most good,” she wrote. “When the greatest number of creative and insightful minds can find, access, and understand the essential features that led to the collection of a data set, the data reach their highest potential.”
“In 2015, we want to work with authors and readers to identify which of those repositories Science should promote because they are well managed, have long-term support, and are responsive to community needs. For data that do not neatly fit into large-scale repositories, we will explore other available options. We also will evaluate different ways to tag data sets and integrate such tagging into our peer-review process.”
► “A key concentration of Ukraine's scientific infrastructure—southeastern Ukraine hosts scores of universities and research facilities—is dissolving. In recent weeks, about 1500 scientists and professors and 100,000 students have fled rebel-held parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in Donbas,” wrote Richard Stone in this week’s Science. “Some of the displaced researchers have managed to spirit out valuable specimens and other research materials. But others have had to abandon their labs and life's work. A multitude of scholars remain in the war zone because they will not forsake elderly family members, students, or research projects—or because they are loyal to the separatist regimes, the so-called Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk People's Republic.”
► “Ongoing scientific misconduct investigations usually take place out of the public's view,” wrote Servick in this week’s Science. “An unusual lawsuit filed last month, however, sheds some light on a long-rumored inquiry. The complaint, filed in a federal district court by two prominent heart researchers, offers the first indication of just what is amiss in two papers they co-authored, which describe the heart's natural regenerative ability, and an effort to heal damaged hearts with stem cells.”
“The plaintiffs, Piero Anversa of Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) in Boston, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, and Annarosa Leri, a Harvard associate professor in his lab, acknowledge that there are fictitious data points in a now-retracted 2012 paper that appeared in the journal Circulation. They also acknowledge that a much publicized 2011 paper in The Lancet, to which the journal had already attached an ‘expression of concern,’ contains altered figures. But they blame those problems on a third researcher.” The two researchers are suing Harvard and BWH, arguing that the institutions “have wrongfully damaged their careers and cost them millions by derailing a deal to sell their stem cell company and by taking them out of the running for lucrative faculty positions.”
► This week’s Letters section presented the NextGen VOICES course catalog. In October, young scientists were asked “to name and describe a course that would have better prepared them for their science careers.” The issue includes a sample of the responses, grouped by subject—or, continuing the course-catalog analogy, by department: psychology, communications, statistics and logic, computer science, business and finance, and more. Here’s an entry from communications:
One of the fundamental aspects of a scientist's work is to present research results. This causes a bit of a problem when it comes to poster design (have you seen those walls of text?), PowerPoint presentations (ever fall asleep while reading your own slides?) or crazy-difficult articles that give you a headache. Let's stop that! In this course, we will drill writing, designing, and presenting so that no one ever falls asleep when confronted with your data.
—Ilona Kotlewska (Nencki Institute for Experimental Biology in Warsaw)
You can read more of the responses here.
►There’s also a new NextGen VOICES question: “Name and describe a currently nonexistent invention that would make you a more effective scientist. Your invention can be realistic, futuristic, or comical, and it can aid you in any aspect of your scientific process or career.” To submit, go to http://scim.ag/NG_14. The deadline is 13 February. A selection of responses will be published in the 3 April issue of Science. Submissions should be 100 words or fewer. Anonymous submissions will not be considered.
► In this week’s Science Careers-produced Working Life column, biologist Mary Poffenroth described the challenges and rewards of being the first person in her family to go to college. “Today, 17 years after I fell in that hole, I feel less like the family outcast and more like an explorer who carved a new path,” she wrote. “I've redefined, for the better, what it means to be a Poffenroth.”