Elsewhere in Science, 23 January 2015

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Every week, we're pointing our readers toward articles in Science-family publications that are 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.

Physicist Shuji Nakamura is still angry. Nakamura shared the 2014 Nobel Prize in physics for developing a blue light-emitting diode—or LED—in 1993, when he “held only a master's degree and was toiling practically on his own at a small specialty chemical manufacturer in rural Shikoku,” as Dennis Normile wrote Monday at ScienceInsider. In the early 2000s, Nakamura “had a falling out with his employer.” Eventually he agreed to an “$8 million settlement, moved to the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), and became an American citizen.” During this period, he bitterly complained about Japan's treatment of inventors, the country's educational system, and its legal procedures.

Nakamura visited Japan last week for the first time since the ceremony in Stockholm and held a news conference, during which he was asked about Japan’s research environment. ScienceInsider presented a summary of what he said.

►Tuesday’s State of the Union address by President Barack Obama didn’t include much science; State of the Union speeches rarely do. But there was some—including the announcement of a “precision medicine” initiative, wrote David Malakoff at ScienceInsider, drawing on reporting from Puneet Kollipara. Details about the initiative have not yet been released.

► In this week’s Science, David Grimm profiled Justin Goodman, the director of laboratory investigations at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Goodman, who found his animal rights calling as a teenager attending punk rock shows that “nurtured many animal rights advocates,” now spends his time crusading against the use of animals in scientific research. “His [peer-reviewed, published] papers have questioned the validity of the university committees that oversee animal research, encouraged U.S. allies to explore alternatives to animals in military medical training, and wounded the reputation of the world's largest accreditor of lab animal welfare,” Grimm writes. Some researchers question his methodology and conclusions, but “[s]cience or not, Goodman's campaign could weaken the public's shaky support for animal studies.”

For a historical perspective, there is also a slideshow (nothing grisly) on the daily news site, depicting some of PETA’s efforts.

►“Media outlets are reporting that Robert Taub of Columbia University is the ‘Doctor-1’ described in a criminal complaint that accuses Democratic state Representative Sheldon Silver, the powerful speaker of the New York State Assembly, of arranging bribes and kickbacks that netted Silver millions of dollars,” Malakoff wrote in a Thursday ScienceInsider. “Doctor-1 is cooperating with federal investigators. … In exchange for his cooperation, he will not be charged with any crime.” According to the complaint, “Silver steered to Taub some $500,000 from a state health care research fund that Silver controlled.”

► In a ScienceInsider today, Eli Kintisch wrote about a new National Research Council (NRC) report recommending that ocean research focus on just a few key priorities and cut infrastructure spending in light of the “bleak U.S. federal budget outlook.” “Because NSF ocean funding is ‘unlikely to grow significantly over the next decade,’ the report says, ‘the only way to recover funding for core science … is to reduce the amount of money spent on infrastructure,’ ” including new ships and fixed seafloor observatories. The NRC panel “solicited hundreds of comments from the marine science community and … boiled down the input into eight priorities for ocean science, including key questions regarding future sea level change, ocean ecosystems and biodiversity, geohazards, and the subsea floor environment.”

► In a December Working Life story, “For the love of ferns,” Karen Perkins, who once was a Johns Hopkins professor and now teaches high school, described how a chance encounter with a fern got her started in science and how life subsequently intervened.

 Lawrence Reynolds of the North Dakota State University in Fargo was initially saddened when he read the story, he wrote in a letter published in this week’s Science, because “[t]he pressures of funding and establishing one's own lab, along with life circumstances including an unexpected divorce, ended what by all appearances was a promising career.” He came to understand, however, that “Perkins' relatively convoluted path led to a career as a high school physiology teacher, which she describes as ‘a life of work but also a life of people and play.’ It seems she ultimately found the elusive work-life balance, and that is indeed something to celebrate.” Judging by the story’s comment section, others agree.  

► In this week’s Working Life column, earthquake engineer Tiziana Rossetto explains how she collaborates with other scientists to advance research about tsunamis.

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