Elsewhere in Science, 9 January 2015

Black and yellow mustard seeds

Credit: Dennis Wilkinson/Flickr

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 MedicineScience Signaling, and Science require AAAS membership (AAAS is the publisher of Science Careers) or a site license.

► In a Thursday ScienceInsider, Warren Cornwall reported that “[a] new cybersecurity research center, being built in cooperation with private firms and the University of Wisconsin (UW) system, aims to lure more high-tech research dollars to the state, particularly some of the billions spent each year on classified work.”  The center “highlights the tricky act universities face in balancing the openness that is the bedrock of academic science with the secrecy demanded by agencies funding classified projects.”

► Also on Thursday, David Grimm reported on an audit of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), “the agency responsible for overseeing lab animal welfare in the United States.” The audit found that APHIS wasted resources, did not properly punish labs, “and did not conduct investigations into ‘grave or repeat’ animal welfare violations.” Auditors also found that APHIS wasted some $115,000 on “at least 500 inspections of 107 research facilities that hadn’t housed regulated animals for at least 2 years—and some that hadn’t housed such animals for up to 13 years.”

► Today at ScienceInsider, Virginia Gewin reported on an effort by 69 organizations, including “the world’s leading agricultural research centers” to “systematically characterize the genetic, physical, and biochemical makeup” of seeds in seed banks “in hopes of exploiting traits—such as drought tolerance and pest resistance—that could help produce better crop varieties.” DivSeek, as it’s called, is a giant data-sharing effort, with all the challenges that presents: “agree[ing] on standards, tools, and protocols to generate, organize, and share information,” “creating a global system of unique identifiers,” and so on.

A “2013 commentary in Nature envisioned a similar scheme costing $200 million annually.” If fully funded at that level, the project could buy a lot of research and pay a lot of scientists.

► In 1950, Alan Turing created a test aimed at determining whether a machine has human-level intelligence. In this week’s issue of Science, Jia You reported on a workshop to be held on 25 January at the 29th Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence conference in Austin, at which “researchers will discuss proposals for a new Turing Championship. In contrast with Turing's single litmus test, the proposed challenges acknowledge that intelligence has multiple dimensions—from language comprehension to social awareness—that are best tackled piece by piece.” “By early 2016, the organizers hope to stage a set of trial competitions that will be revised and repeated regularly,” You wrote. 

► As we noted earlier today, ScienceInsider has a post on a new report from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology on the current “surfeit of scientists chasing too few research dollars and academic jobs.” The report, noted Jocelyn Kaiser, “endorses familiar solutions and adds a few new ones.”

► Underwater archaeologist Charles Beeker is profiled by Michael Bawaya in this week’s Science. Beeker, the founder and director of the Underwater Science Program at Indiana University, Bloomington, has helped protect shipwrecks from plunderers and established “underwater museums” in California, Florida, and the Caribbean so that divers can explore the “bounty of information from a single moment in time” offered by a shipwreck. The work sometimes puts him in conflict with those who would like to profit from the wrecks. “In addition to the occasional fisticuffs, Beeker has been sued (he won), slandered, and harassed by treasure hunters who oppose his efforts to find, protect, and research historic shipwrecks.” Beeker sees the economics differently though. “You can only sell [a shipwreck] once as a treasure hunt. … I can sell it forever as an underwater museum,” he says.

► A letter in this week’s Science responds favorably to Science Editor-in-Chief Marcia McNutt’s 5 December proposal, in an editorial, that scientists and administrators devise and utilize better methods for evaluating young scientists than the ones currently in use. “I believe most scientists do recognize that the current approach of using bibliometrics to gauge achievement is misleading, not just for young scientists but for scientists of all ages,” wrote Kumar Selvarajoo of the Institute for Advanced Biosciences at Keio University in Tsuruoka, Japan. Scientists in and from the developing world are penalized by the current system, he continued, because “the open-access cost or publication fees of high–impact factor journals may not be affordable” for them. The system also rewards young scientists who are able to work in “highly accomplished research group[s]” where it’s easier to publish in high-profile journals. “How do we encourage youngsters to pursue their passion and dreams, which may not materialize in the short time frame of a Ph.D. or postdoc period?” Selvarajoo asks.

► Ichthyologist Elizabeth Marchio’s outdoor play as a child helped shape her career in science. Now she studies how leisure activities can lead to careers in science and create science-literate citizens, as she wrote in this week’s Science Careers-produced Working Life column.

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