Elsewhere in Science, 13 March 2015


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

► “The Human Brain Project (HBP), a humongous, controversial research project backed by the European Union, must reform to stay on course, a review panel has recommended—and it must do so fast,” Martin Enserink wrote last Friday at ScienceInsider. “A summary of the panel's report, published today by the European Commission, says a series of ‘corrective actions’ needs to be taken in HBP's governance, the way it collaborates, and its communication.” On Tuesday, Enserink followed up with a report on a study recommending that HBP “be remade into an international organization modeled on CERN or the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EPFL) in Heidelberg.”

► “University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), health policy postdoc Cristin Kearns came across ... 319 letters, meeting minutes, and other documents dating from 1959 to 1971 in the papers of Roger Adams, an organic chemist at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, who consulted for sugar industry–funded research organizations,” wrote Jocelyn Kaiser Tuesday at ScienceInsider. “Kearns found that sugar companies acknowledged as far back as 1950 that consuming sugar contributed to tooth decay. Yet the industry ‘adopted a strategy to deflect attention’ away from reducing sugar consumption and toward ways of reducing its harms, she and her co-authors write.” The study establishes that “[t]he sugar industry convinced the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) that studies that might persuade people to cut back on sugary foods should not be part of a national plan to fight childhood tooth decay.”

► In a Tuesday ScienceInsider, Carolyn Gramling reported on the “Next MacGyver” competition, a contest sponsored by the United Engineering Foundation, which “hopes to inspire young women to become engineers.” “The five winners will each receive $5000—and will be paired with an established Hollywood producer to help shepherd the idea into a complete script for a TV pilot. The application deadline is 17 April.” The story also includes a Q&A with the producers who will work with the winners: CSI creator Anthony Zuiker, MacGyver creator Lee Zlotoff, and Lori McCreary, CEO and founder of Revelations Entertainment.

► In a commentary in this week’s Nature, five scientists propose a moratorium on gene-editing in embryos, sperm, or egg cells. Gretchen Vogel wrote about it Thursday at ScienceInsider. The first author is Edward Lanphier, the “president and CEO of Sangamo BioSciences in Richmond, California, a company that hopes to use gene-editing technology to treat patients.”

► As the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) prepares to start up again after a 2-year hiatus for repairs, researchers worry that the giant machine may have peaked with the 2012 discovery of the Higgs particle. They’re worried, Adrian Cho wrote in this week’s Science, that the LHC will merely confirm the status quo—the standard model—and won’t produce any new physics. That is, “for many, the nightmare scenario.”

► “A political dispute involving the National Science Foundation (NSF) that has taken on near-biblical importance within the scientific community may be inching closer to resolution,” wrote Jeffrey Mervis in a Thursday ScienceInsider. “A new statement from Representative Lamar Smith (R–TX), the chair of the science committee in the U.S. House of Representatives that oversees NSF, appears to be a significant softening of his long-standing criticism of NSF’s grantsmaking process.” What was the statement? “It came in response to a question from ScienceInsider about the results of his review of some 60 NSF grants, some dating back a decade.  ‘The Committee has learned a lot about the merit selection process, but nothing to suggest it is not the best available means for making very difficult, complex decisions,’ Smith told ScienceInsider in an e-mail.”

► Republicans attacking climate-change research have a new tactic: attacking earth science. “Senator Ted Cruz (R–TX), the new chair of the science and space panel within the Senate commerce committee and an unofficial presidential candidate, asserted yesterday at a hearing that the earth sciences are not ‘hard science,’ ” Mervis wrote this afternoon at ScienceInsider. “Freshman Senator Cory Gardner (R–CO), a member of the panel and a rising star within the Republican Party, echoed Cruz’s words. And the new chair of an important science spending panel in the House of Representatives, Representative John Culberson (R–TX), has said repeatedly in recent weeks that the earth sciences don’t meet his definition of ‘the pure sciences.’ ”

A Perspective in this week’s STM addressed media’s unrealistic predictions about the pace of stem-cell-therapy translation, including the culpability of scientists. “Given that media professionals traditionally rely on the scientific community as a major source of science news, our finding that scientists have provided, in most cases, authoritative statements, either by implication or through a direct quote, regarding unrealistic timelines for [stem cell (SC)] therapies raises a more general concern about the role of scientists as public communicators,” wrote Kalina Kamenova and Timothy Caulfield, both of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. “There is clearly a need to raise awareness among translational SC researchers regarding the importance of conveying realistic translation timelines to the popular press.”

► In this week’s Science Careers-produced Working Life column, Rachel Bernstein profiles Ethan Perlstein who, after hitting a dead end on the traditional academic career track, took to the wilderness and ended up a CEO.

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