Elsewhere in Science, 17 April 2015

Science ballet

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 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.

► Members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives are working on “reconciling their versions of a largely symbolic but politically sensitive budget plan,” David Malakoff reported on Monday at ScienceInsider. “In general, science boosters loathe the spending blueprints approved last month by the House and Senate. That’s because they would, if implemented, squeeze federal funding for civilian research over the long term. But they are also hoping any final plan—if lawmakers can agree on one—will retain some language they like, including provisions that promote a funding boost for biomedical research and call on officials to respond to the threat of climate change.” Regardless of the outcome, though, the plan will be nonbinding, serving primarily “as a parade banner that lawmakers can use to highlight their spending and policy priorities for the public and to draw contrasts with political opponents.”

► “A woman applying for a tenure-track faculty position in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) at a U.S. university is twice as likely to be hired as an equally qualified man, if both candidates are highly qualified, according to a new study,” Rachel Bernstein wrote at ScienceInsider on Monday. “The results run counter to widely held perceptions and suggest that this is a good time for women to be pursuing academic careers. Some observers, however, say that the study—which involved actual faculty members rating hypothetical candidates—may not be relevant to real-world hiring. And they worry the results may leave the incorrect impression that universities have achieved gender parity in STEM fields.”

► In a Tuesday ScienceInsider, Erik Stokstad reported that Paolo Macchiarini, a visiting professor at the Karolinska Institute “who attracted widespread attention for transplanting artificial tracheae into patients—and then faced scientific misconduct charges—has been found not guilty in the first of two investigations into his work.” The institute’s ethics council came to the conclusion “that the issues raised are of a ‘philosophy-of-science kind rather than of a research-ethical kind,’ ” Stokstad wrote. In the second ongoing case, “four surgeons at the affiliated Karolinska University Hospital charged that [Macchiarini] did not get properly informed consent from patients—a charge Macchiarini has denied.”

► The World Health Organization (WHO) wants “the main findings of every clinical study” to be “submitted to a peer-reviewed journal within 12 months after data collection ends and be published—in an open-access journal unless there is a specific reason why that's impossible—within 24 months,” Martin Enserink wrote in a Tuesday ScienceInsider. In a statement, WHO also calls for the results from older studies to be published. The organization wants the key outcomes from all studies to be “made available in a clinical trial registry such as ClinicalTrials.gov within 12 months after a study is completed.” “Not doing so can harm patients and research subjects, waste time and money, and hold back medical science, WHO says.”

► “The top Democrats on three committees in the U.S. House of Representatives—all women—are concerned that ‘gender bias is inhibiting women and girls’ from pursuing careers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields,” Jeffrey Mervis wrote Tuesday at ScienceInsider. “So last year they asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to ask the six leading federal research agencies for data on their applicant pools. The two agencies that fund the largest amount of basic research—the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF)—keep careful records as part of an ongoing effort to monitor whether agency officials and grant reviewers are discriminating against women and minority scientists. But the three agencies with the next biggest portfolios—DOD [the U.S. Department of Defense], DOE [the Department of Energy], and NASA—‘do not routinely collect demographic information about researchers who submit grant proposals and receive awards,’ GAO reports in a 17 March letter to representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson (D–TX), Rosa DeLauro (D–CT), and Louise Slaughter (D–NY).” Consequently, it’s impossible to know whether those agencies give women a fair shot at winning grants.

► Wednesday, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives rolled out a long-expected and controversial “reauthorization” bill covering NSF, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, research at DOE, and federal science education policy. Mervis and Malakoff provided a preliminary assessment of the bill Wednesday evening at ScienceInsider. “Authored by the panel’s chair, Representative Lamar Smith (R–TX), the text was not shared ahead of time with the panel’s minority members and has no Democratic sponsors. Likewise, the scientific community will need time to digest its wealth of details—some of which are certain to infuriate, whereas others are likely to please. But there won’t be much time for cogitation: The committee plans to convene next Wednesday to mark up the legislation,” they wrote. The bill “would reallocate NSF’s research dollars to favor the natural sciences and engineering at the expense of the geosciences and the social and behavioral sciences.” There’s also an unexpected bonus that the folks at NSF are unlikely to appreciate: “[T]he bill gives NSF the responsibility ‘to evaluate scientific research programs undertaken by [other] agencies of the federal government.’ The language appears to put NSF in the awkward position of judging what the rest of the federal research establishment is doing. That’s an untenable role for a single agency, and the idea is likely a political nonstarter,” Mervis and Malakoff wrote. For DOE, the bill slashes funding for renewable energy technologies and increases funding for fossil fuels. DOE’s renewable energy programs would be funded at about a third of 2015 levels.

► “The low rumbling of the engine of the RV Sikuliaq was music to ocean scientists’ ears last week during a 23-day cruise to test how the newest addition to the U.S. oceanographic fleet handled icy seas,” Eli Kintisch reported at ScienceInsider today. “Previously, U.S. scientists have relied on the Coast Guard’s Healy icebreaker for access to the Arctic. Now, Sikuliaq will allow scientists to access icy areas during the fall and spring ‘shoulder seasons.’ ” The 80-meter-long, $200 million ship, which is “rated to move through sea ice as thick as 0.8 m,” will begin research operations in July.

In this week’s Letters section, Luciano Gastón Morosi of the Instituto de Biología y Medicina Experimental in Buenos Aires wrote about a science camp held by Expedición Ciencia, “a nongovernmental organization of scientists, educators, and students devoted to promoting science education for children in middle and high school.” Morosi attended the science camp when he was a teenager, and it was there that he realized he “wanted to pursue a scientific career.” Now he helps organize the science camp in hopes that it will have an impact on the lives of others.

► In this week’s Science Careers-produced Working Life column, Lina Colucci—an engineer, a musician, and a dancer—explains how all three of her passions help her perform at a high level, whether it’s in the lab or on the stage.

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