Elsewhere in Science, 3 April 2015

Sculpture depicting ribosomes at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Credit: Catrijn vanden Westhende/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 Medicine (STM)Science Signaling, and Science require AAAS membership (AAAS is the publisher of Science Careers) or a site license.

► “BioMed Central, a publisher of medical and science journals, has retracted 43 articles because of fake peer reviews, The Washington Post reports.” The publisher started conducting an investigation, last year, after noticing that some of the reviewers had strange e-mail addresses. You can read more in the Sifter.

► In many countries, including the United States, the equitable treatment of graduate students and postdocs has long been an issue. Part of the problem is that some are treated as employees, while others are treated as students. In Germany, Ph.D. candidates at the Max Planck Society (MPG) have for years received either employment contracts, which come with union protections and government benefits, or stipends, which come with neither. According to the terms of a €50 million plan for young scientists unveiled late last week by MPG, all MPG Ph.D. candidates are expected to receive employment contracts. (See the related Perspective at Science Careers.)

► In last week’s Science editorial, Editor-in-Chief Marcia McNutt described two recent attempts to mute the voices of scientists in the United States. Canada’s government has also gotten in the act. This week it’s the U.K. government’s turn. A three-sentence addition to the U.K. Civil Service Code for public workers “requires that all contact with media be approved in advance by the minister in charge of the relevant agency,” wrote Erik Stokstad at ScienceInsider last Friday.

► Last Thursday, an editor for Nature Publishing Group’s (NPG) open access journal Scientific Reports used Twitter to resign “in a very public protest of NPG’s recent decision to allow authors to pay money to expedite peer review of their submitted papers,” John Bohannon reported last Friday. “The flap shines a light on a fledgling industry where several companies are now making millions of dollars by privatizing peer review.”

NPG is using a service called Rubriq. “For a $750 payment to NPG, authors are guaranteed a review within 3 weeks or they get their money back. … The reviewers get paid $100 for each completed review. The review process itself is also streamlined, using an online ‘scorecard’ instead of the traditional approach of comments, questions, and suggestions.”

►“Efforts to fix a short circuit in the world's largest atom smasher, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), have been successful, according to officials at the European particle physics lab, CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland,” wrote Emily Conover in a Tuesday ScienceInsider.

► RIKEN, Japan's network of national labs whose reputation has been marred by the STAP stem cell scandal, has a new president, Hiroshi Matsumoto. He has “pledged to follow through on his predecessor's plans for addressing shortcomings that created an environment for research misconduct,” Dennis Normile wrote from Tokyo on Wednesday. In a press conference, Matsumoto emphasized that “[h]e wants researchers to recognize that their efforts must benefit the citizens of Japan and worldwide society.”  

► In a Focus piece in this week’s STM, a group of authors from the University of California, San Diego; the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Georgia Institute of Technology; and the National Institutes of Health, makes the case that medical care should be improved by “accelerat[ing] the cross-fertilization of the cultures of engineering and medicine” and offer three recommendations. “[N]ew frontiers of translational advances in engineering and technology have resulted in substantial clinical impact to date, but the potential has not been fully realized,” the authors wrote. The recommendations include developing “[n]ew models of financial support for the physician-engineers,” “train[ing] teams of engineers and clinicians who understand each other’s culture and language so that they can communicate and collaborate effectively,” and creating “a new engineering-based medical education paradigm that includes engineering principles and the quantitative sciences in addition to clinical and basic medical sciences.”

► “The famed Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) on Long Island, New York, a bastion of basic biomedical research, is making a major foray into more applied drug development” by partnering with a local hospital to “mov[e] basic cancer discoveries into the clinic,” Jocelyn Kaiser wrote on Thursday. The “more than $120 million investment”—the source of which is not disclosed—“will provide a substantial amount of funding to do the translational cancer research that we have been doing on a shoestring budget,” says Bruce Stillman, CSHL CEO and president. “Stillman says the new venture will not compromise CSHL’s basic research,” Kaiser wrote.

► January’s NextGen VOICES survey “asked young scientists to name and describe a currently nonexistent invention that would make them more effective scientists.” A sample of the responses was published in this week’s Letters section. Respondents “described inventions that streamlined bench work, organization, communication, literature review, article writing, and idea generation.” Here is an excerpt from one response:

HAVE YOU EVER faced blank stares at the dinner table when grandma asks you about your work? Have you spent countless hours on a presentation or grant application to target a multidisciplinary audience but still felt like they did not get it? Have you wished you had prepared your elevator speech when you ran into an unexpected investor? Then the Translate It! SCIENCE Edition software is right for you! This software translates Word and PowerPoint files to accessible language with the click of a button, and its mobile application helps you share your research with all when you are on the go.

–Karina R. Vega-Villa of Wenatchee Valley College in Washington

You can read more responses here.

MalariaWorld Journal, a small open-access journal in the Netherlands, “is promising to pay authors €150 for every article it publishes,” Dalmeet Singh Chawla wrote at ScienceInsider earlier today. “Most open-access (OA) journals make money by making authors pay an article processing charge to publish a paper,” which MalariaWorld Journal editor Bart Knols finds problematic because he would prefer that that money be spent on research or prevention. “The cost of publishing an article in the Malaria Journal”—another open access malaria journal “that charges €1720 per published paper”—“can cover more than 400 children with bed nets,” Knols says. Those considering publishing in MalariaWorld Journal should note, though, that it is not indexed in PubMed and has no impact factor.

► New technologies like CRISPR “have made it easy for anyone with basic molecular biology training to insert, remove, and edit genes in cells, including sperm, eggs, and embryos, potentially curing genetic diseases or adding desirable traits,” wrote Gretchen Vogel in the 20 March issue of Science. “Researchers fear that publicity surrounding such experiments could trigger a public backlash that would block legitimate uses of the technology. In two commentaries, one published online in Science on 19 March and one in Nature on 12 March, two groups of scientists recommend what steps the scientific community could take to ensure the technology would be used safely and ethically.” The Science commentary, by David Baltimore and 17 other scientific stars, appears in this week’s issue.   

► The misalignment of professional incentives and the communication difficulties among communities with different objectives is a common theme in science these days. It’s especially important in the world of medical research, where progress can be slowed when clinicians and basic scientists get their wires crossed. Another example is the intersection of medicine and engineering, as a group of authors note in this week’s STM (discussed in a previous item).

According to this week’s Science editorial, by McNutt, it’s a problem in the disaster science community, too. “During disasters such as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, engaging the expertise of the academic community helped responders make critical decisions,” she wrote. “A major barrier to such engagement, however, is the cultural gap between academia's reward system and that which prevails in the disaster response community. Given the importance of developing smart approaches to disasters, whether natural or human-caused, we need to bridge this gap.”

►In this week’s Science Careers-produced Working Life story, former American Chemical Society CEO Madeleine Jacobs shares life and career lessons and gives advice for maintaining a good work-life balance.

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