Elsewhere in Science, 08 May 2015

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Credit: Janet Stephens/Wikimedia Commons

Each week, the Science family of publications publishes articles that are likely to be of interest to Science Careers readers, so we're pointing 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.

► “An increasingly partisan confrontation over some of NASA’s research programs is getting testier,” David Malakoff  wrote last Friday at ScienceInsider. “Yesterday, the science committee of the U.S. House of Representatives approved, on a party-line vote, a Republican-backed bill that calls for deep cuts in spending on earth science. The move drew a sharp response from science groups, NASA leaders, and White House officials.” The bill’s support for earth science is half a billion dollars below the White House request. Shortly after the vote, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden wrote that the bill “guts our Earth science program and threatens to set back generations’ worth of progress in better understanding our changing climate, and our ability to prepare for and respond to earthquakes, droughts, and storm events. In addition, the bill underfunds the critical space technologies that the nation will need to lead in space, including on our journey to Mars.”

► “Representative Louie Gohmert (R–TX) is worried that scientists employed by the U.S. government have been running roughshod over the rights of Americans in pursuit of their personal political goals,” Emily DeMarco wrote last Friday at ScienceInsider. “So this week Gohmert, the chair of the oversight and investigations subpanel of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Natural Resources Committee, held a hearing to explore ‘the consequences of politically driven science.’ Notably absent, however, were any scientists, including those alleged to have gone astray.

“ ‘The purpose of this hearing is to hear from real people, mammals called human beings that have been harmed by the federal government,’ Gohmert said in opening the 29 April hearing, which featured testimony from three Republican-called witnesses on alleged misdeeds by researchers with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Park Service (NPS).”

► “A neuroscientist who has been the target of animal rights activists says he is giving up on primate research,” Gretchen Vogel wrote Monday at ScienceInsider, from Berlin. “Nikos Logothetis, a director at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, Germany, says he will conclude his current experiments on macaques ‘as quickly as possible’ and then shift his research to rodent neural networks. In a letter last week to fellow primate researchers, Logothetis cites a lack of support from colleagues and the wider scientific community as key factors in his decision. In particular, he says the Max Planck Society—and other organizations—should pursue criminal charges against the activists who target researchers.”

► “Scientists have known for years that the genome is riddled with sequences that control gene activity and is not just made up of genes,” Elizabeth Pennisi wrote in this week’s Science. “This extra layer of complexity has hampered searches for the genetic basis of diseases and for drugs that would target just the DNA at fault. In the past few months, however, several major research consortia have delivered what amount to users' manuals for the genome, mapping the locations of thousands of those switches, the specific genes they control, and where in the body they are turned on or off. The latest and arguably boldest of these big biology efforts has now analyzed genetic material gleaned from more than 100 people who had died just hours before. Together with three other projects, the Genotype-Tissue Expression project provides some hope that this complexity can eventually be understood,” she wrote in the summary. Such new insights have great promise for scientists hoping to develop new therapeutic interventions. Three related papers are published in this week’s Science.

► “Between 2007 and 2012, New Jersey and Pennsylvania shed 22,000 pharmaceutical jobs, mostly from large companies,” wrote the Milken Institute's Bernard Munos in a Perspective titled, “How to handle an industry in disruption: Intervene or laissez-faire?” in this week’s STM. “Yet during the same time, 300 life science companies sprouted across the region. Many were contract research organizations that did work that drug companies used to do internally but are now keen to outsource to lower-cost organizations. Other companies were founded by frustrated researchers who saw a chance to pursue scientific ideas that their former employers would not consider. Many unemployed scientists found new jobs in those start-ups, but often at lower salaries than those they used to enjoy. Some left the area for other states where they could secure employment in their areas of expertise. Yet, others exited the industry permanently, taking teaching positions, early retirement packages, and, sometimes, menial jobs that they needed in order to pay the bills.” Munos argued that “creative policy-making” can facilitate recovery from such disruptions in the industry and renew innovation.

► In this week’s issue of Science, Dennis Normile reported that “after 2 years of planning, [Japan] has its own version of the [National Institutes of Health (NIH)] in the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED),” but there are some differences between the two: “[U]nlike NIH, AMED does not have its own campus or facilities,” and  “[t]he fledgling agency's budget—roughly $1.2 billion this year—is also a fraction of NIH's $30 billion.” The agency’’s mission is to advance “work in fields ranging from infectious diseases to cancer and brain science to rare maladies and regenerative medicine.”

► “Raymond Schinazi, an unusual academic/entrepreneur hybrid, has had his hand in the development of five lifesaving drugs that have come to market—and he's still going,” Jon Cohen wrote in this week’s Science. “An organic chemist based at Emory University in Atlanta who has helped start several biotech companies, Schinazi has made hundreds of millions of dollars from the drugs, which treat HIV and hepatitis B and help cure hepatitis C. He specializes in nucleoside and nucleotide analogs that trip up viruses, a strategy once dismissed by many drug developers as too dangerous. His accomplishments have won high praise from his admirers, but, inevitably enough, his remarkable success brought on a tangle of lawsuits, increased scrutiny, and a few fallouts with longtime collaborators. ‘When you're very successful,’ he says, ‘people are very jealous.’ ”

► In a Friday ScienceInsider, Tania Rabesandratana reported that 16 “Nobel laureates have added their voices to a chorus of 149 science organizations defending existing E.U.-wide rules for animal research.” “In an open letter published yesterday in The Times and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the Nobel Prize winners” asked the European Commission to ignore a call “to scrap a 2010 directive that regulates the use of animals in scientific research.” “They say the directive was ‘carefully considered,’ and that repealing it would ‘represent a significant step backwards’ both for animal welfare and for European research.” However, proponents of the Stop Vivisection European Citizens' Initiative “want the Commission to put forward a fresh proposal phasing out animal testing in favor of ‘more accurate, reliable, human-relevant methods.”

► When Science Editor-in-Chief Marcia McNutt was “asked to review 60 proposals from graduate students for small research grants,” she noticed that “[m]ore than 10% of the applicants had at least one supporting letter containing inappropriate material for the decision at hand,” and all of those applicants were women. For example, “one letter described how the candidate was so good to her elderly mother, yet still enjoyed life, spending time in nature with her husband and her animal friends,” she wrote. “Another letter reflected amazement that the candidate managed to balance so efficiently being a student, a scientist, and a mother.”

McNutt concluded that the “future strength of the global scientific enterprise depends on boosting the influx of diverse and talented researchers into science and engineering fields. Subtle bias, even unintended, in advancing this cohort can be more damaging than outright bias, because it is more difficult to detect and correct.” In order to foster the growth of more diversity in science, she urges “all who write these important letters of recommendation to take a last look before hitting ‘send’ to be sure that what you have written is free of bias.”

► If you haven’t responded to the NextGen Voices “Postdocs Reimagined” survey, you’re running out of time. Your response could be published in the 3 July issue of Science—but for that to happen you’ll need to respond by 15 May. You can submit your response here.

► In this week’s Science Careers-produced Working Life story, Ainissa Ramirez, co-author of Newton’s Football, explains why she left the conventional science track to pursue a “wilder and more precious” career as a “science evangelist.”

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