Elsewhere in Science, 15 May 2015

The icebreaker and cruise ship Polar Star navigates icy seas off Antarctica in 2009.

Credit: Ville Miettinen/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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.

► In a Monday ScienceInsider, Dennis Normile reported that climate change is creating a new obstacle for scientists working in Antarctica. “[T]he sea ice surrounding the continent is increasing and now hampering ship navigation and resupply operations.” “This week, scientists and logistics experts from the 30 nations working on the continent are meeting in Hobart, Australia, to exchange ideas on coping with the sea ice challenge.”

► In other climate change news, Leigh Dayton wrote on Tuesday that in April, “the University of Western Australia (UWA) in Perth announced plans to set up an Australian Consensus Centre (ACC), chaired by [global warming skeptic Bjørn] Lomborg, that would conduct policy research on overseas aid, Australian prosperity, agriculture, and regional issues. UWA announced that the federal government would contribute roughly one-third of ACC’s operating costs. The rest of the budget would come from corporate sponsors and government grants.” As a whole, the Australian “scientific community … has had to tighten its belt in recent months,” so some scientists were upset when “UWA revealed on 20 April that the government had already contributed AU$4 million to launch” the center. A few days later, “newspapers revealed … that the push for ACC came from Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a Lomborg admirer who quoted the Danish researcher favorably in his 2009 book Battlelines. Although Lomborg has said he accepts that the climate is changing, he has downplayed global warming’s contribution in two popular books.”

On 8 May, UWA Vice-Chancellor Paul Johnson announced “that the university would cancel the contract to set up ACC and return the money.” That’s not the end of the story, though. Minister for Education and Training Christopher Pyne “has vowed to find a new home for the center at a willing institution.”

► On Wednesday, “the European Commission unveiled a broad plan for a new science advice system at a meeting in Brussels,” Tania Rabesandratana wrote that same day. “As a key part of the system, the commission plans to appoint a seven-member, high-level panel of scientists to advise its policymakers. It also will create structures to better draw on the expertise of Europe’s national academies and learned societies.” Research commissioner Carlos Moedas said that “[t]he group will be made up of seven ‘top level’ scientists, whom he insisted will not be employed by the commission—contrary to the former [chief scientific adviser]. The advisory panel's members will be recruited by a three-strong ‘identification committee,’ through a process modeled after the European Research Council's search for scientific council members.”

► “The Australian government’s spending plan for 2015 to 2016 will leave most scientists treading water,” Dayton wrote Wednesday. “The government allotted AU$9.2 billion for R&D in its annual budget released yesterday, roughly the same as last year’s figure.” “Big facilities did well,” though, including the Australian Synchrotron, the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy, and a new Medical Research Future Fund.

► Also on Wednesday, David Malakoff and Jeffrey Mervis reported that “a draft 2016 appropriations bill released [that day] by a U.S. House of Representatives spending panel” would increase the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) budget by $50 million, which is “a tiny 0.7% increase over the current $7.345 billion” and “$329 million below the president’s request.” NASA would receive “$18.529 billion overall,” which is a “$519 million increase over current levels, matching the president’s request.” The National Institute of Standards and Technology “would get $855 million, $9 million below current levels and far below the White House request for a 29% increase to $1.12 billion.” The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would get $5.2 billion—“a $274 million cut below current levels, and far less than the president’s request for $5.98 billion.” The Census Bureau would receive a $1.1 billion, “$25 million above current spending, but $387 million below the request.”

► According to an Education Focus in this week’s STM, despite the “tremendous investment in the genomic sciences over the last two decades” and the biomedical community’s eagerness “to apply new genomic knowledge to patient care,” there are fewer than 2000 board-certified medical geneticists in the United States. Consequently, “physicians without specialized genetics training will be increasingly called upon to order genomic testing and use the results in the care of their patients.” Are they ready for the challenge? The authors, Jason Vassey and Robert Green of Harvard Medical School and  Bruce Korf of the University of Alabama, Birmingham, conclude that they’re as ready as doctors ever are to deal with new technology. “[M]odest training and support from specialists and health systems will prepare nongeneticist physicians to use genomics in the care of their patients.”

► Also in STM, Elazer R. Edelman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and STM’s Kelly LaMarco introduced Champions of Translation, a series profiling historical figures who have made significant contributions to translating science into clinical practice. First up is William Heberden, the elder, an 18th-century English physician and “a master of translational science” who “embodied all of the elements biomedical scientists respect and pursue today. He not only spent a lifetime recording intricate observations of diseases at his patients’ bedsides—earning him the title ‘father of clinical observation’ of the 18th century—he also influenced generations that came after him. In many respects, he heralded modern concepts of medicine as a scientific art form.”

► Most major disease interventions involve for-profit industry in some way, either in developing or disseminating new treatments, or both. So what happens when solving a major health issue isn’t inherently profitable? For developing new antibiotics, massive government intervention and financial incentives are the answer, says a commission established by the British prime minister and chaired by a former Goldman Sachs economist. In a report, the commission argues that “[g]lobal governments should unite to offer multibillion-dollar incentives for drug developers, and pharmaceutical companies should pool their billions in support of early-stage research,” as Kelly Servick wrote Thursday at ScienceInsider.

► “The congressional noose around research in the social sciences and the geosciences at [NSF] got pulled a little tighter today as an influential legislator unveiled a new and controversial budget metric as part of his blueprint for the agency,” Mervis wrote Thursday at ScienceInsider. Representative John Culberson (R-TX), who chairs the appropriations subcommittee that funds NSF, and his Republican colleagues want to make sure the bulk of the money is spent on “core sciences,” which, in their view, do not include the geological or the social and behavioral sciences. “Culberson spoke to ScienceInsider after his panel marked up a 2016 spending bill that would give NSF only $50 million of the $379 million increase it has requested.”

► “Cuba reconnects,” proclaimed the cover of this week’s issue of Science, and with the thaw of the relationship between the island nation and the United States comes various career implications. “If Che Guevara were alive today, the iconic guerrilla leader of the Cuban revolution surely would applaud how [University of Havana physicist Ernesto] Altshuler and a handful of comrades have kept science alive by cunning and daring in an isolated nation trapped in a time warp,” Richard Stone wrote in a feature about how some Cuban scientists have managed to survive, and even thrive, despite challenging circumstances. Stone also conducted a Q-and-A with “Fidelito,” Fidel Castro’s eldest son, scientist Fidel Castro Díaz-Balart. “The soft-spoken science adviser to Cuba's powerful Council of State and vice president of the Academy of Sciences of Cuba” discusses his scientific training and his nanotechnology ambitions.

Also in the issue is an editorial by Sergio Jorge Pastrana, the foreign secretary of the Cuban Academy of Sciences, about the possible effects the reopening of the relationship may have on Cuba’s scientific community. “[A]ny impact will depend on what policy-makers and researchers make of this long-awaited opportunity,” he wrote. “Cuban scientists, engineers, and educators, together with U.S. entrepreneurship and resources, must promote scientific collaboration between them and with other nations.”

Finally, ScienceInsider published a Q-and-A with Frances Colón, the acting science and technology adviser to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, on Thursday. The Cuba thaw “allows us to ... take stock of mutually beneficial areas of collaboration that can be either expanded or started,” Colón wrote.

► This week’s issue included two book reviews that highlight interesting and unusual career paths. First, Claudia Alexander of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, reviewed We Could Not Fail, which “presents the biographies of 10 African-American engineers, mathematicians, and technicians who laid the groundwork for the first African-American astronauts through their involvement in the U.S. space program in the 1950s and 1960s.” Next, Sandra Knapp of the Natural History Museum in the United Kingdom reviewed Naturalists in Paradise, which “brings the expeditions of three iconic Victorian explorers—Alfred Russel Wallace, Henry Walter Bates, and Richard Spruce—to life.”

► In this week’s Science Careers-produced Working Life story, Emily Nicholson explains how adjusting her CV helped her win a tenured position after taking time off to raise her kids.

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