Elsewhere in Science, 22 May 2015

Here, a researcher at an Army science center.

U.S. Army RDECOM/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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.

►Last year, representatives Louise Slaughter (D–NY), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D–TX), and Rosa DeLauro (D–NY) asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to collect information “on the gender of … grant applicants and award recipients” at the six leading federal research agencies, so they can “determine whether women in science and engineering face any discrimination in the grantsmaking process,” Jeffrey Mervis wrote in a Monday ScienceInsider. The GAO found that the Department of Defense (DOD) and NASA don’t have the necessary information, but “[l]ast week, DOD’s head of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, Frank Kendall, wrote to the legislators saying that the department ‘has found no legal hurdles that would prevent the Department from collecting this data.’ Kendall said DOD would work with agencies that already do so, notably the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, ‘to determine best practices before beginning data collection.’ ”

►A Monday sifter pointed to a Nature News story about a very unique physics paper. “With 5154 authors, [it] has seemingly broken the record for the largest number of contributors to a research article.” Published in Physical Review Letters, the study “provides the most precise estimate of the mass of the Higgs boson yet known and is the result of collaboration between two teams that operate detectors at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Europe’s particle physics lab near Geneva, Switzerland.” Talk about a collaborative effort.

►“An investigation has concluded that surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, famous for transplanting tissue-engineered tracheae into more than a dozen people, committed scientific misconduct,” Gretchen Vogel wrote at ScienceInsider Tuesday. “The allegations … involved three surgeries performed at Karolinska for people who had a damaged trachea,” two of whom have since died; the third is in intensive care. “‘There were data in the papers that could not be found in the medical records,’ [says external investigator Bengt Gerdin, professor emeritus of surgery at Uppsala University]. The number of mismatches, Gerdin says, led him to conclude that there was ‘a systemic misrepresentation of the truth that lead the reader to have a completely false impression of the success of the technique.’ Such a misrepresentation constitutes serious misconduct, he says.” “Karolinska Institute spokesperson Claes Keisu says that the institute is working on an English translation of Gerdin’s report, which should be available next week. Macchiarini and other parties will then have 2 weeks to comment on the findings. Karolinska’s vice-chancellor will then decide what action to take, Keisu says. He says a decision is expected in mid- or late June.”

►Also on Tuesday at ScienceInsider, Adrian Cho wrote that “[f]or the second year in a row, Senate budgetmakers have moved to pull the United States out of ITER, the huge and hugely over budget international fusion experiment under construction in Cadarache, France.” American fusion lovers don’t have to give up hope just yet, though. “[N]ixing ITER is hardly a done deal: On 1 May, legislators in the House of Representatives passed their own version of the energy and water bill, [where senators are proposing ITER-related cuts], which includes $150 million for the U.S. contribution to ITER—the amount the White House has requested.” In addition, “[t]he White House has already said it would recommend that the president veto the House version of the ... bill.”  

►On Wednesday, David Malakoff reported that “[a] political science graduate student accused of faking data behind a recent Science paper on gay marriage is preparing to offer a defense ‘at my earliest opportunity,’ according to statements posted on his Twitter account. ‘I’m gathering evidence and relevant information so I can provide a single comprehensive response,’ tweeted an account registered to Michael J. LaCour, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Los Angeles.” This response came after a group of researchers brought concerns about the data to the attention of the paper’s co-author, political scientist Donald Green of Columbia University, and he asked Science to retract the paper. “ ‘Given the fact that Dr. Green has requested retraction, Science will move swiftly and take any necessary action at the earliest opportunity,’ said Science Editor-in-Chief Marcia McNutt in a statement.”

►Also on Wednesday, Martin Enserink reported that Frontiers, an open-access publishing company based in Lausanne, Switzerland, “removed 31 editors of Frontiers in Medicine and Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine on 7 May after the editors complained that company staff were interfering with editorial decisions and violating core principles of medical publishing.” The three editors-in-chief and 28 “chief editors” of those journals sent a 13-page Manifesto of Editorial Independence to the Frontiers executive board. According to the manifesto, one big problem is that the associate editors—each journal has about 150 of these academics who “handle the review process and can accept a manuscript”—are too powerful. “Jos van der Meer, a former editor-in-chief of Frontiers in Medicine and chief editor of its Infectious Diseases section, says he was sometimes notified about the acceptance of papers that he didn't approve of, or that he felt were handled by the wrong associate editor. (On the other hand, when a paper was rejected, Frontiers would ask him if it was the right decision, he says.) ‘I realized I had very little to say,’ Van der Meer says. ‘I felt like a puppet on a string.’”

But why were the editors removed? “Frederick Fenter, executive editor at Frontiers, says the company had no choice but to fire the entire group because they were holding up the publication of papers until their demands were met, which he likens to ‘extortion.’ ”

►On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the controversial America COMPETES Act (H.R. 1806) in a mostly party-line vote, and Mervis wrote about it. The bill authorizes a shift in funding away from climate science and geoscience, tightens the strings on NSF grantmaking in ways “that most scientists consider too restrictive,” and “cuts authorized spending levels at the National Institute of Standards and Technology far below what the White House has requested.” Democrats have dubbed the bill “the America Concedes Act.”

►In this week’s STM, the American Asthma Foundation’s (AAF’s) William Seaman, Richard M. Locksley, and Michael J. Welsh “describe a grant program designed by the … (AAF) that taps talent from diverse pools of investigators—a model that might spur innovation in other research realms.” They note that the program has a number of features that “attract diverse investigators,” including an easy application process, broad marketing, extension awards, and substantial funding.

►Are you tired of reading countless research papers, just to find out that they don’t include the information that you need? “[O]ne group of researchers [has launched] a crowdsourcing initiative,” called Mark2Cure, to help researchers “find those needle-in-haystack connections” in the rapidly growing biomedical literature “by harnessing the efforts of lay volunteers who will scan papers for key terms to help create a powerful searchable database,” Esther Landhuis wrote in a Thursday ScienceInsider.

► “A major congressional effort to spur medical innovation passed another milestone today when a House of Representatives committee signed off on the 21st Century Cures Act,” Jocelyn Kaiser wrote Thursday at ScienceInsider. The bill “authorizes annual $1.5 billion raises to NIH’s budget for 3 years and also provides $10 billion over 5 years in mandatory funding for a new NIH Innovation Fund. Annually, at least $500 million of the fund will support the new Accelerating Advancement Program, which would provide matching funds for NIH’s 27 institutes and centers for research in areas including biomarkers, precision medicine, infectious diseases, antibiotics, and basic research. The remainder would go to young scientists (at least 35%); high-risk, high-reward research; and NIH intramural research.”

► “A congressional spending panel has proposed a 16% cut in funding next year for the social and geosciences at [NSF],” Mervis wrote this morning at ScienceInsider. “But you’ll need a magnifying glass and a calculator to come up with that number.” That’s because the number “is buried in a report that accompanies a $51 billion spending bill for 2016 covering numerous federal agencies that was approved Wednesday by the appropriations committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.” Richard Jones of the American Institute of Physics did the math.

► “Three Republican and four Democratic senators introduced a bill on Wednesday that would give the Department of Energy (DOE) the authority to grow its science programs by 4% a year over the next 5 years,” Cho wrote at ScienceInsider earlier today. “Although the bill's sponsors say that sets the stage for doubling DOE’s science budget, including that of the agency’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), at that rate the doubling would take more than 17 years. Still, the bill is more generous than a corresponding bill passed this week by the House of Representatives to authorize a host of research programs at DOE, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and other agencies.”

► Across the world, science is still seen as a male profession, according to a study Rachel Bernstein reported this evening at ScienceInsider. “‘Stereotypes associating science with men are found across the world, even in supposedly gender-equal nations,’ says the study’s lead author, David Miller, a psychologist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.” But while “all countries exhibited these stereotypes, those with fewer women in science held stronger beliefs that science is for men.” The study is correlational and can’t identify the mechanism underlying this relationship, but one can imagine that it “could be that beliefs about the role of women in science change as more women enter science, that more women enter science when these beliefs change, or a combination. Miller thinks it’s more likely that increased female representation in science influences beliefs rather than the other way around.” Miller also offers a recommendation for further progress toward decreasing the prevalence and strength of these stereotypes: “integrating discussion of diverse female scientists into science curriculums ‘so it’s not seen as atypical to discuss a woman scientist.’ ”

Gretchen Meyer, a field station manager and staff biologist, drifted for a while, but her early experiences ultimately took her back to nature. You can read her story in this week’s Science Careers-produced Working Life column.

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