Elsewhere in Science, 19 June 2015

University of Minnesota

Credit: Runner1928/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-NC 3.0)

Every Friday, Science Careers points to articles in the Science family of publications that are relevant to careers in science and other technical fields. Some of them are accessible to anyone, but access to articles appearing in Science Translational MedicineScience Signaling, and Science may require AAAS membership (AAAS is the publisher of Science Careers) or a site license.

► Last Friday, ScienceInsider posted two stories about research using chimpanzees, humans’ closest relatives. The first is a Q and A with anatomist Susan Larson, who works with Hercules and Leo, the Stony Brook University chimpanzees being considered for “personhood” by a New York court. “I see them as collaborators, as willing participants in the project. And I respect them,” Larson says of the chimps, whose movements she measures to investigate the evolution of bipedalism. “We try to make their day-to-day lives as interesting as possible.”

Later that day, David Grimm reported that “the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced that it will classify all captive chimpanzees as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The move gives captive chimps the same status as their wild counterparts, ... and could deal a significant blow to biomedical research involving the animals.”

“Under the new designation, which goes into effect on 14 September, anyone working with captive chimps in the United States must apply for a permit from USFWS. … ‘If anyone is actively engaged in chimpanzee research, they should apply for a permit now,’ ” says USFWS Director Dan Ashe. “Ashe said some biomedical research with chimps may be allowed to continue if it is critical for understanding human disease. ‘But the entity would have to make a [monetary] contribution or support conservation of wild chimpanzees.’ ”

► Congressional Republicans are split over spending on climate and social science, Jeffrey Mervis reported in a Monday ScienceInsider. Last week, the “Senate Appropriations Committee approved a 2016 spending bill that does not call for the steep cuts to climate and social science programs approved a week earlier by the House of Representatives. And although the House would give [the National Science Foundation] a bit more money, the Senate version hews closer to the balanced portfolio that most scientists prefer.” Still, Mervis says, there is “a broader question: how much money will be available for all federal programs. Two years ago, the Obama administration and congressional Republicans struck a deal on overall spending levels that helped ease passage of spending bills for 2014 and 2015. But there’s no such agreement for fiscal year 2016, which starts on 1 October.”

► “More than a decade after a young man committed suicide during a psychiatric clinical trial at the University of Minnesota—and a bioethicist there spent years lobbying for changes to the school’s clinical trials system—the university” has released “a 75-page document describing an effort to restructure its system and calm its critics,” Jennifer Couzin-Frankel reported Monday. “Changes include tighter conflict-of-interest rules; a larger institutional review board … whose members will be compensated; improved training for researchers working with vulnerable populations, such as the severely mentally ill; and a board of external advisers to monitor the university’s efforts.”

► Polymer scientist and entrepreneur Christopher Sakezles made waves on the television show Shark Tank when, “[w]ith a life-size synthetic cadaver as a prop, [he] persuaded technology entrepreneur Robert Herjavec to pay $3 million for a 25% stake in SynDaver Labs, a firm that Sakezles founded a decade ago,” John Travis wrote on Tuesday, in an online bonus element for last week’s science entrepreneurship package. It was the biggest deal in the show’s history, but “[a]fter Sakezles and Herjavec traded further information and initial terms, the partnership fell apart. … Don’t feel sorry for Sakezles, however. SynDaver is on track to make $10 million this year. ...‘From the exposure side, we knocked it out of the park.’ ”

► In a Tuesday ScienceInsider, Jocelyn Kaiser reported that a draft measure released by a House of Representatives spending panel stands to give the National Institutes of Health (NIH) a $1.1 billion boost in 2016, increasing its budget to $31.2 billion—$100 million more than the president requested. But there is some bad news, too: “[T]he bill would also abolish the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), which supports studies of evidence-based medicine,” and reduce the maximum salary that NIH grants can support. 

► “France's socialist government has finally found someone to run its science and higher education policy,” Elisabeth Pain wrote at ScienceInsider on Thursday. On Wednesday, “President François Hollande appointed Thierry Mandon” as the new state secretary for higher education and research. Prior to his appointment, Mandon, who is trained in political science, spent 16 years as “president of Genopole, a biotechnology and genomics research cluster near Paris.” The previous secretary, Geneviève Fioraso, “stepped down in March for health reasons. The 3-month delay had sparked discontent among scientists, who said it betrayed a fundamental lack of interest in research.”

► Summer must be upon us because this week’s issue of Science has reviews of eight great books for the season. “Packed with adventure, intrigue, and even a romance or two, this year's picks feature all the fun of a good ‘summer read’ without the fluff.”

► “[I]n an annex to today’s report from the annual meeting of the scientific committee of the International Whaling Commission,” 44 scientists wrote that “the need for lethal sampling has not been demonstrated,” Dennis Normile reported early today at ScienceInsider. This is the third time in 15 months that experts have reached this conclusion. “But the country's lethal scientific whaling effort seems poised to resume with the 2015 to 2016 Southern Ocean hunting season anyway.”

►This week’s Science Careers–produced Working Life story features a Q&A with Nobel laureate Richard J. Roberts, who says that young scientists should “[f]ind an area that you are completely passionate about and focus on it single-mindedly. That doesn't mean you can't change if something more exciting comes along, but you will be happier and more successful if you love what you do.” You can read more at Science.

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