Elsewhere in Science, 26 June 2015

Carlos Moedas

Credit: Michael Chia/European Commission

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 Medicine (STM), Science Signaling, and Science may require AAAS membership (AAAS is the publisher of Science Careers) or a site license.

► Japan is “still mulling lethal research whaling,” Dennis Normile reported in a Monday ScienceInsider, “but the country believes it has the right to do so, Joji Morishita, the nation's representative to the International Whaling Commission (IWC), said [in Tokyo that same day].” Morishita also noted that the IWC’s Scientific Committee “does not have jurisdiction to approve or deny the research plan.”

► “The European Union’s research commissioner Carlos Moedas has proposed setting up a European Innovation Council (EIC) to fund applied research and innovation,” Tania Rabesandratana reported in a Tuesday ScienceInsider. The idea was inspired by the European Research Council. “EIC would seek to meet the needs of ‘innovators,’ be they researchers or small companies, [Moedas] said. It is unclear at this early stage how it would work in practice, but Moedas said the commission would come up with a more detailed proposal by 2017.”

► “Engineer Jill Hruby was named director of the Sandia National Laboratories on Monday, becoming the first woman to head one of three U.S. government labs charged with developing and maintaining the country’s nuclear arsenal,” Warren Cornwall wrote at ScienceInsider on Tuesday. “Hruby’s promotion is a significant milestone in a system historically dominated by men, says Hugh Gusterson, an anthropologist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. ... ‘To have a female director is a major development.’” Read on for more about her accomplishments, the challenges she faced, and how she climbed the Sandia ladder.

► Tuesday also offered some rare good news for the U.S. biomedical research funding situation. “A Senate panel ... approved a bill that would bestow a generous $2 billion increase on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2016, or what appears to be a 6% raise, to $32 billion. Although a House of Representatives panel last week approved a lower figure, it seems the agency may be on track to its first significant increase in more than a decade,” Jocelyn Kaiser wrote at ScienceInsider.

But it’s no done deal. “The bill [went] to the full Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday. It would normally head to the Senate floor next, but that may not happen any time soon because of a political dispute between Republicans and Democrats over long-term budgeting issues. Eventually, the House and Senate will need to reconcile the numbers in the two bills; usually they meet somewhere in the middle. Any final NIH spending number for the 2016 fiscal year that begins 1 October may not be clear until late this year.”

► Thanks to some 10,000 donors, “[t]he Oregon Health & Science University … in Portland is gearing up to see how far $1 billion will go toward better cancer detection. The university declared victory today in a challenge launched in 2013 by Nike shoe mogul Phil Knight and his wife, Penny, who offered up a $500 million donation if the university could match that amount through fundraising,” Kelly Servick wrote in a Thursday ScienceInsider.

► This week’s issue included four pieces about reproducibility in science.

In “Cancer reproducibility effort faces backlash,” Kaiser told the story of a nonprofit that is trying to reproduce cancer biology research findings and the obstacles that it faces.

In an editorial titled “Solving reproducibility,” Stuart Buck of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation in Houston, Texas, wrote that “[t]he scientific community cannot depend entirely on volunteers or the private market to develop free platforms that address specialized scientific needs and encourage greater reproducibility.” The editorial pointed to two Perspective pieces that “describe how journals and academic institutions can foster a culture of reproducibility.”

In one of those stories, “Self-correction in science at work,” Bruce Alberts and co-authors wrote that “[w]e believe that incentives should be changed so that scholars are rewarded for publishing well rather than often. In tenure cases at universities, as in grant submissions, the candidate should be evaluated on the importance of a select set of work, instead of using the number of publications or impact rating of a journal as a surrogate for quality.”  

In the other, “Promoting an open research culture,” Brian Nosek of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and his co-authors wrote that “[t]ransparency, openness, and reproducibility are readily recognized as vital features of science. When asked, most scientists embrace these features as disciplinary norms and values. Therefore, one might expect that these valued features would be routine in daily practice. Yet, a growing body of evidence suggests that this is not the case.”

► Also in this week’s issue of the magazine is a review of Teaching Online: A Guide to Theory, Research, and Practice by Claire Howell Major. Reviewer Erin Dolan of the Institute for Discovery Education in Science at the University of Texas, Austin, wrote that “[m]any studies and multiple meta-analyses ... have shown that students in online courses realize the same, if not better, outcomes as compared to students in face-to-face courses. This means that we can move beyond the debate of whether teaching online is good or bad, to how to do it well. In other words, what instructional strategies, patterns of interaction and engagement, and supporting facilities are necessary and sufficient for students to learn? Addressing these questions in the process of developing and implementing online courses may be a powerful catalyst for promoting broader teaching change.”

► Today brought an update for those following the case of Paolo Macchiarini, the surgeon accused of scientific misconduct while working at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. “Macchiarini has now responded to the report, released last month, that concluded he was guilty of scientific misconduct as part of his clinical testing of artificial tracheas that he has helped pioneer,” Gretchen Vogel reported today at ScienceInsider. “Macchiarini’s 23-page response disputes key parts of the misconduct report’s findings, saying that the investigator, Bengt Gerdin, a professor emeritus of surgery at Uppsala University in Sweden, did not have access to all the relevant clinical records describing patient conditions.” “Macchiarini’s response to the Gerdin report was one of more than a dozen filed with Karolinska from the researchers who initially brought misconduct allegations against Macchiarini, as well as other researchers and physicians involved in the transplant. The responses total roughly 1000 pages, a Karolinska spokesperson said today. … The vice chancellor of the Karolinska Institute will assess the responses and ultimately make a decision on how to respond to Gerdin’s misconduct allegations and other matters in his report. Given the volume of material involved, the spokesperson says, the timing of the decision is uncertain.”

► “A huge study of U.S. children that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) terminated last year after spending more than $1 billion appears to have come back to life,” Kaiser wrote today at ScienceInsider. “House of Representatives and Senate spending committees this week called for a new version of the National Children’s Study (NCS) in 2016 that would be funded at the same level as the now-defunct NCS—$165 million a year.” “Congress won’t decide on a final version of the spending bill that includes NIH until later this year. But the similarity of the House and Senate language on the children’s study increases the likelihood that it will be part of any final legislation.”

► Scientists who study the health of others too often neglect their own, says Warren Holleman, director of the Faculty Health & Well-Being Program at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Rachel Bernstein wrote about his program and some of his ideas for improving faculty well-being in this week’s Science Careers-produced Working Life.

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