Elsewhere in Science, 14 August 2015

Credit: Uwe Kils/Wikimedia Commons

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.

► As president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), biochemist Robert Tjian, who announced last week that he will step down from the position at the end of 2016, “managed to launch a range of initiatives, including new support for early-career scientists who have been hurt by declining budgets at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). He doubled the number of postdocs HHMI funds, revived graduate student awards with an emphasis on foreign students, and refocused HHMI’s international programs on younger U.S.-trained scientists,” Jocelyn Kaiser wrote last Friday at ScienceInsider. In the Q&A, he discussed a few of HHMI’s initiatives, including the Janelia Research Campus and the open-access journal eLife.

► “U.S. research in Antarctica needs fresh initiatives and better equipment, a new report by a committee of the National Academies concludes. But how to afford them remains a conundrum,” Carolyn Gramling reported at ScienceInsider on Tuesday. “The new report, which takes into account input from more than 450 scientists in the Antarctic research community, … advocates for the creation of three priority research initiatives”: investigating ice mass loss, studying the “uniquely isolated and adapted life in the region,” and creating a new “Cosmic Microwave Background ... Program to probe deeper into the origins of the universe.” “[I]t’s not clear how these projects would be funded within NSF’s constrained Antarctic budget,” Gramling wrote, “[b]ut the priority setting should help researchers make the case for more investment.” 

► Whether you are a Bill Nye fan or just a fan of science, you will love this news: The Bill Nye documentary is one step closer to becoming a reality. In fact, the “campaign to fund [the project] has broken a Kickstarter record for most funded documentary,” according to a Sifter published on Tuesday. So how much did Nye’s fans raise? By the end of the campaign on Thursday, 16,850 backers had pledged $859,425 to the project. You can find out more about the documentary here.

► “Last February, nuclear talks between Iran and world powers were foundering. The two sides had found common ground on the deal’s broad outlines, but the devil lay in the technical details,” Richard Stone wrote in a Wednesday ScienceInsider. “Stymied, Iranian officials asked their top nuclear scientist to join the talks: Ali Akbar Salehi, president of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.” In an interview in Tehran, the “atomic czar explain[ed] how he helped seal the Iran nuclear agreement.”

► On Wednesday at ScienceInsider, David Grimm wrote about a novel threat to animal researchers at U.S. public universities: crowdsourced public records requests. Using this approach, the Beagle Freedom Project (BFP) “claims it has uncovered evidence that an Ohio State University lab has violated National Institutes of Health (NIH) rules concerning the use of dogs in biomedical research. The university has denied the charges—and provided ScienceInsider with evidence to the contrary—but the group’s effort is just its first salvo in a unique campaign designed to end all research on dogs and cats. The new strategy could cause a headache for animal researchers across the country, says Michael Halpern of the Union of Concerned Scientists.” So far, more than 1000 people have participated in the campaign, according to coordinator Jeremy Beckham, resulting in about 100 responses from universities. “Halpern says he’s not aware of a group crowdsourcing records requests like BFP has. He thinks the effort could intimidate those who perform research on cats and dogs. ‘Any kind of scrutiny has the potential to chill speech if scientists are underprepared to deal with that scrutiny,’ he says.”

► In the editorial in this week’s issue of Science, AAAS Director of Education and Human Resources Programs Shirley Malcom addressed “a letter to AAAS and Science leadership [that] noted recent incidents in which content in Science and Science Careers reinforced damaging stereotypes about underrepresented groups in science,” leading some to question AAAS and Science’s commitment to “public leadership around fairness, equity, and diversity in science and engineering.” “While Science looks internally to make improvements, AAAS continues to look outward to its society colleagues to discuss larger structural barriers to quality and diversity in science,” she wrote. “The larger science community must examine all its institutions and workplaces in light of today's changing cultural, educational, and business landscape, accepting responsibility to call out unfairness whenever and wherever it appears. We can only address collective global challenges if we disconnect from the structures of the past that are hobbling the ability to move forward together.”

This week’s Letters section also included some reader responses to the 10 July Working Life column, “Getting noticed is half the battle,” from the online comments, where readers “passionately reacted to [the author's] strategies and Science's decision to publish the piece.”

► Also in the Letters section, William F. Laurance of the James Cook University in Australia commented on a 19 June editorial by U.S. National Park Service science adviser Gary Machlis and Science Editor-in-Chief Marcia McNutt titled “Parks for Science.” In the editorial, they “urge scientists to make greater use of protected areas for their research,” Laurence wrote. “The benefits are manifold, they argue, and include prospects for exciting new discoveries, the use of parks as experimental controls, and improved park management based on the data collected.” But there is another advantage as well, he noted: “Parks that are the foci for research tend to be better protected. Especially in developing nations, parks hosting research often suffer less poaching, illegal logging, and illicit mining. Scientists are not just passive but also active park defenders, as shown by the strong avoidance of areas frequented by scientists by poachers and encroachers.”

► In this week’s Science Careers-produced Working Life story, Jeffrey McDonnell, a professor of hydrology at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, wrote that, “[b]y crafting a research brand, you make it clear to others how they should define you, and you help them remember who you are and what you do.”

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