Elsewhere in Science, 11 September 2015

Stephen Elledge, James Allison, and Evelyn Witkin

Courtesy of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation

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.

► “[A] prominent academic has formed a California-based think tank with the goal” of translating education research into meaningful policy that will improve the U.S. education system, Jeffrey Mervis wrote at ScienceInsider last Friday. “Education reform is a crowded field riven by competing ideologies. But Linda Darling-Hammond, professor emeritus of education at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, says the new Learning Policy Institute, unveiled [on 3 September], hopes to temper the partisan nature of those debates by making the latest research accessible to policymakers when they need it—and in language that they can understand.” Check out the full article for more about Darling-Hammond’s past work and her plans for the institute.

► On Monday, “[t]he Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation ... awarded its annual Medical Research Awards, which are often a prelude to” winning a Nobel Prize, Hanae Armitage reported at ScienceInsider. “The Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award goes to Evelyn M. Witkin, 94, of Rutgers University, New Brunswick, in New Jersey, and Stephen J. Elledge, 59, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston for illuminating the details of how the DNA in our body responds and guards itself against thousands of daily genomic disturbances.” “James P. Allison, 67, of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, received the Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award for developing a new and highly effective cancer therapy that veers from typical treatments,” and “[t]he Lasker~Bloomberg Public Service Award has been awarded to Doctors Without Borders for ‘boldly’ spearheading the response to the Ebola outbreak in Africa.”

► “The European Parliament … voted to ban the cloning of all farm animals as well as the sale of cloned livestock, their offspring, and products derived from them,” Gretchen Vogel wrote in a Tuesday ScienceInsider. “The supporters of the ban cited animal welfare concerns, claiming that only a small percentage of cloned offspring survive to term, and many die shortly after birth.” But, as Vogel noted, “[t]he ban does not cover cloning for research purposes, nor does it prevent efforts to clone endangered species.”

► “The Intel Science Talent Search, one of the nation’s most prestigious competitions for science-savvy high school students in the United States, is losing its title sponsor,” Armitage wrote in a Wednesday ScienceInsider. However, “[i]t’s unlikely that Intel cut the competition for financial reasons, because it cost only a fraction of a percent of the company’s total revenue last year, [The New York Times] reports.” Now, “the Society for Science & the Public in Washington, D.C., is looking for a new sponsor to pick up the $6 million annual tab starting in 2017” to keep the 73-year-old competition going.

► “A Wisconsin bill that would limit the research use of fetal tissue from abortions” was approved Wednesday “by a committee in the state assembly and [is] expected to win the support of the full assembly this fall,” Kelly Servick reported on Wednesday, also at ScienceInsider. This is not good news for scientists, “who say the measure would stifle progress in disease research,” Servick wrote. “Research needs to be regulated to protect public health and safety, but this is very different,” says Alta Charo, a University of Wisconsin, Madison, bioethicist who opposes the bill. “This is shutting down research for purely moral purposes—it’s shutting down research because people disapprove.”

► “The Hinxton Group, which includes members from eight countries,” released a statement on Wednesday calling “for more public discussion and careful policies to govern research using gene editing in embryos, but concluded that the insights such research could provide into early human development and disease was ethically justifiable,” Vogel wrote later that day. Although “the statement broadly supports the use of the technology, it is still too cautious for George Church, a molecular geneticist at Harvard Medical School in Boston. The document ‘seems weak on addressing why we should single out genome editing relative to other medicines’ that are potentially dangerous, he wrote in an email.”

► In the editorial in this week’s issue of Science, Jorge Colón, a professor of chemistry at the University of Puerto Rico, Rí­o Piedras Campus, in San Juan, wrote about how the island’s recent economic troubles could have a negative impact on Puerto Rico’s science and economic future that must be avoided. The island’s “more than $70 billion in debt, high unemployment, and a shrinking economy are causing Puerto Ricans to leave the island in droves in search of stability. This includes young scientists and biomedical professionals. Austerity measures being considered by the Puerto Rican government include reducing support for higher education, but this would only drive the brain drain, decimate the scientific enterprise, and reduce the capacity to confront the economic and environmental challenges: a perfect storm that would be devastating to Puerto Rico's future. Robust science and technology are needed now more than ever to avoid this catastrophe,” he wrote. “Although restructuring the debt and eliminating the wasteful use of government resources are certainly necessary, slashing education is not a viable solution for an economy whose recovery relies on scientific innovation activities. Science investment in a time of economic turmoil might seem like a luxury. However, it is a gateway toward economic and social development.”

► “Jeremy Farrar took over as head of the Wellcome Trust, the world's second biggest private funder of medical research, in October 2013. Three months later, the biggest Ebola outbreak the world has ever seen started. Farrar, an infectious disease specialist with a lot of experience working in poor countries, became a key voice in the epidemic,” Kai Kupferschmidt wrote in a feature in this week’s issue of the magazine. “The outbreak pushed Farrar and the Wellcome Trust onto the international stage. Farrar intends to stay there, but he also plans to make the trust more dynamic, give younger scientists a leg up, coordinate more closely with another public health behemoth, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and focus on areas where Wellcome can have a major impact.” Read the full article for more about Farrar’s career path and his plans for the Wellcome Trust’s future.

► Also in this week’s issue, Ian Traniello of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, who established a science outreach course at a juvenile detention center in Urbana, responded to an earlier letter from Carri LeRoy of the Sustainability in Prisons Project about the benefits of teaching science to inmates. “We can all agree on the importance of bringing STEM to marginalized populations, but what good is a positive attitude or an interest in engaging science to marginalized populations of students who are systematically excluded from higher education? The social stigma of imprisonment will follow these students, and the obstacles present before incarceration will not be removed after release, regardless of how engaged and thoughtful their comments are in class,” Traniello wrote. “It is difficult to commit to STEM enrichment without collaterally working to affect social change in the institutions that contribute to educational segregation and the policies that disproportionately cause harm. … A collaboration of scientists and social activists built around the central issue of equality is needed to develop a system of inclusion that addresses the educational needs of all students, regardless of privilege or economic (dis)advantage.”

► In this week’s Science Careers-produced Working Life story, interdisciplinary collaborators Malou Henriksen-Lacey and Juan J. Giner-Casares wrote that sharing an office helped them learn more about each other and overcome differences so they could unlock “the secrets of the interface between” their two fields. You can read more at Science.

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