Elsewhere in Science, 13 November 2015

Anil Potti

Credit: Duke University

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.

► The U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI) has found Duke University cancer researcher Anil Potti guilty of research misconduct, Jocelyn Kaiser reported Monday at ScienceInsider, closing “one of the most egregious U.S. scientific misconduct cases in recent years.” “Based on Duke’s investigation and ORI’s review, officials concluded that Potti had included false research data in a grant application, a submitted manuscript, and nine research papers.”

► Later that day, a Sifter pointed to a New York Times story about scientific superhero Sarah Parcak, who “combats looters in Egypt by tracking their illegal excavations via infrared satellite imagery.” If that’s not cool enough, she just won a $1 million prize from the nonprofit forum TED to fund a project of her choice.

► “A group of psychologists has found that their collective gambling—with real money—predicted the outcome of attempts at replicating experimental results better than their own expert guesses,” John Bohannon reported in another Monday item. “They propose that this type of gambling setup, known as a prediction market, could become part of how science gets done.” Specifically, it could be used to “gauge which experiments were more likely to be false positives,” he continued. But not everyone is convinced that this approach is effective, particularly in fields other than psychology. “Running such markets is not easy, cautions John Ioannidis, a biologist at Stanford University in California who tried—and failed—to set up a prediction market for genetic experiments,” Bohannon wrote.

► Also on Monday, Bohannon wrote about a study that “examines risk and reward in biomedical science.” The researchers, led by computational biologist Andrey Rzhetsky and sociologist James Evans of the University of Chicago in Illinois, created “a network map of biochemical knowledge” and found that “[o]ver time, scientists have discovered a growing number of connections between molecules,” but “the field has become much less efficient; new studies were less likely to reveal new parts of the biochemical network. A more optimal strategy, the findings suggest, would have involved researchers taking greater risks as the field matured,” Bohannon wrote. In a Q and A with the lead authors, Rzhetsky suggests that “[s]cientists should take on more risk in general. The goal is to do work that gets cited, so you have to make discoveries. [One strategy would be] to break off to a new field or subfield where there is more to discover.” Evans notes, though, that “[w]e can't ask researchers to just take on more risk. Their incentive is to get papers published, get cited, and win tenure so they can feed their families. The change has to come from the big funders.”

► “Seven scientists, including a Fields medalist and the director of CERN, Europe's premier particle physics lab, have been appointed … to provide the European Commission with policy advice—bringing an end to a year of suspense since the awkward exit of Anne Glover, the first and only chief scientific adviser … in the commission's history,” Tania Rabesandratana reported in a Tuesday ScienceInsider. “This looks like a good group,” Glover told ScienceInsider. “They have scientific credibility as well as a deep knowledge of the ways in which scientific evidence can be used to inform policy as well as the world of politics.” They will hold their first meeting in January.

► This week’s episode of the XX Files follows astrophysicist Nergis Mavalvala, who “has been working for decades to improve and refine the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory”—and was also featured in Science Careers back in 2012.

► Remember the scientist who declared in September that researchers in eight European countries couldn’t use his software because he thought the countries’ immigration policies were too friendly to refugees? Well, the “11-year-old research paper describing Treefinder, a computer program used by evolutionary biologists, has been retracted,” Kai Kupferschmidt reported Thursday at ScienceInsider. “BMC Evolutionary Biology has pulled the 2004 paper describing the software because the license change ‘breaches the journal’s editorial policy on software availability.’”

► Later that day, Marta Paterlini wrote at ScienceInsider that the “site of Expo 2015, this year's science-themed Universal Exhibition in Milan, Italy, may get a second life as an international hot spot for science and technology.” But it is not a cheap project: “The Italian government plans to shell out €150 million annually for 10 years” to create the research campus, Paterlini wrote. When completed, it could be the home base for more than 1000 researchers, focusing on big data, aging, nutrition, and genomics.

► We are one step closer to crowning the winners of the annual Science/AAAS Dance Your Ph.D. contest. “A panel of judges from the worlds of dance and science are now scoring submissions on their artistic merit, scientific merit, and how creatively they merged the two,” Bohannon wrote today. And you can be a part of the process, too, by voting for the Audience Favorite by 19 November.

► In this week’s issue of Science, Mara Hvistendahl told the story of physicist Xiaoxing Xi, “a naturalized U.S. citizen who has lived and worked in the United States since 1989” but recently “stood charged with sharing designs for a proprietary technology with China and faced 80 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Charges were later dropped,” Hvistendahl wrote, but “[a]dvocates allege that Xi is among a growing number of scientists who have been targeted improperly in a Justice Department campaign against economic spying and trade secrets theft.”

► Change can be scary, but it can be rewarding too. For his Ph.D., Jeremy Borniger decided to follow his passion and switch fields from anthropology to neuroscience. It wasn’t an easy transition, but he learned a lot from the experience. Read this week’s Science Careers-produced Working Life story to find out how he did it.

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