Singapore lavishes big money on its scientists

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Elsewhere in Science, 15 Jan 2016

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.

► “Two New York research chimpanzees have been returned to the organization that owns them, effectively ending a 2-year legal battle to have the animals declared legal persons,” David Grimm reported at ScienceInsider last Friday, “but the animal rights group behind the legal effort has vowed to keep fighting to release them from captivity.” The animals, now at the New Iberia Research Center (NIRC) in Louisiana, “will not be used for any research,” Ramesh Kolluru, the vice president for research at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, told ScienceInsider via a university spokesperson. “Indeed, according to new federal rules, neither NIRC nor any other facility can use chimpanzees in research without justifying that the work enhances the survival of the species,” Grimm wrote.

► A recent funding announcement has “Singapore’s scientists ... hoping for smooth sailing over the next 5 years,” XiaoZhi Lim reported Monday at ScienceInsider. “On 8 January, the government announced that it will spend 19 billion Singapore dollars ($13.2 billion) on R&D from 2016 to 2020. The Research Innovation Enterprise 2020 Plan, or RIE2020, is an 18% increase over the previous 5-year cycle.” Under the new plan, “[t]he biggest share of spending—21% of the budget—will go to health and biomedical sciences.” Lim also noted that “[a]nother big budget priority is advanced manufacturing technologies as Singapore seeks to hone a competitive edge against China and India. Emphasis will be on boosting the aerospace, electronics, chemical, pharmaceutical, and marine sectors, as well as developing cross-disciplinary technologies in robotics and additive manufacturing. And Singapore will continue its longstanding efforts to lure foreign researchers and expatriate Singaporean scientists to relocate to the island state.”

► “[T]he California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena has suspended a faculty member for gender-based harassment,” Jeffrey Mervis reported at ScienceInsider on Tuesday. “The university has not disclosed the name of the faculty member, but Science has learned that it is Christian Ott, a professor of theoretical astrophysics who studies gravitational waves and other signals from some of the most violent events in the cosmos.” Ott’s suspension comes after another harassment case that rocked the astronomy world: that of University of California (UC), Berkeley, professor Geoffrey Marcy, who ultimately resigned his post after the claims against him went public. But in contrast to UC Berkeley, which “[gave] Marcy little more than a warning,” Mervis wrote, “Caltech took a different approach, says Fiona Harrison, head of Caltech’s physics, mathematics, and astronomy division. ‘I think that Caltech was extremely responsive and proactive and did the right thing,’ she asserts.” Read the full article for more on Ott’s case and the community’s response.

► “Full-time professors at public universities in Brazil will now be allowed to carry out research in the private sector—and get paid for it, without having to drop their academic jobs,” Herton Escobar reported from Sao Paulo on Tuesday. “The change is the result of a new law, signed [Monday] by President Dilma Rousseff, designed to bring science and industry closer together.” The law will “let Brazilian entrepreneurs out of their cage,” says Gonçalo Pereira, a geneticist at the University of Campinas.

► After President Obama’s final State of the Union address on Tuesday night, “[c]ancer researchers are welcoming but eagerly awaiting more details on Vice President Joe Biden’s newly announced plan to lead ‘a moonshot’ to cure cancer,” Jocelyn Kaiser wrote on Wednesday at ScienceInsider. “Scientists generally cringe at setting firm timelines for research goals and for cancer in particular, which is a complex disease that experts consider a set of more than 200 diseases,” but “[t]heir overall hope, they say, is that it will mean steady funding increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).” According to Jon Retzlaff, managing director of science policy and government affairs at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, “[o]ne thing AACR hopes won’t happen is that Biden will move money around in the 2016 budget already underway. ‘We don’t want to see reallocation of existing dollars at NIH to pay for this initiative,’ Retzlaff says. But he hopes the Biden moonshot will help persuade Congress to build on the 6.6% raise it gave to NIH this year, its largest boost in 12 years, and continue steady increases for the agency.”

► Recent “changes to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) ... will substantially affect global scientific collaborations and exchanges,” wrote Navid Madani of Harvard Medical School, in a letter in this week’s issue of Science. “The program previously allowed citizens of 38 nations to travel to the United States without a visa for up to 90 days—a great boon to scientists and academics who wished to participate in conferences or take part in research projects.” Now, however, “[d]ual nationals of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Sudan, as well as others who have traveled to those countries since 2011, are prohibited from traveling to [the] United States without a visa. … [T]his change will impede global scientific exchanges and dialogue and will obstruct the work of scientists and health professionals who travel to the [Middle East and North Africa], including members of charitable organizations such as Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF, and Save the Children. As scientists, we need to work diligently to create communities that model successful and peaceful collaborations.”

► In the Books et al. section of this week’s issue , NIH scientist Nora Yang reviewed Orphan: The Quest to Save Children with Rare Genetic Disorders by Philip R. Reilly. “The journey [to cure rare diseases] is an arduous one, often lasting for decades and laden with setbacks and defeat,” Yang wrote, and the book is “a magnificent gift for those on the quest to conquer genetic disorders, retracing roads to successful treatments and providing suggestions for the next trails to be blazed.”

► In this week’s Science Careers-produced Working Life story, Josh Shiode wrote about his experience as a graduate student uncertain about his future and his decision to tell his adviser about his doubts. Read the story to find out how it worked out.

► “[A] new peer-reviewed journal [about pathogens and immunity] has a unique author-friendly mandate: to reduce the submission process to a matter of minutes, and initial reviews to just a few days,” Jon Cohen reported today. The founder and editor-in-chief of the new journal, immunologist Michael Lederman, “promises that the journal’s online submission process only takes 5 minutes. And, unlike other journals, it will accept any format approved by the National Library of Medicine. The editors will only request reformatting upon acceptance of a paper. That should avoid wasted effort, Lederman says.” On a related note, “the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York also announced today a similar attempt to simplify submissions to nine peer-reviewed journals,” Cohen added. “[P]apers uploaded to its biology preprint server, bioRXiv—which are only screened for offensive or nonscientific content—now can be directly transferred to nine peer-reviewed journals for consideration.”

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