Elsewhere composite
Credit (Left to Right): ILLUSTRATION: R.Neubecker; National Institutes of Health; K.Hansen/NASA

Elsewhere in Science: Big ideas, science hype, and more

Here is the past week’s career-related news from across the Science family of publications.  

► Results from the online survey accompanying the recent Science feature about “Sci-Hub, a popular repository of pirated scientific literature,” showed that “nearly 60% of respondents report having used Sci-Hub” and “88% overall said it was not wrong to download pirated papers,” John Travis wrote last Friday. (He also noted that “[t]he survey sample is likely biased heavily toward fans of the site.”) But “it’s not just young respondents and heavy Sci-Hub users who feel that way,” he continued. “A closer look at the survey data indicated that respondents in almost every category embrace the rebellion, even those who have never used Sci-Hub or are 51 and older—84% and 79%, respectively, had no qualms.”

► “Six teams of researchers each received $80,000 [Monday] for reaching the final stage of a competition to design tools to help scientists and citizens worldwide harness and process the increasingly vast quantities of biomedical data,” Ben Panko wrote that day. “The six finalists—chosen from 96 entries from multinational teams—will have until 1 December to develop and refine prototypes of their projects. The public will then be invited to vote on them, and the winner will be announced early next year. The winner will receive $230,000.”

► In response to recommendations from a working group, “[National Institutes of Health (NIH)] Director Francis Collins plans to replace the NIH Clinical Center’s 22-year director, John Gallin, with a new leadership structure similar to that found at most hospitals: a chief executive, a chief operating officer, and a chief medical officer,” Jocelyn Kaiser reported on Tuesday. In its report, the working group found “‘substantial operations issues’ involving patient safety, regulatory compliance, and leadership. The hospital had lapsed into a culture in which patient safety ‘became subservient to research demands.’”

► “France Córdova, the director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Arlington, Virginia”—and a Working Life contributor—“unveiled a research agenda intended to shape the agency’s next few decades and win over the next U.S. president and Congress,” Jeffrey Mervis wrote, also on Tuesday. The plan features “nine big ideas” that “illustrate how increased support for the type of basic research that NSF funds could help answer pressing societal problems, [Córdova] says, ranging from how humans interact with technology to how climate change in the polar regions will impact the global economy, environment, and culture.” The National Science Board, NSF’s oversight body, is onboard with the plan, but Córdova noted that NSF is going to need more money to see it through. “We either need to get that investment from new dollars appropriated by Congress, or hope to get on the agenda of one or more of the candidates during the campaign, or spark the imagination of groups in the private sector, including industry and foundations,” she told the board. Check out the full story for the list of ideas.

► “The head of Academia Sinica, Taiwan's collection of national laboratories, stepped down [Tuesday] under pressure for alleged insider stock trading and a conflict of interest,” Dennis Normile wrote Wednesday. “Wong Chi-Huey, a biochemist, had been president of Academia Sinica since 2006 and was close to completing his second 5-year term of office.” Read the full article for more about the controversy related to a “startup pharmaceutical company” that led to his resignation.

► The story of Rita Woidislawsky, who, after volunteering in a cholesterol study, only learned that her arteries were full of plaque after “a chance encounter with the lead scientist,” “holds lessons for researchers [who work with humans], for the ethicists who guide them, and even, I came to believe, for journalists like myself who communicate new findings,” Jennifer Couzin-Frankel wrote on Wednesday. Given the current lack of guidelines for when and how researchers should share results with study participants, as Couzin-Frankel described, researchers working with human volunteers must think about the best way to handle such cases ethically.

► Nine geneticists “remind[ed] the research community of the importance of depositing complete DNA-sequence data in … databases upon publication of their results” and the benefits of doing so in a letter in this week’s issue of Science. The authors, who are all members of the Advisory Committee to the International Nucleotide Sequence Database Collaboration (INSDC), note that “[a]ccess to the INSDC's databases is free and unrestricted, enabling researchers to plan experiments and to analyze existing data. As original contributions, deposited data form part of the scientific record and are citable in the literature. Authors can also correct and update their data.”

► “In newly issued guidelines on the ethical conduct of human pluripotent stem cell research and clinical translation, the International Society for Stem Cell Research … plac[es] a clear obligation on researchers” to confront the “issue of science ‘hype’—in which the state of scientific progress, the degree of certainty in models or bench results, or the potential applications of research are exaggerated,” wrote Timothy Caulfield of the University of Alberta, Edmonton, in Canada and co-authors in a Policy Forum article in this week’s issue. “The focus on public communication, which is new to this version of the guidelines, is the result of both specific concerns regarding how stem cell research has been portrayed in the public sphere and the growing recognition that researchers play an important role in the science communication process.”

► In this week’s Working Life, Julia MacDougall shared how her training as a geophysicist led her to her current job as the senior scientist for a consumer product testing website, where she enjoys what she called “delightfully unpredictable daily challenges.” “On any given day,” she wrote, “I could be tweaking a data model of smartphone battery life, thinking about how to test the temperature consistency of charcoal grills, or writing a consumer safety article about defrosting a turkey.”

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