Elsewhere in Science, 18 October 2013

Laurence M. Gould

The Laurence M. Gould

CREDIT: Sean Bonnette/United States Antarctic Program

Every week, Science publishes a few articles that are likely to be of interest to career-minded readers. But because those articles aren't featured on Science Careers, our readers could easily overlook them.

To remedy that, every Friday we're pointing readers toward articles appearing in Science—the print magazine as well as the other Science-family publications (ScienceInsider, ScienceNow, Science Translational MedicineSci. TM—and Science Signaling)—that hold some relevance or nuggets of advice for readers interested in furthering their careers in science. (Please note that while articles appearing in ScienceInsider and ScienceNow can be read by anyone, articles appearing in Sci. TM and Science may require AAAS membership/Science subscription or a site license.)

• This week's good news is that the U.S. government shutdown has come to an end. The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on Wednesday night voted to end the partial government shutdown, and furloughed government employees were able to return to work on Thursday. Science operations are getting back on track. David Malakoff writes in a ScienceInsider story:  

For researchers, the end of the shutdown means that planned field research in Antarctica can resume after days of delay. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation will resume processing grant applications that have been piling up during the 16-day layoff, and accepting new applications. Biomedical scientists will be able to enroll patients in trials and studies at NIH’s clinical research center. Science vessels operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration can return to sea. Engineers can again prepare to light up the world’s most powerful laser facility, the National Ignition Facility at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. Astronomers will regain access to a trio of powerful radio telescopes. Ecologists can tend instruments at long-term research sites on federal lands that were closed to access.

The bad news is that it may take some time for things to normalize. "And the shutdown’s impacts could linger for months, as government officials attempt to wade through piles of grant applications, e-mails, and paperwork that piled up during the weeks they were required, by law, to stay away from their official e-mail and phone messages," Malakoff writes.

When the fog clears, some agencies may find that the shutdown caused irreversible damage to research. "Lost data will never be recovered and ephemeral field events will go undocumented. And the financial uncertainty will continue as Congress continues to try to agree on a long-term plan for funding government operations," Malakoff writes. "Research agencies may not know their final 2014 spending levels for many months, forcing them to spend conservatively. Agencies may also be barred from starting planned new initiatives, such as construction projects, until budgets are resolved."

• Also on ScienceInsider, Jeffrey Mervis writes about a memo from National Science Foundation (NSF) acting Director Cora Marrett that "outlines a series of steps that the $7-billion-a-year agency will be taking to get back to business over the next several weeks." This memo comes as agencies are being forced to play catch up because of the government shutdown.

"To ease the immediate crunch, Marrett has directed staff members to postpone all panel reviews 'through the end of October' and to cancel meetings of the various advisory committees that offer regular input to the agency’s research directorates and major programs until 2014," Mervis writes. "Staffers have also been asked to postpone travel, including site visits, 'for at least one week, if possible.' "

• Last week, Mervis introduced readers to Jamie Collins, an oceanography graduate student who just arrived at NSF's U.S. Palmer Station in Antarctica when he was told that he would be returning home because of the shutdown. Mervis caught up with Collins to find out how things were going now that the shutdown is over.

" 'They told us this morning they are re-starting the season,' Collins writes to ScienceInsider. 'So everyone is running around setting up their labs. We're all very excited about the re-opening, but we feel like we've been at the end of a very long yo-yo down here.' "

Collins can now begin collecting data for his dissertation. According to Mervis, he will also be allowed to begin an NSF-funded Long Term Ecological Research project in which he "will soon be visiting penguin colonies on offshore islands, monitoring their return from the open ocean to mate and produce offspring."

• Listen to this week's Science Podcast to find out more about the government shutdown's effects on science.

• One of the most provocative and potentially important science issues in recent years is the apparent irreproducibility of scientific studies. These concerns led to the launch last year of the Reproducibility Initiative, a joint project of the Science Exchange, which calls itself "the online marketplace for outsourcing science experiments" and the Center for Open Science

On ScienceInsider, Jennifer Couzin-Frankel reports that the Reproducibility Initiative has received a $1.3 million grant from the Laura and John Arnold​ ​Foundation to fund the independent validation of 50 important cancer biology studies published between 2010 and 2012. That solves a major problem with reproducibility: The usual sources don't hand out money to redo old work.

Just as there's little money in reproducibility, there's also no glory—no incentive for ambitious researchers to undertake the work and little credit for those who do. Yet, with funding in place, the project begins to suggest a different way of doing science, in which, instead of competing fiercely to win a series of contests (for fellowships, jobs, grants, or tenure) salaried scientists get paid to carry out disinterested work in a professional and precise way. Here's hoping that it catches on.

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