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Elsewhere in Science, 6 December 2013


Each 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, Science Signaling, and Science may require AAAS membership/Science subscription or a site license.)

• On Thursday in ScienceInsider, Yudhijit Bhattacharjee wrote about changes to NASA's planetary science funding program that, by disrupting the timing of the grant cycle, could cause funding delays for some scientists for up to a year, and this in turn could cause layoffs. "The restructuring is all about making sure that the community is focused on fundamental science objectives," Jim Green, the head of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, told ScienceInsider. Worst affected would be those "who work on topics such as planetary geology and geophysics and planetary atmospheres… ." Such topics have been bundled into the "solar system workings theme," which, according to a timetable drawn up by NASA officials, will start its competition in February 2015, a full year later than some scientists were planning to apply.

• In News & Analysis, David Grimm wrote that an animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) has filed lawsuits in three New York counties to get judges to declare that chimpanzees are legal persons. The group will petition for a common law writ of habeas corpus in order to have the chimpanzees "freed"—specifically, to be transferred to a chimp sanctuary in Florida. A decision by a higher court could set a legal precedent, affecting all the chimps in the state. The scientific importance of the decision would be limited, since the use of chimpanzees for research is declining: "In June, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced plans to retire all but 50 of its 360 research chimpanzees and phase out much of the chimp research it supports; any projects that continue, such as behavioral studies, will have to meet stricter welfare guidelines (Science, 5 July, p. 17)," Grimm wrote. The group intends to pursue similar lawsuits for other animals known to have strong cognitive capabilities, including gorillas, orangutans, elephants, whales, and dolphins. Also, see this related ScienceLive.   

Major and painful changes continue at the Russian Academy of Sciences, wrote Richard Stone in News & Analysis. The academy, which was founded in 1724 by Peter the Great and employs some 55,000 scientists, now faces major layoffs. "Word of mouth is that at least 30% of staff will be laid off. Inefficient institutes will be closed or merged with others," says biochemist Yegor Vassetzky, a Russian expat at the Institut Gustave Roussy in Paris.

• In News Focus, Martin Enserink profiled Freek (pronounced "Frake") Vonk, the 30-year-old first author on a study of the king cobra genome published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (The king cobra-genome work is the subject, along with the Burmese python sequence, of another News Focus story by Elizabeth Pennisi.) Vonk is also author of a couple of Nature papers, but in the Netherlands he is best known as a TV celebrity, hosting a wildlife show that airs every day. Some scientists don't like his style: "You don't have to jump on crocodiles or show what a daredevil you are," says experimental zoologist Johan van Leeuwen of Wageningen University in the Netherlands. But Leeuwen says that Vonk is "a very good biologist."

• This week's Letters section features several letters responding to the recent Science special issue on science communication. Of particular interest is the first letter, on using narrative techniques in scientific presentations.

• In a Policy Forum, William B. Bonvillian, the head of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Washington, D.C., office, wrote that the United States puts too large a share of its R&D investment into the early stages, and not enough into manufacturing research. The article points to Germany and Japan, which have higher wage and higher cost manufacturing sectors but run trade surpluses in manufactured goods while the United States has run deficits. Bonvillian notes that several projects are underway that aim to reinvigorate U.S. manufacturing, including the White House's Advanced Manufacturing Partnership. Expanding research and innovation in manufacturing could lead to new employment opportunities for scientists further along in the development process.

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