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Elsewhere in Science, 11 April 2014

Courtesy of NOAA

Each week, Science publishes a number of articles that are likely to be of interest to career-minded readers. Because those articles are published on the other Science sites, Science Careers readers could easily overlook them.

To remedy that, every Friday we're pointing our readers toward articles appearing in Science—the print magazine as well as ScienceInsider, ScienceNOW, Science Translational Medicine (Sci. TM), and Science Signaling—that hold some relevance to careers in science and other technical fields. (Note that articles appearing in Sci. TM, Science Signaling, and Science may require AAAS membership, a Science subscription, or a site license.)

"The opposite argument is that as funding rates at NIH [the National Institutes of Health] and other agencies are at or close to all-time lows, and the pressure in the academy to produce to get tenure and that sort of thing increases, there is increasingly pressure to cheat and maybe more people are." —David Wright

► Last Friday at ScienceInsider—just after last week's "Elsewhere in Science" closed—Jocelyn Kaiser posted a Q&A interview with David Wright, the former head of the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) who resigned in late March. ORI is the government agency responsible for investigating charges of scientific misconduct. Wright's resignation letter, which was published at ScienceInsider, "was a scathing critique of what he called the 'dysfunctional' bureaucracy at the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health," Kaiser wrote.

"I don’t think anybody knows," Wright said, when asked if he thinks scientific misconduct is on the rise. "One argument is, it’s not increasing in terms of absolute rate, it’s just easier to detect because of changes in technology and online publishing." He continued:

The opposite argument is that as funding rates at NIH [the National Institutes of Health] and other agencies are at or close to all-time lows, and the pressure in the academy to produce to get tenure and that sort of thing increases, there is increasingly pressure to cheat and maybe more people are.

Eventually there will be more research on why people commit misconduct, and there will be some good longitudinal studies at universities that have really good policies and training versus those that don’t to see what the comparative rate of misconduct allegations is. And we may be able to draw some more conclusions.

► In 2012, seven Italians, including four scientists and two engineers, were found guilty of manslaughter for having misleadingly reassured citizens about the risk of a major earthquake in 2009. The judgment, which is under appeal, says the scientists' reassurances caused some residents to stay at home. It's a scary precedent because it holds scientists legally responsible for the advice they offer. On Friday, ScienceInsider posted an interview with geologist Gianluca Valensise about the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake, its aftermath, and the controversy.

Valensise believes that the scientists "were caught in a communication jam orchestrated by others." He's afraid that the event is inhibiting science communication. "[P]eople do expect scientists to make statements on how current earthquake sequences will evolve—but many scientists have been severely distressed by the outcomes of the L’Aquila trial and tend to share critical information only among themselves," he said. "Despite their crucial role in a hazard-prone country like Italy, and the demand for effective communication to the public,” wrote Jacopo Pasotti in ScienceInsider, "Italian scientists 'have never received any formal training in the communication of science and of natural hazards.' "  

► Some North Carolina marine scientists are at risk of losing their jobs, but they're getting some support from other scientists and lawmakers. As Puneet Kollipara reported on Monday at ScienceInsider, the Obama administration has proposed closing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Pivers Island lab near Beaufort, North Carolina, in its fiscal year 2015 budget. The lab was founded more than 100 years ago and is the only NOAA lab between Miami, Florida, and Sandy Hook, New Jersey. Critics of the plan say that closing the lab would endanger crucial marine research; it would also endanger the jobs of the 108 employees and contractors who work there.

► Writing at ScienceInsider on Tuesday, Mark Peplow reported a plan by London Mayor Boris Johnson to turn London, Oxford, and Cambridge into an international bioscience research powerhouse. Dubbed "MedCity," the center of the hub would be the $1 billion Francis Crick Institute, which, when it opens in 2015, will be Europe's largest biomedical research facility, employing about 1250 scientists.

► At ScienceInsider on Wednesday, Dennis Normile reported that Haruko Obokata, the RIKEN stem-cell scientist who claimed what Normile called an "astounding breakthrough" in stem-cell science, appeared at a press conference at which she apologized but insisted on the legitimacy of her work. “ 'I sincerely apologize to RIKEN, my co-authors, and to many others for the trouble I caused through my insufficient experience and carelessness,' Obokata said with a deep bow at the beginning of the press conference, which was held in Osaka. But 'STAP cells exist!' " She claimed to have created the new type of stem cells more than 200 times and said that she would not retract the Nature papers reporting the result.

► Finally, in yet another high-profile misconduct case, "[a] 2012 paper on the regenerative powers of the human heart has been retracted from the journal Circulation amid an investigation of compromised data," Kelly Servick wrote at ScienceInsider on Thursday. The retraction states that "an ongoing institutional review by Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital has determined that the data are sufficiently compromised that a retraction is warranted."

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