Elsewhere in Science, 12 September 2014

Each week, the Science family of publications publishes articles that are likely to be of interest to Science Careers readers. So, every Friday, we're pointing our readers toward articles that hold some relevance to careers in science and other technical fields. Note that many of the articles appearing in Science Translational Medicine, Science Signaling, and Science require AAAS membership (AAAS is the publisher of Science Careers), a Science subscription, or a site license.

► On Monday at ScienceInsider, Jocelyn Kaiser reported this year’s winners of the Lasker Awards. The prize for basic medical research went to Kazutoshi Mori of Kyoto University in Japan and Peter Walter of the University of California, San Francisco, “for their work on what’s known as the unfolded protein response.” The prize for clinical research went to Alim Louis Benabid of Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France, and Mahlon DeLong of Emory University in Atlanta for pioneering the deep-brain stimulation technique for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Mary-Claire King of the University of Washington, Seattle, “won the Lasker special achievement award for her discovery of the BRCA1 breast cancer risk gene in 1990 and for developing DNA analytic techniques for identifying members of a family.”

► On Tuesday, Priyanka Pulla reported the results of a study of 37 clinical-trial studies over the last 64 years that were eventually reanalyzed. “In 13 cases, the reanalysis came to a different outcome—a finding that suggests many clinical trials may not be accurately reporting the effect of a new drug or intervention.” Over 64 years, only 37 clinical trials have been reanalyzed, and only five of those were reanalyzed by a different team of researchers, indicating that “they did not get a neutral relook,” Pulla wrote. “Tom Jefferson, a Rome-based researcher who reviews studies for the nonprofit Cochrane Collaboration, says the results of the JAMA [The Journal of the American Medical Association] study do not surprise him. ‘The process [of analyzing clinical trials] is so subjective, you can twist it any way you want,’ ” he says.

► On Wednesday at ScienceInsider, Mitch Leslie wrote about the new Palo Alto Longevity Prize, which is offering $1 million to scientists who find solutions to two aging-related research challenges. “One $500,000 award will go to the research team that can restore an older animal’s homeostatic capacity—its ability to balance its internal conditions—to a youthful level,” Leslie wrote. “The other $500,000 award will go to researchers who induce a lifespan increase of 50% in a laboratory animal.”

► Also on Wednesday, at ScienceInsider, Jeffrey Mervis told the disturbing story of computer scientist Valerie Barr, who was fired last month by the National Science Foundation (NSF) for political activity she engaged in more than 30 years ago. “A recent graduate of New York University with a master’s degree in computer science, Barr handed out leaflets, stood behind tables at rallies, and baked cookies to support two left-wing groups, the Women’s Committee Against Genocide and the New Movement in Solidarity with Puerto Rican Independence,” Mervis wrote. “Despite her passion for those issues, she had a full-time job as a software developer—with 50-plus-hour workweeks and frequent visits to clients around the country—that took precedence.”

In August of last year, Barr took a leave of absence from Union College to serve as a program director in NSF’s Undergraduate Education division. Less than a year later, she was told her 2-year appointment would end after the first year. What happened? Barr was investigated by the Office of Personnel Management, “an obscure agency within the White House that wields vast power over the entire federal bureaucracy through its authority to vet recently hired workers,” Mervis writes. It’s a fascinating story.  

► How bad is government interference in communications between the press and government scientists? In Canada, it’s apparently pretty bad. When a reporter with the Canadian Press, a news agency, asked Max Bothwell, a scientist for Environment Canada, for an interview, the request was handled by 16 public affairs staffers who collectively generated 110 pages of back-and-forth e-mails. “The minders were busy dealing with ‘agreed answers’ that Bothwell would be allowed to give and an ‘approved interview script.’ But they didn’t get the interview approved by deadline,” wrote Erik Stokstad on Wednesday at ScienceInsider.

► Yesterday in a Science exclusive, Gretchen Vogel and Dennis Normile reported that Nature reviewers were quite critical of the papers published in late January by Haruko Obokata, on a novel (and apparently ineffective) method of inducing pluripotency in mouse cells. “The Science news team received a copy of e-mail correspondence between a Nature editor and Haruko Obokata, the lead author of the papers, that indicates the work initially received as rocky a reception there as at two other journals, Cell and Science, that had rejected the work previously,” the authors wrote.

► Independence for Scotland—would it be good or bad for science? It depends on who you ask. “Researchers opposed to independence say a split will harm science, depriving it of funds and talent. ‘There's no clarity at all. We have no idea where our research funding will be coming from,’ says Richard Cogdell, director of the Institute of Molecular, Cell and Systems Biology at the University of Glasgow.” Scotland, writes Daniel Clearly in this week’s Science, has more universities per capita in the world’s top 200 than any other country. “ ‘Yes’ campaigners counter that the Scottish government has vowed to protect science during the transition and to maintain funding at least at current levels. ‘Scotland is a rich country. We want to do it and we can do it,’ says Bryan MacGregor, head of physical sciences at the University of Aberdeen,” Cleary wrote.

► In this week’s Science Careers-produced Working Life column, Gale Rhodes looks back on his career and concludes that, although he could never have foreseen it in all its detail, he had the career he dreamed of.

► Finally, this week’s Science has a special focus on global health. I’ve just started reading it, but it is tasty.

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