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A compound in <i>Quassia amara</i>, a red-flowered tree native to Central and South America, is active against malaria.

A compound in Quassia amara, a red-flowered tree native to Central and South America, is active against malaria.

©blickwinkel/Alamy Stock Photo

Elsewhere in Science, 12 Feb. 2016

Every Friday, Science Careers points to articles in the Science family of publications that are relevant to careers in science and other technical fields. Some of them are accessible to anyone, but access to articles appearing in Science Translational MedicineScience Signaling, and Science may require AAAS membership (AAAS is the publisher of Science Careers) or a site license.

► Last week, we highlighted Jeffrey Mervis’s Science magazine feature about what makes the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) tick. He expanded on that story online last Friday, writing that, although most of the time “program managers will come for a relatively short time—typically 4 to 5 years,” “[s]ome make DARPA a career.” For example, “[m]aterials scientist William Coblenz left DARPA last fall after serving for 25 years as a program manager. He’s part of a generation of program managers who spent most of their careers at DARPA.” “Another, smaller cohort at DARPA that comes close to matching Coblenz’s longevity is comprised of those senior officials who have moved up the ranks. Few such positions exist in DARPA’s horizontal management structure. But the agency seems to find room for a few people with long institutional memories.”

► This week brought two more updates to the story around surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, who has come under fire for his work implanting artificial tracheas. On Sunday, Gretchen Vogel reported that “[t]he widening scandal surrounding ... Macchiarini and his employment at the Karolinska Institute (KI) in Stockholm has prompted Urban Lendahl, secretary general of the Nobel Assembly, to resign. Lendahl, a developmental geneticist at KI, was involved in hiring Macchiarini in 2010, according to Swedish media reports. A statement from the Nobel Committee [that day] said that Lendahl ... was giving up his work on the committee ‘out of respect for the integrity of the Nobel Prize work.’”

Then, on Thursday, Martin Enserink wrote that, with “[a]nxiety ... mounting that the credibility of Swedish science is at stake in the wake of [the] scandal,” “[t]he Royal Swedish Academy of Science weighed in on the affair [that day] with a strongly worded demand for a new, fully independent investigation.” “It is of the greatest importance that the case is decided in an impartial manner that gains general acceptance and repairs the credibility of medical research,” the statement says. “The academy also ... announced a new panel to examine the difficult issues arising from medical studies on very sick patients,” Enserink wrote.

► “The massive biomedical innovation bill that breezed through the U.S. House of Representatives last summer is moving through the Senate, albeit on much weaker tailwinds,” Kelly Servick wrote Tuesday at ScienceInsider. “In the first of three scheduled hearings, the Senate’s health committee [that day] approved an initial set of bipartisan proposals aimed at speeding the discovery and development of new medical treatments. Lawmakers hope the bills can be combined into a companion to the House bill, known as 21st Century Cures.” Among other measures, the package includes “a bill to create a ‘Next Generation of Researchers Initiative’ within the [National Institutes of Health] Office of the Director to promote early-career researchers—also a priority in the House bill.”

► Tuesday was also budget day in the United States, and ScienceInsider combed through the pages of the White House’s fiscal year 2017 budget request for all the news that’s relevant to scientists. Here’s a taste:

“The Department of Energy’s … Office of Science would get $5.672 billion under the request, a 4.2% increase over existing levels.”

“President Barack Obama's proposed Environmental Protection Agency ... budget for 2017 seeks a modest boost in funding for research and development and other science and technology programs, as well as a healthy increase for the agency's air and climate programs in the wake of the Paris climate agreement.”

“The request proposes that NASA get $19.025 billion, a 1.3% drop from levels enacted by Congress this past December. But the science mission directorate, with a $5.601 billion request, would sit essentially unchanged from the $5.589 billion appropriated by Congress last year.”

“The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would see a slight dip under the proposed 2017 budget – down 3.6% to $6.95 billion. But the proposal continues to ramp up investment in the antimicrobial resistance initiative the White House announced in last year’s request.”

The administration’s proposal is however “likely to trigger even more of a partisan standoff with Congress and darken an already cloudy picture for U.S. researchers who rely on federal funding,” Mervis wrote in a Thursday follow-up. The proposal includes significant “mandatory spending, which would fund a specific program using revenue generated by the sale of a government asset, such as oil in the strategic petroleum reserve, or a particular tax or license fee,” Mervis continued. “[L]awmakers are often loath to approve [mandatory spending programs], because they are perceived to reduce congressional control over spending.” Even so, “don’t be surprised if some of the president’s research priorities survive in some form as Congress struggles to put together its own spending plan,” Mervis concluded.

► Also on Tuesday, Michael Balter reported on “[t]he sexual misconduct case that has rocked anthropology.” Last March at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, “a research assistant at the American Museum of Natural History … in New York City charged that her boss—noted paleoanthropologist Brian Richmond, the museum’s curator of human origins—had ‘sexually assaulted’ her in his hotel room after a meeting the previous September in Florence, Italy.” In email responses to Science, Richmond wrote that the encounter was “consensual and reciprocal.” But cases like this and “[a] widely cited anonymous survey of anthropologists and other field scientists, called the SAFE study and published in July 2014 in PLOS ONE,” may highlight a problem with “how some academic communities deal with harassment.” The study “reported that 64% of the 666 respondents had experienced some sort of sexual harassment, from comments to physical contact, while doing fieldwork,” and “[o]f the 139 respondents in the SAFE study who said they experienced unwanted physical contact, only 37 had reported it.”

Then on Thursday, Balter reported that “[a]n online statement against sexual misconduct in academia, written and circulated by three human evolution experts at Arizona State University (ASU), Tempe, has garnered more than 600 signatures since it was launched on 9 February.”

► “Data from studies of Zika virus and its clinical effects should be shared as soon as possible, without scientists having to worry that they're endangering a later publication, dozens of leading journals and research funding agencies said Wednesday in a statement,” Vogel wrote in a ScienceInsider published that day. To support this initiative, “[t]he 11 journal publishers that signed the declaration—including The New England Journal of Medicine, PLOS, Springer Nature, and Science journals, pledge that they will make all papers concerning Zika virus freely available to anyone, and that data or preprints that are made publicly available won’t preempt their journals from later publishing the work.” In addition, research funders “will require grantees to have plans in place for sharing their results and data ‘as rapidly and widely as possible.’”

► Speaking of “open” science, “[t]he dark web—the collection of sites on the Internet that can’t be accessed by search engines like Google—”now includes free research papers among its offerings. “Upset with the exorbitant cost of accessing academic papers, a Kazakhstani student created the site Sci-Hub, which trawls university databases to find and collect papers requested by its users. To date, it has amassed more than 47 million papers—and drawn the ire of academic publishers, including Elsevier,” according to a Wednesday Sifter. “The struggle highlights just how frustrated researchers are with having to pay for access to the products of their own work—and just how far some will go to ensure that research is available to all.”

► Researchers wishing to access biodiversity resources and associated traditional knowledge must be aware of the changing legal framework. The Institute for Development Research (IRD) in Marseille, France, was accused of biopiracy by a human rights organization for filing a patent “without acknowledging the indigenous and local communities that helped the institute isolate the drug from a traditional medicinal plant” in French Guiana, Elisabeth Pain reported on ScienceInsider on Wednesday. At the time of the research no clear legal guidelines existed in France, but a new French biodiversity law is now to “implement the 2010 Nagoya Protocol, which complements the international Convention on Biological Diversity and aims to guarantee a greater control of the states rich in biodiversity, and their indigenous populations, over how their biodiversity resources are used and an equitable sharing of the benefits.”

France is not alone in changing its national law: More than 60 countries and regions around the world are now legally bound to implement the Nagoya Protocol. In any case, “the absence of a legal framework” in the places where they want to access biodiversity “doesn't mean scientists can do whatever they want,” says Tamatoa Bambridge, an anthropologist at the Center of Island Research and Environmental Observatory in Moorea, French Polynesia. “The failure by IRD researchers ‘to obtain the prior and free consent of their informants raises some ethical issues,’ he says.”

► You have probably heard the big news this week about physicists at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detecting gravitational waves. Providing the story behind the discovery, Adrian Cho wrote on Thursday that “the first person to spot those gravitational waves” was Marco Drago, “a soft-spoken postdoc who plays classical piano and has published two fantasy novels. … [T]he 33-year-old postdoc from Padua, Italy, was at his office at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Hanover, Germany, where” he “oversees one of four data ‘pipelines,’ automated computer systems that comb through the raw data coming out of the two detectors looking for potentially interesting signals. On 14 September 2015, ... his pipeline sent him an email alert—of which he receives about one each day—telling him that both LIGO detectors had registered an ‘event’ (a nonroutine reading) 3 minutes earlier, at 11:50:45 a.m. local time. It was a big one.” Check out the article for the full behind-the-scenes story.

► Australia's premier research agency has announced its intention to cut its climate science program to focus on research projects closer to industry. In an email to his staff last week, Larry Marshall, chief executive of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Canberra, “stated that up to 350 jobs could be eliminated over the next 2 years, including 110 positions in the Oceans and Atmosphere division, the bulwark of CSIRO's climate research,” Leigh Dayton reported in this week’s issue of Science. “The job losses, Marshall wrote, are ‘something that we must do to renew our business.’” Among the new priorities that Marshall would like to pursue is “research to make titanium ink for 3D printing from Australia's mineral sands, produce cleaner diesel fuel from coal, and breed ‘new strains of food and agricultural products that are healthier, more sustainable and highly differentiated.’ Marshall is confident that CSIRO scientists will get with the program: ‘Our people are innovative and many can reinvent themselves to learn these new areas,’ he wrote.” But to “Nadine Flood, national secretary of the union in Haymarket that represents CSIRO employees, ... Marshall is modeling CSIRO on Netflix and Silicon Valley. ‘IT startups might be agile,’ she says, ‘but deep science cannot be simply switched on and off again.’”

► Anticipating the risks associated with their research is an important but often difficult exercise for scientists. This exercise has now become easier for chemists, however, Tania Rabesandratana reported this week in Science. “Every year, chemists invent thousands of new chemicals, and many ultimately find their way into global use. Predicting which ones will pose health or environmental hazards, however, has proven difficult. This week, a group of researchers unveiled a tool that could help streamline the process: a vast database of safety information that will allow users to compare new chemicals to existing compounds with similar structures, and flag potential risks.”

► Check out the 2016 Gordon Research Conference schedule on pages 742 to 770 of this week’s print issue of Science.

► When he was a young researcher, Andrew Scott decided that he did not want a “regular job in academia,” so he followed his other passion and became a science writer. Read this week’s Science Careers-produced Working Life story to learn about the joys and struggles of his career transition.