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Elsewhere in Science, 5 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.

► “The 2016 presidential election season [got] underway in earnest [on Monday] as voters cast their first ballots at the Iowa caucuses,” Puneet Kollipara wrote at ScienceInsider that day, which means that it’s time for “an overview of where the candidates stand on some select science-related issues.” Many of the candidates agree that science funding should be increased. “Former Senator (D–NY) and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said she ‘would increase funding for scientific research,’” and “[f]ormer Governor Jeb Bush (R–FL) has called for boosting biomedical research funding.” On the other hand, regarding NASA, “Donald Trump said last year that space is ‘terrific’ but that filling potholes may be more important, because ‘you know, we don't exactly have a lot of money.’"   

► “[M]ore than 300 scholars and scientists, including seven Nobel laureates, have signed an open letter calling on Iran to release [chemist Mohammad Hossein] Rafiee” from its “notorious Evin Prison,” where he has been held “since June 2015, after speaking out in favor of the nuclear deal that was announced a month after he was imprisoned,” Zack Kopplin reported Tuesday at ScienceInsider. “More than a year before the nuclear deal was finished, Rafiee, a retired professor from the University of Tehran, had written an analysis that supported the negotiations. … Then, in June 2014, he spoke out publicly, publishing his analysis on his website.” After that, “the harassment began, his daughter tells ScienceInsider. … Rafiee was ultimately arrested. ... After a secret trial, she says her father was sentenced to 6 years in prison for ‘spreading propaganda against the regime,’ as well as ‘membership in an illegal group,’ known as the Melli Mazhabi, a part of the Freedom Movement of Iran.”

► “The White House’s announcement [Monday] that it wants to spend $1 billion to jump-start Vice President Joe Biden’s cancer moonshot is music to the ears of cancer researchers,” Jocelyn Kaiser wrote Tuesday at ScienceInsider. “Unclear, however, is how much existing money will be reshuffled at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support this year’s moonshot activities, and whether Congress will agree to new funding that the White House has proposed for 2017. … A fact sheet says the White House plans to spend $195 million on ‘new cancer activities’ at NIH in the current 2016 fiscal year, which began in October 2015,” Kaiser wrote. “Presumably, most of the spending will occur at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), … [b]ut one worry for biomedical researchers is that plumping up certain NCI programs partway into the fiscal year will force the institute to divert funds from other programs. … Meanwhile, Biden plans to propose continuing the moonshot’s financial momentum in the White House’s FY 2017 budget request, due out 9 February. The White House says it will include a request to steer $75 million to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration … for moonshot activities, and $680 million for NIH. That could mean a 13% budget boost for NCI.”

► “The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has chosen as its next president Erin O’Shea, a biochemist who is now chief scientific officer of the giant medical philanthropy,” Kaiser reported Wednesday at ScienceInsider. O’Shea, who “will become the first woman to head the” institute, “says she agreed to take the top job at HHMI because of ‘a tremendous opportunity to have a lasting, positive impact on science.’ … She expects to expand HHMI’s partnerships with other philanthropies, such as one she helped create that supports early career investigators. She will also soon launch a major new program to promote diversity in biomedical research that has been in the works for 2 years.”

► In scientific publishing news, “biotech company Amgen Inc. and prominent biochemist Bruce Alberts have created a new online journal that aims to lift the curtain on often hidden results in biomedicine: failed efforts to confirm other groups’ published papers,” Kaiser reported Thursday. “Amgen is seeding the publication with reports on its own futile attempts to replicate three studies in diabetes and neurodegenerative disease and hopes other companies will follow suit. The contradictory results—along with successful confirmations—will be published by F1000Research, an open-access, online-only publisher,” on its “Preclinical Reproducibility and Robustness channel.” “Alberts, a former Science editor-in-chief and National Academy of Sciences president who is at the University of California, San Francisco, says the journal will be a place for data that other journals often aren’t interested in publishing because replication efforts lack novelty. ‘The whole idea is to lower the energy barrier for people doing this,’ Alberts says.”

► “[T]he circumstances surrounding this week’s retraction of a 12-year-old Science paper, involving research funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), appear to be highly unusual,” Jeffrey Mervis wrote Thursday at ScienceInsider. “The case breaks new ground for NSF, say those who follow research misconduct. One novel twist is that the agency meted out a major punishment—ineligibility for NSF funding—despite finding that the researchers weren’t guilty of misconduct,” Mervis wrote. “The punishment is instead based on NSF’s conclusion that the numerous flaws in the paper meant the researchers had violated an agency rule requiring grantees to publish ‘all significant findings.’ Another new wrinkle was NSF’s decision to tell the researchers that submitting a correction to Science would be the essential step in restoring their eligibility. In most cases where NSF finds misconduct, the perpetrators face debarment from federal funding for a fixed amount of time as long as 5 years.”

► “The Karolinska Institute (KI) in Stockholm ‘has lost its confidence’ in surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, a senior researcher at the institute, and will end its ties with him” after his contract expires on 30 November, Gretchen Vogel wrote Thursday at ScienceInsider. “The move comes in the wake of a chilling three-part TV documentary about Macchiarini, a former media darling who was cleared of scientific misconduct charges by KI vice-chancellor Anders Hamsten last summer.” But that isn’t the only factor in the decision: “In an email to Science, KI spokesman Claes Keisu writes that Macchiarini has ‘overexploited Karolinska [Institute’s] brand in his work in Krasnodar. His activities there have undermined KI’s reputation and damaged the public’s trust in KI.’ Discrepancies in Macchiarini's CV contributed to the decision as well, Keisu writes.”

► “Outrage has greeted a decision by the head of Australia’s premier research agency to cut jobs and eliminate work in certain fields, including basic climate science,” Leigh Dayton wrote this morning at ScienceInsider. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Chief Executive Larry “Marshall’s decision to ‘realign’ CSIRO’s priorities could see 350 jobs go over the next 2 years and comes on top of cuts of more than $15 million to climate and environmental science in the 2014-15 federal budget. … Most job losses will hit research areas dealing with oceans and atmosphere, land and water, manufacturing, and a digital technology group called Data61.”

► “Next week the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to repeat a warning to the National Science Foundation (NSF) that every one of its research grants must advance ‘the national interest,’” Mervis wrote this morning at ScienceInsider. “Depending on whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, passage of the Scientific Research in the National Interest Act (HR 3293) is either a simple reminder that federal dollars should be spent wisely, or an unwise and unwarranted intrusion into NSF’s grantsmaking process.” A vote on the bill is set for next Wednesday.

► Rush Holt, AAAS CEO and the executive publisher of Science, wrote an editorial in this week’s issue about the important role that the association plays within the scientific community. “A great example of this will be the AAAS Annual Meeting next week in Washington, DC (11 to 16 February), where we will bring together diverse leading voices from around the world to discuss how ‘Global Science Engagement’ can move society toward a secure future,” he wrote. And he encouraged “scientists and all those interested in science to join AAAS and become part of an organization that will continue to advance science for human welfare.”

► The secret to the success of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which “is supposed to make sure the U.S. military holds a technological edge over its enemies” and “has earned a reputation for using out-of-the-box thinking,” “is its cadre of program managers,” Mervis wrote in a feature in this week’s issue of Science. “Some call them DARPA's ‘secret sauce.’ Although they typically stay for only 4 to 5 years, they can have an enormous impact on the agency because of a combination of autonomy, authority, and ample resources that is rare in government.” As an example of how someone gets this position, Mervis traced the career trajectory of mathematician Ben Mann, who was at the agency from 2004 to 2010. It’s worth noting, though, that there is an “extreme gender imbalance among DARPA program managers, who are 95% men, according to a recent roster.” Although DARPA didn’t pay much attention to the life sciences at first, since 1990, when it hired its first biologist, “it made up for lost time, and in June 2014 DARPA put the life sciences on an equal footing with other disciplines by creating the Biology Technologies Office,” Mervis noted in a sidebar.

► In the Books et al. section of this week’s issue, Irving A. Lerch, director emeritus of international scientific affairs at the American Physical Society in College Park, Maryland, reviewed The Most Wanted Man in China: My Journey from Scientist to Enemy of the State by Fang Lizhi. The book is a “memoir and a personal testament of Fang Lizhi—a renowned scientist, humane scholar, political activist, intractable enemy of authoritarian government, and courageous advocate of human rights,” Lerch wrote. After spending many years in a labor camp in the rural fields of China, he was considered “rehabilitated.” Lizhi went on to become the vice president of the University of Science and Technology of China, and later he continued “his fight for human rights in the United States, where he pursued theoretical astrophysics at the University of Arizona.” When he died 4 years ago, at 76, it “deprived the world of an eloquent voice in the advocacy of human rights, but his expulsion from China allowed that voice to be heard around the world,” Lerch wrote.

► “[W]e don't just need more diligent letter writers or more honesty about who is doing the letter writing. We need to write fewer letters,” Rima Wilkes wrote in this week's Science Careers-produced Working Life story. Read the full story to find out why.

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