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Elsewhere in Science: Funding, animal research, and more

Here is this week’s career-related news from across the Science family of publications.

► Don’t forget to write a good title for your grant application, at least if you’re looking for funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Jeffrey Mervis reminded readers last Friday. “NSF program officers have been paying more attention to the titles that researchers submit with their grant proposals” since 2014, due to “[embarrassment] by a relative handful of research grants that legislators have mocked in part because of their titles,” he wrote. The result? “Projects funded in 2015 are more than twice as likely to sport new titles as those funded in 2012, according to a new analysis by an internal NSF working group. The changes have also made the research easier to understand, says NSF’s James Hamos, who is heading up the project.”

► “China has released its first national standards governing the treatment of laboratory animals, and scientists hope the guidelines will improve both conditions for animals and China’s prospects for international research collaborations,” Kathleen McLaughlin wrote on Monday. “The draft standards were posted last week for public comment and could be implemented by the end of this year. … Chinese scientists have said the lack of national regulations has stymied some international collaborations because scientists in other countries can be reluctant to engage in research involving animals if they are not covered by humane protections.”

► “The simmering war between Turkish academics and their increasingly repressive government came to a boil last week with arrests and an escape,” John Bohannon wrote on Tuesday. “It began in January with the firing of dozens of academics, many of them scientists, from Turkey’s universities.” Then, after a 13 March car bombing, “Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, announced that the definition of ‘terrorism’ should be expanded to include all who provide support in the form of ‘propaganda’ and specifically called out academics. Within hours of the president’s speech, police arrived at the homes of four Turkish researchers. Three are now imprisoned; Turkish academics fear that many more arrests will follow.” The fourth, “Meral Camcı, a literary scholar who had been dismissed from her faculty position at Yeni Yüzyıl University in Istanbul, had gone to France on vacation just days before.” In the Q&A, Camcı told Bohannon about the situation in the country.

► “After spending nearly a decade in the darkness of the former Conservative government’s so-called ‘war on science,’ Canada’s research community finds itself stepping into the sunshine after the nation’s new Liberal government [Tuesday] unveiled a fiscal blueprint for 2015–16 that provides an immediate $72.79 million per year injection into the budgets of the nation’s research granting councils,” Wayne Kondro wrote that day. “Finance Minister Bill Morneau laid out a host of scientific goodies,” including “resurrect[ing] two initiatives killed by the Conservatives. The first, a ‘Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund,’ will provide $1.53 billion over 3 years for universities and colleges to ‘modernize research labs, retrofit buildings used for advance training, and expand on-campus incubators that support start-ups as they grow their businesses.’” Additionally, Morneau “announced he is resurrecting Goodale’s $122.6 million plan to promote more university-industry linkages by way of ‘large-scale integrated facilities.’” Read the full article for the detailed budget breakdown.   

► “Paul G. Allen, who built a fortune as co-founder of Microsoft, is showering science once more with his money,” Emily Underwood wrote Wednesday. “The philanthropist behind the 13-year-old Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, Washington, and several other science efforts today announced the creation of a new bioscience research initiative funded with an initial investment of $100 million over the next 10 years. The newly created Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group has selected four initial researchers—Jennifer Doudna of the University of California (UC), Berkeley, Ethan Bier of UC San Diego, James Collins of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, and Bassem Hassan of the Brain and Spine Institute in Paris—to receive $1.5 million each. ... Allen will also fund two new $30 million research centers at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, and Tufts University in Boston.” “The ‘new vision,’ [says Frontiers Group executive director, biomedical engineer Tom Skalak], is to identify areas in bioscience that are ripe for a major breakthrough, then fund specific investigators to pursue advances in areas ranging from heart disease to food production and agriculture. ‘Our plan is to keep listening and remain agile, because the boundaries of knowledge keep getting pushed out and reshaped.’”

► In further funding news, there may be a silver lining for the authors of the 42,500 or so grant proposals rejected by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) last year. “[A] new program aims to play matchmaker between these researchers and second-chance funders,” Kelly Servick reported Wednesday. “The Online Partnership to Accelerate Research (OnPAR), a collaboration between NIH and the defense, engineering, and health contractor Leidos, lets researchers upload rejected NIH proposals to an online portal where potential funders can review the scores received from reviewers, and decide whether to put up cash. The program [was] launched as a small pilot at the beginning of March with the participation of seven nonprofit disease foundations. ... [E]xperts say the success of the project will hinge on whether private funders see value in using OnPAR in addition to their existing grant review process.”

► Canada’s isn’t the only budget update with potential implications for scientists. On Thursday, Mervis reported on a “blueprint for spending that was released [Wednesday] by the budget committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.” Under the plan, the “U.S. Department of Commerce … could be eliminated, and many research programs at [NSF] and the Department of Energy ... would be sharply curtailed,” Mervis wrote. But “[a] faction of House Republicans has blocked approval of the so-called annual budget resolution … because they think it calls for too much spending,” and “it’s not clear whether Republican leaders in the House will be able to gain enough support to pass any budget resolution. In addition, the Republican-controlled Senate has put an indefinite hold on its work on a budget resolution.”

► In an editorial in this week’s issue of Science, S. J. Gates Jr., professor of physics at the University of Maryland, College Park, wrote about the “efficacy of diversity for the sake of innovation.” Framing his article around the “U.S. Supreme Court hearing on A. Fisher v. the University of Texas about university admission policies regarding minority students,” during which “Chief Justice John Roberts asked, ‘What unique perspective does a minority student bring to a physics class?’” Gates noted that “[m]inorities have made progress in science, as my own life attests. … Each individual brings unique experiences that influence the capacity to move science forward in creative ways. … [T]he Fisher v. Texas decision is poised to shape how and whether people like me can emerge in future science at its highest levels.”

►Also in Science, Hao Xin reported on China’s plan (subscription required) to boost basic research funding. “The plan,” which covers 2016 through 2020, “signals that top leaders are looking to researchers, even those doing fundamental work, for innovations that will drive the economy as it undergoes structural reforms,” Xin wrote. Under the plan, funding for basic research is expected to rise “to 10% of total R&D spending by 2020, up from less than 5% now.”

► With the growth of big data and international collaborations, the scientific community must consider how to best establish and maintain research ethics standards, argue an international group of 13 authors in a Policy Forum (subscription required) in this week’s issue of Science.  “Historically, research ethics committees (RECs) have been guided by ethical principles regarding human experimentation intended to protect participants from physical harms and to provide assurance as to their interests and welfare,” write the authors, led by Edward Dove of the School of Law at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom. “But research that analyzes large aggregate data sets, possibly including detailed clinical and genomic information of individuals, may require different assessment. At the same time, growth in international data-sharing collaborations adds stress to a system already under fire for subjecting multisite research to replicate ethics reviews, which can inhibit research without improving the quality of human subjects' protections.” The authors use five case studies to “identify models that could inform a framework for mutual recognition of international ethics review.”

►Positioned in the “middle of three generations of women working in the sciences,” Rosalind Segal has had the opportunity to reflect on the changes that have occurred for women in science since her mother began her career—and those that are yet to come during her daughter’s career. Read this week’s Science Careers-produced Working Life story to hear her perspective.

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