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Elsewhere in Science: Open access, work-life conflict, and more

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

► With Zika virus eclipsing Ebola for global attention, funding priorities are shifting as well, illustrating the complexity of building and sustaining research programs in public health-related areas. “The White House’s decision ... to shift $589 million in unspent Ebola response funding to fighting Zika won’t require cutting any Ebola research supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH),” Puneet Kollipara wrote last Friday. “But the Obama administration still is requesting more help from Congress to both fund Zika efforts and replenish money shifted away from Ebola, says Anthony Fauci, the head of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases … in Bethesda, Maryland. … [H]e also sounded a cautionary note about the new Zika support. ‘That’s not enough to last me very long,’ Fauci says. ‘We can start the work, but we can’t finish what we need to do.’”

► “Eric Dishman, who now heads the Health and Life Sciences Group at Intel Corporation in Santa Clara, California, will become director of [NIH’s] Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) Cohort Program next month,” Jocelyn Kaiser wrote Tuesday. In a Q&A, Dishman explained why he thinks he got the job, even though, as Kaiser pointed out, he “does not have a background in genomics or large, long-term health studies, nor even a Ph.D.” “I think I'm a weird mix of a bunch of different capabilities that they need,” Dishman said. “I think it's in part because I bring a social science perspective, and a patient perspective, to this new kind of research relationship we're trying to develop with participants. ... And this PMI cohort effort is really about developing a data sharing platform. Having worked at Intel, it’s a company that knows how to deliver that in an open way so that many others can innovate on top of it.”

► The Netherlands, which became the president of the European Union in January, is taking advantage of its role to prioritize open access (OA) to the scientific literature, Martin Enserink reported Thursday. “Last week, the Dutch government held a 2-day meeting ... in which European policymakers, research funders, librarians, and publishers discussed how to advance OA,” he wrote. “The meeting produced an Amsterdam Call to Action that included the ambition to make all new papers published in the European Union freely available by 2020. Given the slow pace with which OA has gained ground the past 10 years, few believe that’s actually possible, but the document is rallying support.”  In addition, Enserink noted that “[w]hether all 28 E.U. states are ready to act remains to be seen, and even some OA advocates are critical of the approach that the Netherlands has adopted for its own scientists: an emphatic choice for Gold OA, in which authors pay publishers to make their papers freely available. Many instead prefer Green OA, in which authors post a copy of each published paper in a public repository.” Nonetheless, Robert-Jan Smits, the European Commission’s director-general for research and innovation, “hopes the European Union’s ministers will adopt the 2020 target when they meet next month, along with other measures to promote data sharing,” Enserink wrote.

► In U.S. funding news, “both the Senate and House of Representatives appropriations subcommittees that oversee [the Department of Energy (DOE)] released spending plans that would give the Office of Science just a 0.9% increase, to $5.4 billion,” Adrian Cho reported Thursday. Although it is not the 4.2% increase that the Obama administration proposed in February, “it represents a vote of confidence for the Office of Science, Senator Lamar Alexander (R–TN), chair of the Senate energy and water subcommittee, said at the Senate subcommittee markup.” Details about the bills are scarce, Cho noted, but “for the third year in a row the Senate panel moved to zero out spending on the United States's contribution to ITER,” “House appropriators would cut [DOE's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy] spending by 12% to $1.8 billion,” and “the House energy and water subcommittee would boost spending on the fossil fuels program by 2% to $645 million.”

► “[A] novel analysis finding a link between how U.S. graduate students in the biomedical sciences are funded and their first job after earning their Ph.D. turns one piece of conventional wisdom on its head: Students supported on a research grant are more likely to take a research job than those funded by other mechanisms,” including training grants and individual fellowships, Jeffrey Mervis wrote today. The study is “causing some serious head scratching among researchers who study the U.S. biomedical workforce,” he continued. Check out the full article to learn more.

► Economist Heather Boushey’s new book Finding Time: The Economics of Work-Life Conflict “offer[s] a thorough, systematic, evidence-based case for a comprehensive package of institutional reforms” to address today’s workplace expectations, which “have left millions of working Americans perpetually stressed, conflicted, economically insecure, and time-poor,” wrote Janet Gornick of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in New York City in a review (subscription required) in this week’s issue of Science. “These reforms would include expanding rights to paid family and medical leave, extending workers' options for flexible working time, and increasing investments in high-quality nonfamily care,” Gornick wrote. “As Boushey tackles the complexities of work-family policies (she prefers the term ‘work-life policies’ to stress their economy-wide effects), concerns about inequality inform nearly all of her arguments,” Gornick added. She quoted Boushey as writing, “The current, tired debate gets stuck on the question of who deserves a handout—a values question—when really we need to be thinking about how keeping people gainfully employed while they care for their families benefits the economy overall. By looking at these questions through the lens of hard-nosed economics, we can chart a new path.”

► In this week’s Working Life story, Jeffrey McDonnell explained why he believes that using a “powerful [research] group as a way to think is like conducting an orchestra.” Read the story to find out how he manages his own group to reach its full potential.

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