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Jeremy Berg, clinical trial serum samples, and a worker spraying insecticide in the Dominican Republic
Credit: Wendie Berg; OJBerlin/iStockphoto; Presidency of the Dominican Republic/Flickr

Elsewhere in Science: Funding Zika research, countering implicit bias, and more

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

► “[A] new project from Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard University is trying to build a global, neutral platform for [sharing patient-level data from clinical trials], but some are skeptical it’s the right solution,” Ben Panko wrote last Friday. Read the full article for more on the opportunities and challenges this platform could present and the story of how one researcher’s persistence drove an idea she first “articulated nearly 20 years ago” in her dissertation to finally come to fruition.   

► Researchers in the United States investigating the many unanswered questions about Zika have President Barack Obama on their side, but Congress is getting in the way, Jon Cohen reported in another piece last Friday. “[T]he Obama administration insists that it needs more [money] to battle the epidemic than either the Senate or the House of Representatives this week agreed to spend,” he wrote. “On 22 February the White House requested $1.885 billion,” and “[i]t took legislators almost 3 months to mull over the request and respond.” The results are House and Senate bills that both fall far short of Obama’s requested amount—particularly the House bill, which offers $622 million. “The next move is a conference between the House and the Senate to reconcile their differences,” Cohen continued. “That process can take weeks, but Obama urged legislators to act much more quickly. Obama also said he’ll veto a final bill that provides only $622 million.”

► A new Android app called Science Journal “uses the Android’s built-in sensors to record data related to light, sound, and motion, and helps amateur scientists easily chart and annotate the data,” a Tuesday Sifter reported, pointing to a PC Magazine story. For example, “you could use the app to measure sound in a particular area over a period of time, or the movement of the device's internal accelerometers,” according to the PC Magazine story.

► “Jeremy Berg, a biochemist and administrator at the University of Pittsburgh … in Pennsylvania, will become the next editor-in-chief of Science magazine on 1 July,” Jocelyn Kaiser reported Wednesday. “A former director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences … who has a longstanding interest in science policy, Berg will succeed Marcia McNutt, who is stepping down to become president of the National Academy of Sciences.” Berg has a distinct interest in career-related issues, Kaiser noted. “He is a leader of Rescuing Biomedical Research, an effort to find ways to help the community adjust to flat funding levels. He also co-authored a recent article in Science encouraging biologists to share their work as preprints before it is published in a journal.”

► “Scientists in France are up in arms after the government unexpectedly tabled a plan to cut €256 million from the country's research funds for this year,” Tania Rabesandratana reported Thursday. “On Monday, seven Nobel laureates and a Fields medalist took to the pages of French broadsheet Le Monde to call on the government to reverse the decision. The cuts will ‘brutally destroy’ France's research activities, the signatories warn in an open letter. … The cut affects the Interministerial Commission for Research and Higher Education …, which is made up of ten funding programs covering most of France's public, civilian research efforts, and financed by six ministry departments.”

► “To explore the extent of implicit bias in peer review, and what can be done to counter it, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS, the publisher of Science) recently convened a day-long forum of editors, publishers, funders, and experts on implicit bias in Washington, DC,” McNutt wrote in the editorial in this week’s issue of Science. Although the presented findings varied, bias undoubtedly exists and needs to be addressed, she continued. “One possible direction, suggested by the forum, to reduce implicit bias is for journals to broaden, diversify, and internationalize their pool of editors and reviewers. … Building a peer evaluation system that is truly as diverse as the publication enterprise we desire would be a big step toward eliminating unfair bias that harms the scientific enterprise.” Read more about the forum in the Association Affairs section of this week’s issue.

Serendipity: An Ecologist's Quest to Understand Nature, by ecologist James A. Estes, is a “motivational guidebook for young ecologists,” wrote four graduate students from the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in a review of the book in this week’s Science. “[T]wo recommendations resonated with us long after the last page had been turned,” they continued. “First, take advantage of serendipity; when seized upon and combined with hard work, chance encounters create career opportunities that you ‘will never anticipate in the beginning.’ Second, Estes advises us to pour our hearts into the quest for scientific knowledge, as he concludes, ‘I can't imagine anything more challenging, more humbling, and more important to the future welfare of our planet than the quest to understand nature.’”       

► In this week’s Working Life story, Michael J. Orsini reflected on why, after giving a career in pharmaceutical research three chances, he decided to become a project manager. Though he’s not a researcher anymore, his scientific background is still crucial in his current position, which “cannot be done well without understanding both the science and strategy behind the programs I manage,” he wrote. “I use my training every day, and I will always be a scientist at heart.”

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