Credit: ILLUSTRATION: R.Neubecker; Penn State/Flickr; DSmith/Flickr

Elsewhere in Science: Small business grants, preprint servers, and more

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

► “Senator Jeff Flake (R–AZ) says that the National Science Foundation (NSF) frittered away $1.1 million on an academic study of cheerleaders. But about the only thing that’s actually true in that previous sentence is the senator’s name,” Jeffrey Mervis wrote last Friday. “The fact is, NSF didn’t actually spend a million bucks to find out, as Flake put it, ‘Are cheerleaders more attractive in a squad?’ More importantly, perhaps, how NSF did spend the money illustrates an important point often lost in the sometimes highly partisan debates over government research spending: Most of those dollars go to educate the next generation of scientists.” Read the full story for Mervis’s analysis.

► If the United Kingdom votes to leave the European Union next month, U.K. researchers could see a major drop in funding, according to a new report that Tania Rabesandratana wrote about on Tuesday. “The United Kingdom is ‘significantly more dependent on E.U. funding than other countries such as Germany,’ warns the study, published [that day] by research software company Digital Science,” Rabesandratana wrote. “The disciplines most vulnerable if the United Kingdom says farewell to the European Union are economics (94% of government funding from E.U. sources), evolutionary biology (67%), and nanotechnology (62%), according to the report.”

► “Advocates for small businesses and the U.S. research community are once again at loggerheads over pending legislation to expand” the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, “a multibillion-dollar federal program that promotes commercialization of academic research,” Mervis reported on Wednesday. “Both [academics and small business leaders] agree that more academic research needs to be turned into products and services,” but “science lobbyists oppose growing the SBIR program at the expense of funding fundamental science.”

► This week’s news that some postdocs in the United States will be getting raises thanks to a new overtime rule, “[a]lthough welcomed by many,” as Jocelyn Kaiser wrote Thursday, “could have major impacts on budgets of labs and universities, which have only until 1 December to comply. And some fear it will lead to loss of postdoctoral positions, although some fields with relatively well-paid postdocs may feel less impact.” Read the full article for more about the excitement and the concerns.

► “The ASAPbio meeting (Accelerating Science and Publication in biology) was held on 16 and 17 February 2016 to explore the wider use of preprints for disseminating ideas and results in the life sciences,” write the 25 authors of a Policy Forum article in this week’s issue of Science. In the article, “three classes of attendees—academic scientists, funders, and publishers—provide their perspectives on the meeting and its outcomes.” In conclusion, the authors write, “[p]reprints could play important roles in accelerating scientific progress; they could serve the needs and foster the careers of scientists; and, in cooperation with existing journals, they could enhance the current system for communicating results and ideas in the life sciences. However, preprints are relatively new to biology, and many questions remain unanswered.” Want to weigh in yourself? Complete the accompanying survey to share your thoughts and experiences with preprint servers.

► In this week’s Working Life story, a couple reflected on how their perception of the term “two-body problem” drove them to give up on their academic career aspirations—for a time. As they rethought their paths, they came up with a new term that better described how they plan to handle the challenges of being a dual academic couple: the “two-variable equation.”

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