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Elsewhere in Science: Funding, online research subjects, and more

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

“A decision to overhaul the leadership of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center after an outside review group found serious patient safety problems has sparked an uproar at the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland,” Jocelyn Kaiser wrote last Friday. “In a recent letter, department chiefs at the center wrote that the review, triggered by problems with a drug production facility, unfairly concluded that patient safety has been compromised across the research hospital,” Kaiser reported. “In a statement, [NIH Director Francis] Collins said he is ‘taking the comments … very seriously.’ ... At the same time, he ‘stand[s] by’ the outside working group’s process and expertise and agrees that the center needs ‘more central authority and accountability.’”

► In other NIH news, “[a] Senate spending panel ... approved a $2 billion boost in 2017 for [NIH], or a 6.2% increase to $34.1 billion” on Tuesday, Kaiser wrote that day. “It's the second year in a row that the Senate has slated the agency for a large increase after 12 years of flat budgets.”

“Psychologists [are growing] increasingly dependent on online research subjects,” John Bohannon wrote, also on Tuesday. He was referring to the ballooning use of “Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk), an online crowdsourcing service run by the Seattle, Washington–based company better known for its massive internet-based retail business.” According to psychologist Leib Litman, who has studied the use of MTurk, “This is a revolution in social and behavioral science. … Research is moving from the lab to the cloud.” Read the full article for more about this ongoing research transformation.

“Italian virologist-turned-politician Ilaria Capua has thrown in the towel,” Luca Tancredi Barone wrote later that day. “After 3 years in politics, she is leaving Italy and going back to science, frustrated by what she says is an antiscientific attitude among fellow politicians.” In 2013, “Capua entered politics at [then-Prime Minister Mario] Monti's invitation. ... But her experience since then has been ‘surreal,’ she says. ... ‘Politics is a complicated world, especially if you think in a rational and fact-related fashion. I often feel dismayed.’”

“Armed with new data showing black applicants suffer a 35% lower chance of having a grant proposal funded than their white counterparts, NIH officials are gearing up to test whether reviewers in its study sections give lower scores to proposals from African-American applicants,” Jeffrey Mervis wrote on Thursday. It “is one of three ‘experimental interventions’ being launched in the coming months as NIH continues to wrestle with the implications of the [2011 report on the issue].” The other interventions will focus on mentoring “two dozen minority scientists whose R01 applications were recently rejected” and “educat[ing] minority scientists on the importance of resubmitting a rejected proposal,” Mervis wrote.

► “Giving college freshmen the opportunity to do research as part of their coursework significantly increases their chances of completing college and graduating with a science degree,” according to a new study of the Freshman Research Initiative at the University of Texas, Austin, Mervis wrote in this week’s issue of Science. “It's the first conclusive evidence that so-called active learning courses, which science educators have promoted for decades as a better way to teach than lectures and cookbook labs, can lower the high attrition rates in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields at U.S. universities.”

► As Piotr Wasylczyk gears up for his new role as a professor and adviser, he is reflecting on “three lessons taught by three great mentors [that] have influenced how [he thinks] about doing science,” he wrote in this week’s Working Life story.