Will a new law change postdoc pay? Structure of scientists? @NatureNews

Many established scientists look back on their postdoc wistfully as a time of unparallelled focus on research. Yet the postdoc now too often gives way to the ‘permadoc’. Postdocs may languish in that position for more than a decade, sometimes bouncing from one position to another. Their careers are in stasis even as their lives march on. Today’s postdocs are older than ever. They raise families and care for elderly parents. Many can hardly be considered trainees: they are functioning as lab managers or staff scientists, but are paid at a lower rate.

Watch inflation of new expandable habitat on ISS! – @NASA

NASA has inflated the BEAM (Bigelow Expandable Activity Module) module on the ISS. Check out the cool time-lapse video of the expansion above! The below image from NASA shows the location of the expandable habitat in the context of the whole space station.

The module measured just over 7 feet long and just under 7.75 feet in diameter in its packed configuration. BEAM now measures more than 13 feet long and about 10.5 feet in diameter to create 565 cubic feet of habitable volume. It weighs approximately 3,000 pounds.

During the next week, leak checks will be performed on BEAM to ensure its structural integrity. Hatch opening and NASA astronaut Jeff Williams’ first entrance into BEAM will take place about a week after leak checks are complete.

BEAM is an example of NASA’s increased commitment to partnering with industry to enable the growth of the commercial use of space. The project is co-sponsored by NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division and Bigelow Aerospace.

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Top 6 stories from Genetic Literacy Project – #GMO#GLPTop6

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  1. 9 misdirected arguments against GMOs that really reflect modern and organic ag issues by Layla Katiraee
  2. Science by news release: Media miss on bee “extinction” reports by Jon Entine
  3. LSD redux: Psychedelics may help brain functioning by Andrew Porterfield
  4. Are GMOs safe? by Genetic Literacy Project
  5. Farmer’s view: Celebrities embrace organic cotton over GMOs, but is it more sustainable? by Michelle Miller
  6. Why did global GMO crop acreage decline in 2015? by Val Giddings

Top scientists agree that GMOs are safe! #duh

From NPR:

The National Academy of Sciences — probably the country’s most prestigious scientific group — has reaffirmed its judgment that GMOs are safe to eat. But the group’s new report struck a different tone from previous ones, with much more space devoted to concerns about genetically modified foods, including social and economic ones.

The report marks an anniversary. Twenty years ago, farmers started growing soybeans that had been genetically modified to tolerate the popular weedkiller known as Roundup and corn that contains a protein, extracted from bacteria, that kills some insect pests.

In the years since, arguments about these crops have grown so contentious that the National Academy can’t be sure that people will believe whatever it has to say on the topic.

Even before this report came out, an anti-GMO group called Food & Water Watch attacked it. The group accused some members of the committee that prepared the report of receiving research funding from biotech companies, or having other ties to the industry.

“The makeup of the panel is pretty clear. People are coming in with a perspective that is pro-genetically engineered crop,” says Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food & Water Watch.

The preemptive attack frustrates Fred Gould, the North Carolina State University scientist who chaired the committee. Gould has been known in the past as a GMO critic. He has pushed for restrictions on the planting of some GMO crops. “I have not been a darling of the industry. As a matter of fact, they denied me seeds and plants to do my experiments,” he says.

Gould says that over the two years that he and the other members of this committee worked on this report, they had one important rule: “If you had an opinion, you had to back it up with data. If you didn’t have the data, it didn’t go into the report.”

The report tries to answer a long list of questions about GMOs, involving nutrition, environmental effects, effects on the farm economy and monopoly control over seeds.

The most basic conclusion: There’s no evidence that GMOs are risky to eat.

Continue reading

COOL! What happens to your DNA after a year in space?

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CauseScience Friday- May 13th!

Happy CauseScience Friday everyone! Although today is supposed to be unlucky (Friday the 13th, eek!), things seem to be going well experimentally for us!

Crestwind24– I am doing a little bit of lab work today, but mostly I am mostly working hard on data and image analysis to put into a powerpoint presentation for a talk next week. While this work can seem tedious, communicating results in a clear and meaningful way is super super super important skill for scientists to develop. Wish me luck!!

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pgurel– Today I’m using fluorescence microscopy to look at my favorite filamentous protein, actin, on a unique surface. My actin filaments are on EM grids so that in the future, I can look at them using cryo-EM to understand their structure. I’m using fluorescence microscopy first to confirm that the filaments are happily on the grids. You can see I’m giving a thumbs up because this set-up seems to have worked! YAY!

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White House launches #Microbiome initiative!

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), in collaboration with Federal agencies and private-sector stakeholders, is announcing a new National Microbiome Initiative (NMI) to foster the integrated study of microbiomes across different ecosystems, and is hosting an event to bring together stakeholders vital to advancing the NMI.

Microbiomes are the communities of microorganisms that live on or in people, plants, soil, oceans, and the atmosphere. Microbiomes maintain healthy function of these diverse ecosystems, influencing human health, climate change, food security, and other factors. Dysfunctional microbiomes are associated with issues including human chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and asthma; local ecological disruptions such as the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico; and reductions in agricultural productivity. Numerous industrial processes such as biofuel production and food processing depend on healthy microbial communities. Although new technologies have enabled exciting discoveries about the importance of microbiomes, scientists still lack the knowledge and tools to manage microbiomes in a manner that prevents dysfunction or restores healthy function.

The NMI aims to advance understanding of microbiome behavior and enable protection and restoration of healthy microbiome function. In a year-long fact-finding process, scientists from Federal agencies, academia, and the private sector converged on three recommended areas of focus for microbiome science, which are now the goals of the NMI:

  1. Supporting interdisciplinary research to answer fundamental questions about microbiomes in diverse ecosystems.
  2. Developing platform technologies that will generate insights and help share knowledge of microbiomes in diverse ecosystems and enhance access to microbiome data.
  3. Expanding the microbiome workforce through citizen science, public engagement, and educational opportunities.

The NMI builds on strong and ongoing Federal investments in microbiome research, and will launch with a combined Federal agency investment of more than $121 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 and 2017 funding for cross-ecosystem microbiome studies. This includes:

  • The Department of Energy proposes $10 million in new funding in FY 2017 to support collaborative, interdisciplinary research on the microbiome.
  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)proposes $12.5 million in new funding over multiple years to expand microbiome research across Earth’s ecosystems and in space.
  • The National Institutes of Health will invest an extra $20 million into microbiome research in grants in FY 2016 and FY 2017 with a particular emphasis on multi-ecosystem comparison studies and investigation into design of new tools to explore and understand microbiomes.
  • The National Science Foundation proposes $16 million in FY 2017 for microbiome research that spans the spectrum of ecosystems, species, and biological scales.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture proposes more than $15.9 million for FY 2017 to expand computational capacities for microbiome research and human microbiome research through the Agricultural Research Service, and approximately $8 million for FY 2017 to support investigations through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the microbiomes of plants, livestock animals, fish, soil, air, and water as they influence food-production systems.

In addition, following OSTP’s national call to action issued in January, more than 100 external institutions are today announcing new efforts to support microbiome science. These include:

  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will invest $100 million over 4 years to investigate and develop tools to study human and agricultural microbiomes.
  • JDRF will invest $10 million over 5 years to address microbiome research related to type 1 diabetes.
  • The University of California, San Diego, is investing $12 million in The Center for Microbiome Innovation to enable technology developers to connect with end users.
  • One Codex is launching a public portal for microbiome data, allowing greater access to this data for researchers, clinicians, and other health professionals.
  • The BioCollective, LLC, along with the Health Ministries Network, are investing $250,000 towards building a microbiome data and sample bank, and the engagement of underrepresented groups in microbiome research.
  • The University of Michigan, with support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Procter and Gamble, will invest $3.5 million in the Michigan Microbiome Project to provide new research experiences for undergraduate students.

Click here to learn more about Federal involvement in microbiome research, and about all of the commitments and announcements being made today.

13 Reasons to have an Out of this World Friday (the 13th) #NASA

From NASA

1. Know that not all of humanity is bound to the ground

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Since 2000, the International Space Station has been continuously occupied by humans. There, crew members live and work while conducting important research that benefits life on Earth.

2. Smart people are up all night working in control rooms all over NASA to ensure that data keeps flowing from our satellites

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Our satellites help scientists study Earth and space. Satellites looking toward Earth provide information about clouds, oceans, land and ice. They also measure gases in the atmosphere, such as ozone and carbon dioxide, and the amount of energy that Earth absorbs and emits. And satellites monitor wildfires, volcanoes and their smoke.

Satellites that face toward space have a variety of jobs. Some watch for dangerous rays coming from the sun. Others explore asteroids and comets, the history of stars, and the origin of planets. Some satellites fly near or orbit other planets. These spacecraft may look for evidence of water on Mars or capture close-up pictures of Saturn’s rings.

3. When we are ready to send humans to Mars, they’ll have the most high tech space suits ever made

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Our Z-2 Spacesuit is the newest prototype in its next-generation platform, the Z-series. Each iteration of the Z-series will advance new technologies that one day will be used in a suit worn by the first humans to step foot on the red planet.

4. When we need more space in space, it could be just like expanding a big high-tech balloon

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The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, leverages key innovations in lightweight and compact materials, departing from a traditional rigid metallic structure. Once attached to the International Space Station, the module would result in an additional 565 cubic feet of volume, which is about the size of a large family camping tent.

5. Even astronauts eat their VEGGIE’s

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The Vegetable Production System (VEGGIE) is a deployable plant growth unit capable of producing salad-type crops in space. Earlier this year, Expedition 44 crew members, sampled the red romaine lettuce from the VEGGIE plant growth system. This technology will provide future pioneers with a sustainable food supplement during long-duration exploration missions.

6. When you feel far away from home, you can think of the New Horizons spacecraft as it heads toward the Kuiper Belt…billions of miles away

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Our New Horizons spacecraft completed its Pluto flyby on July 14, and has continued on its way toward the Kuiper Belt. The spacecraft continues to send back important data as it travels toward deeper space at more than 32,000 miles per hour, and is nearly 3.2 billion miles from Earth.

7. Earth has a magnetic field that largely protects it from the solar wind stripping away our atmosphere…unlike Mars

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Recently announced findings from our MAVEN mission have identified the process that appears to have played a key role in the transition of the Martian climate from an early, warm and wet environment to the cold, arid planet Mars is today. MAVEN data have enabled researchers to determine the rate at which the Martian atmosphere currently is losing gas to space via stripping by the solar wind. Luckily, Earth has a magnetic field that largely protects it from this process.

8. Water bubbles look REALLY cool in space

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Astronauts on the International Space Station dissolved an effervescent tablet in a floating ball of water, and captured images using a camera capable of recording four times the resolution of normal high-definition cameras. The higher resolution images and higher frame rate videos can reveal more information when used on science investigations, giving researchers a valuable new tool aboard the space station. This footage is one of the first of its kind.

9. Americans will launch from U.S. soil again with the Commercial Crew Program

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Our Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry as companies develop and operate a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems capable of carrying crews to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station.

10. You can see a global image of your home planet…EVERY DAY

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Once a day, we will post at least a dozen new color images of Earth acquired from 12 to 36 hours earlier. These images are taken by our EPIC camera from one million miles away on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR). Take a look HERE.

11. Over 18,000 people wanted to be astronauts and join us on the journey to Mars

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More than 18,300 people applied to join our 2017 astronaut class, almost three times the number of applications received in 2012 for the most recent astronaut class, and far surpassing the previous record of 8,000 in 1978. Among this group are humanities next great explorers!

12. A lot of NASA-developed tech has been transferred for use to the public

Our Technology Transfer Program highlights technologies that were originally designed for our mission needs, but have since been introduced to the public market. HERE are a few spinoff technologies that you might not know about.

13. If all else fails, there’s this image of Psychedelic Pluto

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This false color image of Pluto was created using a technique called principal component analysis. This effect highlights the many subtle color differences between Pluto’s distinct regions.