Take the ASAPbio survey! #ASAPbio #publications

Accelerating Science and Publication in Biology (ASAPbio) will be an interactive meeting to discuss the use of preprints in biology held on February 16-17, 2016. The meeting will be streamed online, and all interested parties can participate through the website and on Twitter (#ASAPbio).

Most scientists believe that the present publication system is in need of change. Of many possible innovations in communicating biological research, the widespread use of preprints has the potential to be both transformative and feasible in the near-term. The purpose of this meeting is to gather scientists and a variety of other stakeholders for focused discussions on preprints and the role that they might play in catalyzing scientific discovery, facilitating career advancement, and improving the culture of communication within the biology community. The meeting will identify actionable next steps that emerge around areas of consensus, and the organizing committee and other interested participants will be involved in subsequent follow-through.

For those of you interested in these matters, please take less than 5min to fill out this survey! Thanks!!

Senate approves $2billion boost for NIH!

HALLELUJAH! This is great news (and a great birthday gift for myself).  The senate appropriations panel has just approved a $2 billion raise for the NIH in 2016. More details on the next steps and what this means for biomedical research in Science.

Biomedical research funding problem brought up in The Onion #satire #tooreal

The Onion pokes fun at current problems, and yesterday they posted an article about how “seeking funding” has become an official step in the scientific method, along with forming a hypothesis and conducting experiments.  While satirical, this problem is ALL TOO REAL. We have discussed numerous times how lack of funding is impacting biomedical research in the US and worldwide, and obtaining funding has become a serious problem for researchers (and postdocs applying for fellowships- like me!).  Check out the article:

‘Seek Funding’ Step Added To Scientific Method

 PARIS—In an effort to modernize the principles and empirical procedures of examining phenomena and advancing humanity’s collective knowledge, the International Council for Science announced Thursday the addition of a “Seek Funding” step to the scientific method. “After making an observation and forming a hypothesis as usual, the new third step of the scientific method will now require researchers to embark upon an exhaustive search for corporate or government financing,” said the group’s president, Gordon McBean, adding that the new stage of the process, which will be implemented across every scientific discipline, also entails compiling and forwarding grant proposals to hundreds of highly competitive funding sources. “Next, scientists simply modify their study’s goals to align with the vision of potential funders and wait for several months to hear back. At this point—should this step be successful, of course—they can move on to the experimental stage, and then to analysis.” McBean confirmed that the council was also developing a new initial step for the scientific process, “Assess Profitability of Research,” which would help determine if systematic investigation is even worth pursuing in the first place.

Happy #NobelPrize Week – 12 Surprising facts about Nobel Prizes!

From Scientific American:

12 Surprising Facts about Nobel Prizes

From prison time to the intricacies of transporting the prize itself, this award can be rife with complications

By Dina Fine Maron | October 5, 2015
Difficulties associated with the Nobel Prize started even before the world’s most prestigious award was first given out in 1901. See our list below of favorite tales and factoids, some offered up by the laureates themselves

1. Mincing words. Laureates can’t speak off the cuff during the awards ceremony banquet, according to 2013 Nobelist Randy Schekman who won for his research into cellular transport. He says the text for that speech must be turned in to the Nobel Foundation more than 24 hours in advance to allow for translation into Swedish.

2. Doing time. Three laureates were in prison when they received the award, all of them winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. German pacifist and journalist Carl von Ossietzky in 1935, Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi in 1991 and Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo in 2010.

3. How much is it worth? Physics winner Leon Lederman, who won in 1988 for his co-discovery of the muon neutrino, sold his Nobel earlier this year to cover medical care expenses. The buyer, whose identity was not released by the auction house, paid$765,000 for it. Only two Nobels have ever been sold during a winner’s life. Both such sales occurred in the past year.

4. Return policy. Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov paid $4.7 million to buy the gold Nobel medal awarded to biologist James Watson for his work deciphering DNA’s double helix, but he then gave the medal back to the laureate. Usmanov said the medal should remain with the winner and that the monies he paid for it should go toward research.

5. Pesky security. Nobelist Brian Schmidt, who won the 2011 Nobel Physics Prize for co-discovering dark energy, had trouble bringing his gold medal through airport security. “You would think that carrying around a Nobel Prize would be uneventful, and it was uneventful, until I tried to leave Fargo, [North Dakota,] with it and went through the x-ray machine,” he says. (Read more about it at Scientific American)

6. Over the hill? The average age of Nobel laureates, across all prize categories, is59. But the oldest prizewinner was 90-year-old Leonid Hurwicz, who won the Economics Nobel (technically called the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economics Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel) in 2007. The youngest winner is Malala Yousafzai. She won the Peace Prize in 2014 when she was 17 years old.

7. Where’s my cash? Adolf Hitler forbade three German Nobel laureates from accepting the Nobel Prize—Richard Kuhn (Chemistry, 1938), Adolf Butenandt (Chemistry, 1939) and Gerhard Domagk (Physiology or Medicine, 1939). Later, all of them eventually went on to receive their diploma and medal but not the prize cash.

8. Rocky start. In November 1895 Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel signed his last will and testament, setting aside most of his wealth for the establishment of the Nobel Prize after his death. At the time his move caused controversy. His family contested the will and his selected award committee also refused to carry out his wishes. It was five years before the first Nobel was awarded.

9. Do-over. When John Bardeen co-won the Physics Nobel in 1956 for helping develop a theory of superconductivity commonly known as the BCS theory (after its inventors’ initials), he left most of his family at home rather than bringing them along for the awards ceremony. “His son told me that his father wanted them all to stay in school and study for whatever tests they had,” explains Scientific American video editor, Eliene Augenbraun. “He was loath to take time off work himself.” The king of Sweden noted the absence at the ceremony and scolded Bardeen. The laureate promised he’d bring them “the next time.” Then, in 1972 Bardeen indeed won a second Nobel (making him the third person in the history of the prize to win twice). That time, he made sure to bring his entire family.

10. Time of death. In the 1970s the Nobel Foundation decided a prize could not be awarded posthumously (previously, it had been given out twice to dead people). Yet in 2011 one winner in Physiology or Medicine, Ralph Steinman, actually passed away three days earlier without the awarders’ knowledge. The Foundation decided not to rescind his Nobel.

11. Turnaround time: There is often a substantial delay between when a scientist makes a Nobel-worthy discovery and receiving the award—the average time varies from 20 to 30 years, depending on the award category. Sometimes the wait is even longer: In 1966 Peyton Rous was awarded the Physiology or Medicine prize for his work on viruses that can cause tumors, a discovery that was based on research done in the early 1910s, a difference of roughly 50 years. On the other end of the spectrum, in 1957 Chen Ning Yang and Tsung-Dao Lee received the Physics prize for work on the parity laws in particle physics—work that had been done in 1956.

12. Shameless self-promotion. 152 Nobel laureates have written for Scientific American. They have collectively penned 246 articles.

Boost in funding for NIH?! #AboutTime #StillNotEnough

Covered in Politico last week, looks like NIH is finally getting the attention it deserves and hopefully a much-needed boost in funding as well.

In summary, the “21st Century Cures Act” just passed the vote in the house of representatives (yippee), and now goes on to the senate.  A lot of the provisions on this bill are administrative stuff (think: how long the NIH director can serve, etc); HOWEVER a key provision creates a new NIH Innovation Fund and calls for $9.35 billion in funding.  This will be particularly helpful for those of us early in our careers.

After a dozen years of flat funding, the National Institutes of Health has become a top target on Capitol Hill — not for less money but more, potentially billions more by 2020.

It’s a remarkable turnaround for the huge medical research agency, one triggered by a confluence of circumstances. Fears that the United States is losing ground to international competitors in science and technology synched with lawmakers’ need to show frustrated voters that they can work in a bipartisan manner, and NIH offered “an easy win” on both, advocates say

Add in the institutes’ director, Francis Collins, a scientific celebrity with guitar-playing, motorcycle-riding everyman charm, who has wooed over 300 lawmakers in recent years. Plus crowds of patients flooding the halls of the Capitol and headlines about the fantastic promise of new cancer immunotherapies.

All of this has made for a billion-dollar movement — or $2 billion, as Senate appropriators have proposed adding to NIH’s budget next year. Even lawmakers whose usual mantra is fiscal restraint and less government spending are now among the agency’s most vocal cheerleaders.

If anything, said Emily Holubowich, executive director of the nonprofit Coalition for Health Funding, there’s “competition among lawmakers of who is going to save NIH first.”

As the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world, NIH has long had an aura about its work that gave it almost sacred space amid partisan bickering. Although that didn’t protect it from sequestration in 2013, the fallout may have been a blessing in disguise, underscoring the urgency for funding and reinvigorating efforts by advocates and the research community to help the agency regain ground.

“The broader pressures of sequestration and austerity” have “really put a lot of pressure on lawmakers, and rightfully so, that this is not acceptable,” Holubowich said.

Yet those other factors played heavily into the recent moves for greater resources. The emergence of key research-driven efforts like the president’s Precision Medicine Initiative and the House’s 21st Century Cures Act only intensified the interest.

Continue reading

Make your voice heard at the NIH! #FutureOfResearch #WeAreTheFuture

The NIH is calling for a Request for Information (RFI) in order to optimize funding policies and other strategies to improve the impact and sustainability of biomedical research.  This comes at a time where our biomedical research enterprise is suffering from an unsustainable cycle of not enough funding, too many postdocs/grad students, and not enough faculty positions.

The NIH wants to maximize the impact of the taxpayers’ investments in biomedical research.  The NIH is especially interested in identifying strategies that will: a) maximize the productivity and creativity of the biomedical research workforce it funds and b) ensure funding for a broad and diverse group of investigators studying a wide range of important questions.  These strategies should enhance the stability of individual research teams and the sustainability of the overall research enterprise. The NIH seeks input from researchers, academic institutions, professional societies and other stakeholders on potential strategies to achieve these goals.  We invite comments on any or all of the following areas:

1.  Key issues that currently limit the impact of NIH’s funding for biomedical research and challenge the sustainability of the biomedical research enterprise. We welcome responses that explain why these issues are of high importance.
2.  Ideas about adjusting current funding policies to ensure both continued impact and sustainability of the NIH-supported research enterprise.  We welcome responses that point to specific strengths or weaknesses in current policies and suggest how we can build on or improve them.
3.  Ideas for new policies, strategies, and other approaches that would increase the impact and sustainability of NIH-funded biomedical research.
4.  Any other issues that respondents feel are relevant.

It is critical that anyone involved or invested in biomedical research participate.  The deadline is May 17th.  Submit your comments here!

Or for more info, example responses, and commonly raised issues, check out the Future of Research blog.

Good news for the NIH budget?!

From Kevin Wilson for ASCB , an uplifting update on the NIH budget:

There is a certain smell in the air on Capitol Hill these days. While spring break tourists might credit the tulips and cherry blossoms in bloom all over the grounds of the Capitol, science policy advocates are sniffing the sweet smell of renewed support for the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). Or is it just the usual public relations perfume associated with politicians who want to make constituents happy?

Regardless of the source, there is something new in the air in the halls of Congress when it comes to the NIH. After years of flat funding and flatter congressional interest in doing anything about it, the first whiffs of something different were detected wafting through Congress almost as soon both chambers came back into session this winter. Serious legislation was introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate that would make significant changes to the accounting used to establish the NIH budget each year. Other legislation would make major changes to the sources of funding for the NIH. In ASCB’s view, not all these bills are good but at least Congress is trying. 

As reported in the ASCB Post two weeks ago, members of Congress charged with overseeing the NIH budget have been more vocal in their support for the NIH. At a critical hearing on the NIH budget, new subcommittee chair Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) said he has developed a new appreciation for the work of the NIH. Subcommittee member Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) went even further, telling NIH Director Francis Collins that he was “in awe” of the NIH. “I am grateful for the NIH,” Womack continued.

Finally, several members of Congress who normally oppose “big government” and increased deficits have been speaking out in support of significant, long-term increases for the NIH budget. In a recent interview with the Huffington Post, former House Republican Eric Cantor called for his former colleagues in the House to provide the NIH with significant budget increases without worrying about how to pay for it. (Normally, increases in one program have to be offset with cuts to another program).

In the interview, Cantor said, “My position would be, let’s go ahead and commit to long-term creation of value, let’s go in and put all the incremental dollars on the domestic side into scientific and medical research.” Cantor admitted that, when it comes to funding biomedical research in tight fiscal times, “The hang-up has always been on my side of the aisle.”

This is not just the view of a former member of Congress who doesn’t have to worry about the next election. Representative Kevin Yoder (R-KS) recently called for another doubling of the NIH budget to $60 billion without making matching cuts in other places in the budget.

Representative Yoder told the Huffington Post, “Honestly, I’m not a big fan of deficit spending. I’m not a big fan of deficits. Certainly, as a conservative Republican, I believe the fiscal health of our nation is one of the most critical issues long term. But I think I can go to my 16-month-old daughter and I can say, ‘I borrowed money in your name to cure cancer’ and she would thank me.”

Anti-Science Quotable – Congressional Republicans declare Earth Science as “Not a hard science” #WTF #WhatPlanetAreYouLivingOn? #science

Summarized nicely on Science Insider, Senator Ted Cruz, new chair of the science and space panel in the Senate Commerce Committee (how he was qualified to take on this position, to this day, completely baffles me) has claimed that earth sciences do not qualify as “hard science”.  Other congressional Republicans seem to agree, including the new chair of an important science spending panel in the House of Representatives, Representative John Culberson (R–TX). Culberson has said repeatedly in recent weeks that the earth sciences don’t meet his definition of “the pure sciences.”

Let’s start with the Mirriam-Webster definition of “science” (which in my opinion clearly applies to Earth Science) –

: knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation

: a particular area of scientific study (such as biology, physics, or chemistry) : a particular branch of science

: a subject that is formally studied in a college, university, etc.

From Science Insider:

“We’ve seen a disproportionate increase in the amount of federal funds going to the earth sciences program at the expense of funding for exploration and space operations, planetary sciences, heliophysics, and astrophysics, which I believe are all rooted in exploration and should be central to NASA’s core mission,” Cruz said at yesterday’s hearing on NASA’s 2016 budget request. “We need to get back to the hard sciences, to manned space exploration, and to the innovation that has been integral to NASA.”

The idea that the geosciences aren’t hard science comes as a shock to Margaret Leinen, president of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and a former head of the National Science Foundation’s geosciences directorate. “Of course the geosciences are part of the hard sciences,” says Leinen, head of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and vice chancellor for marine sciences at the University of California, San Diego. “They provide us with very fundamental knowledge about the way the planet works, knowledge grounded in the physical sciences.”

Leinen easily ticks off a host of areas, from analyzing the complex mixtures of physical processes and chemical reactions in the atmosphere and the ocean to characterizing earthquakes, in which geoscientists have made important contributions to physics and chemistry. Geosciences can also be computationally intensive, she says, noting that for many years the world’s most powerful computer was Japan’s so-called Earth Simulator. Modeling future earthquakes in California, for example, requires “some of the most challenging computer simulations in the world,” she adds.

She also scoffs at the attempt to decouple the earth sciences from planetary sciences, a discipline Cruz and Culberson strongly favor. “Our entire exploration of Mars is based on analogies with the Earth,” she points out. That’s also true, she says, for the search for extraterrestrial life on water-rich planets and moons, a burning passion for Culberson.

Universities have long recognized that connection, she points out. “Virtually all academic planetary scientists are in earth science departments, because the Earth, after all, is a planet,” she says.

WHY are those MOST unqualified to make decisions on scientific spending calling the shots (as we’ve mentioned before)?  And furthermore, why are they REFUSING time and time again to be educated on the subject matter?  Doesn’t it seem curious that someone with very little background or training in the sciences gets to make decisions on what sciences will get funding? Especially when they can’t even understand the basic definitions of what science is??? There’s a way around this: become educated on a subject either by hiring staff who ARE educated, or by consulting with trained professionals (aka – scientists).  When one ignores the facts and data from the informed constituents, our entire political system makes no sense. Would these politicians hire a dentist to run their campaign?? I would think not.

It is beyond obvious how the Earth Sciences are important and relevant to a VARIETY of other sciences (including space exploration, biology, environmental science, chemistry, etc, etc). While the ignorant claim that Earth Science is not a hard science is absolutely horrifying and backwards, on a larger scale, I get worried about this inevitable catch 22 cycle. Unqualified politicians are making decisions that are detrimental our research and education system, as a result, research becomes stagnated and our society becomes ill-informed. Consequently society elects the more unqualified and uneducated politicians.

@UMR4NIH statement on proposed NIH and Medical Research budgets~! #Science

[tweet https://twitter.com/UMR4NIH/status/562389423598227456]

Great statement from United for Medical Research on proposed NIH budget and more – President Carrie Wolinetz

“We welcome President Obama’s FY16 budget proposal to increase National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding and eliminate harmful sequestration. NIH has fostered remarkable advancements in human health, but has suffered from inadequate funding for the past decade. Additional resources will help defeat our nation’s most harmful diseases — including cancer, heart disease and diabetes — and fuel job creation in the life sciences sector – a win-win.

“We also commend the president for his Precision Medicine proposal. Investing in precision medicine and NIH ‘patient-powered research’ will continue to transform how diseases are treated, harnessing the power of the human genome, heath informatics and medical imaging to better understand individual patients’ unique needs. Precision medicine is an extraordinary example of how previous research discoveries build the foundation from which to launch cutting edge medical advancement, illustrating how NIH funding of today saves lives both present and future.

“Given the many economic, societal and health benefits borne from investments in medical research, we call on lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to make increasing NIH funding and eliminating sequestration a top priority in FY16 and beyond.”

LIVE Budget 2016 coverage via ScienceInsider

The Obama administration today presents its budget request to Congress for the 2016 fiscal year, which begins in October. ScienceInsider will be tracking the numbers and providing analysis all day. Check back frequently!

A first look at the numbers from the budget request:
  • Would provide $146 billion for research and development, 5.5% above 2015 levels. R&D includes basic and applied research and technology development programs.
  • $32.8 billion for basic research, a 3% increase.
  • $34.1 billion for applied research, a 4% increase.
  • $31.3 billion for NIH, roughly a 3% increase.
  • 5.2% increase for NSF, up $379 million to $7.724 billion.
  • Repeats call to make R&D tax credit permanent.
  • Repeats last’s years request for $325 million for ARPA-E; Congress gave just $275 million.
  • Requests $450 million for USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative; current budget is $325 million.
  • $71.3 billion for overall Pentagon R&D, 9% increase.
  • $3 billion request for DARPA, $101 million over 2015.

Check out the full budget here

And also, check out the press release from NSF regarding the budget.