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U.S. Science Suffering From Booms And Busts In Funding

Leif Parsons for NPR Ten years ago, Robert Waterland got an associate professorship at Baylor College of Medicine and set off to study one of the nation’s most pressing health problems: obesity. In particular, he’s been trying to figure out the biology behind why children born to obese women are more likely to develop the condition themselves. Waterland got sustaining funding from the National Institutes of Health and used it…

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Foldit players jump-start Ebloa research

Months before the recent Ebola outbreak erupted in Western Africa, killing more than a thousand people, scientists at the University of Washington’s Institute for Protein Design were looking for a way to stop the deadly virus. For inspiration, they turned to an unlikely source: gamers. Specifically, they asked thousands of computer-game enthusiasts worldwide to tackle an Ebola puzzle on the interactive game Foldit, a 6-year-old project that encourages people to…

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Harassment in Science, Replicated

Image by Katherine Streeter As an undergraduate student in biology, I spent several weeks in Costa Rica one summer with an older graduate student on a research project deep in the cloud forest. It was just the two of us, and upon arriving at our site, I discovered that he had arranged a single room for us, one bed. Mortified but afraid of being labeled prudish or difficult, I made…

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Explaining research without jargon

In 2007, Alan Lawson, then dean of the graduate school at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, was looking for a way to morph the popular “elevator pitch” he had seen in the business world into a useful academic exercise. The practice, which challenges young entrepreneurs to explain their business plan to potential funders in less than 30 seconds, could help graduate students improve their oral presentation skills, he…

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Science as “the foundation of everything”

Science is the engine of human prosperity. Economists have said that a third to a half of U.S. economic growth has resulted from basic research since World War II. The cars and trains that got us to this building, the smart phones we are all carrying, the energy we are using to run the lights in this chamber, the clothes we are wearing, the food we eat: All of these…

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Rescuing US biomedical research from its systemic flaws

Competition in pursuit of experimental objectives has always been a part of the scientific enterprise, and it can have positive effects. However, hypercompetition for the resources and positions that are required to conduct science suppresses the creativity, cooperation, risk-taking, and original thinking required to make fundamental discoveries. Now that the percentage of NIH grant applications that can be funded has fallen from around 30% into the low teens, biomedical scientists…

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National Academies issues new report on “convergence” (interdisciplinary and beyond)

Convergence is an approach to problem solving that integrates expertise from life sciences with physical, mathematical, and computational sciences, medicine, and engineering to form comprehensive synthetic frameworks that merge areas of knowledge from multiple fields to address specific challenges. Convergence builds on fundamental progress made within individual disciplines but represents a way of thinking about the process of research and the types of strategies that enable it as emerging scientific…

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Emerging best practices in dataset collection development

Secondary datasets are increasingly important to researchers as they attempt to answer questions, make predictions and test hypotheses in new and powerful ways. For libraries that strive to provide information to support research needs, these datasets can be considered a ‘new currency’ in collection development. There are many unique considerations in the collection and acquisition of datasets. Currently existing dataset collection development policies, guidelines and programs were gathered from web…

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