ScienceInsider’s most read stories of 2013 make for an eclectic mix—Space Vikings and “invisible” drug trials, a fusion “breakthrough” that wasn’t, and a controversial effort to reshape grantmaking criteria at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Here’s the Top 10:
1. U.S. Lawmaker Proposes New Criteria for Choosing NSF Grants: When Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), the chair of the House of Representatives science committee, suggested that NSF ensure its grants are in the national interest, researchers blew a gasket. The issue was also the topic of the year’s #8 story, NSF Peer Review Under Scrutiny by House Science Panel.
2. Unmasking 'Invisible' Drug Trials: Fed up by the fact that only about one-half of all clinical trials are published, a group of researchers in June launched an unusual initiative called RIAT, Restoring Invisible and Abandoned Trials.
3. Scientists Condemn Destruction of Golden Rice Field Trial: The August destruction of a field of experimental, genetically modified rice in the Philippines drew protests from scientists.
4. Desert Farming Experiment Yields First Results: A project to “green” desert areas with an innovative mix of technologies—producing food, biofuel, clean water, energy, and salt—reached a milestone in November in the Gulf state of Qatar.
5. Fusion “Breakthrough” at NIF? Uh, Not Really … : October media reports that the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California had passed a "nuclear fusion milestone" turned out to be a bit premature.
6. 'Space Vikings' Spark NASA Inquiry: NASA researchers dressed up as Vikings for a photo shoot designed to promote space science. But a senior U.S. senator questioned whether taxpayer dollars were wasted.
7. In 'Insurrection,' Scientists, Editors Call for Abandoning Journal Impact Factors: In May, more than 150 prominent scientists and 75 scientific groups took a stand against using impact factors, a popular measure of how often a journal is cited, to gauge the quality of an individual’s work.
9. U.S. House Passes Bill That Would Head Off Massive Helium Shortage: Whew! In April, lawmakers passed legislation that would ultimately prevent scientists from losing easy access to a crucial gas in many laboratories.
10. NIH Details Impact of 2013 Sequester Cuts: In May, officials at the National Institutes of Health began to tally how a 5% cut to their 2013 budget, triggered by a congressional mandate called sequestration, would affect grant numbers and research projects. The story added detail to a gloomy fiscal forecast.