The 1% of scientific publishing

Aaron Logan/Wikimedia Commons

Publishing is one of the most ballyhooed metrics of scientific careers, and every researcher hates to have a gap in that part of his or her CV. Here’s some consolation: A new study finds that very few scientists—fewer than 1%—manage to publish a paper every year.

But these 150,608 scientists dominate the research journals, having their names on 41% of all papers. Among the most highly cited work, this elite group can be found among the co-authors of 87% of papers.

The new research, published on 9 July in PLOS ONE, was led by epidemiologist John Ioannidis of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, with analysis of Elsevier’s Scopus database by colleagues Kevin Boyack and Richard Klavans at SciTech Strategies. They looked at papers published between 1996 and 2011 by 15 million scientists worldwide in many disciplines.

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CDC Director Thomas Frieden

Center for Disease Control/Wikimedia Commons

CDC Director Thomas Frieden

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has closed two labs and halted some biological shipments in the wake of several recent incidents in which highly pathogenic microbes were mishandled by federal laboratories. The cases include an accidental shipment of live anthrax; the discovery of forgotten, live smallpox samples; and a newly revealed incident in which a dangerous influenza strain was accidentally shipped from CDC to another lab.

The two cases involving CDC mistakes reveal “totally unacceptable behavior” by staff, said CDC chief Thomas Frieden at a press conference today at CDC headquarters in Atlanta. He announced several actions that CDC is taking to step up safety and security, including a moratorium on shipping highly risky pathogens. “I’m disappointed by what happened and frankly I’m angry about it,” he added.

Frieden also revealed that two of six vials of smallpox discovered last week in a cold storage room in a Food and Drug Administration lab at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, have tested positive for live virus when grown in culture. Some smallpox experts had predicted that the 1950s-era samples would no longer be viable. Four samples have yet to be tested; all will then be destroyed, Frieden said.

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BEIJING—Science has once again come into the crosshairs of China’s anticorruption drive. This week, the Communist Party’s antigraft watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, announced that it had uncovered fraud in research grants managed by China’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) and at prestigious Fudan University in Shanghai.

Both announcements were sketchy on details. The Fudan probe unearthed unspecified corruption in research funding and graft connected with facilities management. Fudan officials are expected to respond to the charges with a “rectification work plan” next week, according to China Education Daily News. Xinhua, the state-run newswire, asserted that the malfeasance at Fudan was just the tip of the iceberg. In China’s scientific establishment, Xinhua stated, “project support does not depend on merit but on relationships,” and “funds are basically unsupervised” by universities once they are doled out by ministries.

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Human Brain Project leader Henry Markram.

EPFL

Human Brain Project leader Henry Markram.

*Update, 11 July, 11:58 a.m.: HBP's Board of Directors and its Executive Committee have responded to the the open letter in a 4-page statement released yesterday. They say they are “saddened” by the letter and say that cognitive neuroscience will still be a part of the HBP's Partnering Projects. The statement expresses the hope that HBP will unite the neuroscience, medical, and computing communities.

An influential group of European neuroscientists is threatening to boycott the Human Brain Project (HBP), the hugely ambitious plan to map the entire human brain in computer models that is slated to receive up to €1 billion in funding from the European Union and its member countries. An open letter published today that has so far received 213 signatures sharply criticizes the project for having a narrow focus, questions the "quality of the governance," and calls for a tough review and more independent oversight. Without that, they say they will no longer apply for HBP funding.

But Henry Markram of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, who leads the project, says the signatories have trouble accepting the "methodological paradigm shift" toward computer modeling that the project embodies; he adds that many more neuroscientists still support the project.

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Deborah Persaud speaking about the case in 2013.

Jon Cohen

Deborah Persaud speaking about the case in 2013.

Virus has returned in a child in Mississippi thought to have been cured of an HIV  infection, dashing hopes that scientists had found a strategy that would have widespread impact. After the girl went 27 months with no detectable virus in her blood, the sobering news  “felt very much like a punch to the gut,” said her pediatrician, Hannah Gay of the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, who spoke at a media teleconference today.

The “Mississippi baby” received international attention in March 2013 when Gay and her collaborators first reported the case. The baby was believed to be just the second person who had a documented HIV infection that appeared to have been cleared. The girl, now 46 months old, received unusually aggressive treatment with a cocktail of antiretroviral drugs 30 hours after birth to an HIV-infected mother. Typically, doctors give HIV-exposed neonates a single antiretroviral until they confirm the virus was transmitted, which take several weeks. Her mother stopped her daughter’s treatment at 18 months, which almost invariably leads to rapid return of the virus.

As Gay and colleagues described in a detailed report that appeared in the 7 November 2013 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), ultrasensitive tests of the child’s blood done through 30 months of age found traces of HIV nucleic acid but no virus that could copy itself. The researchers  suggested that the early aggressive treatment may have limited the size of the HIV “reservoir”—the stubborn pool that remains in people who have undetectable levels of virus—or somehow left only crippled remnants of it that could not replicate.

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Lax reviewing practice prompts 60 retractions at SAGE journal

Journal of Vibration and Control

The academic publishing industry has been rocked by scandals in recent years, most of them uncovered by outsiders. But the latest comes from an internal probe: A 14-month investigation by the publisher SAGE has uncovered a fake peer-review scam involving hundreds of fraudulent and assumed identities. A total of 60 research articles published over the past 4 years in the Journal of Vibration and Control (JVC) are being retracted. SAGE concludes that the scam was orchestrated—possibly alone—by one physicist, Peter Chen, at the National Pingtung University of Education (NPUE) in Taiwan. But what ultimately made the scam possible, ScienceInsider has learned, was a lax editorial policy at the journal.

The story broke 8 July at Retraction Watch, but the first hint of a conspiracy emerged in May of last year, says Daniel Sherman, head of public affairs at SAGE. “An author (later confirmed to be an innocent party) contacted SAGE after receiving two suspicious e-mails from individuals related to a paper he had submitted to JVC.” The senders claimed to be university-based scientists but were using Google Gmail accounts. By directly contacting the scientists via their official university e-mail accounts, SAGE investigators discovered that the identity of at least one of the scientists had been stolen—that researcher did not have a Gmail account. (SAGE is not revealing the names of the people involved.)

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Cleaning up the Ganges is a chief priority.

ptwo/Flickr/Wikimedia Commons

Cleaning up the Ganges is a chief priority.

NEW DELHI—Clean water, biotechnology, and higher education are among the winners in the Indian budget presented by the new government in the lower house of Parliament here today.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government requested $300 billion for the 2014 to 2015 fiscal year, roughly $20 billion more than last year. That increase is unlikely to keep pace with inflation, which is about 8.3% in 2014. The Ministry of Science and Technology fared better than many agencies: It is in line for a 7.1% increase, to $1.045 billion. “In very difficult times, an extraordinarily favorable budget has been delivered to the Indian scientific community,” says K. VijayRaghavan, secretary of the Department of Biotechnology.

Physical sciences will take a hit. The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, a stronghold in physical sciences, must make do with $46 million in 2014 to 2015, about one-third less than last year. And India’s main nuclear weapons laboratory, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Mumbai, will get $216 million, a $35 million cut.

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The Scripps Research Institute's Florida satellite campus.

Julian Voss-Andreae/Wikimedia

The Scripps Research Institute's Florida satellite campus.

The marriage is off. Officials at the Scripps Research Institute announced yesterday that they’ve called off discussions with the University of Southern California (USC) on a possible merger. The two institutions began exploring the idea of partnering last month. But a bitter revolt from Scripps faculty seems to have scuttled the talks.

“Representatives from The Scripps Research Institute’s Board of Trustees, administration and faculty are in the process of coming together to analyze and discuss the strategic future of Scripps, reviewing a broad range of thoughtful alternatives to choose the best path forward for the institution,” reads a statement from Scripps’s president, Michael Marletta, and the chair of its board of trustees, Richard Gephardt. “To facilitate the holistic nature of this review, the current nonbinding letter of intent on discussions about a broad partnership with the University of Southern California (USC) has been terminated by mutual consent of both parties. We appreciate USC’s spirit of collaboration and look forward to continuing joint research projects among our scientists.”

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Greater sage grouse

Wikimedia

Greater sage grouse

The U.S. government should be cautious about adopting the state of Wyoming’s strategy for protecting the greater sage grouse—a grassland bird at the center of a national controversy—conservationists argue in a report scheduled to be released tomorrow. The critics say the state, which is home to an estimated one-third of the country’s remaining sage grouse, is pursuing a strategy that fails to preclude intrusive development in key habitat, provide adequate buffer zones, and preserve winter habitat. The critique comes as federal officials have begun to adopt portions of Wyoming’s approach to protecting the bird on federal lands, saying it offers a promising way to balance conservation and economic development.

The grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) makes its home in sagebrush steppe in 11 states and is the largest grouse in North America. Biologists estimate its current population is between 200,000 and 400,000 birds. That could be as low as 1% of historic levels, says Mark Salvo of Defenders of Wildlife in Washington, D.C., a lead author of the white paper. In 2003, the population decline prompted many scientists and environmentalists to ask the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to add the sage grouse to its list of animals protected by the Endangered Species Act. In 2010, the agency ruled that the bird warranted listing, but that other animals were of higher priority, and said it would reconsider the issue in September 2015.

That deadline is looming, and state officials and agencies across the grouse’s habitat have been scrambling to come up with management plans that they hope will prevent the bird being listed as endangered. State officials fear that a listing would force a wide range of development controls on lands owned by the federal government, which account for more than half of the territory of some western states....Continue Reading »

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Jerzy Buzek

European Parliament

Jerzy Buzek

BRUSSELS—Following the E.U. elections in May, the European Parliament's research committee has gotten itself a high-profile chair—at least in Brussels circles. Jerzy Buzek, a conservative politician from Poland and a former chemical engineering professor, presided over the European Parliament from July 2009 to January 2012 and was prime minister in his country from 1997 to 2001.

As chair of the Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee, Buzek will have a strong voice in the union's science and innovation policies. In the lengthy negotiations over Horizon 2020, the bloc's 7-year science funding program that has just started, ITRE has consistently pushed for a bigger science budget while cost-conscious member states tried to keep it down.

Now that Horizon 2020 is under way, energy policy—one of Buzek's pet subjects—will be higher on ITRE's agenda, says Jerzy Langer, a Polish physicist who served as deputy science minister in 2005. Langer praises Buzek as an enthusiastic “gentleman professor,” and a good listener with a knack for consensus. He is “the right person in [the] right moment at the right place,” Langer says.

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U.S. Army combat medic receives a neurological exam.

AFN-Pacific Hawaii News Bureau

U.S. Army combat medic receives a neurological exam.

Last fall, Geoffrey Ling, a top biotechnology research official at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), challenged neuroscientists to do something extraordinary: Develop an implantable device that can restore memory loss in vets with traumatic brain injuries. Offering up to $40 million in short-term, high-stakes funding, Ling said, “Here's the golden ring—who's brave enough to step up and actually grab it?

Today, DARPA announced two academic teams that will spend the next 4 years attempting to meet that challenge as part of President Barack Obama’s roughly $110 million Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), will receive up to $15 million to develop a memory-restoring prosthesis that focuses on the entorhinal cortex and hippocampus—brain regions key to memory formation. A second team at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) will receive up to $22.5 million to develop a device that can monitor and modulate many different brain regions involved in memory formation and storage.

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In sickle cell disease, some red blood cells form a crescent shape.

NHLBI

In sickle cell disease, some red blood cells form a crescent shape.

For the first time, a drug being developed in part by a controversial new National Institutes of Health (NIH) center aimed at speeding drug development has been picked up by a major pharmaceutical company. Baxter International has acquired the biotech company developing Aes-103, a small molecule for treating sickle cell disease.

Baxter’s acquisition of this drug is a victory for NIH’s 3-year-old National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). One of its programs is Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases (TRND), launched in 2009 with the aim of helping NIH and university scientists develop treatments for disorders that pharma has ignored because the target patient population is too small or poor. The $23-million-a-year program does not award grants, but instead provides support, such as chemists who tweak compounds to work better and regulatory experts who help navigate approval for clinical trials.

“This is the first drug to make it out of that process,” NCATS Director Chris Austin tells ScienceInsider. “So it’s a really nice validation” of the center’s model.

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A woman milks a cow in an Indian village.

Lance Casey

A woman milks a cow in an Indian village.

Every year in India, millions of gallons of milk gathered by rural farmers from their small herds spoil on their way to market. Last week, the co-founder of a U.S. startup company that is trying to solve that supply chain problem was named one of seven “invention ambassadors” in a new program that highlights the value of technology-driven solutions to global problems.

When Sorin Grama graduated with a master’s degree in engineering and management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2007 and started Promethean Power Systems with entrepreneur Sam White, their goal was to sell solar power concentrators to generate electricity in clinics and schools in villages without a dependable source of electricity. But the villages couldn’t find a use for the expensive technology, so Grama and White turned their attention to the country’s dairy industry, which is dominated by farmers with a few cows and who depend on rickshas, bikes, or their own feet to transport the warm milk on the first leg of its long journey from farm to local village collection center to the dairy plant. “[Milk] really is like liquid cash to them, because milk is something you harvest and sell daily,” says Grama, an electrical engineer who invented a refrigeration system to help these villagers keep their milk fresh longer.

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Human skin infected with the smallpox virus.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Human skin infected with the smallpox virus.

Federal scientists last week discovered a half-dozen forgotten vials of smallpox virus while cleaning out a storage area on the campus of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. Variola, or smallpox, which killed hundreds of millions before it was declared eradicated in 1980 through a worldwide vaccination campaign, is legally stored at only two locations in the United States and Russia.

The six vials of freeze-dried virus, apparently dating from the 1950s, were found by a scientist from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on 1 July in a cold storage room that was originally part of an NIH laboratory, but was transferred to FDA in the early 1970s. The FDA laboratory is being moved to the FDA’s main campus, according to ABC News, NBC Washington, and a statement today from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The vials were labeled as containing variola and were packed in a cardboard box along with 10 other vials with unclear labels, ABC News reports.

NIH immediately placed the vials in a high-security containment laboratory in Bethesda and notified CDC of the discovery. Yesterday, a three-person CDC team flew the samples by government plane to Atlanta and transferred them to CDC’s biosafety level 4 lab, where testing overnight revealed that the six labeled as variola virus were positive for variola DNA. More tests will reveal whether the virus can grow in culture, CDC says.

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The Marcus G. Langseth cruising off California.

NSF/UNOLS

The Marcus G. Langseth cruising off California.

A federal judge yesterday rejected a request from the state of New Jersey to block a research cruise that would use sound blasts to map seafloor sediments off the Garden State’s coast. But state officials say they will appeal the decision to a federal appeals court.

 The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on 3 July asked a federal court to at least temporarily stop the planned research, citing concerns that the acoustic mapping could disturb wildlife and disrupt tourism and fishing. Proponents of the research, however, say the critics are misinformed and plan to move ahead. The research ship is already cruising off the New Jersey coast.

In their legal challenge, state officials argue that the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) did not follow proper procedures in conducting environmental impact studies and issuing the necessary permits. NSF finalized its environmental study of the project on 1 July, finding it would have “no significant impact.” And NOAA issued the permits required under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.

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Artist's conception of the European Spallation Source.

European Spallation Source

Artist's conception of the European Spallation Source.

Having secured about 97.5% of its construction money from 13 member countries, the European Spallation Source (ESS) has announced that it will break ground in Lund, Sweden, in the fall—more than a year later than first planned.

“We are thrilled to be able to move ahead,” ESS Director-General Jim Yeck said in a statement on Friday. In February 2011, ESS's 17 partner countries agreed to work together on the project, but each government then had to negotiate its contribution individually. “Each country went through its own independent process of deciding to join, and fund ESS, and that takes time.”

ESS's announcement came on the same day as Germany said it would pony up 11% of the construction's €1.8 billion price tag, plus €15 million a year for operating costs thereafter. This was the tipping point to get the construction going, after similar agreements with other member countries in recent months. (The United Kingdom agreed in March to cover 10% of the costs, and Spain said in February that it would pay a 5% slice. Sweden, the main host country, will foot 35% of the bill.)

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Corn

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Corn

The court documents read like something out of a Coen brothers film. Employees of the Chinese agricultural company Dabeinong Technology Group Co. (DBN) and a subsidiary sneaked through midwestern cornfields, U.S. prosecutors allege, stealthily gathering patented corn that they attempted to smuggle out of the United States in microwave popcorn boxes. Over a span of years, the associates allegedly came up with various ways of stealing coveted seed lines developed by agricultural giants DuPont Pioneer, Monsanto, and LG Seeds—a feat that, had it succeeded, would have sidestepped years of research. 

The case is remarkable in its scope. Experts on Chinese agriculture say that it also reflects real obstacles to innovation within China.

The U.S.-based defendants roamed rural Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa in rental cars, digging up corn seedlings, stealing ears of corn, and stealing or illegally obtaining packaged seed, according to court documents. In 2011, a DuPont Pioneer field manager spotted one alleged thief on his knees digging in a field, as a collaborator waited in a nearby parked car. The defendants stored hundreds of ears of corn in a storage locker, where a manager warned them that their stash might attract rodents. They eventually purchased 13 hectares of Iowa farmland in an apparent attempt to conceal their activities.

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ITER, under construction

ITER

ITER, under construction

Budgetmakers in the U.S. Senate have moved to halt U.S. participation in ITER, the huge international fusion experiment now under construction in Cadarache, France, that aims to demonstrate that nuclear fusion could be a viable source of energy. Although the details are not available, Senate sources confirm a report by Physics Today that the Senate's version of the budget for the Department of Energy (DOE) for fiscal year 2015, which begins 1 October, would provide just $75 million for the United States' part of the project. That would be half of what the White House had requested and just enough to wind down U.S. involvement in ITER.

But the fate of the U.S. ITER effort is hardly sealed. Appropriators in the House of Representatives released their version of the proposed DOE budget on 18 June and not only supported continued U.S. participation in ITER, but also proposed giving the project $225 million next year. The House total is $75 million more than what the White House had requested. Moreover, the Senate bill that would fund DOE—the so-called energy and water bill—hangs in limbo, thanks to the political battle over the Obama administration's plan to use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations to set new limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, especially those that burn coal.

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No scientific basis for gay-specific mental disorders, WHO panel concludes

Thorkild Tylleskar via Wikimedia Commons

Look up the code F66.0 in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), the world's most widely used diagnostic reference, and you’ll find sexual maturation disorder. That seemingly official psychological condition occurs when uncertainty about sexual orientation makes a person depressed or anxious, according to the ICD. Rooted in Freudian theory, which views homosexuality as merely an “immature” state of sexual development, a gay teenager could be labeled mentally ill under this category simply because he is grappling with conflicting or confusing sexual desires, notes Susan Cochran, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles.  

Today, it's not clear that any such linear trajectory of sexual development exists, Cochran says. After reviewing decades of psychological and epidemiological studies on sexual orientation and mental health, she and others on a panel appointed by the World Health Organization (WHO) have recommended that F66.0 and four other homosexuality-related psychological disorders be stricken from the ICD.   

“It is not justifiable from a clinical, public health or research perspective for a diagnostic classification to be based on sexual orientation,” the group wrote in a report released last month. All such classifications need to be eliminated from the ICD not only because they lack scientific basis or clinical utility, but also as a "human rights issue," says Cochran, who led the working group.

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Questions have dogged the STAP technique—which the researchers claimed could make all the cell types in a mouse fetus—from the start.

Haruko Obokata

Questions have dogged the STAP technique—which the researchers claimed could make all the cell types in a mouse fetus—from the start.

TOKYO—Nature today published a retraction of two controversial papers that had reported a new, astoundingly simple way of generating pluripotent stem cells. The retraction notice—for an article and a letter written by Haruko Obokata of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology (CDB) in Kobe, Japan, and colleagues there, at other institutions in Japan, and at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School—had been expected for some time.

The two papers reporting the stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP) phenomenon appeared online on 29 January. Questions about the papers arose almost immediately, leading to an investigation by RIKEN, the headquarters of the network of the nationally funded laboratories that is based in Wako near Tokyo. Investigators documented several instances of fabrication and falsification in the papers and concluded that some of these constituted research misconduct on the part of Obokata.

Japanese media recently reported that authors had agreed to retract the papers but were discussing the wording of the notice. In the note that appeared today, the authors point to errors previously identified by RIKEN investigations in supplementary documents. They also identify additional errors in both papers, including mix-ups in images, mislabeling, faulty descriptions, and "inexplicable discrepancies in genetic background and transgene insertion sites between the donor mice and the reported" STAP cells.

"These multiple errors impair the credibility of the study as a whole and we are unable to say without doubt whether the [STAP stem cell] phenomenon is real. Ongoing studies are investigating this phenomenon afresh, but given the extensive nature of the errors currently found, we consider it appropriate to retract both papers," the authors write.

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The Undiagnosed Diseases Program, piloted at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, will soon expand to six new sites.

National Institutes of Health

The Undiagnosed Diseases Program, piloted at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, will soon expand to six new sites.

An effort at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) to diagnose mysterious diseases is undergoing a major expansion. Representatives of the Undiagnosed Diseases Program (UDP), administered by NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), announced today that six medical centers will join the program, forming a network of clinical sites to investigate intractable cases from patients around the country. The program aims to offer patients a long-awaited diagnosis—and sometimes treatment—while building up data for scientists studying the genetic basis of rare diseases.

The new sites—Baylor College of Medicine; the Harvard teaching hospitals (Boston Children's, Brigham and Women's, and Massachusetts General); Duke University; Stanford University; the University of California, Los Angeles; and Vanderbilt University Medical Center—will each receive a 4-year grant of roughly $7.2 million to participate. Like the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, that served as a pilot site, the centers will host patients for about a week at a time, performing extensive clinical tests and genetic sequencing in search of an explanation for their symptoms.

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French research funding system is too 'rigid,' OECD says

OECD

France's research system is "rigid" and "complex," according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The study, released this past Friday, urges the center-left government of François Hollande to continue reforms set in motion over the past decade but criticizes France's tax credit system for R&D as ineffective and "too generous."

“French research … seems to be among the most inert in the world in terms of specialisation; the thematic distribution of publications has changed less than in the other countries since the early 2000s,” says the report, which was requested by the French government.

Most public science in France is centered around large national organizations, such as the French national research agency CNRS, which plan, fund, and carry out research. According to the review, some 10% of France's public research funds are awarded to specific projects on a competitive basis—the lowest figure among OECD's 34 member countries—compared with about 22% in Switzerland, about 38% in Germany, and 70% in South Korea. (The authors admit that the French figure is “slightly” underestimated, because it doesn't take into account the salaries of permanent staff members working on these projects.) The report recommends raising the percentage to stimulate competition and adjust research priorities more quickly.

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Nearly one-third of Americans aren't ready for the next generation of technology

Ellis Christopher, Creative Commons

Thanks to a decade of programs geared toward giving people access to the necessary technology, by 2013 some 85% of Americans were surfing the World Wide Web. But how effectively are they using it?

A new survey suggests that the digital divide has been replaced by a gap in digital readiness. It found that nearly 30% of Americans either aren’t digitally literate or don’t trust the Internet. That subgroup tended to be less educated, poorer, and older than the average American.

In contrast, says Eszter Hargittai, a sociologist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, who was not involved in the study, those with essential Web skills “tend to be the more privileged. And so the overall story … is that it’s the people who are already privileged who are reaping the benefits here.”

The study was conducted by John Horrigan, an independent researcher, and released 17 June at an event sponsored by the Washington, D.C.–based Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. Funded by the Joyce Foundation, the study of 1600 adults measured their grasp of terms like “cookie” and “Wi-Fi.” It asked them to rate how confident they were about using a desktop or laptop or a smart phone to find information, as well as how comfortable they felt about using a computer. Of those who scored low in these areas, about half were not Internet users.

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More than 200 ‘significant’ marine areas could use some love, panel finds

Felipe Skroski/Wikimedia

Scientists and diplomats have identified scores of ecologically significant ocean areas that could benefit from international recognition. Many could eventually become new marine reserves in international waters—but the list, released late last week by a science advisory group to the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), is far from producing action.

Still, the process is “a laudable start in employing a scientifically rigorous methodology to identify those special ocean areas that deserve greater protection,” says conservation scientist Richard Steiner, a consulting researcher in Anchorage, Alaska.

The advisory panel, which met last week in Montreal, Canada, tackled a wide range of issues, including identifying so-called ecologically or biologically significant marine areas, including those in waters not controlled by a specific nation. An estimated 1% of world oceans are already protected by various kinds of reserves, but there are few protected areas in waters beyond the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zones off national coasts. The few existing international marine protection zones are either part of the Antarctic Treaty System, or are related to particular species such as marine mammals or to specific risks, like dumping.

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