An Update on 2012 Science Funding

July 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

The sciences are proposed to get less money than President Obama wanted.

The House commerce, justice, and science appropriations subcommittee released a $50 billion spending bill last week, which was $7.4 billion less than President Obama’s budget request. Many of the budgets that were cut had to do with the scientific agencies.

“This legislation includes funding for some of the most critical aspects of government – the protection of our people here at home, the competiveness of our businesses and industries, and the scientific research that will help America continue to lead the world in innovation,” said House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers.  ” However, given this time of fiscal crisis, it is also important that Congress make tough decisions to cut programs where necessary to give priority to programs with broad national reach that have the most benefit to the American people.”

NASA is the science agency taking the largest hit of all, potentially seeing a $1.46 billion cut from last year, and almost $2 billion short of what President Obama requested. The biggest casualty in this budget reduction is the complete cut of the James Webb Space Telescope. The telescope was set to be the successor of the Hubble Space Telescope and has been an ongoing project for years. True, it has experienced budget, schedule and management problems. But the project currently has all the pieces built, is undergoing assembly, with NASA showing dedication to the project and to fixing these problems.

For the NSF, the bill keeps the budget at $6.68 billion. Although this is exactly the same as last years budget, it does not include the 13% increase that Obama had wanted for the science research agency.

In addition to the cuts to NASA, the House bill calls for NOAA to be cut by $100 million (2.2%) which is $1 billion less than requested, and for the NIST to be cut by $50 million (6.5%) which is $300 million less than the Presidential request.

To be clear, there are many more steps in the budget process, so these cuts are far from final and a lot could change in the next couple weeks. Some lawmakers may choose to defend the sciences, so only time will tell in these tough economic times.

“Everything that is going on in this country will depend on whether there is an overall budget agreement,” said subcommittee chair, Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA). “Right now, all the cuts are coming out of the 12% of the budget [that funds so-called domestic discretionary spending programs like research]. So until you deal with all the entitlements—Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the other mandatories—and consider additional revenue, you won’t be able to answer any questions about next year. But I think that the sciences have come out very well in this bill.”


NASA to Break Into Commercial Space Flight

July 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Whoever thought that NASA would be done with now that the Space Shuttle Atlantis had launched is dead wrong, as the American space agency is changing directions. NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida entered into an agreement with Sierra Nevada Space Systems of Sparks, Nev., last week to offer technical capabilities from the center’s uniquely skilled work force.

“The partnership is an effort to bring new commercial space activities to the center and help transition Kennedy from a government, program-focused, single user launch complex to a diverse, multi-use spaceport, enabling both government and commercial space providers,” said Kennedy Center Director Bob Cabana.

Kennedy will help Sierra Nevada with the ground operations support of its lifting body reusable spacecraft called “Dream Chaser,” which resembles a smaller version of the space shuttle orbiter. The spacecraft would carry as many as seven astronauts to the space station. Through the new agreement, Kennedy’s work force will use its experience of processing the shuttle fleet for 30 years to help Sierra Nevada define and execute Dream Chaser’s launch preparations and post-landing activities.

In 2010 and 2011, Sierra Nevada was awarded grants as part of the initiative to stimulate the private sector in developing and demonstrating human spaceflight capabilities for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The goal of the program, which is based at Kennedy, is to facilitate the development of a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability by achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from the space station and future low Earth orbit destinations.

“Our Dream Chaser vehicle was born at NASA, and NASA has continued to be an important partner in the vehicle’s development,” said Mark Sirangelo, head of SNSS. “By adding the Kennedy Space Center, with its highly experienced technical staff and world-class facilities, to the Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser Program we blend the best of both the NASA shuttle heritage alongside the best of industry practices.”

Last Space Shuttle Launch TODAY

July 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Space Shuttle Atlantis just hours before its historic launch. Courtesy of ABC News.

Watch Live via PlayStation®Home or NASA TV

The historic final mission of NASA’s Space Shuttle program — the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis — will be live-streamed in a special social viewing event featured on Sony Computer Entertainment America’s PlayStation®Home for PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system.

PlayStationHome viewers will be able to watch Atlantis’ launch live at 11:26 a.m. EST, today, July 8 via the NASA TV channel on Sony DADC’s LOOT Space Station Theatre within the Entertainment on Demand (EOD) system. For those that don’t have the PlayStation®Home, you can still view the live launch of Space Shuttle at NASA TV.

“We’re honored to be able to present this historic event as a social viewing experience in PlayStationHome,” said David Sterling, vice president, business development, Sony DADC. “It’s exciting to be able to deliver the ability for users to witness the final NASA Space Shuttle flight with their PlayStation® family.”

Atlantis will embark on a 12-day mission to the International Space Station with a year’s worth of supplies and will carry the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module containing supplies and spare parts for the space station and its crew. Also on board are multiple sets of patches and pins representing all 135 shuttle missions, as well as thousands of shuttle bookmarks for children. The patches and pins will be presented to schools following the flight.

The Space Shuttle Atlantis will be the 37th shuttle mission to the ISS. Weather conditions as of 12:18 a.m EST reveal a 30 percent chance of acceptable weather at launch, so there’s a strong possibility that the launch could be delayed.

“This is an incredible opportunity for different communities to experience the thrill of human spaceflight together,” said David Weaver, NASA associate administrator for the Office of Communications. “NASA looks forward to sharing more of our endeavors with PlayStation® users.”

Where are iAMscientist Users Published? Part 2

July 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

iAMscientists members are published in so many journals, and in so many different fields!

A few months ago, we did a post that highlighted a few publications that iAMscientist members have had their research published. That list surely wasn’t exhaustive, and we are continuing that list now by highlighting a few more publications. These are publications covering a wide variety of fields, from members all over the globe. Have you been published, or want to be published, in any of these eight  journals? If so, then iAMscientist could be the scientific global network for you. If not, then there’s still a possibility that iAMscientist could be right for you. Check us our for scientific collaboration opportunities, RFAs, and job openings.

This week’s eight:

Journal of Immunology – The Journal of Immunology publishes novel, peer-reviewed findings in all areas of experimental immunology, including innate and adaptive immunity, inflammation, host defense, clinical immunology, autoimmunity and more. Special sections include Cutting Edge articles, Brief Reviews and Pillars of Immunology. The JI is published by The American Association of Immunologists (AAI). Manuscripts are published in the following sections: Cellular Immunology and Immune Regulation; Clinical Immunology, Host Defense, Immunogenetics, Inflammation, and Molecular and Structural Immunology.

International Journal of Nanomedicine – An international, peer-reviewed journal focusing on the application of nanotechnology in diagnostics, therapeutics, and drug delivery systems throughout the biomedical field. The International Journal of Nanomedicine reflecting the growing activity in this emerging specialty, and so the aim of this journal is to highlight research and development leading to potential clinical applications in the prevention and treatment of disease.

Journal of Clinical Pathology– The Journal of Clinical Pathology is a leading international journal covering all aspects of pathology. Diagnostic and research areas covered include histopathology, virology, haematology, microbiology, cytopathology, chemical pathology, molecular pathology, forensic pathology, dermatopathology, neuropathology and immunopathology. JCP is the official journal of the Association of Clinical Pathologists. The JCP is committed to the advancement of all disciplines within the broader remit of human pathology. This also encompasses molecular biology and its applications in the understanding of human biology and pathology. The journal is intended to have world-wide readership and will publish articles that have a wide appeal even though they are regionally based.

Journal of Chromatography – The Journal of Chromatography provides a forum for the publication of original research and critical reviews on all aspects of fundamental and applied separation science. The scope of the journal includes chromatography and related techniques, electromigration techniques (e.g. electrophoresis, electrochromatography), hyphenated and other multi-dimensional techniques, sample preparation, and detection methods such as mass spectrometry. Contributions consist mainly of research papers dealing with the theory of separation methods, instrumental developments and analytical and preparative applications of general interest. The journal welcomes the submission of research papers which report on studies concerning the development of new and significant advances in separation science. Manuscripts detailing fundamental research on all aspects of separation science theory and methodology are especially encouraged.

Journal of Cell Science – The Journal of Cell Science is committed to publishing the full range of topics in cell biology, and the single most important criterion for acceptance is scientific excellence. Articles must therefore pose and test a significant hypothesis that will provide novel perspectives and approaches to understanding cell biology, and will stimulate the interest of the broad readership of the Journal. The Journal does not publish purely descriptive articles on the expression of specific genes or proteins in particular cell types, articles that demonstrate the effect of a particular substance on a given cell line without having any broad biological significance, or articles that simply describe a method or reagent.

Journal of Infection in Developing Countries – The Journal of Infection in Developing Countries was launched during the spring of 2007 and has already received and processed a huge number of manuscripts. Many of the articles we receive are sent directly for peer review. Others require pre-review mentoring, a unique service that JIDC is committed to provide in order to overcome some of the documented biases against developing country science (Horton 2003). The JIDC publishes original research papers, research notes, guidance documents and reviews covering different aspects of human, animal and environmental microbiology and infections in developing countries with particular emphasis on emerging and re-emerging etiological agents, diagnosis, epidemiology and public health. The aim of the journal is to provide all infectious disease researchers from developing countries with an international forum for publishing their research findings.

Journal of Neuroendocrinology

International Journal of Cancer

Unemployment for PhDs May Be Down, but What’s Out There for the Unemployed?

July 4, 2011 § 1 Comment

Job hunting can be difficult, even for a scientist.

We previously did a post that examined the lower unemployment rates among PhD holders compared with the rest of the population. That statistic looks good on the surface, but what’s out there for those that are unemployed. Dr. Josh Bloom, Director of chemical and pharmaceutical sciences at the American Council of Science and Health, wrote in the New York Post in June that there’s not much, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry and in teaching. Should currently and soon to be unemployed scientists worried about the status of the industry?

The United States currently ranks 27th out of 29th in graduating college students with degrees in science or engineering. As dismal at that rating is, our low number of college students graduating with science and engineering degrees also suggests that we don’t have a whole lot of up and coming scientists ready to take the place of those retiring, or able to carry on the research and technical progress necessary to keep our country moving. Could this be why these jobs are dying? There’s hardly anyone out there to replace those that are leaving?

This whole idea was prompted by Scientific American’s “1,000 Scientists in 1,000 Days”, an initiative meant to connect scientists, mathematicians, and engineers with science educators so as to boost science learning in our schools and exchange ideas. Not a bad idea, if it didn’t have to take so long.

Another way, a shorter way, to find science jobs and to connect with other scientists from around the world is to be part of the extensive science network of iAMscientist. Not only does iAMscientist have researchers, engineers, mathematicians, and other scientific specialists, but it also provides a forum to share research, post jobs, request proposals, and form collaborative efforts on research projects with members. And all this with people across four continents, not just here in the United States.

Although Dr. Bloom shouldn’t be completely discredited, with iAMscientist, unemployed scientists shouldn’t give up hope just yet and make a career change. The change that needs to be made here is one with the perception of science in this country.

NASA Astrobiology Institute Social Science Post-Doctoral Opportunity

June 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

A post-doctoral opportunity is available at the NASA Astrobiology Institutes. The purpose of this opportunity to study the NAI’s current collaborative practices and provide insight and recommendations for their evolution and improvement, particularly with respect to remote communication, data sharing and analysis across distance, collaborative problem solving, interdisciplinary science, and institutional identity.

The application deadline is July 1, 2011. Application instructions can be found here.

Qualified applicants would have a primary background in the social sciences, particularly interdisciplinary scientific collaboration in distributed organizations, including the use of technology for communication and collaboration across distance. A background in one of the scientific disciplines of astrobiology is highly desirable. Past surveys, recorded events, publications, reviews and other material provide some historical record of the Institute’s evolution, and are available for this effort. These include user surveys from a recent series of remote meetings and activities conducted using a number of collaborative technologies. Follow-up interviews may also provide additional insight on the effectiveness of these distributed interactions. The post-doctoral fellow will be able to use these resources in developing his/her own methodology and definition of research questions that contribute to the overall goal of informing NAI management about ways to improve the institute’s effectiveness in meeting its organizational objectives. The postdoctoral fellow would be based at the NAI Central management office in the Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California, but would be expected to travel to other locations (e.g., team home institutions, meeting locations) as necessary.

The NAI will provide an administrative adviser for this opportunity; applicants must also identify a recognized academic with the required expertise who is willing to serve as the academic adviser. A letter of commitment from this adviser must be submitted along with the application. Applicants should submit that letter as a PDF attachment in an email to, using this subject line: “Adviser’s letter of commitment for Research Opportunity 18644.” The requirement for an academic adviser may be waived for applicants who are more than five years beyond the doctoral degree AND hold the rank of Assistant Professor or higher, or equivalent. The NAI may also require an in-person interview with highly qualified candidates before making a final selection.

NSF Accused of Misrepresenting Information on Stem Cell Research

June 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

What's the truth about stem cells?

The Family Research Council (FRC) last week criticized the National Science Foundation (NSF) for publishing incorrect information about stem cells. In touting NSF funding of a publication about stem cell comparisons, the science organization put out a press release titled “Social scientists study impact of human adult stem cell research.” The FRC argues that the the paper NSF references, and which the science agency funded, does not discuss adult stem cells at all.

The paper promoted by NSF, published in the journal Cell on Friday, compares embryonic stem (ES) cells and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. iPS cells are embryonic-like stem cells made directly from adult tissues by adding a few genes to normal cells, without using embryos.  The iPS cells are not adult stem cells.

Dr. David Prentice, Family Research Council’s Senior Fellow for Life Sciences reacted with the following statement:

“I am appalled that the National Science Foundation would publish an ideological paper that promotes embryo-destructive research by attempting to link such research to advances in iPS cell research. While even this possible linkage is questionable based on the limits of the data presented, NSF in its headlong rush to promote ES cell research goes over the edge in confusing and prejudicing the public… Isolating embryonic stem cells requires the destruction of a young human embryo, and has yet to show published evidence of any success in humans. While iPS cells provide an ethical method to form pluripotent stem cells almost identical to ES cells, from any person, but without embryo destruction, iPS cells are not adult stem cells.”

“The NSF should retract their press release and issue a full correction. Open debate on public policy and law regarding stem cell research cannot abide such scientific ignorance and willful misrepresentation,” concluded Prentice.

The press release and article the FRC is criticizing discusses the results of a study regarding the impact of human stem cell research.

New research says studying both adult and embryonic stem cells can benefit medical science, but banning the study of either type could harm studies of the other. Researchers from the University of Michigan, Stanford University and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. investigated whether the increased number of studies with a certain type of adult stem cell has changed the overall course of research in the field.

In analyzing more than 2,000 scientific papers, the researchers found adult stem cells are not replacing human embryonic stems cells in the laboratory. Instead, the two cell types have proven to be complementary and any disruption of federal funding, they say, would negatively impact stem cell research overall.

If federal funding stops for human embryonic stem cell research, it would have a serious negative impact on adult stem cell research, says Stanford University bioethicist Christopher Scott, one of the paper’s co-authors. “We may never be able to choose between iPS and ES cell research because we don’t know which type of cell will be best for eventual therapies.”

Adult stem cells come from tissues such as bone marrow, blood, brain, heart and umbilical cord blood, and can be isolated without harm to the stem cell donor from birth onward. More than 50,000 people annually receive adult stem cell transplants around the globe, and published science shows adult stem cells are successful at treating dozens of diseases and injuries, including heart damage, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, juvenile diabetes and sickle cell anemia.

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