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.

The Rise of Asia in Biotech R&D

June 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

China, South Korea, Malaysia, Making the Biotech R&D Push

Publication output in information technology in 2009. China overtook the US for the first time.

The U.S. may still be the world’s leading nation when it comes to developing, protecting, and commercializing new technologies, but recent global patent numbers point to other countries vying for the top spot. China and several Asian nations are emerging as formidable innovators.

According to the European Patent Office, U.S. applicants brought forth 60,588 applications in 2010, a figure surpassed by the 82,828 filed by the 27-nation EU, whose innovations accounted for almost 90% of the 92,553 filed by the 38 nations comprising the European Patent Convention. The EU’s patent applications rose just 5% over the 2009 figure, compared with 6% for EPC and 12% for the U.S.

However, China’s 12,698 patent applications in 2010 marked a 54% increase over 2009 and a doubling from 2008. Not too far behind was South Korea with 12,342 patent applications, up a healthy 21% from 2009. And weeks before it was devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, Japan finished last year with a 10% year-over-year gain in patent applications, rising to 41,917, second among all countries.

Emerging Asian nations are expanding their biotechnology industries beyond initial strengths in manufacturing and R&D toward more innovative work in developing treatments, tools, and technologies. Another emerging Asian nation with a growing interest in the sciences is Malaysia. Last month, the Prime Minister outlined plans to improve innovation and economic development in the country.

A major issue confronting science in Malaysia is the declining interest in a science career, said Tan Sri Dr Ahmad Tajuddin Ali, President of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia in the New Straits Times. Unless addressed soon, Ali predicts, the country may not have the critical mass of scientists to drive innovation.

“Now, only 20 per cent of secondary school students opt for a Science course. Some educationists blame it on the uninteresting ways Science is taught,” he said. “They are urging the government to revive inquiry-based Science education (IBSE) earlier piloted in some select schools. In countries such as France and China, IBSE has been a major success in reviving interest in Science.”

Even though the United States is still one of the most innovative countries in the world, Matthew Harper of Forbes argues taht “collaboration is key”.

“America is among the most collaborative – raising the possibility that collaboration may actually lead to higher quality,” he said in his four part series examining the scientific output of different nations in biology, clean energy, and computer science. “Want to stay ahead of China? Opening doors to working together might not be a bad idea.”

Grant Available for Emerging Female Scientists

June 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Elsevier Foundation is seeking new grant proposals for the 2011 New Scholars program which targets the attrition of talented women scientists in the academic pipeline. The Elsevier Foundation New Scholars program aims to support women scholars during the early stages of their careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The deadline for New Scholars proposals is September 1st 2011. Grants will be awarded in December 2011 and provide one, two and three year awards between US$5,000 to US$50,000 per year. The online Elsevier Foundation application process will accept proposals from July 1st through September 1st. Information on the requirements and how to apply are below.

“The amazing range of New Scholars grants we have received over the past five years have taught us that promoting the advancement of women in STEM fields cannot be achieved through advocacy, campaigning or policymaking alone,” noted David Ruth, Executive Director of the Elsevier Foundation, “It requires an integrated approach to institutional change and personal development. We believe that the New Scholars program addresses the critical, often hidden, issues that influence the advancement and retention of accomplished women.”

Grant and Program Guidelines:

The New Scholars Program supports projects to help early- to mid-career women scientists balance family responsibilities with demanding academic careers. New Scholars seeks to actively address the attrition rate of talented women scientists caused by work-life balance issues. The Foundation provides one, two and three year grants to STEM institutions and organizations actively working towards a more equitable academia by:

– Encouraging networking and collaborations among institutions and/or across STEM disciplines in ways that support the challenges of faculty and staff with family responsibilities.

– Developing and implement strategies for advocacy and policy development to advance knowledge, awareness, and application of programs to retain, recruit and develop women in science and/or.

– Enabling scientists to attend conferences, meetings, workshops and symposia that are critical to the development of a career in science by helping them with childcare and other family responsibilities when attending scientific gatherings.

Preference will be given to proposals that clearly demonstrate the following;

– An institutional framework for the advancement of women in science, as evidenced by a strategic plan, policy framework, leadership commitment and/or a program of related activities.

– Develop innovative program ideas.

– Create and promote collaborative networks across institutions and/or disciplines.

– Develop model programs that will encourage continued efforts to advance women in science.

– Promote partnerships and knowledge sharing among institutions, including between institutions in the developed and developing world.

– A willingness to draw from the expertise and experience of previous New Scholar grantees.

– Have specific plans for sustainability beyond the funding period.

– Embody plans for dissemination beyond the awardee organization of policies, procedures, and “lessons learned” that are developed during the funding period.

– Describe clear criteria and objectives to be achieved through the grant funding.

– Present realistic budgets tied to outcomes.

New Scholars Guidelines

Proposals are welcome for single-year grants in amounts between US$5,000 to US$50,000. Proposals will be accepted for multi-year programs (up to three years) for grant amounts of US$5,000 to US$50,000 per year. Grant proposals should be submitted online no later than September 1 2011. Awards will be announced in December 2011. Proposals should be focused and well-defined, and must address each of the following elements:

– Cover letter: Provide a one-page description of the objectives and key activities of the program. Include contact details and the amount of funding requested.

– Goals and plan: A clear description of the program goals and implementation plan, including timeframe.

– Innovation: How will the program introduce new ideas, capabilities and/or capacity for the institution or country. How the program would serve as a model for others.

– Impact: The significance of the program’s intended impact on science, health and society in that country or globally.

– Sustainability: How will the benefits of the program be sustained after the grant has been expended.

– Budget: The total amount of the grant requested and justification for the requested amount, including a clear budget overview spreadsheet that indicates in as much detail as possible intended expenditures and other sources of funding, if any.

– Evaluation: How the program will be measured and evaluated and how its results will be reported.

– Organization and partnership: A description of the organization requesting the grant, confirmation of its status as a non-profit entity, and a listing of key officers and staff who will direct the implementation of the program. Description of key program partners, if any.

– Length: Applications may only be submitted online through the Elsevier Foundation’s online application system.

– Final Report for Awarded Grants: The Elsevier Foundation requires a final report from grantees at the time of completion of funded activities. The report should be both descriptive and evaluative, and include:

    - Detailed summary of activities during the grant period
    - Internal and external media coverage generated
    - Accounting report of grant expenditures
    - Assessment of project goals (including level of achievement)

Awards must be submitted online via The Elsevier Foundation’s online grant application proposal system between July 1st and September 15th. Please don’t hesitate to contact the Elsevier Foundation with any questions concerning the development of your proposal.

    The Elsevier Foundation
    360 Park Avenue South
    New York, NY 10010 USA
    Phone: +31-20-485-2025

    Media Contact
    Ylann Schemm
    Elsevier Foundation

NSF Launches Science360 for iPad App

June 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

A screenshot of the app in action.

On June 8, the National Science Foundation released its Science360 for iPad application in the App Store section of Apple’s iTunes. The application features spectacular images from NSF-funded institutions and also allows users to share images and video on Facebook and Twitter or via email. In addition, breaking science news is always at a user’s fingertips through the application news feed.

“iPads are becoming more prevalent, more reliable and more viable for locating information,” said acting NSF Director of Public Affairs Dana Topousis. “This application will provide at your fingertips another avenue for sharing and accessing breaking science news.”

Science360 for iPad has a unique look–a spherical or 360-degree presentation. The app also demonstrates the successful partnerships and platforms NSF has developed with NBC Learn and as well as Science Nation, to communicate science and technology discoveries to a broader audience

The full list of features includes:
– Spectacular images from NSF-funded institutions available in high resolution for download to your iPad
– Fun and engaging streaming video (WiFi or 3G connection required) on a wide range of topics
– Hundreds of images and videos to experience, with new content added weekly
– Share images and videos on Facebook and Twitter or via email
– Keep abreast of breaking stories in scientific discovery as they happen with the in-app news feed
– Pan through content in the unique 360 view or find content via keyword with a simple two finger touch
– With a single touch, save favorite images and video within the app so that they can easily be found again

Download the Science360 for iPad application today! It’s free!

3 Science Jobs You Can’t Get Without a PhD, and What Else You Can Do With One

June 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

Earning a PhD can open a few, select doors

We’ve previously discussed the low unemployment rate of PhDs compared to the general population, which is already one bonus for having the higher degree. Another bonus is that some jobs are only attainable by those with a doctorate in the sciences. The San Francisco Gate explored six jobs that require a doctorate, but we’ve pulled three that would require a PhD in the sciences. Only 0.9% of the American population has earned their doctoral degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 report, so doctorates are an elite few in this world. Meet other elite few by becoming a member of iAMscientist.

1. Chief Scientist – $157,168
This applies for any science discipline, and this job is sometimes referred to as a Principal Investigator. The average salary ranges between $115,951 and $198,385, reflecting the years of study invested and the high degree of specialty.

At its simplest, the job of a Chief Scientist is to lead and carry out scientific research. They may be involved in the research and development of new drugs or technology, or collaborating with other scientists on inter-disciplinary efforts.

2. Professor – $82,374
Most professorships will require the candidate to have successfully defended their doctoral thesis. However, in business, law and medicine, sometimes real world experience may be sufficient without a PhD. This job is considered by many to be the most direct application for a completed doctoral degree – after spending so many years in academics, successful PhD graduates certainly know their way around the system.

Some professors focus on teaching, while others must find a balance between their time in the classroom and their own research and publications. An additional upside to this career is the possibility of tenure, which ensures that the professor cannot be fired without just cause and due process. This allows for a much greater stability in employment. Professors also pose as excellent mentors and advisers to up and coming doctoral students. (For more on teaching, see Academic Careers In Finance.)

3. Astronomer/Astrophysicist – $81,208
These scientists observe, research, and interpret celestial and astronomical phenomena, according to Payscale. More than half of the professionals in this field are employed by the Federal Government or scientific R&D firms. They apply their knowledge of the universe to scientific and technological advancement. According to the BLS, almost all astronomers do research, although some do purely theoretical work. (To help students with the cost of going to school in one of these profession, read Students, Get More Bang For Your Textbook Dollars.)

However, humanities PhDs ought not to be discounted for their potential relevance to technology and the inter-disciplinary sciences. Google is one example of a large tech company seeking humanities PhDs. Companies such as Google were looking for people who are smart and get things done from every possible background. Developing user interfaces, for example, was at least as much about knowing how to observe and understand people as about pure technological skill.

For June Cohen, executive producer of TED Media, anyone who had studied for a PhD, however seemingly irrelevant the topic, had “learned stamina and focus and how to listen” – and those skills would always be valuable to employers. PhD holders and candidates, whether its one in the humanities or sciences, offer transferable skills that can be applied in singular and inter-disciplinary fields.

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