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.

Sen. Coburn Exposes Waste at the NSF

May 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla) released May 26 a report documenting more than $3 billion he sees as wasteful spending and mismanagement at the key science agency and calls for cuts and streamlining. More than $1.2 billion of that money has been lost due to waste, fraud, duplication and mismanagement and an additional $1.7 billion in unspent funds.

The report, “The National Science Foundation: Under the Microscope”, offers a list of research projects that exemplify the waste and duplication that Coburn outlines in his report, such as:

• $80,000 study on why the same teams always dominate March Madness;

• $315,000 study suggesting playing FarmVille on Facebook helps adults develop and maintain relationships;

• $1 million for an analysis of how quickly parents respond to trendy baby names;

• $50,000 to produce and publicize amateur songs about science, including a rap called “Money 4 Drugz,” and a misleading song titled “Biogas is a Gas, Gas, Gas”; and

• $581,000 on whether online dating site users are racist.

“Who would disagree the dollars spent on these efforts could not have been better targeted identifying more efficient, renewable fuels, developing the next generation of computers, creating new antibiotics for resistant bacteria, or simply reducing the nation’s debt?” Coburn asked in the report. The  report also provides a few recommendations on how the agency could improves the handling of its funds, including:

• Establish Clear Guidelines for What Constitutes “Transformative” and “Potentially Transformative” Science. The agency has begun this process, but much more needs to be done to evaluate the merit of each project funded by the agency.

• Set Clear Metrics to Measure Success and Standards to Ensure Accountability. The agency clearly needs to improve its grant administration and evaluation mechanisms. Addressing these areas will help set better priorities while also rooting out fraudulent and inappropriate expenditures.

• Eliminate NSF’s Social, Behavioral, and Economics (SBE) Directorate ($255 million in FY 2010). The social sciences should not be the focus of our premier basic scientific research agency.

• Consolidate the Directorate for Education & Human Resources ($872 million in FY 2010). In addition to excessive duplication within the agency and across the federal government, spending on education and human resources comes at the expense of actual scientific pursuits. Consolidation can lead to increased investment in transformative scientific studies.

• Use It or Lose It: NSF Should Better Manage Resources It Can No Longer Spend or Does Not Need and Immediately Return $1.7 Billion of Unspent, Expired Funds It Currently Holds. Better grant management and closeout procedures could increase available funds for research and provide savings for the federal government.

In a brief statement, NSF officials defended the agency’s work.

“The National Science Foundation is renowned for its gold-standard approach to peer review of each of the more than 40,000 proposals it receives each year,” officials said. “While no agency is without flaws, NSF has been diligent about addressing concerns from members of Congress about workforce and grant management issues, and NSF’s excellent record of tracking down waste and prosecuting wrongdoing is apparent from Sen. Coburn’s report. We believe that no other funding agency in the world comes close to NSF for giving taxpayers the best return on their investment.”

Although it’s important to investigate the possible waste of precious government dollars, there are a few things wrong with Coburn’s report. First, this report premises that the NSF is the only one responsible for government waste and overlap, when that is not the case. The Grace Commission presented its findings on government waste and overlap to Congress in January 1984. The commission claimed that if its recommendations were followed, $424 billion could be saved in three years, rising to $1.9 trillion per year by the year 2000. It estimated that the national debt, without these reforms, would rise to $13 trillion by the year 2000, while with the reforms they projected it would rise to only $2.5 trillion.Congress ignored the commission’s report. The debt reached $5.8 trillion in the year 2000. The national debt reached 13 trillion after the subprime mortgage-collateralized debt obligation crisis in 2008. Not implying that Coburn’s report ought to be ignored, but rather that investigating government spending needs to happen government wide, and not just focus on a few specific entities.

Second, the research Coburn deems wasteful is only considered such because Coburn says so. Although Coburn is an M.D., it seems that the results and implications of those research projects were not taken into consideration when he conducted his investigation and put together the report. A research project should only be deemed wasteful if the project doesn’t produce significant results or lead to any significant conclusions. Plus, research involving social media and websites is completely necessary in this day and age. As the Internet becomes an increasing part of our lives, research needs to be done to understand that impact

The real question is how we can help in determining the potential value of the research. A tighter integration of the research with the people who are “end-users” is needed to spend money efficiently on projects that positively impact lives and add to the progress of science. The only way to understand which projects should be funded further is to crowd-source the products of the research e.g. the publications that come out of them.
Do you think the NSF could be doing better to manage its funds? Or is Coburn just picking a fight with the NSF in order to cut research spending in anyway possible? What would be your solution to increase the effectiveness of research dollars?

Setbacks in Stem Cell Research Policy

May 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

Even though the ban has been lifted on embryonic stem cell research, progress in this field continues to remain at a standstill.

Legislation is currently underway in Michigan that would require public universities doing the research to report some information to the state. The data would have to include how many human embryos are used for research,  the number of human embryos and human embryo stem cell lines received by the university in the current fiscal year, the number of stem cell lines created, the number of embryos held in storage, and the number of research projects underway.

State Rep. Bob Genetski, R-Saugatuck, who supports the reporting requirements, said he wants to bring transparency to stem cell research through provisions in the higher education budget.

“It is important to know where the human embryonic stem cells are coming from and where they’re being generated,” he told the Holland Sentinel. “We want to make sure the embryos are legal — that they didn’t come to us through the black market.”

Governor Rick Snyder’s legal counsel sent a letter this week to Republican legislative leaders saying that in his opinion the provision would be unconstitutional and unenforceable, indicating the provision would conflict with a voter-approved constitutional amendment to expressly permit stem cell research. Reporting or limiting the research would not be allowed under this amendment.

There has also been an update regarding Sherley et al. v. Sebelius et al., the lawsuit challenging federal taxpayer funding of human embryonic stem cell research. A Motion was filed on May 18, 2011, to allow both sides to file supplemental briefs with the U.S. District Court. This motion to provide additional information to the Court was agreed upon by both sides. These briefs and supplemental information is about two additional arguments that were made by the plaintiffs challenging hESC funding. First, they contended that hESC research was also prohibited under the  separate prohibition in Dickey-Wicker against federal funding of research in which human embryos are “knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death greater than that allowed for research on fetuses in utero[.]” The plaintiffs argued that funding for hESC research endangered embryos by creating a demand for additional stem-cell lines and therefore increasing the chances that a particular embryo might be used as a source of stem cells. Second, they contended that when the National Institutes of Health had adopted the new funding rules for hESC research, it had violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs rulemaking by federal agencies.

A similar previous motion filed on May 9 was opposed by the Department of Justice. The motions follow the April 29 decision by the Appeals Court to vacate the preliminary injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth in August 2010. While the Appeals Court ruling maintained the status quo regarding the flow of federal taxpayer funds for embryonic stem cell research, there are still a number of issues to be resolved, awaiting the decision of Judge Lamberth.

60% of jobs are filled through referrals

May 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

Are you making those connections?

Studies have shown that anywhere between 48 percent and 60 percent of job hunters obtain their jobs through referrals. Employers fast-track job candidates who are recommended by current employees; statistically speaking, employee-referred hires prove to be better hires, have longer job tenures and therefore represent a far sounder investment on the part of employers, according to Thomas Boyle, SilkRoad director of product strategy.

The employee referral and a direct connection are among the strongest screening tools available, said Lisa Rowan, program director of HR, Learning and Talent Strategies for Framingham, Mass.-based analyst firm IDC. “If I’m an employee, I’m not going to recommend poor candidates, generally,” she said. Research also shows that ‘referral’ hires not only stay longer in their jobs but perform better over the long term.

Now where does come in? Well, as a scientific community with over 16 Million fully profiled  scientists, we offer plenty of  opportunities to get referral from leader in the field. Instead of cold candidates, you can get the best students, post-docs or junior faculty recommended by the key faculty that supervised them for their formative years in science. This is especially handy if you are doing work across inter-disciplinary fields, and need someone with specific expertise. Take the time to find someone who comes highly recommended.

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