Virtual private networks, tracking apps and ‘burner’ laptops: how to protect sensitive data when you take your research on the road.
Mark Gerstein has had his fair share of scares when it comes to losing track of his electronic devices — and, along with them, access to his private information and research data.
“I’m very security conscious, but also a bit of an absent-minded professor,” says Gerstein, a bioinformatician at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Read more in Nature.
Kinetica Dynamics may be a young start-up, but its approach to stabilizing tall buildings is based on a well-established idea.“It’s a reinvigoration of an old vibration damping technology,” says Michael Montgomery, an engineer and the company’s co-founder and chief executive.
The technology, a polymer that diminishes vibration and shock, is bonded tightly to the structure of buildings and was first used in the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center to prevent motion sickness caused by the upper parts of the towers moving in the wind. The polymer, which was created by the US technology company 3M, was installed between the steel frames throughout the towers to dissipate vibrations. Read more in Nature.
“We want to become synonymous with good user experience for video,” says Abdul Rehman, co-founder and chief executive of SSIMWave. The start-up, which was spun out of the University of Waterloo in Canada in 2013, wants to improve how people watch videos online.
The company’s technology is based on a family of algorithms developed by Zhou Wang, a computer engineer at Waterloo and Rehman’s PhD supervisor. The structural similarity, or SSIM, algorithms can predict how someone will perceive the technical quality of a video, and thus help to ensure that viewers have the best possible experience. Read more in Nature.
Can New Zealand pull off an audacious plan to get rid of all invasive predators by 2050?
Razza the rat nearly ended James Russell’s scientific career. Twelve years ago, as an ecology graduate student, Russell was releasing radio-collared rats on to small islands off the coast of New Zealand to study how the creatures take hold and become invasive. Despite his sworn assurances that released animals would be well monitored and quickly removed, one rat, Razza, evaded capture and swam to a nearby island.
For 18 weeks, Russell hunted the animal. Frustrated and embarrassed, he fretted about how the disaster would affect his PhD. “I felt rather morose about the prospects for my dissertation,” he says. Read more in Nature.
Multiple sclerosis is a devastating disease that induces the body’s own immune system to eat away at the central nervous system, slowly robbing patients of their physical mobility. It is also mysterious. Despite years of research, the cause remains elusive, and treatments are few and far between. But new research to find the causes and provide innovative treatments means that progress, although still slow, is beginning to speed up. Read more in this Nature Outlook that I edited.
Kidney cancer has long flown under the radar despite being one of the top-ten cancer killers worldwide. It lacks the research spotlight and public awareness of other cancers that can help to drive new discoveries. It remains hard to detect, difficult to treat and poorly understood. But that is starting to change as researchers dig into the mysteries surrounding the disease. Read more in this Nature Outlook that I edited.
Ecologists fear plan to seal off the United States from Mexico would put wildlife at risk.
With Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump talking about walling off the United States from Mexico, ecologists fear for the future of the delicate and surprisingly diverse ecosystems that span Mexico’s border with the southwestern United States.
“The southwestern US and northwestern Mexico share their weather, rivers and wildlife,” says Sergio Avila-Villegas, a conservation scientist from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson. “The infrastructure on the border cuts through all that and divides a shared landscape in two.” Read more in Nature.
Government’s ‘global challenges’ fund hoovers up extra cash for developing-world problems, cutting grants elsewhere.
Funds dedicated for research on developing-world problems will eat into the core science grants of the United Kingdom’s research councils over the next five years, documents released by the councils show.
After enduring years of flat funding, scientists had celebrated in November as the government committed to increasing science spending, rather than delivering the cut many had feared was imminent.
But although the science budget – which in 2016 will be £4.7 billion (US$7.1 billion) – will rise in line with inflation, some of it will be diverted into government-defined research programmes. The remaining portion – the ‘responsive-mode’ allocation that the research councils hand out on the basis of competitive applications from scientists – will not rise. Read more in Nature.
Advocates say that open science will be good for innovation. One neuroscience institute plans to put that to the test.
In the cut-throat world of early-stage clinical development, where aggressive defence of data and intellectual property is thought to be key to amassing profits, one academic institute is opting out.
Over the next five years, McGill University’s Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (the Neuro) in Canada will conduct a radical experiment in open science. It will make all results, data and publications from its research free to access, will require collaborators to do the same, and, perhaps most surprisingly, will not pursue patents on any of its discoveries. Read more in Nature.