The Lancet

UCL geneticist faces questions over image duplication

An ongoing investigation by University College London, UK, has found problems with eight papers by renowned British geneticist David Latchman.

An internal university investigation of work by David Latchman, a well known professor of genetics at University College London (UCL) and the Master of Birkbeck College, UK, has resulted in at least one retraction and two corrections over problems with image duplication and manipulation.

A 2002 article by Latchman in the Journal of Biological Chemistry was retracted on Jan 16, with just the cryptic notice: “This article has been withdrawn by the authors.” Read more in The Lancet.

Qatar forges ahead with science vision

Brian Owens visited Qatar to see how the tiny Gulf state is working to become a world leader in health and life sciences research as part of its broader national vision for 2030.

Qatar might be small, but it has big ambitions in several realms, including science. The Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development is the organisation charged with delivering the country’s research plans along with the rest of its National Vision for 2030, which aims to modernise the state and develop a strong knowledge economy to keep the country going when natural gas reserves eventually run out. The Foundation is a semi-private non-profit organisation, set up in 1995 to help transform Qatar from a petro-state into a leader in education, research, and the arts. It is headed by Sheika Moza bint Nasser Al Missned, one of the wives of the former emir, who takes a strong personal interest in the Foundation’s work, according to those who work there. “She has a strong commitment to health care globally and locally”, says Egbert Schillings, chief executive of the World Innovation Summit for Health, which is held in Qatar’s capital Doha each February.

Health and life sciences is one of the four scientific priorities the Foundation is focused on to realise the national vision—alongside energy and water, cyber security, and environmental research—and some see it as the most important. “The life sciences are definitely where the accent is”, says Schillings. Read more in The Lancet.

Academia gets social

Brian Owens examines the rise of academic social networking websites, such as Academia.edu and ResearchGate, and asks researchers how these sites are shaping their careers.

A few years ago, Jorge Castillo-Quan, a post-doc studying the biology of ageing at University College London, UK, wrote a report about how insulin and cortisol interact to affect brain function. It didn’t seem to make much of an impression on the scientific community, and was not highly cited, so Castillo-Quan moved on to other topics. But recently Castillo-Quan has seen a sudden resurgence in interest in his work on cortisol, in the form of people reading and downloading the paper from his profile on the academic social networking site Academia.edu. “The cortisol work has been seen by probably 50—100 people so far this year”, he says. “And they’re not looking at my newer work.”

The attention has come from various researchers around the world, he says, indicating that the topic might be becoming interesting again to the field. Now because of that resurgence in interest Castilllo-Quan is considering whether he should go back and perhaps pick up where he left off. “I’m looking at what would be interesting to revisit”, he says. Read more in The Lancet.

Rare enterovirus continues to circulate in North America

D68, an uncommon strain of enterovirus, has caused an unexpectedly high number of respiratory illnesses across the USA and has now appeared in Canada.

A rare strain of enterovirus that can cause severe respiratory illness in children is circulating throughout the USA and Canada, causing a higher than usual number of infections.

Between mid-August and Sept 26, 277 people in 40 states and the District of Columbia have tested positive for enterovirus D68, all but one of them children, reports the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)in Atlanta, GA. National numbers are not available for Canada, but the virus has been detected in several provinces, including Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. Read more in The Lancet.

Anthrax and smallpox errors highlight gaps in US biosafety

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies are in the dock over serious lapses in their handling of dangerous pathogens.

A recent series of lapses in biosafety at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal agencies shows that there is a serious problem with the way research into dangerous pathogens is regulated, according to biosafety experts.

Vickie Sutton, director of the Center for Biodefense, Law and Public Policy at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, says such incidents are likely to continue unless there is a major overhaul of the regulatory structure. “The current situation is not even logical”, she says. “The CDC regulates work at universities and other agencies, but also itself. It’s the fox watching the chicken house.” Read more in The Lancet.

Mapping biomedical research in the USA

An overview of biomedical research in the USA—the major funders, trends, and strengths and weaknesses facing the world’s major scientific superpower.

The biomedical research landscape in the USA is so vast and comprehensive that it can be difficult to get a handle on specifics. But within the expanse of the biomedical specialty, there are a few unique aspects that stand out.

America is a leader in funding for biomedical research, from government, industry, and the non-profit sector. And, for such a large country, the research community is remarkably spread out, with high-quality work being done in every region of the nation. But the dominance of the USA is slowly being challenged by the rise in both volume and quality of research done in other countries, though it will be some time yet before any challenger will be able to seize the top spot. Read more in The Lancet.