science

Half of Canada’s government scientists still feel muzzled

More than half of government scientists in Canada—53%—do not feel they can speak freely to the media about their work, even after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government eased restrictions on what they can say publicly, according to a survey by a union that represents more than 16,000 federal scientists. Read more in Science.

Most insect studies lack crucial species information

Survey results suggest that a lot of entomology research could be impossible to replicate.

More than 98% of entomology papers contain so little species information on the insects being studied that they are essentially impossible to replicate, according to a survey of more than 550 articles published in 2016. Read more in Nature.

National Research Council lays out a four-year reform plan

This latest overhaul of the NRC aims to boost engagement, restore lost morale.

The National Research Council of Canada will set up a postdoctoral program, appoint a chief scientific adviser and establish a president’s research excellence committee as part of the lat-est round of reforms at the agency. The four-year reform plan, the result of a year-long “dialogue” with NRC staff initiated in August 2016 by the agency’s new president, Iain Stewart, includes spending $20 million over three years on new scientific equipment and improved computing and data storage. The plan was posted on the agency’s website this past fall. Read more in University Affairs.

Obsession with novelty sidelines deeper learning

Too much focus on generating new ideas in science is driving the replication crisis.

An overemphasis on novelty has meant that funders and journal editors are neglecting the equally important work of revisiting old problems, says molecular biologist, Barak Cohen, at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “If we always have to be finding something new to get funding or credit, it’s harder to pursue something in depth.”

Cohen set out his case in an opinion article in the journal eLife this year, calling for a renewed emphasis on research that validates existing ideas, deepens understanding, and improves predictive power. Read more in Nature Index.

Automated software saves researchers valuable hours

Online tools are lightening the load for authors and journal editors.

An international partnership is developing online tools that could save authors and journal editors hours in manuscript checking, while ensuring, with the help of peer review, that published science is high-quality, replicable, and useful. Read more in Nature Index.

Canada’s New Arctic Research Facility Prepares to Open

The Canadian High Arctic Research Station in Cambridge Bay will serve as a base for scientists studying everything from the region’s changing cryosphere to how to best deploy renewable energy projects in northern communities.

THIS OCTOBER, AS winter begins to draw near in the Canadian Arctic, a new research facility will finally open its doors.

The Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, has been 10 years in the making. First announced by the government in 2007, construction on the C$200 million (US$165 million) facility began in 2014 and should be completed by next year – but the official grand opening is set for October, to coincide with Canada’s 150th birthday year. Read more in Arctic Deeply.

Mapping the spread of predators and prey

Bogus journals and their victims are widespread, study finds.

The advent of open-access publishing has made scientific literature more accessible, but it has also given rise to ‘predatory’ publishers — shady outfits that will reproduce just about anything that resembles a research paper, without the safeguards of peer review or quality editorial standards.

David Moher, a clinical epidemiologist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in Canada, and his colleagues, set out to find where these journals come from, and who gets duped into paying them. Read more in Nature Index.

Federal government getting pressed on many sides to adopt Naylor report

Researchers, university administrators, students and others across Canada rally in an unprecedented effort to ensure the government doesn’t ignore the report’s recommendations.

Canada’s academic community has launched a full court press to encourage the government to adopt the recommendations of the report of Canada’s Fundamental Science Review panel, also known as the Naylor report.

The report, requested by Science Minister Kirsty Duncan in June 2016, was drawn up by a panel led by former University of Toronto president David Naylor and released this past April. It found that Canada has been falling behind its international peers in science in recent years, and recommended a major increase in funding for basic, investigator-led research. The panel’s recommendations, if fully implemented, would see annual federal spending on research-related activities increase from approximately $3.5 billion to $4.8 billion over four years. Read more in University Affairs.

Cybersecurity for the travelling scientist

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.