science

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.

A scientist elected to Canada’s Parliament shares his hopes as Trudeau prepares to take power

One scientist will be among the new faces in the 338-member House of Commons: Richard Cannings, a bird biologist, author, and former curator of the vertebrate museum at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Cannings, a member of Canada’s left-of-center New Democratic Party (NDP), will represent British Columbia’s (BC’s) South Okanagan—West Kootenay riding, or district. The NDP now holds the third-largest number of seats in Parliament, behind the Liberals and the Conservatives.

Cannings recently took a break from a Sunday afternoon mayonnaise-making session to talk with ScienceInsider about how he hopes to improve the lot of science and environmental issues during his time in Ottawa. Read more in Science.

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.

Scientists are citizens, too

One of the common themes at last week’s Canadian Science Policy Conference in Halifax was the role of scientific evidence in policymaking, and specifically how scientists should go about providing it.

I was disappointed to hear several of the politicians and policymakers – and no small number of scientists – repeat the same tired mantra that researchers should just provide data, and keep their nose out of the politics. Read more on Science Borealis.