Archive by category | Science Policy

The business of universities

Universities are strange two-headed beasts: they are places where much of the research we publish is conducted, but they are also educational institutes, whose job is to train students (not all of whom go on to become scientists, or necessarily contribute to the research side of the enterprise). Added to the mix now is that many universities are now effectively businesses, having to provide their own operating revenues in the face of tighter funding.  Read more

The science of dignity

A recent Nature news article regarding the latest battle on the animal research front takes us to Switzerland. There, the University of Zurich and another research institute are taking a case to the Swiss Supreme Court arguing against the rulings of a lower court, which banned two primate-based experiments that had been approved by the Swiss National Science Foundation. The proposed experiments were said to potentially offend the dignity of the animals, according to an external advisory board, overruling a decision by the veterinary office (responsible for animal welfare) who allowed the experiments to proceed.  Read more

Big Pharma and academia becoming more and more cozy

I recently attended the Alzheimer’s Disease Keystone meeting in Keystone, CO and became more acutely aware of something than ever before: academia and drug companies really like one another. Sure, the latter always loved the former, since collaborating with university-based scientists often made the publications arising from the private sector look a little more legit. On the contrary, the reciprocity in this relationship has not always been there. There is without a doubt some sub-disciplinary differences in this complex relationship, but in the basic science departments that I lurked around, if you were associated with a company (or worse, left academia for a position there, succumbing to the power of the Dark Side), there was always talk of whether or not you could be trusted.  Read more

What to do with your unfunded proposals – place them in a centralized repository?

I would say no. Grant proposals are a precious commodity, especially in this day and age of reduced funding and evaporating money. However, in a recent Nature correspondence, Dr. Noam Harel describes his vision for a centralized grant repository, ideally open to the public, where researchers could place their best ideas, allowing various funding agencies to discover the plans most-suited to their respective agendas. Dr. Harel likens this potential web manifestation to something like eBay, Facebook or Google, but for scientists and funding agencies. A more apt analogy might be Monster.com, with both sides searching for their ideal match, and a long-term relationship (perhaps I am now making it sound more like eHarmony.com…).  Read more

Haihong Ye: Amazing changes in Chinese neuroscience over the past decade

[This is the inaugural post for a new feature at Action Potential. Periodically, we will provide insights from a regional correspondent on the interesting news, changes, or issues particularly affecting neuroscience in a particular location. Today’s post is from one of our Asian correspondents, Haihong Ye of the Institute for Biophysics in the Chinese Academy of Sciences. She reflects on the dramatic changes that have occurred within Chinese neuroscience during her decade-long absence from this now-flourishing community. We examined these issues in our March editorial, but now invite you to provide your opinion. – N.G.]  … Read more

Brain doping

Anyone who follows the sports world is well-aware of the concept of doping, in which athletes participate to establish an edge over the competition. This goes back a long ways and includes more famous examples like the East German Olympic machine, and the sprinter Ben Johnson, but also the more recent examples of Todd Landis, Marion Jones and, of course, Barry Bonds.  Read more