Scientists Brace for a Lost Generation in American Research

Read the full story in the Atlantic.

The work of a scientist is often unglamorous. Behind every headline-making, cork-popping, blockbuster discovery, there are many lifetimes of work. And that work is often mundane. We’re talking drips-of-solution-into-a-Petri-dish mundane, maintaining-a-database mundane. Usually, nothing happens.

Scientific discovery costs money—quite a lot of it over time—and requires dogged commitment from the people devoted to advancing their fields. Now, the funding uncertainty that has chipped away at the nation’s scientific efforts for more than a decade is poised to get worse.

A grim budget day for U.S. science: analysis and reaction to Trump’s plan

Read the full story in Science.

President Donald Trump rolled out his first budget request to Congress today. It is for the 2018 fiscal year that begins on 1 October. It calls for deep cuts to some federal science agencies (read our initial coverage to get some of the numbers), and is likely to draw fierce opposition from the scientific community and many lawmakers in Congress.

ScienceInsider is providing analysis and reaction to the budget all day.

Come back to see our latest items (most recent at the top).

Science Funding Prioritizes Past Success—and That’s a Problem

Read the full story at Pacific Standard.

In an era awash in data, scientists have begun to analyze something they’ve never really looked at before: science itself. Abstract though that may sound, the science of science could have an oddly practical application, at least in theory—namely, providing funding agencies like the National Science Foundation with a better idea of which research proposals will work and which won’t. That objective takes on special significance, what with the future of science in the United States decidedly uncertain—but it probably won’t work, a new essay argues. Indeed, insisting otherwise could hinder the progress of scientific research.

Democratic databases: science on GitHub

Read the full story at Nature.

Launched in 2008 to assist software developers, GitHub now boasts some 15 million users and is an increasingly popular site for researchers to share, maintain and update scientific data sets and code (see ‘Growing influence of GitHub’). GitHub is “the biggest revelation in my workflow … since I started writing code”, says Daniel Falster, a postdoctoral researcher in ecology at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. “When we started using GitHub, it was just amazing. We now use it in everything that we do.” Falster’s Biomass and Allometry Database, which aggregates various measures of plant size from 176 studies, is stored on the site. So is the Open Tree of Life project, which aims to compile different published phylogenies to build one master ‘tree of life’. It uses GitHub to store data files and publication records, and to accept new data sets from third parties.

The Impact Formula: New Evidence on the Factors that Lead to Breakthroughs

Read the full post at Study Hacks.

Earlier this month, a group of researchers from Albert-Laszlo Barabasi’s circle of network scientists published an important paper in the journal Science. Its nondescript title,  “Quantifying the evolution of individual scientific impact,” obfuscates its exciting content: a massive big-data study that dissects the publication careers of over 2800 physicists to determine the combination of factors that best predicts their probability of publishing high impact papers.

How much can studies of one region tell us about another?

Read the full story at EnvironmentalResearchWeb.

What similarities does a windswept field of wheat in Western Siberia share with a wheat crop in the midwestern US “corn belt”? Will fertilizers produce comparable yield increases for both fields? Will the irrigation methods used by American farmers work for Russians too? And what impact would government farming subsidies have in each of these places?

Many land-based research projects are specific to a small region, but now a study has developed a method to match up similar land-types around the world, enabling researchers to transfer the benefits of their local knowledge to a multitude of sites.

Scientists of the Corn

Read the full post from U.S. EPA.

Wandering through a corn field, you might find stillness, quiet, order, perhaps a tassel-lined sky. At our corn field at the Oregon State University Vegetable Research Farm, you will find a hydraulic drill and a team of EPA staff from Oklahoma’s Ground Water and Ecosystems Restoration Division.  The crew brought two hydraulic drills in a semi-truck to Corvallis, Oregon, to bring to life a study that had taken a year to plan.

I met them at the corn field, armed with pastries and the excitement of knowing that all the planning, site searching, relationship building, corn planting, and a host of other activities had been successful. The results of the study will help us understand how nitrate moves into groundwater.