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Salary Surveys and the Stimulus, Protein Nomenclature Problems, Lee Hood's Systems Biology Challenge


Last year's June issue of Genome Technology marked our seventh annual salary survey. At a time when even tenured academics had begun to fear for their job security amid a deepening global recession, our editors "breathed a sigh of relief" when they saw that only 3 percent of more than 1,450 survey respondents indicated that they had lost their jobs — especially considering that 42 percent of the respondents witnessed layoffs at their organizations. Those that were fortunate enough to stay employed, however, did see some changes: respondents indicated that they took on additional responsibilities, worked longer hours, and attended fewer conferences.

On a more favorable financial note, by June 2009, research funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act began to evoke a revival within the community. Michelle Kienholz, a scientist administrator at the University of Pittsburgh, discussed ARRA opportunities — including the much talked-about Challenge Grant, which drew more than 20,000 applications, compared with the 27,360 R01 applications received by the Center for Scientific Review in all of 2008 — and shifting priorities throughout the National Institutes of Health. "Applicants should propose to hire new people ... and spend the money quickly so as to jumpstart not only their science, but also the economy," Kienholz noted. While the majority of ARRA funding has since been allocated, the economic effect of the science stimulus is yet to be fully seen.

Five years ago, Informatics Insider columnist Ron Beavis, now the Canada research chair in bioinformatics at the University of British Columbia's Biomedical Research Centre, expressed a need for improved protein nomenclature. The years since saw the debut of the J. Craig Venter Institute's Protein Naming Utility, a "database for storing and applying naming rules to identify and correct syntactically incorrect protein names, or to replace synonyms with their preferred name," as the project's grant abstract put it.

In June 2005, GT reported that the Institute for Systems Biology's Lee Hood had been chosen to give the first-ever Irving Weinstein Foundation Distinguished Lecture at the American Association for Cancer Research's annual meeting. In his talk, Hood challenged attendees to become involved in systems biology in an effort to combat cancer. This year's Weinstein lecturer, Robert Tijan of the University of California, Berkeley, echoed that thought. If the cancer "machinery is changing as much as we think it is," he told 2010 attendees, then it's likely time to adopt a comprehensive systems approach.

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