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Watercooler Review


To Collins or Not to Collins

In early July, President Obama nominated Francis Collins to head the NIH. Collins is known both for his 15-year tenure as head of the NHGRI and for his Christian faith. While the nonprofit health advocacy group Genetic Alliance applauds the choice, the blogosphere worries that Collins might let his religion influence how he runs the funding organization. At Pharyngula, PZ Myers is sure that Collins will "drape Jesus over every major announcement," while at The Tree of Life, Jonathan Eisen thinks Collins will do the job well but has "mixed feelings." Josh Witten at The Rugbyologist defends Obama's choice: "Collins is definitely not perfect, but we could do, and have done, a lot worse," he says.

Recovering from Challenge Grants

As part of the Recovery Act, NIH designated at least $200 million for Challenge Grants — and received approximately 20,000 applications. DrugMonkey commented on the actual application, which was a lot different from the typical NIH grant application, and wondered how applicants would manage. At Medical Writing, Editing & Grantsmanship, Michelle Kienholz tackled the lengthy four-stage review process, which came to an end in late July, asking readers for feedback and to "consolidate and commiserate" about their experiences. Now that the applications have been ranked, NIH still has to determine which will be funded — word has it that only 1 percent will be given the go-ahead, according to a recent story in Nature.

Really, Elsevier?

Elsevier's back in the doghouse. Following on the heels of the Merck fake journals fiasco — with Merck money, Elsevier published a fake medical journal, in addition to possibly 50 more, according to blog posts at The Scientist and Bibliographic Universe — the publisher is in another jam. At his In the Pipeline blog, Derek Lowe points to news that an Elsevier employee sent an e-mail to contributors to a psychology textbook, offering rewards for positive reviews. Elsevier's director of corporate relations took it back, saying that it was "a poorly written e-mail" that did not reflect company policy. "In all instances the request should be unbiased, with no incentives for a positive review, and that's where this particular e-mail went too far," he said.

Working Hard?

Bloggers discussed how much time the average scientist spends working. Dr. Mom, unlike many of her colleagues, isn't ashamed of working smart; she sticks to her 40 hours per week, claiming that "long hours take the joy out of science and discovery," she says at her blog, Dr. Mom, My Adventures as a Mommy-Scientist. However, Mike at Mike the Mad Biologist thinks that some scientists do it not to impress others, but because they like it. Other reasons are time management problems, inadequate support staff, and lack of managerial support. "Just to be clear, there are times when you have to work long hours — looming grant deadlines, something unexpectedly comes up, and so on. But there's also a lot of bad behavior at various levels too," he writes.

The Scan

Not Immediately Told

The US National Institutes of Health tells lawmakers that one of its grantees did not immediately report that it had developed a more infectious coronavirus, Science says.

Seems Effective in Kids

The Associated Press reports that the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for children appears to be highly effective at preventing symptomatic disease.

Intelligence Warning on Bioeconomy Threats

US intelligence warns over China's focus on technologies and data related to the bioeconomy, the New York Times reports.

PLOS Papers on Campylobacteriosis Sources, Inherited Retinal Dystrophies, Liver Cancer Prognosis

In PLOS this week: approach to uncover source of Campylobacteriosis, genetic risk factors for inherited retinal dystrophies, and more.