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Over the Hill?

There has always been a "peak" to most resources — we use them until they're too hard to get or until we're draining them faster than they can be renewed. But, NeuroDojo's Zen Faulkes asks, could there also be "peak science?" Is there a point at which we can no longer do more science, and have we already reached it? The notion that research has been "topped out" may seem "completely absurd" at first, Faulkes says, particularly coming from a biologist's point of view, where there are interesting and "worthwhile" questions being asked every day that are now more "potentially solvable" than at any other time in history. But, he adds, "perceptions can be dangerous. People used to say, 'There's plenty of fish in the sea' before fishery after fishery collapsed." There are signs that could cause concern, Faulkes says — the decline in support for public funding of science, the "disenfranchisement" of junior researchers, the continually mounting administrative hoops researchers are required to jump through in order to get permission and money to do their work, and the increasing need for bigger and more complex technology to answer all the questions being asked. Each of these is a problem in and of itself, but combined together, they can start to limit scientific output. There are areas of growth, like internet research and crowd-sourced science, but if basic research is to survive and continue to grow, Faulkes says, it's up to scientists to come up with "better ideas."

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.