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This Week in Science: Aug 6, 2010

In Science this week, Yale University's Celina Juliano and Brown University's Gary Wessel discuss the versatility of germline genes in some less well-studied animal species. "Traditionally classified 'germline genes' may have a broader role in development than originally anticipated," Juliano and Wessel write, adding that "in some taxa, germline genes appear to specify a multipotent cell lineage during embryogenesis, the fates of which include both somatic cells and the germ line." In reviewing the literature, the authors suggest that the germline molecular program may have originated in multipotent cells, "and was subsequently co-opted by more specialized, embryonic germ cells," though further investigations are required to support this hypothesis.

In a perspectives piece in this week's issue of Science, Lawrence Wilkinson at Cardiff University describes the implications of two studies that examine parent-of-origin allelic expression in the mouse brain, published online in advance in July. "In both studies, [Christoper] Gregg et al. used a combination of 'new generation' sequencing methods for high-resolution screening of the transcriptome ... in mouse brain tissue, and a model that allowed them to identify whether gene expression was from the male or female parental allele," Wilkinson writes, adding that the take-home message of both studies is that "parental bias in gene expression constitutes a major component of epigenetic regulation in the mammalian brain."

Writing in response to an editorial on helping young scientists that was published in Science in April, Eleftherios Diamandis at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto suggests that the reason young scientists are underrepresented in societal awards is because they "haven't yet produced high-impact work or that their recent discoveries need time to mature and make an impact." Diamandias opines that "academies for young scientists," as proposed by the authors of the April editorial, "are not only unnecessary, but may damage the careers of highly promising young scientists." Diamandias suggests that most senior scientists "have a genuine interest in promoting the careers of younger scientists and not ... in grabbing their resources or stealing their societal recognition."

In a reply to Diamandis' letter, the authors of original editorial suggest that "his message — focus on science — runs contrary to the interests of young scientists and the broader scientific community," and add that "of greater concern are more mundane forms of recognition, such as societal leaders understanding and emphasizing the importance of young scientists for the well-being of the country, as well as academic freedom, independence, job security, and decent pay for talented young researchers." In upholding their proposition of a Young Academies movement, Tilman Brück and colleagues write that "involving young scientists early in their career will help improve science's impact on society."

Science is polling its readers on this, asking "how much time should the next generation of young scientists devote to nonresearch activities?" Readers are asked to cast their votes, here.

The Scan

Highly Similar

Researchers have uncovered bat viruses that are highly similar to SARS-CoV-2, according to Nature News.

Gain of Oversight

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Biden Administration is considering greater oversight of gain-of-function research.

Lasker for mRNA Vaccine Work

The Scientist reports that researchers whose work enabled the development of mRNA-based vaccines are among this year's Lasker Award winners

PLOS Papers on Causal Variant Mapping, Ancient Salmonella, ALK Fusion Test for NSCLC

In PLOS this week: MsCAVIAR approach to map causal variants, analysis of ancient Salmonella, and more.