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Around the Web: January 14, 2011

Wow, 2011. I’m still not used to typing that. I’ll stop marveling at the new year soon, I promise.

Anyway, here’s a tour around the web this week for career- and career development-related items of note:

*This week’s Science has an editorial, Boosting Minorities in Science, from Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “Because the

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minority groups underrepresented in science and engineering are the most rapidly growing in the U.S. population, the country must develop strategies to harness this resource to grow a robust science and engineering workforce and remain globally competitive,” he writes. One place to start is to focus on retention of minority students who start, but don’t finish, science and science-related degrees. Another is to focus on mentoring.

*A group of HHMI-funded investigators write an Education Forum this week called Changing the Culture of Science Education at Research Universities. “To establish an academic culture that encourages science faculty to be equally committed to their teaching and research missions, universities must more broadly and effectively recognize, reward, and support the efforts of researchers who are also excellent and dedicated teachers,” they write. They then propose 7 ways in which universities can accomplish this.

*Teachers, check out this report on an intervention that improved test scores: Researchers asked college and high school students to write about their anxiety about taking an exam before taking the exam. These students ended up performing better on the exam itself than a control group that didn’t complete a writing exercise. You can listen to a podcast interview with the author.

As usual, the fine folks at Science Insider have been busy:

*The National Research Council issued a report calling for the National Institutes of Health to “maintain or even increase the number of graduate students and postdocs it supports,” Jocelyn Kaiser reports. Recommendations include increasing the postdoc stipend to $45,000 per year and increasing the Medical Scientist Training Program to train M.D.-Ph.D.s by 20%.

Other Science Insider items of note:

*This week’s issue of Nature has a news feature that looks at the state of science in Romania and Bulgaria, both of which joined the European Union in 2007 and, according to the article, occupy positions at the bottom of the league tables for research expenditure and output. “Romanian scientists working outside the country say that the changes give them hope of some day being able to continue their research careers back home. Meanwhile, the Bulgarian diaspora despairs,” Alison Abbott reports. Also see our recent article on nearby Turkey, which apparently is doing quite a bit better.  

*In his World View column in Nature, Colin Macilwain writes about how universities are faring in the era of tight budgets. “While governments defend research spending, they are simultaneously slashing public funding for universities, where most research takes place,” he writes.

*Nature Jobs this week takes a look at scientists with disabilities.

*This week’s PLoS Computational Biology features an editorial from Philip E. Bourne, of the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science at the University of California San Diego, called Ten Simple Rules for Getting Ahead as a Computational Biologist in Academia. “This is not just about you, but an opportunity to educate a broad committee on what is important in our field. Use that opportunity well, for it will serve future generations of computational biologists,” he writes.

*For those interested in clinical and translational research, the organization FasterCures has issued a white paper called Crossing Over the Valley of Death, which emphasizes the importance of translational research in the drug development process. The report also identifies some of the major challenges in translational research and offers some solutions.

*As always, there are many insightful posts in the blogosphere about science career development. This week I’ll point you to just one: How to Ask For Help on the American Chemical Society blog. This is an important topic, and, as Lisa Balbes (who has written for Science Careers) points out, it’s one many of us are not very good at. “Building your own professional network, one person at a time, will hold you in good stead when you next need to ask for help.  And knowing what to ask for will make it easy for them to help you find it,” Balbes writes.

*Last but not least, check out the new articles on Science Careers. First up is a profile of veterinarian-scientist Laura Richman, whose research at the National Zoo ultimately led her to become interested in human translational medicine. Now she’s in charge of translational science R&D at a biotech company. Her story is an excellent illustration that career paths can lead in unexpected directions and that, rather than worrying about following in the footsteps of people before you, you should focus on following your interests and passions.

*We’ve also got a historical perspective on two African-American brothers who were chemists during the 1930s-1960s. Larry and William Knox achieved success despite discrimination against them. “Perhaps the strongest message of all is that science moves forward via the contributions of many scientists of all stripes, not only the great names — a fact that a proper reading of the history of science must acknowledge,” the authors write.