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The National Research Foundation (NRF) in Singapore is inviting scientists under 40 years of age to apply for a generous fellowship to carry out independent research in the country.

The Singapore NRF Fellowships offer tenure-track faculty positions that come with a salary package equivalent to that of a local assistant professor and a research grant of up to $2.4 million over 5 years. These are individual fellowships, so researchers get to choose the host institution; NRF Fellows will be able to lead their own teams at the institution of their choice, as long as it's in Singapore. Shortlisted candidates will be invited in January to visit local research organizations for a week, before the final interview, so they may discuss support for their research and choose potential host institutions.

Now in its sixth round, the Fellowship scheme welcomes research proposals in computer science, all branches of engineering, medicine, life sciences, and natural/physical sciences. To apply you must have a Ph.D. and postdoctoral experience. Scientists of all nationalities are eligible.

More information about the scheme and how to apply can be found on the NRF Web site.

Deadline for application: 15 August 2012. The announcement of short-listed candidates will be no later than 30 November 2012.

Gregg Treinish, a man whose hiking credentials include a stroll along most of the Andes, took part in the Appalachian Trail Days event last weekend with an unusual sense of purpose. On a previous hike, he "felt selfish and ... realized that was a shared feeling amongst hikers and mountaineers," Treinish says.  That feeling, together with a stint studying wildlife biology at Montana State University, gave him an original idea: to offer adventurers the opportunity to share with scientists something that even those who travel light routinely take with them on their adventures: their eyes and ears. Now, wherever he goes, Treinish recruits fellow adventurers for his new organization, Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ACS).

Plenty of researchers seek to include helpful citizens in their projects, as I wrote last year for Science Careers ("Collaborating with Citizen Scientists"), but ACS, launched in November 2010, may be the first dedicated matchmaker, removing some of the recruiting burden from scientists.

Anuradha Lohia, CEO of the India Alliance, will lead a series of seminars next month in the U.S. on biomedical, clinical, and public health research opportunities for postdocs in India. The India Alliance is a partnership between India's Department of Biotechnology and the Wellcome Trust in the United Kingdom, formed in 2008.

Lohia's seminars begin on 2 June at NIH in Bethesda, Maryland, and end on 17 June at MIT in Cambridge Massachusetts. Other stops on her tour include Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, U.C. San Francisco, and Columbia University in New York. Event locations, dates, times, and registration forms are found on the India Alliance Web site.

The India Alliance offers fellowships for new and established postdocs, as well as more senior researchers. Applicants do not need to be Indian nationals. Early and intermediate fellowship applicants do not need to be resident in India at the time of application.

A new summer internship program allows U.S. undergraduate students -- and Indonesian students enrolled in U.S. degree programs -- to study, live, and work in Indonesia while learning about the administration of not-for-profit organizations.  The internships include positions in fields such as environmental protection and public health.

The Freeman Indonesia Nonprofit Internship Program is a 9-week educational opportunity that stretches from 15 June through 17 August 2010. The program includes a unique partnership feature, where 10 Indonesian students seeking degrees at U.S. colleges will be paired with 10 U.S. undergraduates. Interns will live in the cities of Jakarta, Bandung, or Yogyakarta and be immersed in Indonesian culture.

Awardees will gain real-world experience working in an Indonesian not-for-profit organization.  U.S. students are required to complete a credit-bearing Indonesian language and culture course in Indonesia during the internship. Indonesian students are required to complete an online course related to nongovernmental organization administration. Once American students return to the United States, they are expected to share their experiences with others, and find ways to incorporate the skills that they learned into their careers.

Arranged by the Institute of International Education (IIE) and Indonesian International Education Foundation, the program is open to U.S. and Indonesian citizens who are enrolled as full-time sophomores or juniors in U.S. degree programs. Applicants should be pursuing their first bachelor's degrees at U.S. colleges or universities. All program-related expenses will be covered.  

The deadline for applications to the Freeman Indonesia Nonprofit Internship Program is 15 February 2010. Visit GrantsNet or the Institute of International Education's Web site for more information.

The number of science and engineering students from abroad jumped 20% at American institutions in the 2008-09 academic year, with the biggest gains recorded in engineering and computer science. Science and engineering students now comprise about half of all international students in the U.S. and nearly two-thirds of international graduate students.

According to the Open Doors survey, conducted annually by the Institute of International Education (IIE, funded by the U.S. Department of State), the number of science and engineering students increased from about 267,000 in the 2007-08 academic year to about 319,000 in 2008-09, an increase of nearly 20%.  That's about half (48%) of the 671,600 international students in the United States in 2008-09, up from 43% of the total in the previous year.

Except for agriculture, international students in all the scientific and engineering categories increased by double-digit percentages in 2008-09. Engineering and computer/information science students increased by about a quarter (24%), while life, physical, social, and health science disciplines all increased between 14-17%. The number of agricultural students from abroad stayed about the same as in 2007-08.

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Nearly two-thirds (65%) of international graduate students at American universities during the 2008-09 study science or engineering. About a quarter (24%) of international graduate students are in engineering programs and 13% of international graduate students are in the physical and life sciences. About 11% of international graduate students are studying mathematics or computer science,  and 9% of international graduate students are in the social sciences.

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About 4 in 10 international undergraduates are in science or engineering programs. Some 12% of international undergrads are studying engineering, while nearly 1 in 10 (9%) are majoring in the social sciences. About 5-7% each are in undergraduate physical/life science, mathematics/computer science, or health programs.

Overall, the number of international students in the U.S. increased by nearly 8% in 2008-09, to 671,600. Of the total, about 41% come from India, China, or South Korea. The number of students from China increased by about 21% year over year. Vietnamese students increased by 46%, to about 12,800, compared to 2007-08 -- the largest increase for any country. (IIE did not provide country breakdowns by field of study.)


One lesson gained from Michael Moore's film Sicko, and from this year's health care debate, is that Americans can learn a lot about health care from other countries. Now, the Commonwealth Fund offers fellowships in health care policy for experts from Europe and elsewhere to come to America, learn, and teach.

The Harkness Fellowships in Health Care Policy offer an opportunity for mid-career health-services researchers and practitioners from Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom to travel to the United States to conduct research on health policy and share what they discover.

Awardees receive up to $107,000 to spend 9-12 months working with U.S. health policy experts. After completing their research, awardees will publish their findings in a peer-reviewed journal or a report for policy-makers. The Commonwealth Fund hopes that these reports will provide a mix of health care ideas that have worked in other countries that can be combined with a U.S. health care strategy. The foundation expects the research to contribute to a system that provides Americans with better health care options.      

The Commonwealth Fund is a New York-based foundation that promotes the development of a health care system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency for all people, particularly the most vulnerable: people with low-incomes, the uninsured, minority Americans, young children, and elderly adults.

The deadline for applications is 15 September. More information about the Harkness Fellowships in Health Care Policy, is available on GrantsNet and the Commonwealth Fund Web site.

- Donisha Adams

Donisha Adams is the GrantsNet Program Associate for Science Careers.

For the first time in 5 years, admission offers from American universities to foreign grad students--including science and engineering students--dropped compared to the year before. Grad-school applications from foreign students increased slightly for the 2009-2010 academic year, but the increase was the smallest since 2005. These findings come from a Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) survey released last week.

The number of applications from foreign students rose 6% in social sciences and psychology, but life sciences applications remained flat and physical sciences, earth sciences, and engineering applications rose just 2-3%. In 2005 and 2006, these fields recorded double-digit increases in applications.

U.S. graduate schools offered fewer admissions to these students, a trend reflected in most other disciplines as well. While the number of offers to social science and psychology students increased by 1%, offers to life science students dropped by 1%, and engineering, physical science, and earth science offers dropped 4% in 2009. Overall, the number of offers to foreign grad students was down 3% compared to 2008.
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The number of grad-school applications from South Korea and India were both down 16%  in 2009. Applications from China, and from Turkey and the Middle Eastern countries, were up by double-digits over 2008. Offers to Chinese grad students increased 13% in 2009. For students from Middle Eastern countries and Turkey, offers rose 10%. . The survey report does not give data on students from Europe or the other American countries.

Universities with the largest numbers of foreign grad students continued to offer more foreign science and engineering students positions in their graduate departments. The 25 institutions with the largest foreign-student enrollments made 10% more admission offers to engineering and life science students from overseas in 2009, while social science and psychology offers increased by 5%. For foreign physical and earth science students, the number of offers barely increased (a 1% gain). For institutions with smaller numbers of foreign students enrolled, the numbers of offers were either flat or declined in 2009.

CGS conducted this survey in June, the second of three surveys of international graduate students conducted each year. The first survey in February provides a snapshot of initial applications. The last survey, in October, assesses foreign-student enrollments.





Today's New York Times tells how some recent American college graduates are finding better job prospects in Shanghai and Beijing than in Chicago and Birmingham. Chinese employers apparently value the Americans' entrepreneurial attitudes and practices, which, they say, are not often found in Chinese workers.

China has so far weathered the global recession better than the United States, and the job market there is not nearly as dire. As China's total economic growth rate (measured by the Gross Domestic Product or GDP) declined to 7.9% in the last quarter, the United States suffered through a 1% decrease in GDP. Unemployment in China's urban areas is reported at 4.3%, less than half of the U.S. rate of 9.4%.

A Science Careers feature in December 2006 outlined many scientific opportunities in China, but according to the Times, it's American business skills and attitudes Chinese employers now want to tap into. The story quotes a partner in the Shanghai branch of McKinsey and Company, an international consulting firm, who says that more young Americans are coming to China to take part in the country's entrepreneurial boom, particularly in the energy sphere, a field where graduates with science and engineering degrees often have an advantage.

Americans, the article says, are more likely tan their Chinese counterparts to take initiative, a trait observers quoted in the article attribute to the differences in education systems. In the United States, students have more incentives to experiment and take risks, while Chinese students are encouraged more to defer to their instructors.

Jason Misium, a recent Harvard graduate with a degree in in biology, has started an academic consulting business that helps Chinese who want to study in the United States. Misium tells the Times he found it easy to start a business in China, financed with his own savings.

Apparently, Americans find career progression more rapid in China, compared to the more sluggish United States. A 23-year old graduate of Barnard College in urban studies, recently hired as program director of a dance company in Beijing, tells the Times, "There is no doubt that China is an awesome place to jump-start your career. Back in the U.S., I would be intern No. 3 at some company or selling tickets at Lincoln Center."

The technology trade magazine Information Week reports that some 20,000 H-1B visas, used to bring high-skilled temporary workers to the United States, are still available for the current fiscal year. Immigration law sets an annual quota of 65,000 H-1B visas, and to date the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has received 44,900 visa petitions.

That number--65,000--applies to skilled workers at any level of educational attainment. A separate quota of 20,000, reserved for foreign nationals with advanced degrees from U.S. institutions, was met soon after they became available in April 2009.   In the 2 previous years, the quota for all H-1B visas, requested by companies seeking to hire skilled foreign staff, was met within a few days.

One reason for the lower demand may be sharp cut-backs by Indian outsourcing companies. Infosys, an Indian technology company with a large outsourcing business, told the Business Standard newspaper that it has filed 405 visa applications so far this year, well down from 4,800 the company requested last year. The newspaper says Infosys's two main competitors, Wipro and TCS, are also believed to have asked for far fewer H-1B visas, but the companies did not divulge any numbers.

The H-1B program has recently come under increasing scrutiny, with support for the program diminishing on Capitol Hill.  

An article published last week by The Scientist looks at the short- and long-term consequences of scientific misconduct on the careers of those who perpetrated it.

In Life After Fraud, three scientists give their versions of the facts that led the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI) to declare them guilty of scientific fraud. These scientists were barred from applying for federal funds for up to 5 years, and their names appeared in official documents together with details of their wrongdoings.

While guilty scientists have their names removed from official blacklists once they've paid their dues, remaining traces of their wrongdoings on the Internet keep haunting them long afterwards. All three scientists in the article managed to stay in science, but they had to deal with a tarnished reputation, which sometimes led employers to withdraw job offers after doing a Google search.

In an accompanying editorial, The Scientist's editor and publisher Richard Gallagher finds that "the current ORI procedure for the investigation of fraud seems fair. And the range of penalties for the guilty look, if anything, too lenient." But Gallagher argues that scientists found guilty of scientific misconduct suffer harsher penalties than intended. "A debarment from receiving federal funds for 3 years can effectively turn into a life sentence for researchers, permanently shutting down opportunities and eliminating career advancement," he writes. Gallagher makes a controversial call for a new system of dealing with fraud that also allows the rehabilitation of offenders.

 

Biology doctoral student, blogger, and Science Careers Facebook fan Danielle Lee points us to a competition that gives the winner an all-expenses-paid trip to Antarctica. The contest offers bloggers--Danielle is one of the contestants--a chance to post an essay on why they deserve to win the voyage. Visitors to the site vote on who they believe most deserves to go.

Quark Expeditions is holding the contest. The company says it has conducted commercial polar expeditions since 1991. Bloggers must post their essays, no longer than 300 words, on the Quark Expeditions site. The contestant who receives the most votes and a companion will receive a free cruise in February 2010 on one of Quark Expedition's vessels, plus round-trip air travel to Ushuaia, Argentina, where the ship departs.   

So far, 188 hopefuls have entered. A quick review of the entries shows that many science students and early-career scientists from around the world have signed up, as well as environmentalists of all ages. The competition opened on 19 June and continues to 30 September. Registration with the site is required for voting.

Up to this year, National Science Foundation (NSF) offered artists and writers opportunities to visit Antarctica, but that program has been put on hold. Here's last year's GrantsNet entry describing the program. NSF hopes to continue it after 2010. 

A new study finds a strong correlation between hidden or unconscious stereotypes that link males with science and mathematics to higher achievement among males in those fields. The findings, by University of Virginia psychology professor Brain Nosek, are published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study matches data from two independent databases, one on common biases and the other on science/math achievement. The first database, dubbed Project Implicit, examines hidden, unspoken stereotypes lurking among people in all walks of life, even those who consider themselves fair and open-minded. The project gathers data on gender, race, age, religion, and other social stereotypes and has collected data on the attitudes of more than 4.5 million people worldwide. Project Implicit has used Web-based questionnaires for data collection since 1998.

Nosek and his team matched the Project Implicit data to the achievement results in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). TIMSS gathers achievement data from 4th and 8th grade students worldwide. The latest TIMSS effort collected achievement results in 2007 on 8th grade students in 48 countries and 4th grade students in 36 countries.

Using the TIMSS 8th grade data, Nosek found that 70 percent of the Project Implicit participants in 34 countries with TIMSS  results hold implicit stereotypes connecting science and math to males more than females. And in those countries where the stereotypes were most pronounced, the gender differences in test scores were also more pronounced.

Project Implicit asks respondents to quickly associated male terms (e.g., he, father, son) or female terms (she, mother, daughter) with science terms (physics, chemistry, biology) or liberal arts (literature, history, arts). Most participants associated science terms with male terms rather than with female terms. The study also found these implicit connections at about the same rate among male and female respondents.

Nosek used data collected by Project Implicit from July 2000 through July 2008. The Gender-Science Implicit Association Test is one of the several demonstration tests on the Project Implicit site, if you want to test your own potential biases.

At a news conference by the Technology Policy Institute (TPI) last week, which was organized to build support for increasing high-skilled immigration to the United States, a key congressional backer of increased immigration for highly skilled workers put a damper on the audience's expectations.

American companies can now hire up to 65,000 foreign workers with H-1B visas. Another 20,000 H-1B visas are set aside for graduates of U.S. universities with advanced degrees. Supporters think these limits need to be revised upwards, while critics blame the H-1B program for low wages in high-tech jobs, among other sins.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who represents Silicon Valley, gave the keynote speech at the 10 March 2009 meeting and immediately dampened hopes for lifting the caps on H-1B visas for high-skilled workers. Lofgren said she shares the opinion that increasing the numbers of immigrants with advanced degrees in engineering and science has benefits for the United States. "Anybody who wants to build our economy and grow our jobs," Lofgren said, "has to deal with the issue of how ... we attract and retain the Ph.D.s who are graduating from American universities, who are not residents and not U.S. citizens." Non-citizens, she noted, make up 42% of the masters degree candidates and 64% of the Ph.D. candidates in engineering at U.S. universities. The numbers are similar--39% for masters and 61% for Ph.D. students--in computer science. Of all science and engineering doctorates granted in the past 2 years by U.S. institutions, she noted, 43% were not citizens.

Lofgren added, however, that congressional action to raise the limits on H-1B visas would have to be part of a comprehensive immigration reform bill, because other industries -- she cited Western farmers and Chesapeake Bay fisherman as examples -- also have expressed a need for increasing the numbers of temporary immigrant workers. Measures that single out high-tech immigrants for immediate action, she suggested, would not attract the needed  support.

But the prospects for such a comprehensive immigration bill are slim, she continued: One such bill failed to pass in the last Congress, she pointed out, and there seems to be little appetite now to revisit the issue.

Yesterday's New York Times tells about increasing problems with visas encountered by foreign postdocs and students in the United States, particularly those in science and technology disciplines.

The problems, according to the article, involve delays, missing paperwork, and less-than-helpful U.S. embassy staff. They appear to be more serious for visitors from China, India, the Middle East, and Russia. A postdoc in genetics at MIT, from Belarus, ran into 3 months of bureaucratic delays and lost documents when she tried to renew her visa with the U.S. embassy in Minsk on a visit home. She ended up having to go to Moscow to get the visa.

An anonymous State Department source told the Times that delays like these (2-3 months) are common and a result of "an unfortunate staffing shortage." The Belarus postdoc, by the way, has decided not to do further work in the U.S.

The international student director at MIT says the problems often occur when the students or postdocs leave the U.S., for brief visits home or to attend scientific meetings. Trying to get a visa to return is when the problems often begin.

Visa procedures tightened markedly after the 11 September 2001 attacks but in recent years, the U.S. government improved the procedures that cut delays to about two weeks, and students began returning. In the 2007/2008 academic year, according to the Open Doors survey by International Institute of Education, the number of international students on U.S. campuses jumped 7% over 2006/2007. And the 2006/2007 year itself showed a 3% gain over 2005/2006. The Open Doors surveys also show that life science, physical science, computer science, engineering, and mathematics account for more than one-third (34.5%) of foreign students in the United States.

The problems, according to the article, caused AAAS (publisher of this blog and Science magazine) to convene a meeting with the National Academy of Sciences and several dozen other science organizations, to bring those problems to the attention of the State Department.  As the MIT international student director told the Times, "There are other countries that want these folks. They are the best of the best. They have other options."

Update: The Times story reminds us of a 2004 account in Science Careers of Haitham Idriss, a Thomas Jefferson University postdoc who went to Canada one weekend for some R&R. When he tried to reenter the United States, he was told he needed to register for a program called NSEERS, the provisions of which he found onerous. He refused and was not readmited. Outside the U.S., he never found another scientific position.

The last time we spoke to Idriss, we learned that he had given up on research and started a new scientific journal, Annals of Alquds Medicine, which now seems to be defunct. It was a pretty standard journal in all but two respects: it didn't allow submissions from an Israeli address, and it didn't allow references to evolution--which, Idriss maintained, contradicted Islamic orthodoxy. Make of this what you will. 

Going back to the workplace after being away for a number of years can be difficult for anyone, but especially for parents who choose being a full-time mom or dad. Today's Wall Street Journal reports that companies and institutions in science and engineering are setting up programs to help women (many more moms than dads leave the workplace for parenting) return to their former professions.

For employers, career re-entry, as this process is called, offers a source of experienced, skilled, and reliable talent. Even in tough economic times, their investment apparently pays off.

The Journal article by Sue Shellenbarger cites re-entry programs by companies such as Honeywell, IBM, General Electric, and BBN Technologies that provide training, mentoring, and referrals -- and sometimes even jobs -- to help women rejoin their working colleagues. The article also mentions programs by the British government and a General Electric initiative at its research center in Bangalore, India, as examples outside the U.S.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge offers a 10-month "Career Re-engineering" training course for engineers and scientists returning to work. MIT expects enrollment to grow from 10 to 24 by next fall.

Science Careers has covered career re-entry in some detail, particularly as it affects women outside the U.S. A story by Chelsea Wald in March 2008 detailed a number of career re-entry programs in Europe. And last month James Pauff and Misty Richards looked at this and related issues affecting women physician-scientists.

The Web site iRelaunch.com, described in the Journal article, has additional advice and resources.

Note: Paragraphs 3 and 4 corrected, 25 February 2009



The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 signed into law last week (a.k.a. economic stimulus bill) contains provisions that make it more difficult for some companies -- those involved in the TARP financial bailout package -- to hire workers on H-1B temporary work visas. Beryl Benderly discussed the impact of H1-B visas in her column last month in Science Careers.

According to ComputerWorld, an IT industry publication, the stimulus bill says that for 2 years companies receiving funds from the government's Troubled Asset Recovery Program (TARP) are deemed "H-1B dependent." This designation, usually reserved for companies where H1-B holders comprise 15% or more of their workforce, imposes limits on companies seeking to hire more H-1B staff.

Companies deemed H-1B dependent must attest that they've made good-faith efforts to find American workers to fill their openings before recruiting H-1B talent. These employers must certify that they have offered minimum prevailing wages during their recruitment. The measures are aimed at preventing the company from claiming that they could not find workers while offering unrealistically low pay.

There are other restrictions on H-1B dependent companies. They cannot lay-off an American worker 90 days before or after filing an H-1B petition. And they must also have offered the job to to an American worker who applied and is at least equally qualified than the H-1B worker. If a company claims to have followed these rules, but a subsequent audit shows they did not, they can be banned from further participation in the H-1B program. According to the immigration law firm Shihab & Associates, the Department of Labor has recently increased these H1-B audits. 

The practical impact of this provision in the stimulus bill on hiring will likely be minimal. The limits affect new hires, not existing holders of work-related visas. And while the amount of TARP money is staggering, the number of companies involved -- generally in the financial services industry -- is relatively small. Only about 1 percent of workers in this industry have H-1B visas. Our look in November at the financial services industry as a source of alternative employment for scientists suggests this segment of the economy isn't poised for explosive growth anytime soon.

The stimulus bill also does not impose any limitations on outsourcing, which according to Rochester Institute of Technology professor Ron Hira, has increased among American banks since the rescue bill passed last fall. Charles Kuck, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, however, told ComputerWorld, "These banks will not able to hire qualified foreign talent to pull them out of this mess -- if that was necessary." Kuck added,  "Maybe we've got all the homegrown talent we need to pull us out of this mess, because now we have to hope we do."

Update, 25 February 2009: The Economic Times of India reports a growing protest in India to the stimulus bill's provisions, including calls for a boycott of American multinationals.

Update, 10 March 2009. The Charlotte Observer reports today that Bank of America has rescinded job offers to "a small number of foreign-born business students" who held H-1B visas, because of the restrictions in the stimulus bill. The bank, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, did not say how many offers were rescinded. The story reported, however, that in 2008 Bank of America applied for less than 100 H-1B visas to work in North Carolina, mainly in computer engineer and programmer positions.

A third U.S. Army social scientist has died while on duty. Paula Loyd, 36, an anthropologist in the Army's Human Terrain System program, died earlier this week from burns received in a November 2008 attack in Afghanistan.

Cary Clack, a columnist with the San Antonio Express-News, described the attack as unprovoked. "Loyd was in the Afghan village of Maywand on Nov. 4 when she began talking to an Afghan man. Without warning he doused her [with a flammable liquid] and set her on fire." The attack left Loyd with second- and third-degree burns over 60% of her body. The Taliban, added Clack, took credit for the attack in a Web site statement. She died at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, where she had been transferred.

Wired's Danger Room blog says Loyd was the third social scientist in the Human Terrain program killed in the line of duty, and the second one killed in Afghanistan. Michael Bhatia, a political scientist in the program, was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in May 2008. About 2 months later, Nicole Suveges, an economist working for an Army contractor, died when a bomb destroyed a community building in Sadr City, Baghdad.
     
The Human Terrain System's purpose, as described by its Web site, is "to improve the military's ability to understand the highly complex local socio-cultural environment in the areas where they are deployed; however, in the long-term, HTS hopes to assist the US government in understanding foreign countries and regions prior to an engagement within that region."

The Open Anthropology blog notes that Loyd's death still has not been mentioned on the Human Terrain's Web site, as of 8 January 2009.

Update, 13 January 2009. The Human Terrain System Web site now has a memorial page for Loyd. That page says the attack took place on 5 November, not 4 November as reported by Cary Clack.

Update, 9 January 2009: Ms. Loyd's age corrected. BAE Systems, the company that employed Loyd, released a statement today.
 

The arrest of financier Bernard Madoff on 11 December on investment fraud charges has sent waves crashing into scientific institutions and philanthropies that invested in Madoff-backed schemes. Madoff contributed widely to and served on boards of various Jewish and Israeli charities and institutions, many of which invested in his hedge fund. Prosecutors say Madoff's fund was a $50 billion scam.

Yeshiva University in New York, home to the Albert Einstein School of Medicine, has apparently taken a significant hit. The Albert Einstein school is a major research facility, as well as a medical training institution. Sources at Yeshiva told the JTA news service that the school has lost at least $100 million from its endowment because of Madoff investments. Madoff served as treasurer of Yeshiva's board of trustees.

Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa, Israel, invested in Madoff's securities, according to the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, which estimates its losses at about NIS 25 million ($6.5 million).

Victims of Madoff's apparent fraud include foundations headed by household names such as Nobel laureate Elie Weisel, Senator Frank Lautenberg, and film director Steven Spielberg, as well as many smaller family foundations and institutions that serve Jewish communities in North America, Europe, and Israel. Madoff managed most of the investment income of Spielberg's Wunderkinder Foundation, which donated some $3.3 million for medical research to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Charities with larger exposure to Madoff's schemes were less fortunate. The Robert I. Lappin Charitable Foundation of Salem, Mass., which supports exchanges of teachers and students between Israel and the United States, invested all of its $8 million in Madoff's fund and has shut down.

The Madoff scandal has further shaken an already nervous environment for philanthropies. John Ruskay, executive vice president and CEO of the UJA-Federation of New York told JTA, "Already in the context of a very challenging economic environment this will present another significant difficulty. We don’t know yet the extent of the wreckage."

The Israeli daily newspaper Ha'aretz reports today that Israel's Council of Higher Education--a consortium of the country's seven public universities--met with Finance Ministry officials for the first time in a week to resolve a funding dispute that threatens the scheduled opening of the schools on Sunday. The institutions' presidents have told students to stay home if the dispute is not resolved by then.

The Forward, a New York weekly on Jewish and Israeli issues, reports in its current (31 October) issue that the university presidents have also promised to close down libraries and research facilities if the dispute carries on into the second week of the school year.

Both sides agree that Israel's public universities need a boost in funding, and the Finance Ministry has promised the equivalent of $100 million a year for 5 years, to make up for budget cuts since 2000 that took place while student enrollment increased 10%.  Ha'aretz says that in the past 5 years the schools have together cut some 800 jobs, equivalent to all the jobs at a single institution.

Part of the dispute is over who controls the money. Ha'aretz says the Finance Ministry has earmarked the money for institutional reforms. The universities call that demand an attack on their academic freedom.

The Forward points to other strings attached to the money: the Finance Ministry is insisting on a tuition increase. But in Israel, according to the report, tuition rates are set by the Knesset, (Israel's parliament) and not the universities. Facing an election, the Knesset has not raised tuition. Zvi Galil, president of Tel Aviv University, told the Forward, "We are in the absurd situation that we are facing financial devastation because the government has not met its own precondition for releasing funds to us."

Strikes over funding have become commonplace on Israeli campuses in the past few years. Two years ago, students went on strike for 6 weeks, and last year lecturers walked off the job for 13 weeks. Now it's the administrators' turn to take to the barricades, literally. The university heads joined students yesterday in a protest convoy that blocked traffic and caused large traffic jams on the busy Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway.

A political science graduate student was among four Americans killed by a bomb in the Sadr City section of Baghdad on Tuesday. According to the Washington Post, Nicole Suveges, 38, along with a State Department civilian employee and two U.S. soldiers, died when the blast occurred during a meeting of an Iraqi district council.

Suveges, employed by Department of Defense contractor BAE Systems, was assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team for the 4th Infantry Division to help carry out political, social, and cultural engagements with local Iraqi institutions. According to CNN, she had previously served as a reservist with the U.S. Army in Bosnia in the 1990s and had worked in Iraq in 2006 as a social scientist for an Army contractor.

Suveges was also a Ph.D. candidate in political science at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. According to her faculty advisor, she planned to use her latest experience in Iraq to collect data for her dissertation on the experiences of ordinary citizens under a transitional government.  At Johns Hopkins, she was managing editor for the Review of International Political Economy. Suveges also earned a masters degree political science from George Washington University in Washington, DC and an undergraduate degree from University of Illinois at Chicago.

Tucked away in a news release from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on 11 April is a notice that DHS has proposed doubling the fee for student visas from $100 to $200. The fee is required of all new applicants for visas to attend academic and vocational schools in the U.S., and is non-refundable. DHS wants to raise other fees as well, including a nearly five-fold increase in the fee to certify American schools to accept foreign students, from $350 to $1,700

The proposed regulations--fee increases are officially considered regulations--are open for public comments, which can be submitted online. The due date for comments is 20 June.

Hat tip: Boston Globe

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We had a steady flow of guests at the Meet the Science Careers Editors session yesterday (15 February) at the AAAS annual meeting. Here area few photos from the event.


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Ric Weibl, Director of AAAS's Center for Careers in Science and Technology welcomes the guests.








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Jim Austin, Brooke Allen, and Anne Sasso




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We catch scientists VERY early in their careers






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Vid Nukala and Babette Pain







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Carol Milano, Jim Austin (foreground), and Kate Travis check out the Science Careers site







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Sean Sanders (left), with Vasana Maneeratana (center), and José Fernández

The AAAS annual meeting, which  begins next week in Boston, will give attendees a chance to get together with friends old and new. In that spirit, we've scheduled a Meet the Science Careers Editors session on Friday 15 February at 3:00 p.m., in room 307 of the Hynes Center, where the annual meeting takes place. That room is just off Exhibit Hall D, where the Science/AAAS Career Fair will be going on. All of the Science Careers editors, including our European colleagues, will be there. If you have ideas for articles we should consider, have something else to tell us about careers in science (yours or in general), or would just like to meet us and chat, we'd love to see you.

Later that same afternoon, at 5:30 p.m., is a meet-up of the AAAS Facebook group, in Grand Ballroom K (fourth floor) of the nearby Marriott Copley Place. Watch the AAAS Group Facebook page for details (Facebook membership required).

With so much of our professional lives conducted online, these opportunities to interact in person are rare indeed. If you're in Boston for the AAAS meeting, or there for any reason, we hope you will drop by.

The Institute of International Education (IIE) announced yesterday the 2008 winners of its Best Practices in International Education awards, and the first prize went to an internship program in Japan for science and engineering students. The NanoJapan initiative that won the top rating provides undergraduate summer internships in nanotechnology at Japanese labs.

The program is run by University of Tulsa in Oklahoma and Rice University in Houston. The two schools fund the initiative with a grant from National Science Foundation's Partnerships for International Research and Education program.

NanoJapan is open to freshman and sophmore students from any American institution with an interest in nanotechnology. Student interest in nanotechnology will be evaluated on the basis of their studies in topics such as nanoscale semiconductor devices, nanophotonics, and carbon nanotubes. While students in any discipline may apply, engineering and physics majors are preferred. And while the program encourages applicants with no previous travel to Japan, applicants need to demonstrate an interest in Japanese language and culture.

The program's learning experience doesn't end with the internship. On their return, the 2007 NanoJapan interns took part in a colloquium (PDF) at Rice University where they presented posters on their research. According to IIE, the program has encouraged 6 of the 16 2007 participants to continue their studies in Asia. Applications for 2008 NanoJapan internships close on 8 February.

January 18, 2008

Funding News You Can Use

When GrantsNet began adding new U.S. government science grants last spring, the volume of new funding opportunites on a given month tripled, which meant the monthly Funding News also tripled in size. To make it easier to find the grants you want in each Funding News, we added a search feature for each month's entries so you can avoid scrolling up and down the ever-lengthening Web page.

For those who have not visited the Funding News recently, we also moved the Deadline Watch to a separate page to make the Funding News less forbidding. The Deadline Watch lists GrantsNet entries with deadlines in the next four weeks.

The search feature uses Yahoo Pipes, an engrossing -- one may even call it addictive -- service that lets you create little applications like this one without writing computer code. In this case, we combined the two Funding News RSS feeds, for research funding and student and institutional support, and added a search box.

December 27, 2007

Editors' Best of 2007 Now Live

For three years, Science Careers has devoted its last issue of the year to highlighting our editors' choices for the best articles of the year, and we continued that tradition this year. Our editors could apply whatever criteria they deemed fit to the decision, but had to limit their choices to five articles only. The results are a mix of how-to articles, inspirational profiles, personal perspectives, and job-market commentaries.

You will notice that the last paragraph of the text before the article list asks readers to give us their take on how we're doing. While we respect our editors' opinions, it's you the readers who really matter. You can add a comment to this posting, send us e-mail, write on the wall of our Facebook page (run by GrantsNet database manager José Fernández), or discuss with peers and experts on the Science Careers Forum. If you really got something to say about your career in science or scientific careers in general -- more than few paragraphs -- send us an "In Person" essay.

Enjoy the Best of 2007, but let's hear from you in 2008. Best wishes for the new year.

The Educational Testing Service (ETS) reported that it had to postpone the scheduled offering of its Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) on 15 December. According to the organization's Web site, ETS suffered "an internal service disruption during the check-in procedure" for the test. ETS offers the test at hundreds of locations worldwide, and uses the Internet to capture the test-takers' spoken and written responses. It still offers a paper-based TOEFL test in some locales.

ETS says it will offer a make-up test early next year. It will also provide on request a letter with an explanation of the delay to institutions expecting the test results for applicants.

TOEFL tests the ability of non-native speakers to use English in university settings. It measures abilities in reading, listening, speaking and writing English.

Hat tip: Inside Higher Ed.

December 12, 2007

More on Work-Life Balance

This week's package on work-life balance has generated some interesting feedback, and once you start talking about these issues, related items pop up all over the place.

We heard from Kathleen Wiant, co-founder of needlestackjobs.com. It's a new job board that lists flextime jobs in professional fields. The site defines "flextime" rather broadly, and is a bit geographically limited at this point. (It's now listing jobs nationwide, but it's still biased toward its starting region, Ohio.) There aren't too many science jobs, either, but again, it's a relatively new site, and the flextime angle is certainly a novel idea in the usually-uniform world of job ad sites.

Just as we posted the articles on work-life balance, I got a press release about Jobshare U.K., a jobs site for flextime, part-time, and, you guessed it, jobshare positions in the U.K. The U.K. Resource Centre for Women (UKRC) has funded a science, engineering, and technology consultant for the site, so the organization is paying attention to science jobs. (Aside: The UKRC has an interesting fact sheet on your rights in flexible working.)

We also heard from a reader who suggested we address scientists with disabilities (in the context of the article on part-time scientists -- some of the issues may apply to dealing with disabilities, too). We addressed some of the issues in a 2003 feature, "Able Scientists Overcoming Disabilities."  In 2004, we looked more broadly at dealing with health issues in the workplace, including chronic fatigue syndrome and whether you should disclose your health issues to your employer. Earlier this year, we ran an article on hearing-impaired scientists. Last month, the Business Office of AAAS (the publishers of Science and Science Careers) wrote about programs in schools and colleges to encourage people with disabilities to go into the sciences. All that said, there's more we can cover. We're always glad to hear suggestions from readers, and we'll certainly look into how we can freshen up our content on this topic.

As my colleague Jim Austin pointed out earlier today, NIH is making funds available for particularly innovative biomedical research through its Pioneer and New Innovator programs. For researchers outside the U.S. -- those collaborating on international research teams -- there's funding available from the Human Frontier Science Program's (HFSP's) Research Grants, a funding opportunity with similar objectives.

In its Research Grants, HSFP is looking for "novel, daring ideas" on complex mechansims of living organisms, but it puts several interdisciplinary and geographic conditions on its funding. The organization funds projects for teams of researchers that combine biology with disciplines including (but not restricted to) chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science and engineering.

Not only must research proposals be interdisciplinary, the teams proposing the research must be international in composition, with a preference for teams that are intercontinental as well as international. The principal investigator must be from one of HFSP's member countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus (EU part), the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

HFSP has two types of research grants: (1) Young Investigators’ Grants for teams who are all within 5 years of establishing an independent laboratory and within 10 years of obtaining their Ph.D.s, and (2) Program Grants for teams of researchers at any point in their careers, although HFSP encourages participation by younger scientists. Awards range from $250,000 to $450,000 per team depending on team size.

To be considered, interested researchers must register with HFSP by 21 March 2008. Letters of intent are due by 2 April 2008. For more details, see GrantsNet or the HFSP Web site.

Got something to say about starting or moving through a career in science? Here's your chance to let friends and colleagues know what's on your mind. This week, Science Careers unveils a series of personal essays called "In Person," about education and career development -- in the broadest sense -- in the sciences and engineering.

Your essay can relate personal experiences that gave you special insights; see the first article in this series as an example. Or, you can tell about a special person who had an impact on your career, or discuss a policy issue related to career planning, or come up with another topic related to scientific or engineering careers. Invitations from junior and senior scientists, policy makers and decision makers, are welcome.

Here are the guidelines: Your essay should be about 800 words long and personal in tone. Please send us your submission as an editable text document attachment to an e-mail message, addressed to snweditor@aaas.org (Subject: In Person submission); Microsoft Word format is preferred, but OpenOffice format is acceptable. Please do NOT include photographs or other attachments with the original submission.

We will give each manuscript we receive careful consideration, and contact you within 6 weeks if we decide to publish your essay. Most essays will be edited prior to publication. If you do not hear from us in 6 weeks, feel free to submit your work elsewhere.

OK, let us have it.

November 1, 2007

Legendary Advice

We like to focus on practical, tangible advice for new students/postgraduates/postdocs/scientists. Admittedly, it can sometimes be rather optimistic and positive. Consider this advice to graduate students written by Yale ecology and evolutionary biology professor Stephen Stearns:

"Always prepare for the worst."

"Nobody cares about you."

That may seem harsh, but it's a good dose of reality. To prepare for the worst, he explains, you should be cynical and have alternative plans/projects in case yours fails. As for no one caring about you, he points out that it's your education, so take initiative to make the most of it. There's more: Go read it here.

In response, Raymond Huey at the University of Washington drafted "Reply to Stearns: Some Acynical Advice for Graduate Students." That advice includes "Always expect the best," and "Some people do care." He summarizes: "Our main point is this: there is no one way to be a graduate student." Go read it here.

Now, perhaps you've seen one or both of those lists. Apparently they've made their way into graduate student lore and make their way around labs and universities nearly as often as the email about antiperspirant causing breast cancer or the one about the cell phone do-not-call list. But the advice lists are both prominently linked to from the scientists' web sites, and Huey explains their history:

"Our presentations were originally given in the fall of 1976 as coordinated, back-to-back "seminars" at Ecolunch, a weekly seminar/discussion group at the University of California, Berkeley. We handed out typed outlines of our presentations. These notes made it into the graduate student grave-vine and were distributed widely in subsequent years. Peter Morin eventually encouraged us to write them up for publication. We did so in the Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America. As Steve noted a few years ago, these articles -- not our scientific studies -- are undoubtedly our most widely read papers!"

I got to Stearns' advice from ScienceWoman at On Being A Scientist And a Woman. In that post, she offers her $.02: Good science takes time; make friends of your fellow graduate students; and don't forget the big picture. She explains each one: Go read it here.

My favorite advice in these comes in the comment section of ScienceWoman's post. A commenter writes: "I tell new graduate students to keep a massive stockpile of snacks in their office. ... Well fed students are efficient students."

Keepin' it real.

The 21 October Los Angeles Times has an article (free registration required) that tells how some American technology companies are choosing to keep their technical and service operations in the United States rather than moving them overseas. In some instances, American companies that had moved these functions to India a few years ago are coming back, and one Indian company has found the U.S. an attractive place to expand.

Much of the motivation is economic--small towns and cities in rural areas can now compete financially with offshore sites. The article quotes the president of Northrup Grumman's Information Technology Defense Group who says his company can find a "very high quality and a dedicated workforce" in Corsicana, Texas at about the same cost as sending the work overseas. The company is opening five other software development and technical support centers in small cities like Lebanon, Virginia, and Helena, Montana.

Non-economic factors also enter into the companies' "onshoring" decisions. Many rural areas now have broadband communications, which they did not have a few years ago. Xpanxion, an Atlanta, Georgia, software company, moved its test operations center from India to Kearny, Nebraska, because the widely different time zones were making coordination with headquarters difficult. Dell Computer, one of the more active offshoring companies, moved a technical support facility to Twin Falls, Idaho, after complaints from customers about the English language skills of the  overseas staff.

One leading Indian company is even starting a software design center in the U.S. Wipro Technologies, a software developer headquartered in Bangalore, plans to open a facility in Atlanta that will employ as many as 500 programmers. Wipro's president says, "The work we're doing requires more and more knowledge of the customers' businesses -- and you want local people to do that."

Onshoring may be now trendy, as the article notes, but there will still be plenty of offshoring. The article cites a survey last year of 500 large U.S. companies where six in 10 reported sending some work overseas.  Another study predicted 3 million high-tech American jobs would move offshore by 2015.


September 10, 2007

Funding for Study in Asia

The Freeman-Asia program, a joint undertaking of the Freeman Foundation and the Institute of International Education (IIE), offers grants to undergraduates for study in Asia.  The awards range from $3,000 for a summer program to $7,000 for an academic year, and have no discipline restrictions. The Freeman-Asia program has supported more than 3,000 students since it began in 2000.

Grantees must be accepted into academic programs in Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Macao, Malaysia, Mongolia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, or Vietnam. Applicants must have little or no experience in the countries in which they desire to study. Likewise, applicant must be receiving need-based financial aid or demonstrate a need for assistance.

The deadline for the Spring 2008 term, as well as early consideration for the 2008-09 academic year, is coming up on 17 October. The summer program deadline is 5 March 2008 and the deadline for fall term and 2008-09 academic year is 2 April 2008. You can find more details on the IIE Web site.

Grad students interested in Asia, here's something for you too: Just last week, National Science Foundation announced its East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes (EAPSI) program for 2008. NSF increased the EAPSI stipend to $5,000 and added Singapore as a destination. The deadline for applications is 12 December. See the NSF Web site for details.

Medicinal chemist Derek Lowe over at In the Pipeline recently posted some tips on interview seminars. "... [M]any of these are things that high school speech teachers have been telling their students for decades," he writes, "but you know, there's only so much new information in this world."

Of course, you've had to cram a lot of stuff in your brain since high school, so it's good to review the highlights. Among his tips:

  • Know your audience. Don't dwell on topics about which your audience is well informed.
  • Don't be afraid to say "I don't know" (or its equivalent). Admitting you don't know, Lowe says, is better than trying to whip something up on the spot.
  • Remember what your talk is supposed to do. "You are not giving an informational talk, you're giving a persuasive one, but a shocking number of candidates don't seem to realize this," Lowe writes.

In the comment section of the post, commenter MikeEast adds what I think is a helpful tip (edited throughout to spell out "minutes"):

"Be able to talk about your project for 50 minutes, 30 minutes, 15 minutes and 5 minutes - YES, 5 minutes!" MikeEast writes. "You never know how much time you are going to have to get your message across. I have seen too many candidates faced with a time constraint only quickly flip through all of their slides and cram a 50 minute talk into 20 minutes - not the way to go. You'll get way more kudos covering 'the most important message' or 'what I am most proud of'."

To see the rest of Lowe's tips, as well as the information-rich comments, view the post here. To read even more tips on preparing for interviews and interview talks, check out Dave Jensen's Tooling Up: Job Talk Jitters, the interview advice in You've Worked Hard to Get This Far, the dos and don'ts in Academic Scientists at Work: The Job Talk, and the tips at the end of Interviewing Skills for Scientists Entering Industry Science.

As Science Careers pointed out in April, India gives a high priority to research and development as a cornerstone of its future economy, and a report in the news section of Science (subscription required) provides more evidence of it. Among today's 1.1 billion Indians, only 9.2 million are higher education students. To push that number up, last week the Indian government announced a plan to invest $33 billion over the next 7 years to add 8 elite Indian Institutes of Technology, 20 regional engineering schools, and many other campuses devoted to research, computing, and management. And there's something for the current crop of science trainees: a 50% increase in starting stipends for graduate students and postdocs.

Today, the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology held the second in a series of hearings on off-shoring--the movement of U.S. science and technology jobs overseas. But the focus of this hearing was different from many others: it focused on American universities opening campuses off-shore.

"As an increasing number of American universities establish campuses in foreign countries, many questions and concerns are arising about the impacts this will have on American students, job opportunities, and competitiveness. To address this, we must learn more about how university globalization will impact our country's pre-eminence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics," said Research and Science Education Subcommittee Chairman Brian Baird (D-WA), who chaired the hearing.

In an opening statement, Committee Chairman Bart Gordon said that "…having a STEM degree, even from a top school, no longer guarantees lifelong employment in a well-paying job in the United States. Our students are increasingly competing with well-trained, low cost employees in countries such as India and China. Universities are our first line of defense in ensuring our leadership in the global economy by giving our scientists and engineers the special skills they need to set themselves apart from the global competition.”

But now, universities themselves are moving off-shore.

Baird added: “In some respects American universities have been global for many years. They have attracted large numbers of foreign students, particularly in STEM fields at the graduate level. But off-shoring is giving high quality foreign students outstanding job opportunities in their home countries. This may make it less likely that foreign students will stay in the U.S. after graduation, and may make it less desirable to come to the U.S. to study in the first place. So, American universities are taking their education to foreign students by building campuses and offering STEM degree programs in other countries." Most agree, however, that so far the numbers are small.

  Opening statements by Baird and Gordon, as well as the statements by the four witnesses (David J. Skorton, president of Cornell University; Gary Schuster, provost and vice president for academic affairs of Georgia Institute of Technology; Mark Wessel, dean of the Heinz School of Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University; and Philip Altbach, the Monan professor of higher education and director of the center for international higher education at Boston College) are available on the committee's Web site. (You'll find the links in the left column.)

Earlier today, Managing Editor Alan Kotok posted a blog entry about the U.S. State Department announcement that it wouldn't accept any more green-card applications for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends in October. I called Mark Harrington, a Houston-based immigration attorney and friend of Science Careers, hoping he could provide a little perspective on the situation. Here's what I learned.

Employment-based "green cards" come in several flavors, designated EB-1 (a and b), EB-2, and EB-3, in descending order of prestige. EB-3's are the most common, and there's a backlog for immigrants from most (maybe all) countries. There's a backlog for EB-2 applicants only for immigrants from India and China. EB-1 applicants are rare; there has never been a backlog for this category.

Each month, the state department issues a "Visa Bulletin" announcing what visa applications are likely to be processed in the coming months. Last months' bulletin was extraordinary: It announced that there no longer were any backlogs in any of the employment-based categories. Chinese Immigrants, who a month earlier were expecting a 4-year wait (applications were being processed from mid-2003), suddenly found themselves with no wait at all. Immigration attorneys were scrambling to submit applications on behalf of their clients before the door closed again. These changes would take effect on 2 July, the first business day of the new month.

But the door closed too fast. The notice Alan Kotok mentioned in his earlier blog post, which took effect on 2 July, effectively reversed the earlier ruling by announcing that no further applications would be accepted. The notice explains this action as a consequence of "backlog reduction efforts" and the resulting "use of almost 60,000 employment numbers." But, since the changes announced in June were not scheduled to take effect until July, it isn't clear what happened to all those "employment numbers."

But the new notice doesn't just restore the status quo. Previously there was no backlog for EB-1 applicants, or for EB-2 applicants from countries other than India and China. But the new notice effects all "employment-based preference cases," including the categories most important for research scientists. This new development means that (unless the decision is reversed or modified) EB-1 applicants--and EB-2 applicants from countries other than India and China--are out of luck until the new fiscal year.

Immigrants seeking employment-based green cards, and their attorneys, await the next Visa Bulletin eagerly.

Early in your career, it's easy to feel as if you have to gain more and more experience, and establish a wider reputation, before you can begin to make a big impact. But this is not always so, as a five-page story written by Richard Stone and published this week in Science shows.

Last Spring Zeb Hogan, 33, a fisheries biologist at the University of Nevada, Reno, and his colleagues set out to study and protect "megafishes"--species of fish that weigh more than 200 pounds or are longer than 6 feet--in the world's rivers and lakes. Hogan had studied fish in Thailand with a Fulbright fellowship in 1996-97, when he also learned to speak Thai. He became concerned that the giant species were in trouble in 2001, when, while a Ph.D. student in ecology at the University of California, Davis, he visited Thailand for the traditional hunt of the buffalo fish, a species of giant catfish. In that year's hunt, no one caught a buffalo fish.

Recognizing that this and other giant freshwater fishes were in trouble, Hogan sounded the alarm. Since then he has been working to raise the awareness of the public and policy-makers in an effort to keep giant freshwater fish from going extinct. Last year he was appointed scientific councilor for fish for the U.N. Convention on Migratory Species.

The full story may be accessed here (Science subscription required).

June 19, 2007

Get 'em to Stay

In a characteristically smart post, Noted video-game hacker Andrew "bunnie" Huang (who spells his nickname with a small 'b') recounts a conversation with University of California, San Diego, engineering professor Jim Buckwalter about UCSD's grad-school applications. "Of the thousands of applicants, only 80 were from the US," bunnie recounts. "To put this in perspective, he had more applicants with the surname 'Lee' alone than he had domestic applicants."

Huang (an American child of Chinese immigrants) concludes that, with numbers like this, the only sound strategy is to try to get as many foreign-born tech workers as possible to stay. (It's worth noting that, as we reported in a recent blog post, only a third of the Chinese people who went abroad for their educations eventually returned home.) "We need to compete to retain foreign talent, but instead, we hassle them away," he writes.

- Jim Austin

June 14, 2007

Are You Serious?

Or are you funny? Here at Science Careers, we're very serious about careers in science. That's a good thing, but sometimes I worry that we're a little too serious. Our coverage can seem a little ponderous and heavy, even to me, the editor.

Don't get me wrong; we've had our funny moments. Almost all of Kat Arney's stuff was really funny...except when she decided to be serious. They're all good, but check out Dr. Bridget's Postdoctoral Diary. And I don't mean to suggest that Kat was our ONLY funny writer. We've had others. It's just that, well, I can't quite remember who they were.

But the point is, I'd like to publish more funny stuff. Problem is, really funny writers are rare, while writers who think they're funny are all too common.

Can you be funny? Can you write funny stuff about scientific training and careers? I'd love to hear from you. Send a sample to me at jaustin@aaas.org .

June 5, 2007

China's Brain Drain

Fewer than 30% of Chinese students who have gone abroad for their education since 1978 have returned to China, according to a report released this week by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. News articles about the report appear in the Guardian and China Daily.


According to the China Daily article, between 1978 and 2006, about 1.06 million Chinese went to study overseas, and 275,000 of them returned home during the same period. Among the reasons for the brain drain, the new report states, are the social and economic gaps in personal income, employment opportunities, working conditions, and research facilities.


The news articles don't say whether the number of returning students has changed over time. However, a February report from the same academy indicates that, among the 100,000 students who go abroad each year, a mere 20,000 returned to China in 2003. The numbers improved in subsequent years: 25,000 students in 2004 and 30,000 in 2005 returned to China after finishing their studies.


It isn't clear why the numbers dipped so low in the early 2000s. But it is clear that the recent trend is likely to continue if some recently approved policies are effective. The Guardian reports that the Chinese government issued new regulations earlier this year aimed at enticing senior scientists, engineers, and corporate managers to return to China. The regulations give those scientists higher salaries, preferred housing, and guaranteed places for their children at universities. Given the variety of reasons graduates offer for not returning to China, it will be interesting to see how successful these incentives are.

In this week's Science Careers, Beryl Lieff Benderly describes the debate over proposals in the new U.S. immigration bill to increase the number of scientists and technical specialists from abroad. A critical piece of the bill, especially to scientists and engineers, is a merit-based system to determine the priority of candidates for permanent residency in the U.S., a status that can lead to citizenship.

Many news accounts of the bill refer to this part of the bill as a "point system," but so far at least few of those stories tell how the proposed system will work. In this week's news section of Science (subscription required), Yudhijit Bhattacharjee describes the system in detail, with an example of a typical scientist applicant. Bhattacharjee shows how younger scientists and engineers would benefit more than most others. As the story notes, this bill is far from being a done deal, and the merit system will likely undergo close scrutiny.

This is a comment on the article titled "A Tunnel to Atlanta", written by Beryl Lieff Benderly (4 May 2007). The author talks about the importance of networking within ones own ethnic group and how that can help people in their scientific careers. While this may be true to an extent, it also leads to some very avoidable situations in scientific environments. The biggest potential problem posed by excessive intra-ethnic networking is the formation of closed groups (popularly referred to as 'mafias') of foreigners in the work environment, often leading to a chasm between the members of this group and everyone else. In many situations, such groups result in its members lacking confidence or developing a sense suspicion when it comes to interacting with other nationalities or cultures: ghetto-isation in other words. This negates any advantage an international experience can have and can only be bad for science for two reasons. The first is that Science is and should be an international activity involving active interaction between different ethnic and cultural groups. Most high profile laboratories, irrespective of the field, are highly international in composition. Secondly, being scientists, we must endeavour to be above the boundaries of culture, language, religion and ethnicity, at least in the workplace.

I can give myself as an example of a person who had an excellent start to my scientific career without having another person from my country or culture anywhere near me. I left my native India to do my PhD in a Macromolecular Crystallography lab in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. I was the only person from my country in the whole building but never experienced any homesickness during the six and a half years of my stay there. My colleagues in the lab and my boss were fantastic and very supportive, so much that I did not feel the need for any support from people of my own cultural background. This has had an effect of making me immune to the effects cultural differences usually have on people, and I can now feel comfortable anywhere. I like to believe this is a good thing.

To sum up, I believe that active interaction with other cultures makes one a better person and a better scientist. Culture shock is a great thing to be experiencing all by oneself.

Dr Ganesh Natrajan
Post-Doctoral Associate
Macromolecular Crystallography group.
European Synchrotron Radiation Facility
Grenoble, France.

Martin Reddington, Director of Scientific Affairs and Communications at the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP), pointed out a couple of errors in our discussion of HFSP's research funds involving India in our article "GrantsNet Guide to Financing Your Research Exchange in India." This article is part of our feature on research opportunities in India.

Here's an excerpt from Reddington's message explaining the organization's policies ...

       

We were delighted to see HFSP in your item on funding opportunities for research exchange with India .... However, there is an inaccuracy that gives a too restrictive view of eligibility and could mislead some of the Indian scientists we would like to support.

In the fellowship programs, scientists from non-member countries can only do their postdocs in labs in member countries, but now that India is a member, young Indian scientists could apply for HFSP funds to do their postdocs in non-member countries. This is an important point since we could imagine young Indians going to centres of excellence in non-member countries such as Singapore or China.

Further, labs in non-member countries may only host fellows from member countries, so Indian membership now opens the possibility for Indian labs to recruit post-docs from all over the world....

We updated the article page accordingly.