Gene editing controversy, Doomsday Clock, celebrating unsung female scientists, and more! (Good reads, January 2019)

Gene editing controversy, Doomsday Clock, celebrating unsung female scientists, and more! (Good reads, January 2019)

The first month of the New Year has already gone by! We hope you have had a great start. If you have been too busy to catch up with all the happenings in the academic publication and scholarly communication industry, you have arrived at the right place! The Editage Insights team is back again with the monthly round-up of news and goings-on in the world of academia. This article will give you quick updates on the biggest industry news stories of this month. From accelerated degree courses and academia’s concern around Brexit to the Doomsday Clock, we got it all! 

1. Dealing with failure in science: Dr. Eileen Parkes, an early-career researcher at Queen’s University Belfast, UK, in her article published on Nature, says: When I moved from medicine into research, the biggest shock to me was failure.” She says all scientists experience failure though it may be difficult to see it across the appealing aura of scientific conferences and published journals. Parkes believes that making discoveries is akin to taking a leap in the dark and those who are afraid of failing might hesitate to step into unknown premises. She shares her positive experience of having encouraging colleagues who helped her deal with failure. She believes that her failed experiments taught her important lessons. The realization that she is not the only one who has failed has encouraged Parkes to open up about her struggle and rejection to her peers. She wishes to spread the message that failure is normal in science and that a person is not defined by their failed attempts.

2. The scientist claiming the world’s first gene edited babies lands in trouble yet again: He Jianku, the scientist who had produced “the world’s first gene-edited babies,” has been dismissed from his university the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen. As reported by Nature in this article, an investigation by Chinese authorities revealed that He’s work violated national regulations against using gene-editing for reproductive purposes. The investigation, reported by Chinese state media agency Xinhua, also found out that He’s experiment broke laws that forbid people with HIV from using assisted reproduction. He stirred controversy last November when he used gene-editing technique CRISPR–Cas9 and modified human embryos to make them HIV-resistant. If He is found guilty by Chinese authorities of breaching the national law, he may even face legal proceedings.

3. The hands of the Doomsday Clock to remain at two minutes to midnight: According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the world is as close to destruction as it was last year; the hands of the organization’s Doomsday Clock will continue to remain at two minutes to midnight. “Minutes to midnight” is a metaphor that represents how close we are to a global catastrophe caused by rampant scientific advances. The group adjusted the hands of the clock at two minutes to midnight in January 2018 after the news of North Korea’s nuclear tests was reported and climate threats continued to climb; the hands have not been moved in 2019. Amongst the major concerns expressed by the group are – hindered progress on tackling nuclear threats, the inaction on climate change, worsening cybersecurity, and the threat of cyber warfare. How close or far we are to doomsday depends on human actions and this thought-provoking article urges us to increase our efforts to avert this global threat.

4. How U.K. universities’ accelerated degree courses will benefit students: Some universities in the U.K. now offer accelerated courses. Chris Skidmore, British politician, author, and the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, explains in an article how these courses will help students choose a course format that suits them the most. Students will be able to complete a three-year degree in two years, allowing them to save more because of reduced living and educational expenses. Sharing his view on this, Skidmore says that speeding the learning process will not compromise on the quality of education and students enrolled for such degrees will still gain the benefits of traditional teaching. Such courses are appealing to mature and competent students who want a head-start in their career as well as to employers as they get access to qualified graduates sooner. The House of Commons has voted for a small raise in the fee cap for accelerated degrees and if the House of Lords approves it too, more universities will be able to offer fast-track degree courses to suit the needs of the students. This will open a door for more opportunities along with freedom and flexibility in learning.

5. The effect of the Brexit referendum on U.K. universities: As per the latest data by the Higher Education Statistics Agency released on 17 January, the number of post-graduate students at U.K. universities from other European countries has declined following the Brexit referendum held in June 2016. As suggested in this article, if this trend continues, as it is evident from the statistics by The Russell Group (a body that represents 24 of the U.K.’s leading research universities) it will impact the growth of postgraduate research in the U.K. as one in five postgraduate student arrivals in UK universities is from the European Union (EU). Hollie Chandler, a senior policy expert at the Russell Group says “These students are an important part of the research pipeline, both for academia and industry.” She adds that owing to the continued uncertainty over the Brexit decision, fall in the number of EU postgraduate students at U.K. universities is likely to become more prominent in the next academic year. The U.K. could leave the EU on 29 March, potentially halting the country’s participation in EU collaborative research programmes. Meanwhile, uncertainty is looming over the fate of prospective students at U.K. universities. 

6. Celebrating the unsung heroes who discovered elements of the periodic table: Various scientists contributed to developing the periodic table and amongst them were also women like Marie Curie, Lise Meitner, Ida Noddack, and others. But the contribution of women researchers is often overshadowed. In this article, the authors spotlight female researchers who discovered elements of the periodic table and their properties. Women scientists worked as unpaid assistants and technicians, guest contributors, and even leaders of labs but received little to no credit for their work. This article highlights the disparity in recognition received by men and women scientists who discovered elements of the periodic table.

Well, we hope you enjoyed our top picks for this month. If you have something you’d like to share, please do so in the comments section below. Do browse through our previous Scholarly Communications Good Reads collections where we have featured more such interesting discussions from the scholarly publishing world. 

And if you’d like to stay tuned to important happenings in the journal publishing industry, visit our Industry News section.

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