NSF Joins The Open Access CHORUS; DoD Ventures Out On Its Own

Yesterday the National Science Foundation (NSF) released its open access plan for the research it funds (H/T ScienceInsider).  It follows the release of the Department of Defense (DoD) open access plan earlier this week.

These agencies join the Department of Energy and NASA, among others, in releasing open access plans and developing associated infrastructure.  Of course, the National Institutes of Health was first to this party, with the other agencies following suit after a 2013 memo from The Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The Department of Defense plan is a proposed plan.  The agency will release the plan in the Federal Register for public comment, a process that will take roughly 2 years.  In August of this year the agency will update its plans before proceeding to implementation.  The Department will rely on the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC) for developing and/or expanding the relevant infrastructure for storing and/or accessing applicable research publications and digital data sets (the latter will not be stored at DTIC, but at other repositories and linkable via the DTIC system).  The DTIC will also handle the associated metadata and track usage.

The goal is to start accepting voluntary author submissions under this policy by the end of the calendar year.  Full compliance is not likely prior to 2017.  Articles will need to be submitted within 12 months of journal publication.

The NSF plan follows in the footsteps of the Department of Energy, at least for now.  It will start applying to grants awarded in January 2016, and also require publications to be submitted within 12 months of journal publication.  (Grant applicants are already required to submit a data management plan, which covers how access will be granted to digital scientific data associated with NSF-funded research.) Continue reading

Next PCAST Meeting Wants You To Bundle Up and Wash Your Hands

The next meeting of the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (PCAST) will take place in Washington, D.C. on March 27th.  As is the custom, the meeting will be webcast, and you can access that link from the meetings section of the PCAST website.

The draft agenda available is pretty thin on details.  There will be two subject matter sessions, one on Arctic policy and the other on antibiotic resistance.  But there are no panelists listed.  PCAST has addressed the topic of antibiotic resistance before, releasing a report last fall.  This session is scheduled for one hour and fifteen minutes, which may mean that some kind of follow-up project is under consideration.  Since the release of that report was tied to follow-up actions by the Administration, some kind of progress report may be part of this session.  You’ll have to watch to find out.

Do You Want To See Some Robots?

The DARPA Robotics Challenge will hold its 2015 finals June 5-6 in Pomona, California.  DARPA is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a part of the Defense Department focused on leading edge research in a number of fields.  Over 10 years ago started conducting competitions in driverless automobiles through competitions, and the Robotics Challenge is an offshoot of that effort.  Like the 2012 Challenge, this year the focus is on automated robots that can perform critical tasks in situations where communications from humans may be compromised.

As you might guess, those interested in competing are already well engaged in the process.  But high school students interested in this work have an opportunity to see it up close and personal (H/T White House).  DARPA is looking for 2-3 minute videos from students in grades 9-12 (in schools in the U.S. and its territories) that describe the kind of robot-assisted society that the entrants want to see.  Entries will be judged on clarity of ideas, creativity of presentation and quality of the video.  You have until April 1 to submit your entry.

Good luck!

If You’re Too Lazy To Drink Your Alcohol

Last year I posted about Palcohol, a powdered alcohol that was approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Board, but that approval was short-lived due to problems with the product labels.

Proper approval came through yesterday, making it legal to sell Palcohol in the United States.  The manufacturer has taken pains on the website to assure people that the product cannot be abused (not that people won’t try).  That the size and volume of the product necessary for spiking beverages, getting drunk and or smuggling it is too much to make it a practical method of abuse.

I am intrigued by the purported beneficial uses of the product that aren’t just making it lighter and easier to pack alcohol.  An ‘industrial formulation’ of the product could allow for easier forms of antiseptic, fuel, and other non-consumable applications for alcohol.

However, the industrial formula was not the one approved for sale.  The flavored versions of powdered alcohol have attracted the attention of several state legislatures, which are working on banning the sale of powdered alcohol.  Two states, Alaska and Delaware, already have laws on the books that cover powdered alcohol (for human consumption).

So, unless your state works to ban the product by the summer, you should be able to get your powdered drink on later this year.

Dr. Varmus To Step Away From National Cancer Institute

Ending what is arguably the science policy equivalent of Presidents Adams or Johnson serving in Congress following their time in the White House, Dr. Harold Varmus announced he will step down as chief of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) effective March 31st.  Varmus was head of the entire National Institutes of Health between 1993 and 1999, meaning he was a predecessor of his current boss, Dr. Francis Collins.  Both of these stints in public service came after Varmus was recognized as a 1989 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine

Varmus highlighted the National Cancer Institute accomplishments during his tenure in a letter to NCI staff.  They include two new centers, improvements in its clinical trials program, innovations in research funding and significant changes to the NCI’s grant process.

Varmus will now live full time in New York City (he was commuting to the NCI facility in Bethesda, Maryland), conducting cancer research in his own lab at the Meyer Cancer Center at the Weill-Cornell Medical Center.  He is likely to apply for funding for the cancer components of the Precision Medicine Initiative.  He will also advise the newly formed New York Genome Center.

The current NCI Deputy Director, Doug Lowy, will serve as Acting Director once Varmus departs.  With less than two years remaining in the current administration, it is possible that Lowy will remain in the position until at least the next President is sworn in.

New EU Policy Support Facility Will Focus On National Research and Innovation Systems

Earlier this week the European Commission announced that a Policy Support Facility will assist European Union member states in reviewing and reforming their national innovation and research systems (H/T ScienceInsider).  The Policy Support Facility is one of several programs intended to boost science and technology capacity in member states, all as part of Horizon 2020.  The Facility will have a budget endowment of up to 20 million Euros until 2020.

Bulgaria is the first member state to take advantage of the Policy Support Facility.  It will have several senior experts and researchers conduct a “Peer Review of Bulgaria” and provide advice in three areas: public funding of research, science careers, and knowledge transfer from academia to business.

Hungary has expressed interested in using the Policy Support Facility, and the Commission will support a country peer review for it later in the year.  Other countries have expressed interest in working with the Facility as well.

HHS Expands Open Access Beyond NIH

Last week the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the parent agency of the National Institutes of Health, The Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control (among others) announced its open access policies for research it funds (H/T The Scientist).  The policies are expected to come into effect by the end of this year.

As you might expect, the other HHS agencies subject to the open access policy (a minimum of $100 million in annual research funding) will follow the lead of the National Institutes of Health.  Articles resulting from federally funded research must be deposited in PubMed Central within 12 months of publication.  For digital data, it will have to be available at the time any articles are published.  Researchers must submit a digital management plan as part of their initial research grant application.  According to the HHS Secretary, the infrastructure for this part of the plan is still emerging.  Ultimately the Department wants to link an internal data management system to healthdata.gov.