Week in Review: September 26–30

CRISPR-based noncoding genomic screening techniques; Congress passes Zika funding; “revolving door” between FDA and industry careers; more publications, more citations?

Sep 30, 2016
Tracy Vence

CRISPR screens

Researchers continue to apply CRISPR to basic research questions, including identifying regulatory elements of disease-associated genes. In two papers published in Science this week (September 29), researchers at MIT, Harvard, and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard described CRISPR interference and CRISPR/Cas9 noncoding genomic screening techniques. Both approaches “target what has been very difficult to do thus far—noncoding regions of the human genome in their native context in relation to important phenotypes,” Sriram Kosuri at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved in either study, wrote in an email to The Scientist.

Productivity, publications, citations

Examining the publication records of more than 28 million scientists between 1980 and 2013, information scientists from the University of Montreal and Leiden University in the Netherlands found that those who published their first paper in or after 2009 were more likely to have their publications among the top 1 percent of most-cited papers in their respective fields had they only published 15 or fewer papers. For more-established academics who had published more than 15 papers before 2009, the more papers they published, the more likely they were to have a top-cited publication. The team’s results appeared in PLOS ONE this week (September 28).

“The take-home message, for me, is that researchers who publish a lot also tend to publish higher-quality work,” said Sverker Sörlin at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, who was not involved in the analysis. “My assumption is that over the long term, the younger researchers that continue to do research will also conform to this behavior.”

Pre-sleep thirst

Mice are prompted to drink water before falling asleep in response to the release of vasopressin by neurons in the brain’s master circadian clock, researchers at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, reported in Nature this week (September 28). The authors have “done an excellent job of . . . joining the dots, neuroanatomically,” said neurobiologist Michael Hastings of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in the U.K. who was not involved in the work.

Geography of intraspecific diversity

A study published in Science this week (September 29) confirmed that species that dwell in the tropics are more genetically diverse than those that live in temperate regions, and showed that proximity to human settlements appears to reduce intraspecific genetic diversity no matter where the mammal or amphibian studied lives. The results of the work, led by researchers at the University of Copenhagen’s Natural History Museum of Denmark, “support earlier findings, but the very large sample size in this study represents a substantial advance,” Len Gillman of the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand who was not involved in the study wrote in an email to The Scientist.

More news in life science:

Congress Approves $1.1 Billion for Zika
The money will go toward vaccine development and assisting communities at risk.

Q&A: From FDA to Industry
Among a subset of US Food and Drug Administration regulators who leave the agency, more than half go to work for pharmaceutical companies, researchers report.

First MRT Baby Born
Scientists in Mexico achieved the infant’s conception using mitochondrial replacement therapy.

Study: Peer Reviewers Swayed by Prestige
Evaluators of mock submissions to an orthopedic surgery journal were more likely to recommend the publication of a manuscript from distinguished authors than one from anonymous authors.

Most Active Peer Reviewers Honored
The “Sentinels of Science” award recognizes especially productive peer reviewers.

Ig Nobels Honor Surprising Science
Studies on the sex lives of rats and the personality of rocks are among the projects celebrated this year.