Preprints as progress reports

Do non-peer-reviewed works belong in grant applications? The US National Institutes of Health, which has requested public comments on the matter, has not yet decided. But the U.K.’s Medical Research Council (MRC) says yes, preprints can be useful in research proposals. As MRC’s Tony Peatfield, director of corporate affairs, pointed out: preprints enable scientists “to show their achievements, up to that time.”

But stakeholders at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) are not convinced that preprints belong in grant applications. “Preprints are an opportunity for members of the community to engage in discussion about the merits of research,” said Yvette Seger, director of science policy at FASEB. “But this is a document that reflects only the initial findings and hasn’t had to respond to peer review.”

Hummingbird brain cells

Neurons in the lentiformis mesencephali of Anna’s hummingbirds (Calypte anna) respond to...

“This ancient part of the brain the authors studied has one job: to detect the motion of the image in front of the eyes,” said neuroscientist Michael Ibbotson from the University of Melbourne, who penned an accompanying editorial but was not involved in the study. It is possible that “hummingbirds evolved this area of the brain to have fine motor control to be able to hover and push in every direction possible,” he added.

Fibril formations

Varying arrangements of amyloid-beta (Aβ) peptides may correlate with the severity of some Alzheimer’s disease subtypes, according to a study published in Nature last week (January 4). “It is generally believed that some form of the aggregated Aβ peptide leads to Alzheimer’s disease, and it’s conceivable that different fibril structures could lead to neurodegeneration with different degrees of aggressiveness,” coauthor Robert Tycko, a principal investigator at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Disease, told The Scientist.

Biocompatible microdevices

Researchers have devised an approach for the manufacture of fully biocompatible, implantable medical devices that can be controlled by an external magnet. The team described its method in Science Robotics last week (January 4). “Of course, you have other devices that are also made out of biocompatible materials, but those are mostly passive devices,” said Albert van den Berg of the University of Twente in the Netherlands, who was not involved in the research. “For instance, you can implant tiny polymer sticks, which have drugs inside that diffuse to the outside, but [in this study] these are active, commandable devices.”

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