FOCUS Newsletters

March 2014

As concerns about difficulties to reproduce research studies are growing, the true extent of the problem is still unclear. But poor reproducibility is only one of many factors that together make biomedical research highly inefficient, analyses suggest.

Two studies published in the January 30 issue of  Nature suggested that treating mature mouse cells with an acidic solution can turn them into pluripotent stem cells (Nature 505, 641 and 676, 2014). The simplicity of the approach surprised many, and the research made worldwide headlines.

But within a week, commenters on a forum called PubPeer started to report problems, such as manipulated figures. What’s more, multiple attempts to replicate the results have been unsuccessful, according to a web site that lists such attempts. The RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, where much of the work was done, is investigating the matter. 

The final word hasn’t been spoken on the stem cell papers, but if the results don’t hold up, the papers will join an increasing number of biomedical research studies that are not reproducible.

February 2014

In this edition of FOCUS In Sound, we welcome a scientist who explores the way the brain encodes information about the world around us – she combines computational and biological approaches to study the mechanisms behind the transformation of sensory representations.

Dr. Maria N. Geffen is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Otorhinolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery and Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania. She received her bachelor’s degree from Princeton, her Ph.D. in Biophysics at Harvard, and did her post-doc at the Center for Studies in Physics and Biology at Rockefeller University in New York. In 2008, when she was still at Rockefeller, she received the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award at the Scientific Interface, a $500,000 grant designed to help bridge advanced postdoctoral training and the first three years of faculty service.


Follow the link to listen to the audiocast and read the transcript.  All of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund audiocasts can be found at FOCUS in Sound.

2014 January

The rarefied world of academic science may be what drew many researchers to the scientific endeavor, but remaining isolated from the populace could harm their chosen profession and undermine progress in science and technology.

November 2013

On this edition of FOCUS In Sound, we welcome a married couple of researchers, both of whom have been recipients of Burroughs Wellcome Fund grant support – Doctors Alice Chen-Plotkin and Joshua Plotkin. 

September 2013

Addressing the Benefits and Challenges of Turning Discovery into a Business

By definition, scientists and entrepreneurs are both innovators. They shatter the status quo, either by uncovering misconceptions about the way the world works or by creating solutions to society’s most pressing concerns.