Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research

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Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research

The Hague, Netherlands
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News Article | May 1, 2017
Site: www.medicalnewstoday.com

When people in a group are more engaged with each other and with the world around them, their brainwaves show remarkably similar patterns. That's the conclusion of researchers who used portable EEG to simultaneously record brain activity from an entire class of high school students over the course of a full semester as they went about their regular classroom activities. The findings reported in Current Biology highlight the promise of investigating the neuroscience of group interactions in real-world settings. "We found that students' brainwaves were more in sync with each other when they were more engaged during class," says co-lead author Suzanne Dikker of New York University and Utrecht University. "Brain-to-brain synchrony also reflected how much students liked the teacher and how much they liked each other. Brain synchrony was also affected by face-to-face social interaction and students' personalities. We think that all these effects can be explained by shared attention mechanisms during dynamic group interactions." The researchers, led by David Poeppel of New York University and the Max Planck Institute of Empirical Aesthetics, used portable EEG to simultaneously record the students' brain activity. Researchers Lu Wan and Mingzhou Ding of the University of Florida then used novel analyses to assess the extent to which that brain activity was synchronized across students and how the degree of synchrony varied with class engagement and social dynamics. The researchers think that the level of synchrony comes from a well-known phenomenon called neural entrainment. "Your brainwaves 'ride' on top of the sound waves or light patterns in the outside world, and the more you pay attention to these temporal patterns, the more your brain locks to those patterns," Dikker explains. "So, if you and the person next to you are more engaged, your brainwaves will be more similar because they are locking onto the same information." Brain synchrony most likely supports synchronized behavior during human interaction. For example, synchrony is required for two or more people to have a good conversation, walk down the street, or dance, or carry a heavy piece of furniture. The findings suggest that social dynamics matter, even when people are just listening to the same lecture or watching the same video. The researchers are now designing large-scale projects in which they'll be able to record brain data and other biometrics from up to 45 people simultaneously in an auditorium. They hope to answer questions such as, "What are the 'optimal' conditions for an audience to experience a performance or movie? Is there an ideal group size? Does having some joint interaction right before a performance improve the experience? How does the audience affect the performer and vice versa?" This research was supported by the National Science Foundation and a Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research Award. Article: Brain-to-Brain Synchrony Tracks Real-World Dynamic Group Interactions in the Classroom, David Poeppel et al., Current Biology, doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.04.002, published online 27 April 2017.


New insight into how the chaperone protein Hsp70 works. AMSTERDAM, 28-Oct-2016 — /EuropaWire/ — On October 26th Nature will publish a study that overturns the decades-old textbook model of action for a protein that is central for many processes in living cells. Researchers at the FOM Institute AMOLF and the University of Heidelberg show that the protein Hsp70 can mechanically stabilize folded proteins using a moveable lid, and thus protect them against stress and damage. This insight into how proteins help each other offers a new perspective on diverse cellular functions and can ultimately lead to a better understanding of diseases like cancer and Parkinson’s, in which failing protein systems are central. “Proteins collectively control nearly all processes in living cells. They bind briefly, perhaps catalyze a reaction, and then release again. Most proteins have specific binding sites and specific binding partners, but some have a more universal function”, explains AMOLF group leader Sander Tans who investigates such chaperone proteins as the head of the Biophysics group at AMOLF. “Compare it with tools: you can use specific tools for certain tasks, but with a universal tool you can tackle several tasks. A chaperone protein is like a universal tool that can bind to any other protein and help or hinder its function.” Damaging single proteins Tans and his colleagues used an optical tweezers setup to investigate the function of HsP70. “With this technique we can pick up a single protein, and damage it in a very controlled way, simply by pulling at it – a bit like torturing a protein if you will”, he says. “Normally this stretches a protein apart, which we call unfolding. To our surprise we found that Hsp70 was able to protect the protein, and keep it almost fully intact. It was almost impossible to stretch and damage a folded protein when Hsp70 was bound.” This was a surprising result because the textbook model of Hsp70 says that the chaperone likes to bind to extended peptide chains. These chains are exposed when a protein is first made or when it gets damaged. Thus, according to the existing model Hsp70 stabilizes the stretched and unfolded state of a protein, but not the folded state in which the peptide chains are folded up. An automated mechanical clamp “This chaperone is quite a complex system”, Tans says. “Hsp70 changes its shape drastically when it burns the fuel-molecule ATP, just like a car engine that burns fuel. One part of the protein acts as a lid or lever that opens and closes. Normally this movement goes quite fast, so we stopped the cycle using a trick. We found that when we added large quantities of hydrolyzed ATP molecules, called ADP, Hsp70 bound and stabilized the protein for a long time. This makes sense, because we know from biology that when cells are stressed and its proteins need protection, ADP indeed accumulates. In other experiments, we also saw that proteins were resistant to higher temperatures and thus were more stable in the presence of HsP70.” Better understanding of proteins This research shows that existing models of how HsP70 works need to be adjusted. “We should look at the many functions of this chaperone in the cell from a different perspective. For instance, our results show that Hsp70 can truly drive folding itself, rather than just block aggregation between exposed protein chains. Moreover, the working mechanism we discovered might allow Hsp70 to directly bind folded receptors and hence regulate their activity”, says Tans. “With a better understanding of what HsP70 does and which parts are involved, we can ultimately search more effectively for ways to repair failing protein processes in the many conditions in which it plays an important role.” Reference Alternative modes of client binding enable functional plasticity of Hsp70 Alireza Mashaghi, Sergey Bezrukavnikov, David P. Minde, Anne S. Wentink, Roman Kityk, Beate Zachmann-Brand, Matthias Mayer, Günter Kramer, Bernd Bukau, and Sander J. Tans DOI: 10.1038/nature20137 Tans’ research was partly funded by the division Earth and Life Sciences (ALW) and the foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter (FOM) of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).


Bezons, Salt Lake City, le 14 novembre 2016 - Atos, un leader de services numériques, a installé un supercalculateur Bull sequana sur le site de SURFsara aux Pays-Bas pour augmenter les capacités du supercalculateur national Cartesius*. Bull sequana est une gamme ouverte de supercalculateurs conçus pouvoir intégrer les futures technologies exaflopiques, qui permettront de traiter 1 milliard de milliards d'opérations par seconde. Cette extension vient pérenniser le système existant, puisque Bull sequana peut bénéficier des dernières technologies pour permettre aux chercheurs d'exécuter des recherches extrêmement complexes, et à SURFsara de tirer le meilleur parti de son investissement et de réaliser d'importantes économies. La capacité de calcul de Cartesius a aujourd'hui été augmentée de 18 % (pour atteindre un total de 1,8 pétaflops). Le supercalculateur sera opérationnel dès le 1er décembre 2016, et deviendra ainsi le premier Bull sequana en service du monde. Plus dense et dix fois plus écoénergétique Bull sequana fait entrer les performances de calcul dans une nouvelle ère : il est dix fois plus écoénergétique et dix fois plus dense que les systèmes précédents, ce qui lui permet de répondre totalement aux objectifs des clients en matière de durabilité et d'optimisation de l'espace. Dans le centre SURFsara, le supercalculateur est utilisé pour la recherche scientifique par les universités, les instituts de recherches et de façon croissante par les entreprises. Cartesius est utilisé pour les recherches climatiques, la gestion des eaux, l'amélioration des traitements médicaux, la recherche en matière d'énergie durable, la réduction du bruit et l'optimisation des produits et des processus. Anwar Osseyran, PDG de SURFsara explique : « Notre société se numérise rapidement et ainsi d'énormes quantités de données sont désormais accessibles aux chercheurs. Pour analyser ces données, des modèles et des simulations de plus en plus complexes sont nécessaires. Avec la nouvelle extension Bull sequana, nous sommes en mesure de répondre à la demande croissante de puissance de calcul grâce à une stratégie de calcul à la demande» Voir le blog d'Hugo Meiland, membre de la Communauté Scientifique d'Atos: 'How supercomputing functions as a lubricant for the European digital economy'(en Anglais) * Le supercalculateur national Cartesius est hébergé par SURFsara et a pu être réalisé grâce au SURF, avec l'appui du NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research), du Ministère de l'Éducation, de la Culture et des Sciences et le Ministère des Affaires économiques. Le supercalculateur est équipé des tout derniers processeurs Intel (Broadwell) et d'InfiniBand Enhanced Data Rate (EDR). Atos SE (Société Européenne), est un leader de services numériques avec un chiffre d'affaires annuel pro forma de l'ordre 12 milliards d'euros et environ 100 000 collaborateurs dans 72 pays. Atos fournit à ses clients du monde entier des services de conseil et d'intégration de systèmes, d'infogérance, de Big Data et de Sécurité, d'opérations Cloud et des services transactionnels par l'intermédiaire de Worldline, le leader européen des services de paiement. Grâce à son expertise technologique et sa connaissance sectorielle pointue, Atos sert des clients dans différents secteurs : Défense, Services financiers, Santé, Industrie, Médias, Services aux collectivités, Secteur Public, Distribution, Télécoms, et Transports. Atos déploie les technologies qui accélèrent le développement de ses clients et les aident à réaliser leur vision de l'entreprise du futur. Atos est le partenaire informatique mondial des Jeux Olympiques et Paralympiques. Le Groupe est coté sur le marché Euronext Paris et exerce ses activités sous les marques Atos, Bull, Canopy, Worldline, Atos Consulting, Atos Worldgrid et Unify. Bull est la marque commerciale d'Atos pour ses produits et solutions technologiques à forte valeur ajoutée. Forte d'un héritage de plus de 80 années d'innovations technologiques, 2000 brevets et plus de 700 experts R&D soutenus par la Communauté scientifique d'Atos, l'offre de Bull permet d'accompagner les clients du Groupe Atos dans leur transformation digitale pour répondre aux défis du Big Data, de la Cybersécurité et de la Défense. www.bull.com | Suivez @BullFR


News Article | April 13, 2016
Site: phys.org

Over fifty per cent of our biomass use for energy still comes from traditional biomass, such as firewood, charcoal, animal manure and agricultural residues. On the other hand poses the use of biomass a threat to food security. Increasing food production and shifting towards more and better use of biofuels are challenges that can and should be handled simultaneously. One of the approaches could be increasing land use efficiency by a more effective biomass use. Increasing biomass use can be done by allocating biomass fractions to optimise their values. For instance, allocating more harvest to food, optimising nutrient recycling or reducing losses. In Indonesia, the oil production from the rubber tree, oil palm or Jatropha seeds results in solid waste streams that contain protein. These protein fractions can be utilised for applications to feed stock. Rubber seed was selected by the researchers for its protein and oil contents, as well as its availability in the study area. Rubber seed kernel contains 17 per cent protein. After oil pressing, alkaline extraction and isoelectric precipitation, the researchers managed to increase the percentage of protein to 48. Utilisation of protein fractions from rubber seeds presents opportunities to increase revenue from rubber plantation. The most potential application for the farmers is using the rubber seed protein concentrate for animal feed. The experimental work of Widyarani comprised optimising protein extraction, protein hydrolysis, and separation of free amino acids from hydrolysates. The whole rubber tree chain, including latex and wood production, was analysed for additional options for protein recovery. Next to rubber seeds, leaves from rubber trees appeared to be a promising protein source. Two restrictions to the use of rubber seed proteins for amino acid production apply though. The prize of enzymes and separate amino acid from the mixture. Hydrolysis using protease could achieve high degree of hydrolysis, resulted in hydrolysates that were rich in short peptides and free amino acids. A protease combination that has high selectivity towards hydrophobic amino acids was selected. Ethanol precipitation was used for separation of the hydrolysate, and separation between hydrophobic and hydrophilic amino acids was shown as an alternative tool in amino acids purification process. Widyarani's research took place within the project 'Breakthroughs in biofuels: Mobile technology for biodiesel production from Indonesian resources' of Hero Heeres (RUG). This project is part of the NWO-WOTRO Science for global development research programme 'Agriculture beyond food'. The promotor of Widyarani's PhD research – resulting in her thesis 'Biorefinery of Proteins from Rubber Plantation Residues' - was Johan Sanders (WUR). The Agriculture Beyond Food research programme stimulates long term cooperation between research groups from Indonesia and Netherlands on the potential benefits of biomass and the social, economic and policy impact. Agriculture Beyond Food is divided into three clusters: the introduction of Jatropha as an alternative biofuel, mobile technologies for biodiesel production, and the effects of an increasing production of palm oil. Agriculture Beyond Food started in 2008, and a total of 2.5 million euros is available for the research. The programme is financed by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO-WOTRO), the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), and is carried out in collaboration with the Indonesian Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education (formerly RISTEK).


Bezons, Salt Lake City, 14 November 2016 - Atos, a global leader in digital services, has installed a Bull sequana supercomputer at SURFsara in the Netherlands to expand the capacity of the national supercomputer Cartesius*. Bull sequana is an open range of supercomputers that is ready to support future exascale technologies - which will make it possible to process a billion billion operations per second. This extension future-proofs the system as Bull sequana can be expanded with the latest technologies, allowing researchers to execute extremely complex research, and SURFsara to fully leverage its investment and save substantial costs. Today the compute capacity of Cartesius has been increased by 18% (to a total of 1.8 Pflops). It will be operational on the 1st of December 2016; the first Bull sequana to be operational worldwide. Feeding the need for speed while being 10 times more energy-efficient Taking computing performance to a whole new level, Bull sequana is 10 times more energy-efficient and 10 times denser than previous systems, to fully comply with customers' sustainability and space-efficiency targets. The supercomputer at SURFsara is used for scientific research by universities, research institutions and to a growing extent, by business. Cartesius is used for climate research, water management, improving medical treatment, sustainable energy research, noise reduction and product and process optimization. The Dutch national supercomputer Cartesius has been instrumental in achieving outstanding progress in: Prof. dr. ir. Anwar Osseyran, CEO of SURFsara indicated: "Our society digitizes quickly and thus huge amounts of data become available to researchers. This data has to be analyzed, and more complex models and simulations are necessary. With the new Bull sequana expansion we are able to meet the growing demand for computing power with an on-demand strategy", Philippe Vannier, Executive Vice President Big Data & security at Atos concludes: "This project is part of our Exascale program for 2020, under which we are developing a new generation of supercomputers. Numerous institutions and private companies throughout the world use Atos technologies to accelerate research and innovation. We are proud that SURFsara in the Netherlands has opted for a Bull sequana as one of the first worldwide". Major industrial clients, academics or research centers worldwide  - including CEA in France, The Cardiff University in the UK, and the Spanish Genomics Center (CNAG) - use Bull supercomputers. Atos at SC16 Atos will exhibit the full breadth of its High Performance Computing offer at SC16. Together with SURFsara it will present the key benefits of the installed Bull sequana. Visit booth #721 to discover the latest Bull sequana blades, the BXI high performance interconnect, and extreme factory, the HPC-as-a-service solution from Bull. Bull supercomputers' high-data volume processing capabilities are also maximized within Atos' Big Data services such as "Atos Codex", an integrated end-to-end analytics solution including predictive computing and cognitive analytics. Read the blog by Hugo Meiland, member of the Scientific Community at Atos: 'How supercomputing functions as a lubricant for the European digital economy' * The Cartesius national supercomputer is hosted by SURFsara and made possible by SURF, with the contribution of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, and the Ministry of Economic Affairs. The supercomputer has the latest Intel processors (Broadwell) and InfiniBand Enhanced Data Rate (EDR). About Atos Atos SE (Societas Europaea) is a leader in digital services with pro forma annual revenue of circa EUR 12 billion and 100,000 employees in 72 countries. Serving a global client base, the Group provides Consulting & Systems Integration services, Managed Services & BPO, Cloud operations, Big Data & Cyber-security solutions, as well as transactional services through Worldline, the European leader in the payments and transactional services industry. With its deep technology expertise and industry knowledge, the Group works with clients across different business sectors: Defense, Financial Services, Health, Manufacturing, Media, Utilities, Public sector, Retail, Telecommunications, and Transportation. Atos is focused on business technology that powers progress and helps organizations to create their firm of the future. The Group is the Worldwide Information Technology Partner for the Olympic & Paralympic Games and is listed on the Euronext Paris market. Atos operates under the brands Atos, Atos Consulting, Atos Worldgrid, Bull, Canopy, Unify and Worldline. Bull is the Atos brand for its technology products and software, which are today distributed in over 50 countries worldwide. With a rich heritage of over 80 years of technological innovation, 2000 patents and a 700 strong R&D team supported by the Atos Scientific Community, it offers products and value-added software to assist clients in their digital transformation, specifically in the areas of Big Data and Cybersecurity and Defense.  www.bull.com|Follow @Bull_com For more information, please contact: Jose de Vries +31 6 30 27 26 11 Jose.devries@atos.net


News Article | November 15, 2016
Site: news.europawire.eu

PARIS, France/Bezons, Salt Lake City, UT, U.S.A., 15-Nov-2016 — /EuropaWire/ — Atos, a global leader in digital services, has installed a Bull sequana supercomputer at SURFsara in the Netherlands to expand the capacity of the national supercomputer Cartesius*. Bull sequana is an open range of supercomputers that is ready to support future exascale technologies – which will make it possible to process a billion billion operations per second. This extension future-proofs the system as Bull sequana can be expanded with the latest technologies, allowing researchers to execute extremely complex research, and SURFsara to fully leverage its investment and save substantial costs. Today the compute capacity of Cartesius has been increased by 18% (to a total of 1.8 Pflops). It will be operational on the 1st of December 2016; the first Bull sequana to be operational worldwide. The supercomputer at SURFsara is used for scientific research by universities, research institutions and to a growing extent, by business. Cartesius is used for climate research, water management, improving medical treatment, sustainable energy research, noise reduction and product and process optimization. The Dutch national supercomputer Cartesius has been instrumental in achieving outstanding progress in: Prof. dr. ir. Anwar Osseyran, CEO of SURFsara indicated: “Our society digitizes quickly and thus huge amounts of data become available to researchers. This data has to be analyzed, and more complex models and simulations are necessary. With the new Bull sequana expansion we are able to meet the growing demand for computing power with an on-demand strategy”, Philippe Vannier, Executive Vice President Big Data & security at Atos concludes: “This project is part of our Exascale program for 2020, under which we are developing a new generation of supercomputers. Numerous institutions and private companies throughout the world use Atos technologies to accelerate research and innovation. We are proud that SURFsara in the Netherlands has opted for a Bull sequana as one of the first worldwide”. Major industrial clients, academics or research centers worldwide  – including CEA in France,  The Cardiff University in the UK, and the Spanish Genomics Center (CNAG) – use Bull supercomputers. Atos at SC16 Atos will exhibit the full breadth of its High Performance Computing offer at SC16. Together with SURFsara it will present the key benefits of the installed Bull sequana. Visit booth #721 to discover the latest Bull sequana blades, the BXI high performance interconnect, and extreme factory, the HPC-as-a-service solution from Bull. Bull supercomputers’ high-data volume processing capabilities are also maximized within Atos’ Big Data services such as “Atos Codex”, an integrated end-to-end analytics solution including predictive computing and cognitive analytics. Read the blog by Hugo Meiland, member of the Scientific Community at Atos: ‘How supercomputing functions as a lubricant for the European digital economy’ * The Cartesius national supercomputer is hosted by SURFsara and made possible by SURF, with the contribution of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, and the Ministry of Economic Affairs. The supercomputer has the latest Intel processors (Broadwell) and InfiniBand Enhanced Data Rate (EDR). About Atos Atos SE (Societas Europaea) is a leader in digital services with pro forma annual revenue of circa EUR 12 billion and 100,000 employees in 72 countries. Serving a global client base, the Group provides Consulting & Systems Integration services, Managed Services & BPO, Cloud operations, Big Data & Cyber-security solutions, as well as transactional services through Worldline, the European leader in the payments and transactional services industry. With its deep technology expertise and industry knowledge, the Group works with clients across different business sectors: Defense, Financial Services, Health, Manufacturing, Media, Utilities, Public sector, Retail, Telecommunications, and Transportation. Atos is focused on business technology that powers progress and helps organizations to create their firm of the future. The Group is the Worldwide Information Technology Partner for the Olympic & Paralympic Games and is listed on the Euronext Paris market. Atos operates under the brands Atos, Atos Consulting, Atos Worldgrid, Bull, Canopy, Unify and Worldline. Bull is the Atos brand for its technology products and software, which are today distributed in over 50 countries worldwide. With a rich heritage of over 80 years of technological innovation, 2000 patents and a 700 strong R&D team supported by the Atos Scientific Community, it offers products and value-added software to assist clients in their digital transformation, specifically in the areas of Big Data and Cybersecurity and Defense.  www.bull.com | Follow @Bull_com For more information, please contact:


SWINDON, 27-Feb-2017 — /EuropaWire/ — A new agreement has guaranteed continued access to two world-class telescopes for astronomers in the UK. The future of the William Herschel and Isaac Newton telescopes on La Palma has been secured for the next decade thanks to a new operation agreement between the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and the current owner of the telescopes, Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC). STFC and NWO signed the agreement in 2016, and the new arrangement came into effect this week with the final signature from IAC in a ceremony at the headquarters of the Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes (ING) on February 20. Under the 10-year agreement, telescope time will be shared between the three partners, who will each also contribute toward maintenance costs. The STFC will continue to manage the operation of the telescopes through the ING base on La Palma, which has been in charge of the telescopes since their installation in the mid-1990s. Speaking about the new agreement Professor Grahame Blair, STFC’s Director of Programmes said “We are very pleased the UK astronomy research community will continue to be a major partner in the far reaching scientific programme of research taking place at the ING. The next decade will be very exciting for UK astronomers working with the ING and the next-generation facility multi-fibre spectrograph known as WEAVE will offer researchers an unparalleled opportunity to learn more about the origins of the Milky Way.” The agreement ensures the continuation of the successful collaboration of the UK and the Netherlands in the operation of telescopes on La Palma, which dates back to 1981, and the extension of the 14-year partnership with IAC. For the William Herschel Telescope, the partners are finalising the construction of WEAVE, a next-generation facility multi-fibre spectrograph, which will be used to help us understand more about the formation of galaxies and the expansion dynamics of the universe. For the Isaac Newton Telescope, a new high-resolution stabilised spectrograph will allow the detection of Earth-like planets around nearby stars. The Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes (ING) operates three telescopes on the island of La Palma in the Spanish Canary Islands. They are the: The ING is operated under a tripartite arrangement on behalf of the UK, the Nederlanse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk (NWO) of the Netherlands and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) in Spain. The Director of the ING is Dr Marc Balcells. The ING’s aim is to develop collaboration between astronomers in the UK, the Netherlands and Spain and ensure that, through continual maintenance and development, these telescopes remain at the forefront of world astronomy.


News Article | November 2, 2016
Site: www.chromatographytechniques.com

Beer is one of the world’s most popular alcoholic beverages. But, made with barley, brews can contain low levels of mycotoxins, which are produced by fungi that can contaminate grains. Although not a major health threat, the industry needs to minimize the risk of contamination. Now scientists have developed a portable sensor that can help. Their report appears in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Because of its alcohol content and the high temperatures required to make beer, most consumers might assume that contamination by biologically derived compounds is not an issue. But mycotoxins can survive the brewing process and end up in the final product. Some mycotoxins have been shown to cause genetic damage in cells and cancer in animals. Currently, methods to detect mycotoxin contamination in beer are costly and require in-laboratory analysis. Sweccha Joshi, Teris van Beek and colleagues wanted to come up with a less expensive, portable alternative. Building on technology used to detect mycotoxins in grains, the researchers developed a biosensing chip that can bind these compounds when they are present in beer samples. The team also could reuse the chip 450 times before it started to fail. Testing on commercial beer and barley showed that the portable instrument detected levels as low as 0.2 nanograms/milliliter of ochratoxin A and 120 ng/mL of deoxynivalenol — respectively, the estimated safe limits for these mycotoxins. The authors acknowledge funding from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research.


News Article | November 2, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Beer is one of the world's most popular alcoholic beverages. But, made with barley, brews can contain low levels of mycotoxins, which are produced by fungi that can contaminate grains. Although not a major health threat, the industry needs to minimize the risk of contamination. Now scientists have developed a portable sensor that can help. Their report appears in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Because of its alcohol content and the high temperatures required to make beer, most consumers might assume that contamination by biologically derived compounds is not an issue. But mycotoxins can survive the brewing process and end up in the final product. Some mycotoxins have been shown to cause genetic damage in cells and cancer in animals. Currently, methods to detect mycotoxin contamination in beer are costly and require in-laboratory analysis. Sweccha Joshi, Teris van Beek and colleagues wanted to come up with a less expensive, portable alternative. Building on technology used to detect mycotoxins in grains, the researchers developed a biosensing chip that can bind these compounds when they are present in beer samples. The team also could reuse the chip 450 times before it started to fail. Testing on commercial beer and barley showed that the portable instrument detected levels as low as 0.2 nanograms/milliliter of ochratoxin A and 120 ng/mL of deoxynivalenol -- respectively, the estimated safe limits for these mycotoxins. The authors acknowledge funding from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research. The abstract that accompanies this study is available here. The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With nearly 157,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio. To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society, contact newsroom@acs.org.


News Article | August 24, 2016
Site: www.nature.com

No scientist wants to be the first to try to replicate another’s promising study: much better to know what happened when others tried it. Long before replication or reproducibility became major talking points, scientists had strategies to get the word out. Gossip was one. Researchers would compare notes at conferences, and a patchy network would be warned about whether a study was worth building on. Or a vague comment might be buried in a related publication. Tell-tale sentences would start “In our hands”, “It is unclear why our results differed …” or “Interestingly, our results did not …”. What might seem obvious — a paper on attempts and outcomes — was almost never an option. Many journals refused to consider replication studies, and a lot of researchers had no desire to start a feud if their results did not match. So scientists not in the know might waste time exploring a blind alley or be wary about truly promising research. Things are improving. Nowadays, researchers who want to tell the scientific community about their replication studies have multiple ways to do so. They can chronicle their attempts on a blog, post on a preprint server or publish peer-reviewed work in those journals that do not require novelty. Just this year, the online platform F1000 launched the dedicated Preclinical Reproducibility and Robustness channel for refutations, confirmations or more nuanced replication studies. Other titles, including Scientific Data and the American Journal of Gastroenterology, have openly solicited replication attempts and negative results. In 2013, after controversial work on whether bioactive RNA molecules could cross from the digestive tract to the bloodstream, Nature Biotechnology declared itself “receptive to replication”, provided that such studies illuminate crucial research questions (Nature Biotechnol. 31, 943; 2013). The psychology community is a leader in this: Perspectives on Psychological Science has begun publishing a new type of article, and pioneering a new form of collaboration. It asks psychologists to nominate an influential study for replication and to draw up a plan. The original author is invited to offer suggestions on the protocol, multiple labs volunteer to collect data, and results — whatever they may be — are published as a registered replication report (RRR). So far, three have been published, each with a perspective by the original authors. Yet it would be inefficient to pursue such projects for more than a sliver of publications. Most replication attempts are not organized collaborations, but individual laboratories testing the next stage of their research. If those results were shared, science would benefit. Why doesn’t this happen more often? Because the replication ecosystem, such as it is, lacks visibility, value and conventions. When a researcher happens on an exciting paper, there is no easy way to learn about replication attempts. Replication studies are not automatically or consistently linked to original papers on journal websites, PubPeer or PubMed. When a replication attempt is mentioned in passing in a broader study, there is no way to capture it. Journals cannot be expected to curate all replication attempts of papers they publish, although they should support technology that aggregates and disseminates that information. And they should be open to publishing in-depth replication attempts for original papers. For example, Scientific Reports encourages critique by offering to waive its article-processing charge for a peer-reviewed refutation of an article published in the journal. Increased visibility would raise the value of a replication attempt, but also increase the risk of retaliation against replicators. There is little reward for taking that risk. A published replication currently does little to raise the esteem of the replicator with hiring committees or grant reviewers. This creates a chicken–egg problem — researchers don’t want to conduct and publish rigorous replication studies because they are not valued, and replication studies are not valued because few are published. Commendably, funders such as the Laura and John Arnold Foundation in the United States and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research are explicitly supporting replication studies, and setting high expectations for publication. Scientists can help to ensure that such studies are valued by citing them and by discussing them on social media. Conventions around replication studies are in their infancy — even the vocabulary is inadequate. Editors who coordinate RRRs strive to avoid loaded labels such as ‘successful’ and ‘failed’ replications. The Reproducibility Initiative, a project to help labs coordinate independent replications of their own work, also shied away from similar pronouncements after its first study. A paper is a jumble of context, experiments, results, analysis and informed speculation. Outcomes can depend on apparently trivial differences in methods, such as how vigorously reagents are mixed, as one collaboration painstakingly discovered (W. C. Hines et al. Cell Rep. 6, 779–781; 2014). Neither are there conventions for interactions between replicators and the original authors. Some original authors have refused to share data or methodological details. In other cases, some replicators broadcast their attempts without first trying to resolve inconsistencies, a practice that leaves them more open to charges of incompetence. (Thankfully, both replicators and original authors are now backing away from name-calling.) As replication becomes more mainstream, we trust that the community will establish reasonable standards of conduct. To foster better behaviour, replication attempts must become more common. We urge researchers to open their file drawers. We urge authors to cooperate with reasonable requests for primary data, to assume good intent and to write papers — and keep records — assuming that others will want to replicate their work. We urge funders and publishers to support tools that help researchers to thread the literature together. We welcome, and will be glad to help disseminate, results that explore the validity of key publications, including our own.

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