By: John W Wilson, University of Pretoria and Duan Biggs, Griffith University

PassportIt is becoming increasingly difficult for people – particularly those from the developing world and the global south – to move around the globe. The UK voted “yes” to Brexit. Donald Trump wants to build a wall on the US border with Mexico. Hungary is also mulling a wall to keep “outsiders” from crossing its borders.

The attitude of citizens in higher income countries towards immigrants is hardening. Visas are harder to come by, no matter the purpose of your travel. And, as research we conducted in late 2015 reveals, scientists from the developing world are among those caught in the cross hairs.

Barriers to travel

As part of the research we conducted an online survey to examine the impact of visa requirements on scientific collaboration. Some of the respondents were postgraduate students; others were active researchers and academics in fields like biology, earth sciences, applied mathematics and engineering. In total, 232 people representing 46 citizenships – from Canada, Chile, France, Malaysia, New Zealand and Kenya, to name a few – took part in the research.

We found that researchers from countries defined as developing by the International Monetary Fund perceive current visa rules as a major impediment to professional travel. Their peers from developed countries did not experience visa rules as a significant barrier.

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For-science or For-profit?

Overcoming barriers in scholarly publishing

ResearchIn 1995, Forbes published an article entitled, “The Internet’s first victim?” In the article, author John Hayes predicted the world of commercial, for-profit scholarly publishing would suffer under the thumb of the internet and begin the slow process of fizzling out for lack of ability to turn a profit.

Turns out he was wrong.

Commercial scientific publishing has adapted to the times, becoming a multi-billion dollar industry; a $25.2 billion industry to be exact.

The rise of the for-profits

According to CBC News, the top for-profit scientific publishers report profit margins of nearly 40 percent, making some of those margins even higher than that of companies like Apple and Google.

The divide between ECS publications and that of top commercial publishers has deep roots. In the early days of scientific publishing, most journals came out of nonprofit scientific societies like ECS. However, the digital age changed things. It did not stifle the commercial publisher as Hayes thought, instead it hurt the scientific societies. Because the cost to make the switch from print to digital was so high, many societies sold their journals to large, for-profit publishers.

The top five largest, for-profit, academic publishers now publish 53 percent of all scientific papers in natural and medical sciences, but ECS still remains as one of the last independent scientific society publishers, and is still committed to the initial vision of the journals: to disseminate scientific research to the broadest possible audience with the fewest barriers.

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RS2EThe French research network on electrochemical energy storage (RS2E) – a public research organization focused on batteries and supercapacitors – has just launched the Young Energy Storage Scientist Award 2016.

The YESS Award is geared toward young scientists in the energy storage field, focused on awarding research funds to innovative and significant projects in the field of electrochemical energy storage, coupled fields of electrochemical energy storage and conversion, or associated characterization techniques.

With this award, RS2E aims to encourage the next wave of energy storage researchers to be as innovative as possible and to say in private/publish energy storage research. The award aims to aid scientists 35 years old or younger from the U.S., Europe, and Canada.

Two $11,000 awards will be distributed, as well as five $2,700 awards.

Deadline for project submissions is July 27, 2016.

Learn more.

In a push for more basic research funding for electrochemical science, past ECS President Daniel Scherson testified before a U.S. House subcommittee to discuss innovations in solar fuels, electricity storage, and advanced materials.

“I want them to understand where electrochemistry fits in many aspects of our lives,” Scherson, the Frank Hovorka Professor of Chemistry at Case Western Reserve University, said prior to the hearing.

During the hearing, Scherson emphasized to the subcommittee that in order to solve some of society’s most pressing problems, more federal funding to basic electrochemistry research is critical. He further explained that without efforts in electrochemistry, nearly all aspects of energy storage and conversion – including batteries, fuels cells, EVs, and wind and solar energy – would cease to be viable.

“Electrochemistry is a two century old discipline that has reemerged in recent years as a key to achieve sustainability and improve human welfare,” Scherson told the subcommittee.

In recent years, budget cuts in federal spending have adversely affected scientific research. In April of this year, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) launched an attack on federal research dollars in the form of the Wastebook – a report detailing specific studies that the senator believes to be wasteful spending.

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Battery conference

Debate Panel members – left to right: Professor Clare Grey (University of Cambridge), Dr Yann Laot (TOTAL, France), MEP Julie Girling (Chair), Dr Rosa Palacin, (ICMAB-CSIC, Spain), Professor Patrik Johnansson, (Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden), Dr Anne de Guibert (SAFT, France)

The first 2016, biannual meeting of the ALISTORE European Research Institute of leading European battery technology scientists took place in the CSIC (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas) (National Research Council of Spain) European Office in Brussels across the 14th and 15th June 2016.

The two day event started with the theme “Future aspects of Materials Sciences & Electrochemistry research in the European Green Energy Economy: The role of the ALISTORE European Research Institute.” Discussion topics included : the current basic economics of energy storage technologies and those which can be coupled to renewable energy systems, the current bottlenecks in the improved performance greener battery supply chain and how we can create even better European – as opposed to national – efforts of R&D on energy storage solutions leading to faster product development and entry into the marketplace.

Member of the Environment Committee in the European Parliament Julie Girling chaired the debate by the scientific leaders in the first part of the meeting. The panel of scientific experts who led the debate included Dr. Anne de Guibert (SAFT, France, Industrial Club Member), Prof. Clare Grey (University of Cambridge, UK, Academic Member), Prof. Patrik Johansson (Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, Academic Member), Dr .Yann Laot (TOTAL, France, Industrial Club Member), Dr. M. Rosa Palacin (ICMAB-CSIC, Spain, Academic Member).

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U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is making his voice heard in the quest for open access of vital scientific research.

After losing his son to cancer in May of 2015, Biden has been on a mission to accelerate cancer research in search of a cure. In order to make those leaps and bounds in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, Biden is now pushing for an open access database to gain better understanding of the disease and advance innovation.

According to The Washington Post, Biden stated that the path toward breakthroughs relies upon increasing the number of researchers who can access data.

While the scope of ECS’s science may be different, our mission to accelerate innovation and open access to our research is the same.

ECS’s Free the Science initiative aims to make all of the research in our Digital Library free to publish and free to read – freeing the science for everyone.

Instead of putting money into the publishing industry, Free the Science is investing in research – allowing scientists to share their work with readers around the world and attracting more minds to think about how to solve some of our planet’s most pressing problems.

Learn more about Free the Science.

In early December of 2015, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) penned what he deemed the “Wastebook” – a report detailing what the senator believes to be wasteful federal spending, specifically targeted at research dollars.

The report took aim at research the fiscal conservative considered a waste of federal cash, including projects he summed up as a “shrimp fight club,” a study of cows in China, an exploration of why obese women can’t get dates, and a look at shrimp on a treadmill.

Earlier this month, those very same scientists that Flake criticized and reduced their research to mere waste took to Pennsylvania Avenue to reinforce the legitimacy of their work.

Researchers respond

“I am rock solid about my research. I know it is very good,” said Sheila Patek, an associate professor of biology at Duke University who led the so-called shrimp fight club study. “But this ‘Wastebook’ targeted a short paper that was the first paper in my young graduate student’s career. He is from a long line of firefighters. His father, his uncle, his grandfather. There aren’t any other scientists in his family. They are very proud of him. He is extremely civic-minded. I don’t think I’ve had anyone in my lab like that. And this has been crushing for him.”

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Research highlighting transformative scientific discoveries

Editors' ChoiceECS published its first Editors’ Choice article on Tuesday, March 22, 2016 in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society. The article, entitled “Communication—Comparison of Nanoscale Focused Ion Beam and Electrochemical Lithiation in β-Sn Microspheres,” details transformative findings in the dosage and spatial distribution of lithiation.

Editors’ Choice articles are a special designation of ECS’s newly established Communication articles, which are designed to highlight breakthrough preliminary research and bolster the scientific discovery process. ECS journal editors designate exemplary Communication articles as Editors’ Choice when the research presented is transformative, detailing either novel advancements in a field or completely new discoveries.

“This paper introduces the use of a focused Li-ion beam (Li-FIB) as a new tool that is designed to probe lithiation mechanism at the nanoscale,” says Nick Wu, Associate Editor of the Journal of The Electrochemical Society. “This technique, which employs a focused Li-ion beam with spot size of a few tens of nanometers and kinetic energy of a few keV, enables precise dosage and spatial distribution of lithiation.”

Papers chosen as Editors’ Choice are regarded as having the highest quality, impact, significance, and scientific or technological interest to electrochemical and solid state science and technology. In order to disseminate these findings to the scientific community at large and open the door to faster developments of practical applications, all Editors’ Choice articles are published Open Access.

“Furthermore,” Wu says, “lithiation in this technique is carried out in the absence of electrolytes so that it allows the study of lithiation dynamics solely in the bulk or surface layers (coatings) of the electrode material without the confounding influences from the electrolyte interactions.”

Each paper undergoes the same rigorous peer-review process associated with ECS journals, with Editors’ Choice articles showing extraordinary direction, concept, interpretation, field, or way of doing something.

Read the full Open Access paper in the ECS Digital Library: http://jes.ecsdl.org/content/163/6/A1010.full.

The Advantages of Studies with Short Titles

As title length increases, the number of citations typically decreases. [Click to enlarge]

As title length increases, the number of citations typically decreases.
[Click to enlarge]

With the use of technical terms and complex formals, scientific journal articles are typically a difficult read for the non-expert. However, sometimes scientists themselves also have a difficult time wading through the highly complicated terms in these studies.

A new analysis of 140,000 scientific papers has recently been released, suggesting that studies with shorter titles are more often cited than those with long titles. The reason? Papers with shorter titles may be generally more concise and easier to comprehend.

The analysis began by looking at 20,000 of the most highly cited scientific papers published from 2007 to 2010. Each year consistently showed that papers with shorter titles received more attention.

This from Popular Science:

The situation gets more complicated, though, when you take journal rankings into account. Papers published in more prestigious journals tend to get more citations. Once the authors controlled for that factor, the correlation between shorter titles and higher citations only held up for the years 2007 to 2010. But the results do show that, overall, journals that publish papers with shorter titles tend to receive more citations per paper.

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Tiny Particle, Big Results

EJ Taylor, ECS Treasurer and Chief Technical Officer at Faraday Technology, recently ran across this article from The Economist discussing an accidental discovery that could yield big results.

Materials scientists Wang Changan of Tsinghua University and Li Ju of MIT may have unintentionally found the answer to developing a battery that can last up to four times longer than the current generation.

Initially, the scientists were simply researching nanoparticles made of aluminum. While these tiny particles are good conductors of electricity, they become less efficient when exposed to air. When air hits these tiny particles, a coating of an oxide film begins to develop, greatly affecting the performance. The research the two scientists were working on was not to create a better battery, but rather to eliminate the oxide that coats the particles.

This from The Economist:

Their method was to soak the particles in a mixture of sulphuric acid and titanium oxysulphate. This replaces the aluminium oxide with titanium oxide, which is more conductive. However, they accidentally left one batch of particles in the acidic mixture for several hours longer than they meant to. As a result, though shells of titanium dioxide did form on them as expected, acid had time to leak through these shells and dissolve away some of the aluminium within. The consequence was nanoparticles that consisted of a titanium dioxide outer layer surrounding a loose kernel of aluminium.

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