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NEWS Plague risk in China Antimatter probe delayed 559 SOCIAL SCIENCE 561 stability, sociologists say. With their university flush with research money, scholars from four Peking University departments convened to discuss the data dearth. They seized on the idea of a major panel survey and turned to Xie, who had experience with the University of Michigan’s ongoing Panel Study of Income Dynamics, for help implementing it. What once might have been a prohibitively sensitive survey became a darli
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  30 APRIL 2010 VOL 328 SCIENCE www.sciencemag.org 554 NEWS >>    C   R   E   D   I   T   S  :   (   P   H   O   T   O    A   N   D   T   A   B   L   E   )   Y   U   X   I   E   /   U   N   I   V   E   R   S   I   T   Y   O   F   M   I   C   H   I   G   A   N 561559 Antimatterprobe delayedPlague riskin China For decades, social scientists looking for fig-ures from China were hamstrung. The Chinesegovernment collects copious data, but much issecret, and what isn’t classified is often unreli-able. The imperfect solution, more often thannot, has been for researchers to go knockingon doors themselves.This approach changed this month asscores of interviewers dispersed acrossChina for the start of a study that aims todocument everything from emotional stressto family planning (see table). They expect toreach 60,000 respondents in 25 provinces— making the survey the largest undertaking of its kind in the developing world. “This is justmammoth compared to other studies,” saysRobert Hauser, a demographer at the Univer-sity of Wisconsin, Madison, who advised thesurvey’s designers.The Chinese Family PanelStudies, as the project is called,should provide abundant fod-der for data-starved socialscientists hoping to track howChina’s rapid development isshaping societal values, saysYu Xie, a sociologist at theUniversity of Michigan, AnnArbor, and Peking Univer-sity who designed much of the new survey. Through thisyear’s baseline survey and annual follow-up visits, hesays, “we are going to be ableto document some of the big-gest changes in history.”The $8.8 million survey is broad as well as deep. Com- parable U.S. efforts are oftenfunded by government agen-cies seeking specific data,and as a result they home inon specific age groups or top-ics. The government-backed Chinese survey, by contrast,was crafted by scholars to fillmyriad holes in social sciencedata, meaning it will expand the body of information on China in onefell swoop. To achieve that range, interview-ers are questioning every member of eachhousehold they visit.The survey’s architects hope that the exten-sive interviews will help build a vivid portraitof Chinese society. And a design modeled after similar studies in the West means demog-raphers and sociologists will be able to usethe results to compare across cultures, saysHauser: “It will really improve the quality of data worldwide.” Chinese family values  Not long ago, the Chinese government viewed most of the social sciences with suspicion. But by 2004, top leaders were bemoaning gaps ininformation as they sought to maintain socialstability, sociologists say. With their univer-sity flush with research money, scholars fromfour Peking University departments convened to discuss the data dearth. They seized on theidea of a major panel survey and turned toXie, who had experience with the Universityof Michigan’s ongoing Panel Study of IncomeDynamics, for help implementing it. Whatonce might have been a prohibitively sensitivesurvey became a darling of China’s most pres-tigious university.After securing local backing for a newresearch center—Peking University’s Insti-tute of Social Science Survey (ISSS) inBeijing—the Chinese scholars sought inputfrom abroad. In addition to the Michigan sur-vey, they looked at the British Household PanelSurvey, the Taiwanese Panel Study of FamilyDynamics, and the German Socio-EconomicPanel Study, says ISSS director and surveyco–principal investigator Qiu Zeqi. Xie and colleagues borrowed elements from all theseefforts, then adapted questions and methodol-ogy to the rapidly developing country.China’s effort has constraints. It steersclear of questions about the one-child pol-icy, ethnicity, and politics. Minority regionslike Tibet, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia areexcluded, although Xie says this is mainlya logistical matter: Sending interviewers toquery nomads on the Tibetan plateau, for instance, would be too costly.Although some hot-button issues remainoff limits, the project does address subjectssuch as quality of life, social service needs,and the rich-poor gap. In addition to usingspecialized survey software, a 380-strongarmy of interviewers has been trained to“observe how wealthy the family is, howthey interact, how clean the house is,” saysXie. The robust design allows researchers toanalyze dynamics within families as well asmake comparisons across neighborhoods,says demographer Robert Mare, president of the Population Association of America, whois not affiliated with the project. “Social sci-entists in the U.S. are very excited that thisstudy will be carried out,” he says.In preparation for the project, the Chi-nese team in 2008 and 2009 conducted a pilot survey of more than 2300 householdsin Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangdong Prov-ince. Their findings, which are availableupon request from ISSS, suggest that theeconomic reality in those major urban cen-  Survey to Reveal True Face ofChinese Society SOCIAL SCIENCE A SLICE OF LIFE IN CHINA Questionnaire Examples of topics Community Water sources, employment stats, electionparticipation, housing prices, medical facilities,family planning, income and expendituresHousehold Child care, family and friend networks, householdeconomy, cost of living, family business ownershipAdult Education, marital status, military experience,employment, transportation,  guanxi  (social networks),life satisfaction, confidence in the future, medicalexpenses, exercise, diet and nutritionAdolescent School enrollment, language use, parentalsupervision, allowance, leisure activities, datingInterviewer Interviewee’s behavior, household memberPerceptions relationships (e.g., estranged, authoritative,gender-equal), community conditions Going door to door. Chief sur-vey designer Yu Xie queries aGansu Province villager abouthis health and wealth. Published by AAAS    o  n   A  p  r   i   l   2   9 ,   2   0   1   0  w  w  w .  s  c   i  e  n  c  e  m  a  g .  o  r  g   D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   f  r  o  m   www.sciencemag.org SCIENCE VOL 328 30 APRIL 2010 555 ters is a far cry from the picture frequently painted of China’s boom.Marketing executives often rhapso-dize about the appetite for luxury goodsamong urban Chinese. But the pilot surveyshowed that even in developed areas likeBeijing, Shanghai, and Guangdong, über-consumers are a small percentage of the population. In 2009, an average of 80% of residents’ expenditures went toward basicssuch as food, housing, and transportation.These burdens were unequally distributed,moreover: Rural people spent considerablymore on health care than did city dwellers.(Both Beijing and Shanghai are administra-tive areas with both rural and urban popula-tions.) Only 45% of respondents said theywere satisfied with their lives, with moreBeijingers describing themselves as happier on the whole than did residents of other areas.Expanding those inquiries nationwidewill be far from easy. “One of the challengesis how to track people” for follow-up visits,says Qiu. Many rural Chinese lack home phones and change cell phone numbers fre-quently, and some 150 million to 180 mil-lion people migrate from the countryside tothe cities for work. The solution, says Qiu,is to record contact information for threefriends or relatives of each respondent. Thatsafeguard proved invaluable during the pilotsurvey, when interviewers returning to studyareas discovered that whole villages had  been relocated to make way for construction projects. In the end, the team managed totrack down about 80% of respondents.That success rate bodes well for the Fam-ily Panel Studies, which aim to gather datafrom a representative sample that would cover 95% of the population. True advances may beyears down the line, when data allow for com- parisons over time. But scholars are alreadyexcited. “This survey will show us societaldevelopment from individuals’ perspectives,”says Ren Qiang, a sociologist at Peking Uni-versity. That puts it far ahead of previous Chi-nese efforts, he says. “It’s much, much better than what we had before.” –MARA HVISTENDAHL Mara Hvistendahl is a writer based in Rotterdam, theNetherlands.    C   R   E   D   I   T  :   D   A   V   I   D   C   A   N   N   A   T   E   L   L   A   /   U   N   I   V   E   R   S   I   T   Y   O   F   T   E   X   A   S 565 Japan rescuesasteroid mission 562 Multitaskingplatelets Add another group of animals to the growingmenagerie of creatures whose genomes have been sequenced. On page 633 of this issue,Uffe Hellsten, a bioinformaticist at LawrenceBerkeley National Laboratory in California,and his colleagues describe the sequence of the Western clawed frog,  Xenopus tropicalis ,the first member of the amphibian branch of the tree of life to be so honored.Amphibians branched off from other ver-tebrates about 350 million years ago, and thegroup has been evolving along a path sepa-rate from mammals, reptiles, and birds ever since. “For this reason, the frog genomesequence provides unique insights intogenome dynamics over an extended period of evolution,” says Ben Evans of McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada. “It fills in acrucial gap in our understanding of genomediversity and evolution of organisms,” addsDavid Cannatella, an evolutionary biologistat the University of Texas, Austin.The draft of the genome is in hundreds of  pieces—not complete enough to be ordered chromosome by chromosome, but Hellsten and colleagues were able to match long stretchesof contiguous sequence with equivalentsequences in the chicken and human genomes.A 150-million-base region in the center of human chromosome 1, for example, has avirtually identical counterpart in the frogand chicken genomes. “That implies thatwhole region has remained intact for 350 million years,” says Hellsten,and it represents an ancient chromo-some. Other matchups indicated thatthree stretches of DNA fused ontohuman chromosome 1 after breakingoff from elsewhere in the genome.Another intact region in chicken and frog split up in the human genomeand spread across six chromosomes.“There appears to have been morefrequent chromosome fusion and fis-sion in mammals than in birds and frogs,” says Evans.The frog genome may offer newinsights for not only evolutionary biologists but also biomedical scientists. It has 1700genes that have been linked to human dis-eases such as type 2 diabetes, acute myeloid leukemia, alcoholism, sudden infant deathsyndrome, and congenital muscular dystro- phy. These can be investigated using the frogto probe the basic mechanisms by whichthese genes work. “It opens a large num- ber of doors for comparative and functionalgenomics,” says Erica Bree Rosenblum, anevolutionary biologist at the University of Idaho, Moscow.Researchers chose  X. tropicalis to be thefirst amphibian sequenced because develop-mental biologists use it in their studies and it has a relatively small genome: 1.7 billion bases stretched across 10 chromosomes,about half the size of the human genome. Now, researchers are hungry for more. “Onespecies of frog does not allow one to say verymuch about frogs,” says Cannatella. Others point out that  Xenopus is unusual amongfrogs, so “now they need to do a typical frog,”says David Wake, an evolutionary biologistat the University of California, Berkeley.Cannatella would like to see the fire-bellied toad,  Bombina orientalis , sequenced next. Nonetheless, says Stephen O’Brien, ageneticist at the National Cancer Institute branch in Frederick, Maryland, this  Xeno- pus genome “is an important beginning and a treat for comparative genomics.” –ELIZABETH PENNISI Frog DNA Yields Clues to Vertebrate Genome Evolution GENOMICS Floating to fame. An aquatic frog, the Western clawed frog,now has a sequenced genome. Published by AAAS    o  n   A  p  r   i   l   2   9 ,   2   0   1   0  w  w  w .  s  c   i  e  n  c  e  m  a  g .  o  r  g   D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   f  r  o  m 
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