Subscribe
 

ScienceInsider

  • By: 
    Thomas Sumner
    Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 5:15pm
    Comments
    Long live the king. The Smithsonian's Tyrannosaurus rex specimen is welcomed by (from left): Kirk Johnson, Sant director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History; Kathy and Tom Wankel, who discovered the fossil in Montana in 198

    James Di Loreto/Smithsonian Institution

    Long live the king. The Smithsonian's Tyrannosaurus rex specimen is welcomed by (from left): Kirk Johnson, Sant director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History; Kathy and Tom Wankel, who discovered the fossil in Montana in 1988; and Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

    A Tyrannosaurus rex baring banana-sized teeth is taking over Washington, D.C.—and it came via FedEx. The 12-meter “Nation’s T. rex” arrived this morning at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History accompanied by a police escort and was greeted by a packed hall of reporters and dinosaur lovers. The 66-million-year-old bipedal dinosaur, uncovered in 1990, journeyed 3200 kilometers from its former home in Bozeman, Montana, in a dino-decorated delivery truck complete with its own tracking number. “I’m happy to say we FexExed the T. rex,” joked museum director Kirk Johnson before signing a 50-year loan agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the fossil’s former caretaker.

    The 7-ton dinosaur, one of the five most complete specimens ever unearthed, will become the centerpiece of the museum’s $48 million renovated National Fossil Hall, scheduled to debut in 2019. The hall will be named in recognition of David Koch, executive vice president of Koch Industries Inc., who donated $35 million toward the makeover. The museum currently displays a replica skeleton erected shortly after the Smithsonian’s failed 1999 bid for the famous T. rex nicknamed “Sue.” Until National Fossil Day on 15 October, visitors can watch museum staff unpack, catalog, and 3D scan the fossilized bones in a “Rex Room” exhibit. The bones will then be shipped to Toronto for mounting.Continue Reading

  • By: 
    Virginia Morell
    Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 4:00pm
    Comments
    Whaling redux. Japan says it plans to redeploy its whaling vessels to the Antarctic starting in 2015.

    Customs and Border Protection Service, Commonwealth of Australia

    Whaling redux. Japan says it plans to redeploy its whaling vessels to the Antarctic starting in 2015.

    Earlier this month, many cetacean researchers and conservationists rejoiced when Japan canceled its controversial scientific whale hunt in Antarctica in response to an order from the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands. Now, however, Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) says it plans to resume research whaling in the region next year, with a program that is “in accord” with the court’s ruling. But ICR’s move could be just a legal maneuver, some observers say.

    ICR’s plans became public last week, after the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS), an antiwhaling group known for harassing Japanese whaling ships, publicized legal briefs the research agency filed in a federal court in Seattle, Washington. (ICR is seeking a court order preventing SSCS from interfering with its fleet when killing whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.) Although the documents provide few details, ICR says it plans to resume its Antarctic hunts beginning in the 2015 to 2016 season. (Japan has a second scientific whale hunt in the North Pacific that is not affected by the international court’s ruling.)

    The news came as little surprise to those following the controversy. “It’s entirely consistent with what I would expect from ICR,” says Phillip Clapham, a marine biologist with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, Washington. Clapham has served as a member of the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee, which for decades has been critical of Japan’s research whaling program.Continue Reading

  • By: 
    David Malakoff
    Monday, April 14, 2014 - 3:15pm
    Comments
    In trouble? The U.S. biomedical research system, including labs such as this one at the National Institutes of Health, is in need of reform, according to four prominent researchers.

    Bill Branson/National Institutes of Health

    In trouble? The U.S. biomedical research system, including labs such as this one at the National Institutes of Health, is in need of reform, according to four prominent researchers.

    The U.S. biomedical science system "is on an unsustainable path" and needs major reform, four prominent researchers write in an opinion piece published today by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers should "confront the dangers at hand,” the authors write, and “rethink” how academic research is funded, staffed, and organized, according to Science Careers (published by AAAS, which also publishes ScienceInsider).

    The four authors are Bruce Alberts, former president of the National Academy of Sciences and former editor-in-chief of Science; Marc Kirschner, founding chair of the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School; Shirley Tilghman, former president of Princeton University; and Harold Varmus, Nobel laureate and current director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Among other issues, they suggest that the system may be producing too many new researchers and forcing them to compete for a stagnating pool of funding.

    It’s not the first time research leaders have raised such alarms. In 2012, Tilghman co-chaired an advisory panel to the National Institutes of Health, NCI’s parent and the nation’s major biomedical research funder, that suggested a glut of trainees and a dearth of academic positions were creating a dysfunctional biomedical research system.Continue Reading

  • By: 
    Richard Stone
    Monday, April 14, 2014 - 1:00pm
    Comments

    The Communist Party’s effort to root out corruption in officialdom is now targeting its biggest fish to date in the Chinese science establishment. On 12 April, the state news agency Xinhua reported that Shen Weichen, Communist Party secretary at the China Association for Science and Technology, or CAST, “is now under investigation for suspected serious violation of discipline and laws.”

    On its website, CAST describes itself as “the bridge linking Chinese science and technology community with the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government.” The nongovernmental organization, headquartered in Beijing, may be best known in China for its efforts to popularize science for the general public and its occasional reports on the state of the nation’s scientific workforce. Its U.S. equivalent is AAAS, publisher of ScienceInsider.

    Continue Reading

  • By: 
    Eli Kintisch
    Sunday, April 13, 2014 - 5:00am
    Comments
    New report says efforts to develop biofuels, such as this U.S. Navy project to make fuel from algae, could be key to reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

    U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams

    Part of the solution. New report says efforts to develop biofuels, such as this U.S. Navy project to make fuel from algae, could be key to reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

    BERLINGlobal greenhouse emissions are skyrocketing. Emissions cuts required to avoid dangerous impacts of climate change are steep. And despite decades of talk, world governments have made paltry efforts to address the problem.

    That’s the grim picture painted by a major report on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions released today by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

    “There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual,” said Ottmar Edenhofer, an energy expert at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, who was a co-chair of the roughly 500-page report, in a statement.

    The report also describes the daunting work required to sidestep climate dangers, says energy expert Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, California. “To greatly reduce [carbon dioxide] emissions, we must revolutionize our systems of energy production and consumption,” he says. And that’s a “long, hard, and costly undertaking.”Continue Reading

    Posted In: 
  • By: 
    Kelly Servick
    Friday, April 11, 2014 - 4:45pm
    Comments
    Overturned? Research suggesting a rapid turnover rate for heart muscle cells (above) has been pulled.

    Anversa et al., Circulation 126, 15 (9 October 2012)

    Overturned? Research suggesting a rapid turnover rate for heart muscle cells (above) has been pulled.

    A 2012 paper on the regenerative powers of the human heart has been retracted from the journal Circulation amid an investigation of compromised data. The American Heart Association, which publishes the journal, issued an 8 April retraction for the paper, whose corresponding author  was Piero Anversa, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. The retraction states that “an ongoing institutional review by Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital has determined that the data are sufficiently compromised that a retraction is warranted.”

    Another author is Circulation’s editor-in-chief, Joseph Loscalzo, who is chair of Brigham’s Department of Medicine. The journal received a letter late last week from Harvard University’s dean for faculty and research integrity calling for the retraction, Rose Marie Robertson, chief science and medical officer at the American Heart Association, tells ScienceInsider. She said the letter mentioned problems with the data in several of the paper’s figures. A Brigham representative declined to give any details about the ongoing review. Robertson said that, based on Harvard’s letter, she has no concerns about Loscalzo’s role in the paper and that he recused himself from both the review process and the retraction.

    Continue Reading

    Posted In: 
  • By: 
    Jocelyn Kaiser
    Friday, April 11, 2014 - 4:00pm
    Comments
    Sylvia Mathews Burwell

    Walmart Foundation

    Sylvia Mathews Burwell

    President Barack Obama today nominated Sylvia Mathews Burwell, director of the White House budget office, to replace Kathleen Sebelius as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

    Burwell, 48, has a background in public policy and held several positions in the Clinton administration, including deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). From 2001 to 2011, she worked for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where for several years she headed the foundation’s Global Development Program. Under her purview were projects ranging from agricultural development—including crop research—to polio eradication. She directed the Walmart Foundation before she became OMB director a year ago.

    As HHS director, Burwell will continue efforts to carry out the Affordable Care Act. Sebelius struggled with that task, enduring months of criticism for problems with the government’s health insurance website. The former governor of Kansas announced her resignation today.

    Continue Reading

    Posted In: 
  • By: 
    Leigh Dayton
    Friday, April 11, 2014 - 3:45pm
    Comments
    Aurora australis (the southern lights) at the South Pole

    Keith Vanderlinde, National Science Foundation

    Aurora australis (the southern lights) at the South Pole

    Imagine the McDonald’s Australia Antarctic Expedition or perhaps the launch of Australia’s new research vessel, the Microsoft Australis. These scenarios are not complete fantasy. Government officials this week told staff at the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), the nation’s lead polar science agency, that planned funding cuts mean the division will be seeking “[a]lternative funding models” for research, including philanthropic donations and commercial sponsorship.

    Gordon de Brouwer, secretary of the federal Environment Department, which oversees AAD, told scientists and support staff on 8 April that the division, based near Hobart, Tasmania, also faces an unspecified number of “voluntary” job losses. According to the acting regional secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, Jessica Munday, AAD has already lost 30 employees over the past few months, leaving the remaining 300 staff members stretched. “So more cuts could impact workloads and research capabilities,” she told Fairfax Media.

    The news follows a warning issued late last month by the Australian Academy of Science that the country’s strategic position in Antarctica is at risk because of a declining scientific effort there. Seven countries have made territorial claims to Antarctica under the 1961 Antarctic Treaty, and Australia’s claim of 43% of the continent is the largest. Such claims, however, have little practical effect under the treaty, which does not recognize, dispute, or establish territorial claims, and establishes an access system to the continent governed by the 50 nations that have signed the treaty.Continue Reading

  • By: 
    David Malakoff
    Friday, April 11, 2014 - 2:45pm
    Comments

    U.S. Air Force

    Staying put. The U.S. Air Force says it won't move an office that manages much of its basic research, such as this work involving materials science.

    A proposal to move the U.S. Air Force’s basic research office from the Washington, D.C., area to an air base in Ohio has crashed. The office is “staying put,” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James told a Senate hearing yesterday, according to a story published by FYI, an online newsletter published by the American Institute of Physics.

    The proposed move, publicly floated this past January, had drawn opposition from research and university groups, who worried it would result in a greater emphasis on applied research programs at the expense of basic science.

    Yesterday’s statement appears to nail down a decision made in the past month or so. In late February, Alan Shaffer, a senior Pentagon research official, wrote a letter to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a major professional association that opposed the move, saying that the relocation was unlikely to occur. “We were most pleased” to hear that news, wrote Thomas Tierney, the vice president of the group’s Government Relations Council, in reply to Shaffer in a 4 March letter.Continue Reading

    Posted In: 
  • By: 
    Adrian Cho
    Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 6:30pm
    Comments
    The U.S. share for the ITER fusion energy project, under construction in France, could reach $3.9 billion overall, according to a new estimate.

    ITER

    Costs rising. The U.S. share for the ITER fusion energy project, under construction in France, could reach $3.9 billion overall, according to a new estimate.

    ITER, the international fusion experiment under construction in Cadarache, France, aims to prove that nuclear fusion is a viable power source by creating a "burning plasma" that produces more energy than the machine itself consumes. Although that goal is at least 20 years away, ITER is already burning through money at a prodigious pace. The United States is only a minor partner in the project, which began construction in 2008. But the U.S. contribution to ITER will total $3.9 billion—roughly four times as much as originally estimated—according to a new cost estimate released yesterday. That is about $1.4 billion higher than a 2011 cost estimate, and the numbers are likely to intensify doubts among some members of Congress about continuing the U.S. involvement in the project.

    The United States and ITER share a complicated history. The project was first proposed in 1985 as a joint venture with the Soviet Union and Japan. The United States backed out of that effort in 1998, citing concerns over cost and feasibility—only to jump in again in 2003. At the time, ITER was envisioned to cost roughly $5 billion. That estimate had grown to $12 billion by 2006, when the European Union, China, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and United States signed a formal agreement to build the device. The United States agreed, essentially, to build 9% of the parts for the reactor, at whatever price was necessary.

    Continue Reading

    Posted In: 
  • By: 
    Christine Mlot
    Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 6:15pm
    Comments
    An Isle Royale wolf

    Rolf Peterson

    An Isle Royale wolf

    The next chapter in the long-running scientific story of Michigan’s Isle Royale wolves will not include a dramatic genetic rescue. After 2 years of consideration, the National Park Service (NPS) announced this week that it will not introduce mainland wolves to revive the genetically inbred and declining wolf population on the isolated island. “The decision is not to intervene as long as there is a breeding population,” Isle Royale National Park Superintendent Phyllis Green tells ScienceInsider.   

    Isle Royale, in Lake Superior, is a wilderness area where hands-off management has been the rule. But a recent record decline in wolf numbers—and ripple effects on the island’s moose and forest—convinced researchers studying the predator-prey system that genetic rescue of the wolves was an ecological necessity. The decision not to introduce wolves is disappointing to many scientists who have consulted with NPS about its plan. 

    Wildlife ecologist Rolf Peterson of Michigan Technological University (MTU) in Houghton, who has been studying the Isle Royale wolves since 1970, notes that the park service announcement makes no mention of ecosystem functioning or health. He and MTU collaborator John Vucetich are planning a response to the NPS decision, which they will release next week. It will accompany their annual report on this winter’s fieldwork, the 56th year of the study. “I’m sure the word disappointed will be in our statement,” Peterson says.Continue Reading

  • By: 
    Kai Kupferschmidt
    Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 2:30pm
    Comments
    Annette Schavan

    Laurence Chaperon/Wikimedia Commons

    Annette Schavan

    BERLIN—Former German Education and Research Minister Annette Schavan is giving up her fight to keep her Ph.D. title, she announced today on her website. It marks the end of one of the most hotly debated plagiarism cases here in recent years.

    Schavan was awarded the degree in educational science at the University of Düsseldorf after completing her dissertation in 1980. More than 30 years later, Schavan, by then the nation's education and research minister, was charged with plagiarism by an anonymous accuser who posted an analysis of the dissertation online. The University of Düsseldorf investigated and in February 2013 revoked the degree. Just 4 days later, Schavan resigned.

    But the wrangling continued even after her resignation. Although Schavan acknowledged mistakes in her dissertation, she denied any intent to mislead and took her case to court. Last month, the Düsseldorf Administrative Court ruled that the university's action "was taken in compliance with the law." Schavan had taken several passages from secondary sources without citing them correctly, the court found. "After being able to think about the judgment … for a few days, I have decided not to appeal and to end the legal fighting," Schavan wrote in the statement on her home page. "Now I am preparing for new challenges and am looking forward to them." Schavan, a devout Catholic, has been tapped as Germany's ambassador to the Vatican.

    Continue Reading

  • By: 
    Martin Enserink
    Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 7:15pm
    Comments
    Worth it? There’s little evidence that the antiflu drug Tamiflu reduces health complications or hospitalizations, a new study argues.

    Wikimedia Commons

    Worth it? There's little evidence that the antiflu drug Tamiflu reduces health complications or hospitalizations, a new study argues.

    BMJ has published the latest volley in a battle over one of the most controversial drugs of the 21st century: the anti-influenza compound oseltamivir, better known as Tamiflu. A working group of the Cochrane Collaboration, an international network of scientists that performs systematic reviews of the medical literature, has carried out the most exhaustive meta-analysis yet of the drug’s efficacy—and its conclusions are, once again, pretty damning.

    Tamiflu can make flu symptoms disappear a little sooner than they would otherwise, the authors say, but there is no evidence that it can prevent serious complications from flu, or keep people out of the hospital. The group questions the wisdom of buying massive stockpiles of the drug to prepare for influenza pandemics, as many countries have done.

    The review comes after a long, drawn-out fight to obtain all available data from Tamiflu trials from Roche, the company that produces the drug. The Cochrane group, with active support from BMJ, eventually won that tussle, and in doing so made Tamiflu the poster child for a successful broader campaign to ensure access to clinical trial data. (The European Medicines Agency has already said that it will make the information it receives from drug companies publicly available, and several companies—including Roche and GlaxoSmithKline—have pledged to become far more transparent.)

    Continue Reading

    Posted In: 
  • By: 
    Dennis Normile
    Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 6:45am
    Comments
    "STAP cells exist!" said Obokata, shown here during a January press conference, today in Osaka.

    Kyodo

    On the defense. "STAP cells exist!" said Obokata, shown here during a January press conference, today in Osaka.

    TOKYO—In her first appearance before the press since her claims of an astounding breakthrough in stem cell research started unraveling, Haruko Obokata, of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, apologized for the trouble she has caused her employer, her colleagues, and the scientific community. But she also firmly maintained that STAP cells, the new type of stem cells she claims to have developed, exist, and said she will not retract the two Nature papers reporting her finding.

    “I sincerely apologize to RIKEN, my co-authors, and to many others for the trouble I caused through my insufficient experience and carelessness," Obokata said with a deep bow at the beginning of the press conference, which was held in Osaka. But "STAP cells exist!" she defiantly declared in response to a question. She also pledged to "go anywhere" to help any interested scientist reproduce her results.

    Obokata last faced the press when she and colleagues at RIKEN and other institutions in Japan and at Harvard Medical School in Boston published a research article and a letter online in Nature on 29 January. The 30-year-old was lionized in Japan for her unexpected breakthrough, a method to create stem cells that she called "stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency," or STAP. It works by subjecting mature cells to a brief acid bath and then tweaking culture conditions. But soon there were reports of doctored images and plagiarism, and to date, no one has reported replicating the first step in creating STAP cells. One co-author has called for the papers to be retracted.

    Continue Reading

  • By: 
    Tania Rabesandratana
    Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 6:15am
    Comments

    BRUSSELS—A group of European pro-life organizations is mobilizing against embryonic stem cell research in a way that the European Commission cannot ignore. One of Us, a so-called European citizens' initiative, has collected 1.7 million signatures from all 28 E.U. member states for a proposal that would block funding for research in which embryos are destroyed; under E.U. rules, the European Commission must now consider turning the proposal into legislation.

    Research commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn will meet the organizers of the initiative here today; on Thursday, they will defend their case during a public hearing at the European Parliament. The commission has until 28 May to spell out its response.

    The proposal is a direct attack on a delicate compromise over the use of embryonic cells in research, a topic on which the union is sharply divided. “Any roll back of this agreement would be a major step backwards for research across regenerative medicine, reproductive health and genetic disease, and delay the development of much needed treatments for a host of untreatable conditions,” said a group of 31 research organizations and universities from across Europe today in a statement. The group, led by the Wellcome Trust, urged the commission and the Parliament to oppose the initiative.

    Continue Reading

    Posted In: 
  • By: 
    Yudhijit Bhattacharjee
    Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - 5:30pm
    Comments

    NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has been at the receiving end of tough questions from Congress numerous times over the past 5 years. But his pugnacious exchange with lawmakers at a hearing of the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee today is likely to go down as one of his more memorable visits to Capitol Hill.

    Bolden was first grilled by Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA), chair of the commerce, justice, and science appropriations subcommittee, over alleged lapses of security at NASA, which Wolf and many others believe has made the agency vulnerable to espionage by China. Bolden said NASA was improving its security.

    Then Wolf demanded to know why NASA had been slow to share information with the committee on the expected budget and schedule for programs and the road maps for achieving goals such as the development of a rocket that can take astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). “As a result, we are often required to make decisions in an information vacuum,” Wolf said. At one point, he remarked, “Instead of posturing, let’s just be honest.”

    The comment got Bolden hot under the collar. “Every time I come here, my integrity is impugned,” Bolden replied. He insisted that he had never misrepresented anything to the committee. “I am offended,” he said.Continue Reading

    Posted In: 
  • By: 
    Mark Peplow
    Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - 12:30pm
    Comments

    London’s ebullient and media-friendly mayor, Boris Johnson, today unveiled an initiative that aims to attract commercial investment to the bioscience research powerhouses of London, Oxford, and Cambridge.

    Johnson hopes that his plan—dubbed MedCity—will forge a “golden triangle” of research collaborations between the three cities, bring in venture capital financing for spinout companies, and encourage major pharmaceutical companies to establish bases in the region.

    At the heart of the plan is the £650 million ($1 billion) Francis Crick Institute, now under construction in London and led by geneticist Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society. When the institute opens in 2015, it will be the biggest biomedical research facility in Europe, employing about 1250 scientists and with an annual budget of more than $160 million.

    Continue Reading

  • By: 
    Puneet Kollipara
    Monday, April 7, 2014 - 3:45pm
    Comments
    Sunk? The White House is proposing to close a marine research laboratory located on Pivers Island near Beaufort, North Carolina.

    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

    Sunk? The White House is proposing to close a marine research laboratory located on Pivers Island near Beaufort, North Carolina.

    A proposal by the Obama administration to close a historic marine research laboratory near Beaufort, North Carolina, is drawing pushback from the scientific community and local members of Congress. Although the administration frames it as a tough choice in a time of fiscal restraint, critics argue that the proposed closure of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) lab would endanger crucial marine research.

    Founded more than 100 years ago, the NOAA laboratory on Pivers Island near Beaufort conducts research into a variety of marine science subjects, including fish stocks, ecosystem function, and the health of aquatic creatures. Its work has helped scientists improve how they forecast harmful algal blooms, and it set in place the first study of invasive lionfish in the South Atlantic, those familiar with the lab say. And it is the only NOAA lab between Miami, Florida, and Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

    The Obama administration quietly proposed closing the lab in the president’s fiscal year 2015 budget request released last month, citing the tough fiscal environment. The lab, which employs 108 workers and contractors, has a roughly $1.6 million operating and maintenance budget (which does not include salaries).

    The closure is far from set in stone. Congress would have to approve the request as part of the spending plan for the 2015 fiscal year, which begins 1 October. But that work isn’t expected to be finished until late this year, after the November elections.Continue Reading

    Posted In: 
  • By: 
    Thomas Sumner
    Monday, April 7, 2014 - 1:30pm
    Comments
    Nuclear legacy. A U.S. government guard stands watch over gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment seized in 2003 from a ship bound for Libya.

    U.S. Department of Energy

    Nuclear legacy. A U.S. government guard stands watch over gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment seized in 2003 from a ship bound for Libya.

    Republican lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives are raising objections to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plan to lift a 1983 ban on Libyan nationals receiving pilot training or studying nuclear science in the United States. At a hearing last week, supporters of lifting the ban said the move is needed to help Libya rebuild global ties after decades of international sanctions during the dictatorship of Muammar Gaddafi. Critics, however, worried it could help train potential terrorists.

    The regulations at issue were created by President Ronald Reagan’s administration in the early 1980s, when Libya hosted terrorist training camps and sought to procure nuclear weapons. Libya was already included on the U.S. State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, but the Reagan administration wanted to make sure that Libyans were not able to come to the United States to learn to fly or repair aircraft, or study the nuclear sciences. Wanting to improve foreign relations with the United States, in 2003 Libya voluntarily ended its nuclear program, which was still in the early stages of uranium enrichment. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice removed the country as a state sponsor of terrorism in 2006.Continue Reading

  • By: 
    Jacopo Pasotti
    Friday, April 4, 2014 - 5:30pm
    Comments
    Earthquake science. Italian geologist Gianluca Valensise heads a project examining seismic risks in central Italy.

    Gianluca Valensise

    Earthquake science. Italian geologist Gianluca Valensise heads a project examining seismic risks in central Italy.

    This weekend, it will be 5 years since a massive earthquake, centered on the town of L’Aquila, killed 309 people in the Abruzzo region of central Italy. The aftershocks of that tragedy included a controversial court case in which a judge found four scientists, two engineers, and a former government official guilty of manslaughter for having misleadingly reassured the citizens after a series of earlier tremors; the prosecution argued that residents would have otherwise followed the traditional practice of fleeing houses before a major quake hits. Each was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment, but the judgment is still under appeal.

    The earthquake on 6 April 2009 has also led to new research. Gianluca Valensise, a geologist at the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), is the scientific coordinator of Progetto Abruzzo, which involved opening a research center in the “red zone” of L’Aquila—the devastated area of the city’s historical center that is largely uninhabited and restricted to traffic. Valensise recently spoke with ScienceInsider about the effort, which has been funded since 2012 by Italy’s research ministry, and the general relationship between Italy’s geoscientific community and citizens since the trial. While some progress has been made, problems remain in his view. Despite their crucial role in a hazard-prone country like Italy, and the demand for effective communication to the public, Italian scientists “have never received any formal training in the communication of science and of natural hazards,” he notes. Valensise’s remarks have been edited for brevity and clarity.

    Continue Reading

    Posted In: 
  • By: 
    Jocelyn Kaiser
    Friday, April 4, 2014 - 4:45pm
    Comments
    Downsized. NIH says chimpanzees need less space than some experts had advised.

    Frans de Waal/Emory University

    Downsized. NIH says chimpanzees need less space than some experts had advised.

    The few chimpanzees still used for biomedical research in the United States can live in much tighter quarters than some experts prefer. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has decided that about 23 square meters (250 square feet) per individual is adequate. That is just one-fourth the area that an advisory committee had recommended.

    The space plan affects a dwindling number of research chimpanzees. In December 2011, an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report found that most research on chimpanzees is unnecessary and that NIH should limit the animals’ use. After asking an advisory committee to help it carry out IOM’s advice, NIH announced last June that it would retire to sanctuaries all but 50 of its 360 research chimpanzees and impose new requirements on any remaining NIH-funded behavioral and biomedical studies.

    The one sticking point, however, was the advisers’ recommendation that an individual chimpanzee have at least 93 square meters (1000 square feet) of primary living space. NIH said there was little evidence to support that amount of space, which could be costly, especially because the chimpanzees were supposed to live in groups of at least seven animals. So the agency decided to get input from experts on animal care and commission a literature review.

    Continue Reading

    Posted In: 
  • By: 
    Jocelyn Kaiser
    Friday, April 4, 2014 - 2:45pm
    Comments
    David Wright

    Rebecca C. Henry

    David Wright

    Last month, David Wright, the director of the federal Office of Research Integrity (ORI), which keeps watch on fraud in federally funded biomedical research, quit in frustration after 2 years. His resignation letter was a scathing critique of what he called the “dysfunctional” bureaucracy at the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH). After it was obtained and published by ScienceInsider, it drew national attention to an office that often labors in obscurity. Wright, 68, has since returned to Michigan, where he is a professor emeritus at Michigan State University in East Lansing. He spoke with ScienceInsider earlier this week about his reasons for leaving. The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

    Q: Did something trigger your decision in February?

    D.W.: It was the accumulation of frustrations with the bureaucracy and trying to operate a regulatory office which requires precision, transparency, procedural rigor in an organization that values none of those things.

    While the ORI director has a lot of creative capacity and leadership capacity when he or she faces outward to the research community helping institutions better handle allegations or promote the responsible conduct of research, for example, inside the director is essentially treated like a flunky in a kind of backwater bureaucracy.

    Continue Reading

  • By: 
    Dennis Normile
    Friday, April 4, 2014 - 9:30am
    Comments

    A scientist who has been trying to reproduce STAP cells—a new type of stem cells—and has been regularly blogging about his progress has given up. "I don’t think STAP cells exist and it will be a waste of manpower and research funding to carry on with this experiment any further," wrote Kenneth Ka-Ho Lee, an embryologist and stem cell researcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, on his ResearchGate page yesterday. Though he is giving up, he hopes others will continue to investigate whether the new approach—which has been dogged by controversy and claims of research misconduct—can really lead to stem cells.

    Two papers that appeared online in Nature on 29 January described how subjecting cells from newborn mice to a mildly acidic solution and then tweaking culture conditions turned them into pluripotent stem cells that can differentiate into all of a body's cell types. The authors—Haruko Obokata of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, and colleagues at other institutions in Japan and at Harvard Medical School in Boston—dubbed the process stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency, or STAP.

    Whether STAP cells exist is yet to be proven. But the controversy surrounding them shows how scientists are embracing the latest social media tools. Immediately after the Nature papers appeared, stem cell scientist Paul Knoepfler raised questions about STAP cells on his blog. He later started weekly polls, asking how many scientists believed in the existence of STAP cells. He also ran a tally of groups trying to reproduce the results. (So far, none have.) The PubPeer website, for open postpublication review of published papers, set up two webpages—one for each paper. Contributors soon started raising questions about images and text in the Obokata papers.

    Continue Reading

    Posted In: 
  • By: 
    Elisabeth Pain
    Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 5:30pm
    Comments
    Thanks, see you soon. Benoît Hamon (left) and Geneviève Fioraso.

    Wikimedia Commons

    Thanks, see you soon. Benoît Hamon (left) and Geneviève Fioraso.

    French Higher Education and Research Minister Geneviève Fioraso was among the political victims of a major defeat for the Socialist Party (PS) in local elections last Sunday. In the wake of the electoral disaster, President François Hollande ditched almost half of his Cabinet, including Fioraso; the new prime minister, Manuel Valls, announced yesterday that career politician Benoît Hamon will succeed her in a new superministry that also encompasses primary and secondary education.

    But Fioraso’s role may not have ended. There was strong speculation in Paris yesterday that she may be appointed secretary of state under Hamon next week, a position in which she may keep most of the responsibilities she had as minister. Hamon himself hinted at a prolongation at a handover ceremony, according to Le Monde, when he told her: “Thank you very much … see you soon.” Fioraso said that “the adventure hasn’t ended yet.”Continue Reading

    Posted In: 
  • By: 
    Tania Rabesandratana
    Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 3:15pm
    Comments

    BRUSSELS—Researchers who do clinical trials in the European Union will have to make the results public under a bill approved by the European Parliament yesterday. In a sweeping vote held here yesterday, 594 members of the Parliament voted in favor of the plan, while only 17 voted against and 13 abstained.

    The vote, which confirms an informal deal reached in December between Parliament and the European Union's 28 member states, is a victory for activist groups who want trials data out in the open. "This is fantastic,” said Sile Lane from Sense About Science, one of the organizations behind the AllTrials campaign in the United Kingdom, in a statement after the vote. “It will mean that researchers will in future know about trials as they are happening and will be able to scrutinize results soon after their end.”

    Under the draft reform, trials carried out in the European Union must be registered in a central database, and a summary of results—positive or negative—must be uploaded within 1 year after the end of the trial. In addition, researchers must release a full clinical study report—which contains detailed information about the trial design and analysis, including patient-level data sets—if the medicine is submitted for marketing authorization, irrespective of that application's success. Academic researchers and companies would be fined if they don't comply.

    Continue Reading

    Posted In: 

Pages