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Vol. 343 ,
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- Monday, December 8, 2008 - 7:28am
Move over, Detroit automakers. The United Kingdom’s biotech industry wants a spot among those queuing for government financial help during the global economic downturn. "All of us have concluded that this is the most serious, dire situation that the sector has ever been in. We are teetering on the edge of the abyss," Christopher Evans, founder of the medical sciences investment house Excalibur, told the Daily Telegraph last week. Evans and 21 other U.K. biotech leaders want their government to provide up to £500 million for two funds, one that would help small firms consolidate and one that would bankroll companies needing money to grow. According to the Financial Times, Evans says biotech companies would give up equity for the money, offering the promise that the U.K. government could earn the cash back down the road. The biotech leaders recently prepared a dossier on their proposal for government officials, although there's no word on whether they made the mistake of using a private jet to deliver the document.Continue Reading
- Sunday, December 7, 2008 - 9:59pm
President-Elect Obama today on Meet the Press, compelling hundreds of scientists to start editing their PowerPoints:
MR. BROKAW: Who are the kinds of artists that you would like to bring to the White House?
PRES.-ELECT OBAMA: Oh, well, you know, we have thought about this because part of what we want to do is to open up the White House and, and remind people this is, this is the people's house There is an incredible bully pulpit to be used when it comes to, for example, education. Yes, we're going to have an education policy. Yes, we're going to be putting more money into school construction. But, ultimately, we want to talk about parents reading to their kids. We want to invite kids from local schools into the White House. When it comes to science, elevating science once again, and having lectures in the White House where people are talking about traveling to the stars or breaking down atoms, inspiring our youth to get a sense of what discovery is all about. Thinking about the diversity of our culture and, and inviting jazz musicians and classical musicians and poetry readings in the White House so that, once again, we appreciate this incredible tapestry that's America. I--you know, that, I think, is, is going to be incredibly important, particularly because we're going through hard times. And, historically, what has always brought us through hard times is that national character, that sense of optimism, that willingness to look forward, that, that sense that better days are ahead. I think that our art and our culture, our science, you know, that's the essence of what makes America special, and, and we want to project that as much as possible in the White House.(Emphasis added.)
Physicist Herman White of Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois,Continue Reading
- Friday, December 5, 2008 - 4:41pm
Worried that Congress will force its hand because of public concern, the National Institutes of Health is moving to change its rules on financial conflicts of interests among scientists that receive its grants. A new set of regulations could be ready in six months to a year, according to acting NIH director Raynard Kington at a meeting on Friday at the institutes. Last week NIH submitted to the White House a draft list of questions on which NIH wants public input, which will help them shape the new rules:
-- How to define whether a financial interest is “significant.” Should the current definition, which exempts any financial conflict worth less than $10,000, stay in place?
-- Whether NIH should strengthen its work to make institutions comply. Would stronger policing lessen the likelihood of biased research?
-- Whether NIH should oversee institutional conflict, rather than just individual conflict. If so, how would NIH define institutional conflict of interest?
-- Whether NIH should require investigators to disclose any and all financial interests directly to it.
The last possibility prompted Christine Seidman, a professor of medicine and genetics at Harvard Medical School, to observe that new requirements could mean that the length of disclosures “very quickly exceed the scientific content.” Huh? Length? Paperwork? She spoke at a meeting of the NIH director's advisory committee, which was webcast (LINK please/archived?). The questions will be released soon for public comment, officials said.
Current regulations require NIH grantees to submit “significant” financial institutions to their institution, which then must report the conflict to the NIH and assure that it has been managed or eliminated. This year, the NIH reviewed 20 cases of alleged failure to follow the rules. Six are still being investigated, but so far,Continue Reading
- Friday, December 5, 2008 - 9:05am
That's among the questions a new high-powered group in Washington, D.C., will consider as it launches the first major nonpartisan effort to study how the government ought to use scientific information to make decisions. "We will be looking at what policymakers can do that is legitimate and what is beyond the pale," says David Goldston, an organizer for the 13-member panel. They'll meet for the first time next month and hope to release their one-and-only report in June.
Goldston says the group is not trying "to dissect what the Bush Administration has done right or wrong" in the consideration of scientific information for decision-making. Instead, it will examine federal advisory boards, conflict-of-interest policies, how different agencies consider scientific advice, and what role scientists should play in decisions by regulatory agencies such as the FDA or EPA.
So far, most of the work on the topic has been by journalists or the left-leaning nonprofit group Union of Concerned Scientists, whose reports have criticized the Bush Administration on issues including the editing of federal scientific reports and the pressure that government scientists may encounter as they seek to influence policy or speak to reporters about their findings. But this group includes former Bush Administration officials, former Science Committee chair Sherry Boehlert, former Science magazine editor-in-chief Don Kennedy, industrial officials, academics, and even, yes, the UCS, represented by its president, Kevin Knobloch.
Goldston, a former staff director for the House Science and Technology Committee, says the effort is sponsored by the Packard and Hewlett foundations as well as ExxonMobil and is run out of the Bipartisan Policy Center, a relatively new Washington group.
- Thursday, December 4, 2008 - 5:46pm
Amid growing concerns about hefty payments that some doctors receive from industry, The Cleveland Clinic plans to post this income in a public database, the New York Times reported yesterday. Now ABC News says the University of Wisconsin and Duke plan to do the same. These institutions appear to be responding to concerns that drug and device industry payments are biasing doctors' treatment decisions and perhaps research studies. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has been investigating the issue for the past few months and wants drug companies to report their payments to doctors in a national database.
- Thursday, December 4, 2008 - 5:35pm
Now it's coming from the horse's mouth. The Center for American Progress, headed by John Podesta, who is also running Barack Obama’s transition team, has spelled out on its Web site what it thinks the next president's stem cell policy ought to be. The piece calls on the new president to give the Department of Health and Human Services 90 days to come up with guidelines allowing federal funding for research on any "ethically derived" human embryonic stem cells and making clear that no federal money will go to violating the federal ban on harming embryos.
It's hard to imagine what else Obama would do. He's as unlikely to try to open up stem cell research to new firestorms of political controversy by calling for federal funding for research cloning (what some call harming embryos) as he is to try to retain the much-hated (at least by most stem cell scientists and Democrats) Bush policy. Obama’s choice for HHS secretary, by the way, is Tom Daschle, a close ally of the center who has appeared at a number of its events.Continue Reading
- Thursday, December 4, 2008 - 1:27pm
Grim-faced NASA officials went before the cameras today with bad news for Mars aficionados. Given a series of technical troubles, the agency will delay launch of the Mars Science Laboratory for nearly 2 years. Instead of sending the complex probe toward the Red Planet next fall, the spacecraft won't begin its journey until late in 2011. Though the problems may be ironed out soon, the relative orbital positions of Earth and Mars necessitates a 26-month delay.
That decision is also bad news for scientists working on other Mars and planetary science projects, since the delay will increase the mission's price tag another $400 million. That, warns NASA Science Chief Ed Weiler, will have an impact on other spacecraft. While he doesn't expect to have to cancel other projects, he warns delays are likely. But the alternative—putting the probe en route to Mars next fall—was not an option. "We're avoiding a mad dash to launch," he says. "Failure is not an option."
Weiler's predecessor Alan Stern, who recently blasted NASA management of the Laboratory mission in a letter to Science and an editorial in the New York Times, called the decision "disheartening" and "predictable almost a year ago." And, he adds, it likely will not mark an end to the overruns.
The delay coupled with the financial collapse around the world is forcing both the U.S. and Europe to combine their martian efforts to create a sturdier, long-term plan to explore the planet. Weiler says that European Space Agency officials yesterday agreed that future missions—including a 2016 launch—should be planned and executed together. So look for a cash-strapped Obama Administration to push for closer international ties in coming years.Continue ReadingPosted In:
- Thursday, December 4, 2008 - 11:48am
When President-elect Barack Obama introduced New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson yesterday as his nominee to be secretary of commerce, both men emphasized that getting Americans back to work would be job #1. But don't be surprised if Richardson, a former secretary of energy under Bill Clinton, also finds a way to strengthen the science agencies within his realm.
Despite its name, the Department of Commerce has a sizable research portfolio as the home of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as well as the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It also houses the U.S. Patent Office, the Census Bureau, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. A former aide predicts that Richardson, an early casualty in the Democratic presidential primary, will push his staff for ideas to build up the department in ways that will also bolster science.
"He's always loved the idea of linking science to economic development," says the aide. "He's done it in New Mexico, and he did it at Energy." But don't look for Richardson, who at one point had hoped to be named secretary of state or even Obama's vice president, to come up with the plan himself. As his track record shows, he doesn't do details.Continue Reading
- Thursday, December 4, 2008 - 11:17am
Thanks to a temporary extension granted last week to his animal experiments license, Andreas Kreiter, a neuroscientist at the University of Bremen, can continue his primate research for now—at least when he’s not tied up explaining his work to journalists. Kreiter, who uses macaques to study the brain’s visual perception system, is caught up in a high-profile legal saga surrounding primate research in the German city of Bremen. Last year, the city-state's legislature passed a nonbinding resolution declaring a phase-out of all primate research, and apparently city authorities mean to follow through. Kreiter was informed in October that his application for an extension of his animal research license, due to expire on 30 November, had been rejected. However, the university has vowed to fight that decision in court, based on the German constitution's clause protecting "freedom of research." They have filed an initial complaint and have said they will appeal all the way to the country's top constitutional court if necessary.
In the meantime, Kreiter received a temporary order last week that extends his license until a Bremen court can decide whether to take the case. Without such an order, Kreiter worried that his macaques would be left in legal limbo. He can't care for them without a license, and most have had brain surgery that means they require special care and can't simply be given to a zoo or sanctuary. In the worst case, Kreiter says, he could be forced to euthanize them, even though German law prohibits euthanizing animals without an "important reason." It isn't clear, he says, if loss of a research license would qualify. For now, he says, he is relieved that he can continue work. An initial decision from the court is expected sometime early in 2009.Continue Reading
- Wednesday, December 3, 2008 - 4:42pm
Rockefeller University President Paul Nurse has joined the growing line of research institution heads who've been forced to deliver bad news to faculty and staff in the wake of the financial meltdown. Today, an email he wrote to university staff, obtained by ScienceInsider, described a 15% decline in the endowment since July. This will necessitate delays in planned renovations and possibly a reduction in administrative positions. But he said that for now there's no plan to put a brake on faculty recruitment:
We will not make any peremptory decisions, nor will we take actions that might impact negatively on Rockefeller research in the long term. However, it is clear that our expenditure needs to be contained, and then reduced, if we are to succeed in balancing the budget in the years after 2010. Briefly, the endowment, from which we receive roughly one third of our operational funding, lost around 15% of its value between July 1 and October 30.
Full letter after the jump.
From: Paul Nurse
Sent: Wednesday, December 03, 2008 at 3:15 PM
Subject: University Finances
The Rockefeller University and the World Financial Crisis
The financial turbulence of recent weeks shows no sign as yet of abating. It is now anticipated that volatility in the markets may continue for some time, and that the influence of the downturn in the nation’s finances will persist, possibly for a number of years. In common with other scientific research and educational institutions, Rockefeller cannot escape the effects of these dramatic developments.
We can, however, start to make contingency plans so as to prepare ourselves for the difficulties that might lie ahead. In response to this situation, Rockefeller’s administrators and trustees have begun a review of the economic assumptions and models that drive the budget planning process. TheContinue ReadingPosted In:
- Wednesday, December 3, 2008 - 3:14pm
Word has leaked out: The new $450 million federal lab to replace the aging Plum Island Animal Disease Center will be built in Manhattan, Kansas. The Associated Press broke the story this afternoon, citing a briefing that officials of the Department of Homeland Security gave to lawmakers late on Tuesday.
Kansas State University, which will manage the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility after it gets built in 2012, outcompeted bids by 28 other organizations. Five were short-listed last year. The new lab will do research on some of the world's deadliest animal diseases such as anthrax and African swine fever. Some environmentalists have opposed relocating the lab from Plum Island, off of Long Island, New York, onto the mainland because of safety concerns. DHS is expected to announce the decision later this week, after issuing an environmental impact statement about the site.Continue Reading
- Wednesday, December 3, 2008 - 3:11pm
Worried about quack treatments with stem cells? Take a look at the website of the International Society for Stem Cell Research. It posted a set of guidelines and tips today—just part of the growing number of guidelines intended to improve the quality of stem cell science.
The publications include an appendix directed at the general public: Patient Handbook on Stem Cell Therapies. ISSCR officials have pointed out in the past that they simply can't track all the questionable operators in the stem cell world. So instead, they're hoping to educate consumers on some principles to help judge claims. The eight page document warns, for example, that stem cell therapies are all unproven with the exception of some for blood disorders, and regeneration of skin and cornea. It also explains what should be in an informed consent form.
The main text concerns quality control for scientists. It contains general recommendations on animal testing and human trials to assist investigators seeking to develop treatments. Meanwhile, the U.S. National Academies has been regularly updating standards for research on human embryonic stem cells. Strictures originally designed to apply to pluripotent cells derived from human embryos, for example, now also cover pluripotent cells from other sources such as induced pluripotent stem cells.
More guidelines are in the offing: When President-elect Barack Obama rolls back the Bush Administration's restrictions on stem cell research, as he is widely expected to do in the early days of his Administration, the National Institutes of Health will be revamping guidelines that were put on ice at the end of the Clinton presidency.Continue Reading
- Wednesday, December 3, 2008 - 2:18pm
The National Institutes of Health has a new chief for its environmental health institute, which has been leaderless since David Schwartz left in February under a cloud of controversy. Federal toxicologist Linda Birnbaum will become director of the $730 million National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, in January.
Birnbaum is an expert on a controversial topic: dioxin and other hormone-like pollutants that may contribute to cancer and other human health problems. She has spent nearly 29 years in government, first at NIEHS and more recently at the Environmental Protection Agency's research lab near NIEHS. That resume has some researchers worried that Birnbaum might favor regulatory science over investigator-initiated research. Others, however, are encouraged by her strong record of research on biological mechanisms.
One big plus for Birnbaum in her new job: support from the environmental community, which, along with some lawmakers, attacked Schwartz, a pulmonologist, for emphasizing clinical research and proposing to sell off NIEHS's journal. In the end, Schwartz left over ethics concerns. With morale in the doldrums at NIEHS, some scientists there say whatever Birnbaum's shortcomings, they're glad to be moving on with a new leader.Continue ReadingPosted In:
- Tuesday, December 2, 2008 - 2:19pm
A congressionally appointed commission has been grabbing headlines with its message that the threat of a bioterrorist attack outweighs the risk of a nuclear weapons attack. In its report, World at Risk, released today but in the press since Sunday, the bipartisan Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, chaired by former Senator Bob Graham (D–FL), predicts an attack in the next 5 years if nothing changes. The commission expresses concerns about the spread of biotechnology abroad and the growing risks raised by the proliferation of biodefense labs in the United States. Terrorists don't possess the knowledge to launch an attack but could easily do so "by recruiting skilled scientists," the report says. Put another way:
In other words, given the high level of know-how needed to use disease as a weapon to cause mass casualties, the United States should be less concerned that terrorists will become biologists and far more concerned that biologists will become terrorists.
Among other steps, the commission recommends a review of federal rules for controlling risky pathogens, tighter oversight of U.S. biodefense labs, and the promotion of a "culture of security awareness" among life scientists. Much of this has been discussed before, for example at a U.S. House of Representatives hearing in October 2007. A bill introduced earlier this year would address some of the recommendations, and a federal biosafety task force will examine several next week, such as whether to mandate standard training. It may not be adding much new information, but the commission's report, aimed at Congress and the incoming Administration of President-elect Barack Obama, could give these leaders a nudge to follow through.Continue Reading
- Tuesday, December 2, 2008 - 1:40pm
The recent tainted baby formula scandal in China has focused public attention on the high-tech adulteration of milk with the industrial chemical melamine (Science, 28 November, p. 310). The compound, used primarily as a fire retardant and plastic stabilizer, can fool a traditional test for protein content to make livestock feed appear to contain more protein than it actually does. Some Chinese bloggers have found that researchers affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Sciences ran advertisements for technology—making high-protein feed from "organic nitrogen"—that might have a connection to melamine.
Like U.S. regulators, China's agriculture ministry allows certain non-protein nitrogen (NPN) additives, such as biuret and urea, in ruminant feed. But melamine was not allowed as a feed additive in the United States. In China, NPN additives with unspecified ingredients, marketed under the name dan bai jing (protein essence), have been added to feed for all animals, not just cattle. According to Chinese news reports, melamine scrap—a nitrogen-rich byproduct of manufacturing the industrial chemical—has become the additive of choice during the past several years.
Chinese bloggers recently discovered that in 1999, a researcher with a now-defunct institute of the Academy advertised a technology for "DH synthesis of a high-protein feed additive." Last year, another ad by the Academy's Old Technical Experts Center, an organization for retired researchers, promoted "DH dan bai jing" developed by the center for use in shrimp, fish, chickens, pigs, as well as cows and sheep. Some bloggers question whether the advertised technology might have been connected to the adulteration of milk with melamine. After a 2-day internal investigation in late October, the Academy absolved itself of any link to the melamine scandal. But its spokesperson did not explain what is in the additive, which the ads claimed contain "160% to 200% crude protein." AcademyContinue Reading
- Wednesday, November 26, 2008 - 4:25pm
As preparations for Inauguration Day and the Obama Administration move forward, people continue to consider the significance of the election of America's first black president. Walter Massey, who served in 1989 as president of AAAS, which publishes ScienceInsider, and directed the National Science Foundation from 1991 to 1993, says the scientific community must try to capitalize on the energy Obama's election has inspired and improve diversity in science. In an e-mail written in Chicago on election night, Massey reflected on the significance of the day:
As someone who grew up in Mississippi in a totally segregated society, I can say that this [is] indeed a new America, and I am grateful to be alive to see this. Congratulations to all of you who put so much effort into making this happen, that America will have its first black president.
The first black president of the United States of America. WOW! I have another dream left, that we will someday have a black Nobel Prize winner in science. Somewhere out there are many young "Barack Scientists to to be", if they could only be inspired to believe it could happen. I suspect that after tonight there [will be] many more young blacks in America who believe they could be president of the United States than those who believe they could win a Nobel Prize in Science. We all have to continue to work to change this situation.
That means taking advantage of every opportunity—however informal—to show children the role science plays in their daily lives, Massey tells ScienceInsider. It also means getting federal support for those efforts, he says: "The long-term growth of this country does depend on investing in innovation, investing in research and science education."Continue Reading
- Tuesday, November 25, 2008 - 2:16pm
Today, the U.K. Parliament's House of Lords approved the government's proposal to reclassify cannabis as a dangerous Class B drug, along with amphetamines and speed, against the recommendations of its own Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). Cannabis had been classified previously as a class C drug, one of those the government deems least likely to cause harm.
The vote prompted an angry reaction from high-profile members of the U.K. scientific community.
In a letter to the Guardian, the scientists wrote that "the ACMD clearly recommended—for the third time in the last six years—that cannabis remains a class C drug, and did so after examining all the available and latest evidence on short- and long-term health risks, as well as social harms, public attitudes and policing priorities.” The recommendations of the ACMD report, prepared at the request of the Home Office, argue against "greater criminalisation of possession," the letter says.
The scientists also warn about dangers to the drug classification system’s credibility: "Reclassification would send out an ambiguous message about the dangers of current class B drugs." Signatories of the letter include David King and Robert May, former government chief scientific advisers; Colin Blakemore, a member of the U.K. Drug Policy Commission and former director of the Medical Research Council; and Gabriel Horn, chair of the Academy of Medical Sciences Working Group on Brain Science, Addiction and Drugs.Continue Reading
- Tuesday, November 25, 2008 - 10:58am
Scientists have learned that politicians like it when a discipline prioritizes its desires—the accompanying plea for money then comes across as more measured. Today, in the latest attempt at such internal deliberations, European astronomers released a road map of the top facilities and space missions they say they need to stay at the forefront of their science.
Topping the list are two awe-inspiring instruments: The European Extremely Large Telescope, which will sport a mirror 42 meters across; and the Square Kilometer Array, a network of 4000 radio dishes with a combined collecting area of a square kilometer, but scattered across thousands of kilometers. Others range from robotic probes to the giant planets and their moons, to a gravitational wave detector in space and a neutrino observatory at the bottom of the Mediterranean. The plan was commissioned by a group of funding
agencies called Astronet and reaching a consensus wasn't an easy task: “At the beginning, it looked almost impossible to do, because of the complexity of Europe and it had never been done before,” says Michael Bode, the astronomer with the unlucky honor of heading the road map effort. All Astronet and the politicians who support it have to do now is figure out how to fund this ambitious program. Astronomers reckon it will require a 20% increase over 10 years in Europe’s current €2 billion annual expenditure on astronomy. See Friday’s edition of Science for more details.Continue Reading
- Monday, November 24, 2008 - 4:50pm
Congress is wading into the murky question of whether people with Lyme disease should get long-term antibiotics or whether the drugs harm more than help. That issue, which has been a never-ending source of friction among biomedical researchers between researchers and patient-advocates, will get congressional hearings next year.
If there were a Nobel Prize awarded for disease-that-causes-the-most-controversy, Lyme disease would be a top contender. For years, the tick-borne illness has been the subject of vicious fights between scientists and patient advocates over whether long-term antibiotics can help. Many affected by the disease say yes, citing waning symptoms after treatment; many scientists say no, and several clinical trials back them up.
Now entering the Lyme fray is Representative Frank Wolf (R–VA), who used to oversee funding for the U.S. National Science Foundation and other science agencies as a powerful spending panel chair when Republicans controlled the House of Representatives. In September, he sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, demanding that it investigate the treatment guidelines of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), which shuns long-term antibiotics. He has also requested that a congressional subcommittee hold hearings as soon as possible, and the office of Frank Pallone Jr. (D–NJ), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce panel's Subcommittee on Health, said they will occur next year. “We want an independent evaluation” of the treatment guidelines, said Wolf in an interview with Science. Patients “have lost confidence—some people are traveling for miles to get treatment.”
“I don’t believe” the IDSA guidelines should be used, he went on, “but I’m not a scientist.” IDSA, no stranger to tumult, says it’s happy to cooperate with any hearings but stands by its recommendations. In fact, IDSA recently began assembling an independent panel of eight to 12 people toContinue Reading
- Monday, November 24, 2008 - 12:02pm
Scientists frequently lament that politicians are clueless when it comes to science. Britain's Conservative party apparently agrees, having developed a plan for its party's new members of Parliament to undergo what it calls "compulsory lessons in scientific literacy." The lessons, which will cover the scientific method and basic concepts in science, are the brainchild of Adam Afriyie, the Member of Parliament who represents the Conservative party on science and innovation issues. Last week, he explained the motivation for the project, telling the Times that: “The evidence-based scientific approach extends well beyond subjects like embryology or GM crops. It is also critical to social policy and criminal sentencing, and it cuts across all areas of government.”Continue Reading
- Monday, November 24, 2008 - 11:58am
Those who worry that the United States isn't producing enough Ph.D.s in science and engineering can take heart from the National Science Foundation's latest Survey of Earned Doctorates, which has just come out. It shows that U.S. institutions granted a record high 31,801 science and engineering doctorates in 2007, a 6.5% increase over 2006. The increase continues a steady, upward trend that began in 2003. And it wasn't just more non-U.S. citizens earning science and engineering doctorates (up 6% from 2006) but also more U.S. citizens (up 3.6%). There was also a bigger increase in the number of women receiving Ph.D.s (up 6.8%) than men (up 6.2%).
Are these numbers evidence of the increasing attractiveness of doctoral programs or simply the reflection of a weak economy? It's hard to tell. Traditionally, students tend to seek refuge in graduate school when it gets tough to find jobs. In fact, the last slump in Ph.D. production occurred between 1998 and 2002, which some experts attribute to the booming economy of the 1990s. (The logic being that fewer students enrolled in Ph.D. programs in the mid-to-late 1990s because they were snapped up by industry, and hence fewer students graduated with Ph.D.s between the late 1990s and the early 2000s.) Another thought that might dampen excitement over the report is this: more Ph.D.s means more competition for scarce academic jobs.Continue ReadingPosted In:
- Friday, November 21, 2008 - 6:06pm
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has landed another big name in his probe of financial conflicts of interest in science. Today the New York Times reports on Grassley's investigation of psychiatrist Frederick Goodwin, a former director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) who hosts the radio show The Infinite Mind. The show, which airs on National Public Radio stations, has covered the effects of pharmaceuticals on the brain. (Slate was onto the story back in May.)
Grassley's investigators dug up evidence that Goodwin, who left NIMH in 1994, has taken at least $1.3 million from the drug industry that was not disclosed on the program. For example, in 2005 he received $329,000 for giving promotional lectures for a mood-stabilizing drug made by GlaxoSmithKline--and in September that year, told listeners that mood-stabilizing drugs can help children with bipolar disorder. The producers of The Infinite Mind taped their last episode in October, but the show continues in reruns. NPR told the Times it was pulling The Infinite Mind from its satellite channels.Continue Reading
- Friday, November 21, 2008 - 11:47am
XIAMEN, CHINA—The drinks were flowing freely and firecrackers were popping off as Chinese and U.K. scientists celebrated the opening of a new Sino-U.K. center on environmental science and technology. The endeavor is a joint effort of the Institute of Urban Environment in Xiamen and the University of Aberdeen in the U.K., to speed technology transfer to China and spur the development of homegrown environmental technologies.
The new center has a golden opportunity to make a mark: Last week, the Chinese government announced a 4 trillion yuan ($586 billion) economic stimulus package largely targeted at infrastructure projects that, IUE and Aberdeen researchers hope, will incorporate environmental technologies from the get-go. The grand opening ceremony took place outdoors on a clear, blustery day in this southeastern coastal city, as workers were landscaping and outfitting buildings on the 2-year-old institute's bayside campus. After IUE director Zhao Jingzhu and Ken Killham, research director of Aberdeen's Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, finished their benedictory remarks, the ceremony ended with a bang, Chinese style, by a deafening fusillade of firecrackers.
The center's goals include the development of advanced water treatment techniques such as photoelectric catalysis. "There are tremendous opportunities in this area here in China," says Kilham. "We want our scientists to take an entrepreneurial approach," he says. "They need to be thinking beyond the lab." Demonstrating their prowess at doing just that last night, the researchers rang in the new center with a sumptuous banquet with Chinese liquor and Scotch whisky quaffed from silver Scottish drinking cups called quaichs. By the end of the evening, researchers from both countries were hugging each other and belting out Scottish ballads together.Continue Reading
- Friday, November 21, 2008 - 10:50amPosted In:
- Thursday, November 20, 2008 - 4:18pm
The most prominent scientist in President-elect Barack Obama's transition team says that the group reviewing the White House science shop is under tight pressure to make suggestions for who should be the science adviser to the new president. Chemist Mario Molina told ScienceInsider in an interview that his four-person squad, inspecting the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, is expected to provide transition staff with the names of qualified candidates as well as rationales for each "in a matter of weeks."
A Nobel prize–winning climate expert from the University of California, San Diego, Molina says the team is seeking candidates who follow "the sentiments of statements President-elect Obama said on the campaign." (In an October letter to the National Academies, Obama said he'd install an "exceptionally talented" science adviser at the level of assistant to the President. That's a higher status—and presumably more influence—than the current science adviser has.) Molina says his team will work to help hire a "high-level science adviser hopefully close to the Cabinet level ... but all we can do is make suggestions."
Molina and his colleagues on the review team, who include former Clinton administration officials Rosina Bierbaum and Tom Kalil and Federation of American Scientists staff member Michael Stebbins, will also provide policy guidance and "strategic ideas" to the transition staff on how to make them happen. Current White House science adviser Jack Marburger eliminated two deputy positions in the office in 2001, which some critics say reduced the clout of the science adviser's team. Molina says that was a mistake. He adds: "It's not just the number of people in the team but how effectively their input is integrated in the White House."
But Molina, who keeps a working laboratory in San Diego as well as a nonprofit environmentalContinue Reading