A Q and A With Harold Varmus

Here's a rundown of some of the stories we've been following on Science's policy blog, ScienceInsider:

Nobel Prize winner and former NIH director Harold Varmus announced this morning that he'll soon be leaving his job as president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. In a Q and A with ScienceInsider, he says the move shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who's been "reading the tea leaves."

The murky nexus between Iran's nuclear program and the political reformists battling the country's current regime became bloody this morning when a bomb killed Massoud Ali-Mohammadi, 50, a physicist at Tehran University. Ali-Mohammadi died when a bomb placed on a motorcycle detonated outside his apartment as he was heading to work. Almost immediately, conflicting views of the researcher's political views emerged.

The war of words surrounding the cuts announced last month by the United Kingdom's Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) continues to rumble on with various groups writing to the science minister and much debate on blogs. The council is responsible for a number of domestic and overseas facilities and subscriptions to major international collaborations such as CERN and the European Southern Observatory, as well as funding researchers in astronomy, particle physics, nuclear physics, and space science. The STFC's budget hole was caused by overcommitment in the past, the declining value of the pound, and the expectation of flat funding from the government. Funding to a large number of projects will be axed, grants will be cut by 10%, and studentships and fellowships will be cut by 25%. Nuclear physics was hardest hit.

After running the Royal Institution (RI) of Great Britain for more than a decade, a period in which she spearheaded a controversial and costly physical renovation of the science body's historic London headquarters, neuroscientist Susan Greenfield found her director position eliminated and herself locked out of an RI-owned flat last Friday. On Saturday, the trustees who oversee the RI released a statement explaining the apparent cost-saving move, saying it came after a recent review of the body's governance led them to conclude that "the requirement for the functions of the role of Director as currently defined has ceased to exist." But Greenfield isn't going quietly; she quickly released her own statement saying she's considering legal challenges to her dismissal that may include sexual discrimination charges against the RI.

The White House has released a much-awaited report on ways to strengthen biosecurity in the United States. Produced by an intragovernmental working group that was set up by President George W. Bush days before he left office, the report calls for changes to the rules that govern the handling, storage, and management of the 82 dangerous pathogens and toxins that make up the government's select agent list.

For more on these stories and the latest science policy news and analysis, visit ScienceInsider.

Posted in Physics, Scientific Community, Europe