ScienceScope

Science  14 Aug 1998:
Vol. 281, Issue 5379, pp. 893
  1. NASA Woos Astronomer at Caltech for Top Science Job

    NASA officials have been hunting fruitlessly for a new space science chief since spring, when Wes Huntress announced he would leave the agency this fall after a 5-year stint in the job (Science, 27 February, p. 1293). But they are hoping they have found a successor in Charles Beichman, an infrared astronomer with the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena.

    Beichman directs a Caltech center that handles data from a number of NASA satellites carrying infrared instruments. He also has specialized in the search for planets outside the solar system, a favorite topic of Administrator Daniel Goldin. NASA officials and Beichman declined comment, but sources close to the selection process say they hope to have him on board soon to run the $2-billion-a-year program. One person long familiar with Beichman noted that although he is not well known in the space science community, he is politically savvy.

    Artist's view of NASA's Galileo.
  2. Scientists Lose Round in Database Privacy Fight

    House and Senate lawmakers are headed for a fall showdown over controversial legislation that would extend to electronic collections of information the same legal protections afforded creative works such as books and films. Some scientists say the measure will stifle data sharing and make it a crime to conduct research on everything from computer viruses to database security.

    Last week, the House approved a bill that would bring the United States into compliance with the World Intellectual Property Organization Internet copyright treaty, which aims to prevent theft of electronic information (Science, 25 October 1996, p. 494). The vote rebuffed scientists who say the measure would hinder research. “No one even wanted to discuss our concerns,” says Purdue University's Eugene Spafford, one of 50 computer scientists who signed a 1 August plea to House leaders for changes in the bill. The Senate will consider how to reconcile its markedly different version with the House bill in September.

  3. Biomedical Lobbying Angers Key Democrat

    One of the nation's leading biomedical research societies is seeking to mend fences with a key congressman. Last month, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), which represents 56,000 researchers, angered Representative David Obey (D-WI) by pushing for passage of a House spending bill that includes a whopping 9.1% budget boost for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Obey, the senior Democrat on the powerful Appropriations Committee, supports the NIH increase but was incensed because a 21 July letter from FASEB to lawmakers appeared to support a Republican plan for cutting welfare programs to pay for it—a strategy Obey called “selfish” and “myopic” in a 28 July reply. It's all a misunderstanding, according to FASEB President William Brinkley of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, who says the society hopes Congress will find new welfare funds when it returns to work next month. Meanwhile, he wants to meet with the lawmaker. “Hopefully we can appease Mr. Obey and get out of his woodshed,” he says.

  4. Coordinated Attack on Eco Threats?

    The White House has asked federal ecologists to follow the lead of climate scientists and fashion a blueprint for working together and with academia. The idea is to better concentrate the government's scientific firepower on ecological problems involving “multiple stresses,” such as a lake hit by both pollution and exotic zebra mussels. For starters, the “Integrated Science for Sustainable Ecosystems” initiative, expected to begin in 2000, would beef up research in four areas—harmful algal blooms, habitat conservation, invasive species, and data networks—say officials with the White House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, which unveiled the plans last week. Its price tag, which still must win approval from White House budget officials, will be revealed in the president's budget request next February; the big question is whether Congress will agree to pay the bill.