News this Week

Science  07 May 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5416, pp. 882
  1. DOE LABORATORIES

    Spy Inquiry Is Taking Toll on Non-U.S. Researchers

    1. David Malakoff

    The escalating political crossfire over alleged Chinese spying at U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories has produced its first scientific casualties. This week, officials at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico said that new Department of Energy (DOE) restrictions designed to prevent spying by foreign scientists have led to the departure of at least one highly regarded researcher, while several foreign-born scientists have turned down postdoctoral fellowships because of concerns about their working conditions. The new rules also have made it more difficult for scientists from “sensitive” nations, including China, India, and Russia, to obtain research funds, computing time, and visitation permits.

    DOE researchers say these developments highlight the negative impact on the lab of an inquiry into China's efforts to acquire U.S. technology that has centered on physicist Wen Ho Lee, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Taiwan (Science, 26 March, p. 1986). Lee was fired from Los Alamos in March for breaching security rules but has not been charged with any crime. By then, however, DOE had adopted new policies that researchers say strike hardest at the pool of young scientists that the lab is most eager to attract. But the changes didn't stop Republicans in Congress from stepping up the pressure last week for a moratorium on scientific exchanges that bring thousands of researchers from sensitive nations to the United States each year, mostly to work on unclassified projects.

    Such restrictions are fiercely opposed by the Clinton Administration. “Anyone who wants to close off our labs will have to go through me—and I never give in,” Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, a former congressional representative from New Mexico, vowed last week in a Washington speech. In particular, DOE officials worry that a moratorium could disrupt exchanges aimed at securing Russia's nuclear stockpile.

    One of the bills drawing Richardson's ire would block researchers from sensitive nations from visiting DOE's three weapons labs—Los Alamos, the Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California—unless they receive special DOE and congressional authorization. Congress could rescind the ban once it concluded that DOE had suitable counterintelligence measures in place. Introduced in March by a junior member of the House, Representative Jim Ryun (R-KS), the measure was given little chance of success until last week, when Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), chair of the Select Intelligence Committee, introduced a similar bill in the Senate.

    Even with Shelby's backing, however, the measures face an uncertain future. Some lawmakers say they have seen no evidence that the exchanges have led to any loss of military secrets. Such views got a boost last week when Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), an influential senior member long seen as a patron of the Los Alamos and Sandia labs, distanced himself from the proposals. The exchanges, he told The Washington Post, are “the very lifeblood of these labs.”

    The increasingly hostile atmosphere, however, has already affected the career of Los Alamos postdoctoral researcher Peter Vorobieff. The Russian mechanical engineer—who for 3 years has been part of a prominent team studying turbulence in soap films and other nonlinear phenomena—recently learned that new DOE policies would prevent most scientists from sensitive nations from receiving funds from the lab's nuclear weapons research budget, which supports the bulk of the lab's classified and nonclassified science. As a result of the changes, which began late last year, Los Alamos “couldn't hire Peter the way we would have under normal circumstances,” says one lab administrator. So this summer Vorobieff will leave one of the lab's nonclassified groups for an academic appointment at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.

    Vorobieff regrets having to leave but considers himself lucky to have found an academic post. Other foreign postdocs, he says, have fewer options and “are considering dropping out of science entirely. … Few of the [researchers from sensitive nations] feel like they will be able to stay around for long.” About half of the lab's 365 postdocs are foreign-born, with most coming from China, India, and Russia. Fewer than 500 of its approximately 10,000 full-time employees are foreign nationals.

    The funding restrictions come on top of new rules that limit foreign researchers' access to several of the lab's high-powered computers and require visitors to wait up to 8 weeks for background checks. Together they present a major recruitment hurdle. Several senior researchers note that two highly recruited candidates, one Chinese and the other Russian, recently turned down offers from the lab, citing worries about the political climate. “Would you want to come to work at a place where you are viewed as a potential spy?” asks one researcher familiar with both cases.

    The controversy “is just destroying the morale of foreign visitors,” says physicist David Campbell, a longtime Los Alamos researcher who now heads the physics department at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. In particular, Campbell is disturbed by what he sees as antiforeigner overtones in public discussion of the spying allegations against Lee. “Xenophobia is a dangerous pastime for a nation of immigrants,” he warns.

    DOE officials, meanwhile, are bracing for more bad news: A congressional study critical of lab security, some of whose contents have already been disclosed, could be released as early as this week. The ongoing controversy, Assistant Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz speculated recently, could “cast a shadow over the labs' activities for the rest of the year.”

  2. MICROBIOLOGY

    Gene May Promise New Route to Potent Vaccines

    1. Martin Enserink

    For protection against an infectious disease, few things can beat a vaccine made of the living organism. But every live vaccine is a balancing act: The pathogen has to be vigorous enough to trigger an immune defense by the host, yet too weak to lead to serious illness. On page 967 of this issue, a team from the University of California, Santa Barbara, comes up with a new answer to the problem. They have found a gene that seems to orchestrate the activity of dozens of other genes needed for a full-blown infection by Salmonella typhimurium, a bacterium that causes food poisoning in humans and a typhoidlike disease in mice. When they knocked out the gene, the bacteria became powerless to cause disease but still elicited a fiery immune response in mice—in other words, they had apparently become the ideal vaccine.

    Because the gene, which produces a protein called DNA adenine methylase (Dam), is shared by many other pathogens, the researchers think that easy-to-produce vaccines for a range of diseases, from meningitis to the plague, may lie within reach. For some of these, no vaccine is currently available. “We believe this may have tremendous impact in the field of infectious diseases,” says geneticist and lead author Michael Mahan. Other researchers agree that the work may result in a flurry of new studies, but some are cautious. “It's an important and tantalizing clue,” says John La Montagne, deputy director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, “but whether or not it can work in humans is the $64,000 question.”

    Pathogens like Salmonella have many so-called “virulence genes,” which are switched off when the bacteria are living on a petri dish or a chicken in the refrigerator, but spring into action once they enter the gut of a mammal, where they help the bacterium to penetrate the gut lining, travel throughout the body, and use the host's resources to grow and divide. Mahan's team had already discovered some 250 of these genes in Salmonella. Little was known about how they are regulated, although earlier studies had shown that a protein called PhoP controls the expression of some of them.

    In their search for other regulators, the team tried many candidates. One of them was Dam, which was known to be involved in DNA repair. In Escherichia coli strains that cause urinary tract infections, Dam also controls the formation of pili, hairlike protrusions specialized in latching onto host cells. To see whether the protein might have a wider role, the team created an S. typhimurium strain that lacked the dam gene and found that it was utterly innocuous to mice, even in huge doses; when administered orally, the bacteria entered the mucosal tissue lining the gut but didn't colonize organs such as the liver and the spleen. Measurements of gene activity showed that the absence of Dam altered the expression of at least 20 virulence genes, and Mahan says further experiments have shown the real number to be at least 40.

    Dam apparently acts as a master switch for these genes, because it can glue methyl groups to DNA strands at specific sites. By doing so, says geneticist and co-author David Low, the enzyme decreases the ability of some regulatory proteins to bind to DNA, while increasing that of others; each of these proteins can in turn crank up or slow down the transcription of one or more genes.

    The authors say the finding may give scientists several new weapons in the relentless race against bacterial infections. For one, drugs that block Dam could slow down bacterial growth and possibly result in a whole new generation of antibiotics. And when the team immunized 17 mice with Dam-negative S. typhimurium, they found that the strain is an effective vaccine. The immunized mice all withstood terrifying doses of the normal bacterium 5 weeks later—up to 10,000 times the amount that killed nonimmunized mice.

    To explain how such enfeebled bacteria could provoke such a strong immune response, Mahan theorizes that knocking out dam actually makes the bacteria easier for the immune system to detect. Normally, he says, bacteria turn every gene on only as briefly as possible, to prevent the host's immune system from detecting and attacking foreign proteins. But with the Dam switch shut off, some genes may be expressed for a very long time, within easy sight of the host. “The bacteria become like poker players who are forced to show their cards,” says Mahan. “They can't win.”

    Because different Salmonella strains probably share quite a few proteins, one Dam-negative strain may even elicit an immune response that also covers others. In as-yet-unpublished work, says Mahan, the team showed that mice immunized with S. typhimurium were also immune to a related Salmonella strain that infects chickens and eggs. The reverse was also true, and Mahan is testing whether the vaccine covers more of the 2500 Salmonella strains currently known. If it does, inoculating cattle and chickens with a vaccine based on the technique may help banish Salmonella from the food chain, he says—although it will have to compete with other vaccines in various stages of development.

    Because genetic studies have shown that other gut-colonizing bacteria like Vibrio cholera, Haemophilus influenzae, Yersinia pestis, Shigella, and Treponema pallidum (which cause cholera, respiratory tract infections and meningitis, plague, dysentery, and syphilis, respectively) all have dam, perhaps they too can be crippled by knocking out the dam gene. “On the heels of this paper, a variety of labs will probably quickly knock out [dam] in their individual bugs,” predicts microbiologist John Mekalanos of Harvard Medical School in Boston. Mahan, whose lab has recently gone into overdrive, has already started experiments with four of them, and the researchers have just started their own company specializing in vaccines and antimicrobials. Says Mahan: “I have a hard time believing that it's only going to work in Salmonella.”

  3. BIOMEDICAL PATENTS

    Startling Revelations in UC-Genentech Battle

    1. Eliot Marshall

    Just before midnight on New Year's Eve, 1978, Peter Seeburg, then a young researcher at Genentech Inc. of South San Francisco, says he secretly removed a bacterial clone from a lab he had recently left at the University of California (UC), San Francisco, and transferred it to his new employer. That clone, Seeburg testified in court last month, helped lead to one of Genentech's early achievements as a start-up company in 1979: a patent for the production of human growth hormone (HGH) by bacterial synthesis. The product, administered to short children to speed up growth, has earned hundreds of millions of dollars. To cover up the deed, Seeburg—who is now acting director of the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg—admitted in court that he has published false “technical” data on how Genentech staffers cloned the DNA sequence it patented.

    Seeburg gave this shocking testimony on 20 and 21 April in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, appearing as a witness for UC in a civil suit against Genentech. Alleging that Genentech has been violating UC's own patent on growth hormone, the university is asking the court to award damages of about $400 million, according to a UC attorney. This is what UC would have earned, the university calculates, if Genentech had paid HGH license fees. In addition, the university is asking for triple damages, on grounds that Genentech's actions were “willful.”

    Genentech, which began to present its own evidence on 3 May, denies that it infringed the UC patent. Although company officials declined to comment, trial transcripts indicate that their attorneys denied that they took or encouraged anyone to take material from UC labs. And Genentech has summoned witnesses to attack Seeburg's testimony—including Seeburg's former co-worker, David Goeddel, a postdoc at Genentech in 1978 who is now chief executive of Tularik, another South San Francisco biotech firm. In opening comments to the jury, however, Genentech attorney John Kidd acknowledged that “there's no dispute that Seeburg brought some material [to Genentech]. We don't argue with that. It was his material. … He was entitled to bring that. That's what postdocs did in those days.” But Kidd insisted that “the evidence will show that we did not [use it].”

    Although this trial of competing HGH patent claims has been stewing for many years, Seeburg's testimony still came as a surprise. Seeburg, a German expert in neural genetics who came to UCSF to learn about DNA cloning in the 1970s, had upheld the Genentech line on HGH until recently. On the witness stand, however, he said that for many years he has been “walking a tightrope” between truth and falsehood. When questioned under oath in the past, he said, he had “not been forthcoming” in saying that the DNA clone on which Genentech's patent is based “was obtained at Genentech.” True, it came from bacterial clones grown at Genentech; but he said he failed to reveal that the source of the clones was his former lab at UCSF.

    Seeburg explained on the stand that Genentech hired him in September 1978 because he was a leader in a productive HGH cloning project in Howard Goodman's lab at UCSF. UCSF failed to offer him an academic job that fall, so he went to work at Genentech for $40,000 a year, with health benefits and a chance to buy stock at 30 cents a share. Before leaving the university, he, his UC colleague John Shine, and Goodman applied with the university for a patent on a DNA sequence for human growth hormone they jointly discovered. (UC was awarded the patent in 1982; they are co-inventors.) At Genentech, Seeburg worked with Goeddel and others to replicate and extend this work, aiming to get a more complete sequence that could be put in bacteria for mass production. But he and Goeddel were frustrated by poor source tissue and many failures, Seeburg said.

    To speed up the process, Seeburg testified, he decided to use the material he had developed at UC. Seeburg testified that he and a colleague made a visit to the Goodman lab at about 11 p.m. on 31 December 1978. He took many samples, including a clone containing a partial human HGH sequence, and returned quietly to Genentech, “out in the industrial district of South San Francisco.” Seeburg recalled that out of the dark, “a highway patrol screeched up in front of us as we were getting out.” The police officer asked what they were doing, Seeburg recalled: “We said, ‘We are scientists.’ But the officer laughed and said, ‘You don't look like scientists.’” Still, he let them go.

    Later, Seeburg testified, he and Goeddel used the UC clone in the development of Genentech's HGH sequence, for which the company obtained a patent in 1982. They also published a paper on this work in Nature in 1979 which, Seeburg testified, contains information on how they cloned the DNA using a plasmid (called PHGH31) which “never existed.” Seeburg claimed that he remained silent about all this because he and Goeddel had an agreement not to reveal what they had done, and “I wanted to honor it.”

    Goeddel, who was still giving testimony as Science went to press, denied that he and Seeburg had ever agreed to remain silent about any misdeeds. “Icouldn't believe that he could come up with such a story,” Goeddel testified. And he denied that he used patented UC material as the basis of Genentech's discovery. Genentech's attorneys also spent a day attacking Seeburg's credibility, pointing out many inconsistencies in his testimony over the years. They reminded the jury that Seeburg—as co-inventor on the UC patent—stands to make a lot of money if UC wins this case.

    Only about half the testimony has been presented so far in this trial, and there could be more surprises before the end. Barring an early settlement, this complicated dispute may go to the jury for a decision by the end of the month.

  4. DIABETES RESEARCH

    New Lead Found to a Possible 'Insulin Pill'

    1. Trisha Gura*
    1. Trisha Gura is a science writer in Cleveland, Ohio.

    A lowly fungus that grows deep in the African forests near Kinshasa could soon be a pharmacological celebrity. Collected years ago and then analyzed by researchers from Merck Research Laboratories in Madrid, Spain, who hoped to find new drugs in rainforest flora, the fungus, called Pseudomassaria, attracted little notice at first. But now another Merck team, led by Bei Zhang and David Moller of the company's Rahway, New Jersey, laboratory, has found that Pseudomassaria produces a unique agent that could lead to a new type of antidiabetes pill. Such a treatment would be welcomed by the millions of diabetics who now must inject themselves with insulin or choose from a few orally administered drugs with serious side effects.

    In work reported on page 974, the team gave the compound, a small, five-ringed molecule of the quinone family, to mutant mice with symptoms similar to those of patients suffering from adult onset or type 2 diabetes. These include high blood sugar, defects in insulin production, and also a decreased ability of the tissues to respond to insulin. The agent reduced these symptoms in the animals, the researchers found, apparently by tweaking the same cellular receptor that insulin acts on. But, unlike insulin, the fungal compound is not a protein and, thus, could likely withstand the body's potent digestive juices. “This is an insulin mimetic molecule which could become a drug that may be able to be given by mouth,” says endocrinologist Arthur Rubenstein, a diabetes expert at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. “The potential is enormous.”

    To find the new compound, Zhang and Moller took advantage of the known activity of the insulin receptor, which is embedded in the cell membrane. The portion protruding to the exterior spots and attracts insulin molecules, while an inner portion is a kinase enzyme, which responds to insulin's nudging by tacking phosphate groups onto various proteins in the cell. This leads to changes in the activities of those proteins, which in turn allow cells to take up and use the sugar glucose, thereby lowering its blood levels. The insulin-triggered upswing in the receptor's phosphate-adding activity is also useful to researchers hunting for antidiabetes drugs, because they can use it to pinpoint chemicals that mimic insulin's effects.

    For their drug-fishing expedition, the Merck team used hamster ovary cells engineered to produce the human insulin receptor. Then, following a strategy frequently used to search for new drugs, the researchers set up a screening assay in which they divided the cells among thousands of miniature petri dishes. After trying some 50,000 mixes of synthetic chemicals and natural extracts on these cells, the investigators scored a major hit with an extract prepared from Pseudomassaria culture broth. Zhang and Moller then sent the extract to Merck chemist Gino Salituro, who set about purifying the active agent, a daunting task, as the fungal extract contained hundreds of compounds.

    When Salituro finally pulled out the active ingredient, chemical analysis showed that it is a quinone. That was a surprise, Moller says, because none of the other antidiabetes drugs currently in use or under investigation belongs to that class of compounds. “From looking at its chemical structure, it does not have any obvious biological activity,” he says. Yet in tests on cultured cells, the Pseudomassaria product, known as L-783,281, stimulated the phosphorylating activity of the insulin receptor by up to 100 times more than other natural compounds tested.

    And its effects appear to be specific. L-783,281 does not spur the activity of receptors with similar protein-phosphorylating ability, including the receptors for epidermal growth factor, platelet-derived growth factor, and insulin-like growth factor. L-783,281 apparently diffuses through the cell membrane and binds directly to the kinase portion of the insulin receptor, activating it.

    Achieving such specificity has always been “an elusive goal,” says Zhang. Other antidiabetes drugs work in various ways, such as increasing insulin production by the pancreas or binding to the outer portion of the insulin receptor, but they may have other effects as well. This can lead to serious side effects such as excessively low blood sugar or blood pH, gastrointestinal problems, or in the case of the recently controversial antidiabetic agent Rezulin, liver failure.

    Preliminary animal tests with L-783,281 also look promising. The Merck team tested the compound in two mutant mouse strains that have classic diabetes symptoms. In both strains it suppressed the skyrocketing blood sugar levels by up to 50%—comparable to the reduction seen with current oral antidiabetic therapies, Moller says. The compound also reduced the elevated insulin levels seen in one strain, presumably because blood sugar levels dropped, causing the pancreas to lower its insulin production.

    If further animal trials confirm that L-783,281 or chemical variants resembling it are both effective in lowering blood sugar concentrations and safe, Merck says clinical trials might be feasible. People have been talking about making an insulin-replacement pill for a long time, Zhang says, and “now we have shown it's possible.”

  5. SWEDEN

    Academics Applaud Renewed Support

    1. Annika Nilsson,
    2. Joanna Rose*
    1. Nilsson and Rose are science writers in Stockholm, Sweden.

    STOCKHOLM—Think of Thomas östros as the calm after the storm. Following years of turmoil and distrust between scientists and policy-makers, Sweden's youthful minister of education and science has spent his 7 months in office reassuring academic scientists that the government values their contribution and has no intention of letting outsiders call the shots. And that empathy, combined with the promise of a small spending boost, appears to be carrying the day. “It feels like we have come in from the cold,” says molecular biologist Britt-Marie Sjöberg of Stockholm University.

    An affable 34-year-old Social Democrat with graduate training in economics, östros has been busy since last fall's election trying to formulate how the state, which funds less than one-third of all research done in the country, should interact with other sectors. The government's relationship with basic scientists has been especially touchy, as the amount of money going to universities and the basic research councils has decreased, despite an overall rise in R&D spending. Last fall, a committee of parliamentarians added new tensions with a report, called Research 2000. It called for a welcome increase in basic research but suggested scrapping the current system of funding research through a multitude of research councils and mission agencies. It also argued that politicians should control the management of independent foundations that focus on applied research (Science, 20 November 1998, p. 1401).

    Last month, as part of his first official response to Research 2000, östros announced that the government intends to boost the current $1 billion basic research budget by $8.4 million next year and by a total of $93 million by 2002. And in a 45-minute interview with Science, östros made it clear that he is sympathetic to scientists' concerns over Research 2000. “Only researchers can guarantee the scientific quality of their work,” he said. “We know that the free search for knowledge is important in the long term.” Earlier this spring, in another conciliatory move, the government reestablished a scientific advisory group and appointed immunologist Hans Wigzell, head of the Karolinska Institute, as its science adviser.

    “I feel that there is a good climate and an emerging dialogue [between scientists and the government],” östros told Science. “It is not a goal in and of itself, but it's not good to live with conflicts for too long.” The research community seems to agree. Zoologist Dan-E Nilsson of Lund University, the driving force behind a lobby group to support basic research called the “professors' council,” says östros's efforts to reach out to the community have eliminated the need for the informal council.

    Not everyone is pleased with the increased emphasis on basic research, however. “A small country like Sweden cannot afford putting its money on basic research and hope to reap economic benefits of a breakthrough every 30 years,” says Kurt östlund, executive director of the Royal Academy of Engineering, adding that most economic growth has come from applied science. But östros doesn't buy that argument. “If you look at research mostly as a way to support current economic activities,” he says, “there is a risk that you only end up conserving those parts of industrial life that are doing well at the moment.”

    Östros declined during the interview to discuss how the mechanism for funding research should be reorganized, saying only that a working group will investigate different options and that the current discussion would feed into a new policy to be issued next year. But he seems to have accepted the criticism of Research 2000's plan to replace the current multitude of state funders of research with four discipline-oriented research councils, which would fund both basic and applied research. “I am in sympathy with the thought of joining mission-oriented and basic research,” he said. “At the same time, there are strong opinions and worries, even within the government. I don't expect radical changes, but I do hope to simplify the system.”

    He also made it clear that he opposes the plan's suggestion to scrap the university's obligation to maintain strong links to society at large in addition to its duties of research and education. And he signaled his agreement with those who felt Research 2000 failed to acknowledge the importance of multidisciplinary research, pointing in particular to the need for greater understanding of environmental problems and for work “at the interface of people and technology.”

    östros hopes to close the book on a largely political debate over management of the independent foundations that focus on applied research, saying he believes that scientists as well as policy-makers should be represented on their advisory boards. “It is important to bring the fight to an end,” he says.

    Although he doesn't promise to resolve the chronic problems of inadequate funding and squabbling over the share of grant money spent on overhead, östros says he's looking forward to the give-and-take. “I like the dialogue with the research community, which is where I have my own roots,” he says. “I think it's a fascinating world.”

  6. WEB TOOLS

    Searching Museums From Your Desktop

    1. Jocelyn Kaiser

    As ecological marauders, house finches may not be in the same league as waterway-choking zebra mussels or landscape-strangling kudzu vines. But they, too, are ruthless invaders. Ever since a handful of these Western U.S. natives were let loose on Long Island in 1940, their descendants have steadily penetrated America's heartland, stealing habitat from other birds. To map the interloper's relentless spread, A. Townsend Peterson and David Vieglais of the University of Kansas Natural History Museum in Lawrence might have steeled themselves to the arduous task of collecting decades' worth of finch facts and figures, stored in three museums in different formats. Instead, they used a new tool Vieglais had invented that allowed them to cull the information in a matter of minutes. From this data deluge the duo developed a model that predicted, in retrospect, the meeting of eastern and western finch populations in Kansas in the 1980s.

    The finch model illustrates the power of a new virtual database to put an enormous data trove at researchers' fingertips. Rather than spend weeks or months pestering curators and searching disparate databases, with a few mouse clicks scientists can now troll the holdings of six museums* using an expanded version of the software program Vieglais developed. Called The Species Analyst, it was released as a prototype last month on the Web. “It's a virtual world museum,” says Peterson, one of the project leaders.

    Expected to expand to 40 institutions or more by year's end, the network linked by The Species Analyst could become a potent way to bring museum and survey data to bear on pressing policy needs, such as tracking the ecological effects of climate change, designing preserves for endangered species, or managing deleterious invading species like the hardwood-chomping Asian longhorn beetle. “What many of us have been talking about for well over a decade is beginning to be doable: pulling together collections of data seamlessly and being able to apply the data set to science or policy questions on the fly,” says environmental policy expert Len Hirsch of the Smithsonian Institution.

    The idea behind The Species Analyst is to pull up records from all kinds of biodiversity databases, including those compiled using incompatible software. It taps about 1.5 million records so far, using a computer program written according to a standard protocol (Z39.50) that libraries have long used to share bibliographic databases. The Kansas team's tool sends a query to each database, then pools the data it gets back. Putting the Web site to work is easy: Just tick any of the boxes next to each of the nine collections now on the Web, type a search term such as species name, and hit the query button. In seconds the site will produce a world map showing where the plant or animal has been found, along with a table—available as an Excel spreadsheet—that lists each specimen in the museums' collections and the date, collector, geographic coordinates, and so on.

    The data can be merged with habitat and climate information, thanks to new software developed by David Stockwell of the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC). And with $3 million in grants over the next 3 years, mostly from the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, a U.S.-Canadian-Mexican group, and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), The Species Analyst is laying plans to link to other repositories, including GenBank, the federal DNA sequence database.

    Museum researchers have some qualms about the extent to which data will be accessible to all comers. According to Vieglais, some scientists want their data excluded until they've had a chance to publish papers. And the network will restrict access to certain information that—if it falls into the wrong hands—could harm species. For instance, ornithologist Leo Joseph of the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences worries that revealing the locations of rare parrots could aid wildlife traffickers.

    With these restraints in place, tools like The Species Analyst “should figure significantly” in an NSF effort to set up a network of biodiversity observatories for studying interactions among species (Science, 25 September 1998, p. 1935), as well as become a popular resource for most any ecologist, says Kansas Natural History Museum director Kris Krishtalka. There's no question, adds Joseph, that the Web is bringing museum collections into “a very different era.”

    • *Smithsonian Institution; University of Kansas Natural History Museum; Museo de Zoología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México; Museum of Vertebrate Zoology of the University of California, Berkeley; University of Michigan Museum of Zoology; University of Nebraska Museum

    • chipotle.nhm.ukans.edu/nabin

  7. SPACE ASTRONOMY

    Heaven Can Wait, NASA Tells X-ray Telescope

    1. Michael Hagmann*
    1. With reporting by David Malakoff.

    Deciding that it's better to be safe than sorry, NASA has indefinitely grounded a $2 billion space telescope until the U.S. Air Force completes its inquiry into an errant launch last month involving the same rocket motor that will place the telescope in its final orbit. It's the latest in a long line of delays for the Chandra X-ray Observatory, originally set to go up last August as the third in a suite of four great NASA probes.

    The 5-ton telescope is designed to capture images of supernovas, black holes, galaxies, quasars, and other celestial objects that are more than 20 times sharper than previous x-ray images. It will also be employed to search for the mysterious dark matter that is thought to constitute most of the mass in the universe. But on 26 April NASA decided to scrap a planned 9 July flight aboard the space shuttle Columbia after the Inertial Upper Stage it plans to use for Chandra apparently misfired, leaving a $250 million military spy satellite in a useless orbit. An Air Force official estimated that it could be 6 months before the problem is identified, noting that “we'll take as long as necessary to isolate the cause.”

    Although frustrated by the delay, astronomers have not criticized NASA's decision to play it safe. Unlike the Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra cannot be rescued by astronauts because it will orbit far beyond the shuttle's operating range. However, the delay may cause Chandra to lose its place in NASA's queue because Columbia, the only shuttle equipped to launch Chandra, is due for a major overhaul later this year. If the error isn't found before the Columbia is taken out for refurbishing, “it could delay the launch for at least a year,” says Fred Wojtalik, Chandra program manager at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. In the meantime, Chandra costs NASA $6 million a month while it cools its heels in a warehouse at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

    The silver lining in Chandra's cloudy life is that the delays haven't jeopardized its scientific mission. Chandra may miss out on time-dependent observations such as peeking at a comet due to make its appearance later this year or a coobservation of Jupiter together with the Galileo spacecraft, says Harvey Tananbaum, director of the Chandra X-ray Center at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “But the results will be just as spectacular,” he promises, when it's finally lofted into orbit.

  8. PLANETOLOGY

    Craters Suggest How Venus Lost Her Youth

    1. Richard A. Kerr

    For a planet, volcanism is the secret to a youthful appearance, because it smooths the surface with fresh lava. Venus stopped getting these fiery beauty treatments long ago, and after the Magellan spacecraft flew by the planet in the early 1990s, some researchers concluded that the end was abrupt. Magellan's cloud-penetrating radar saw half a billion years' worth of impact craters pocking the plains created by earlier lava flows. Almost all of those craters looked like bare, raw scars untouched by any later lava flows, implying that the volcanic outpourings had shut down in a geological moment. Some researchers found it hard to swallow the idea that Venus had given up its volcanic activity so suddenly, however, and now they may have new reason to wonder.

    A new analysis of Magellan radar images by planetary geologists Robert Herrick of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston and Virgil Sharpton of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, suggests that many venusian craters have in fact been altered by later lava flows, reopening the possibility that Venus was active after the supposed shutdown. The idea that global volcanic activity shut off in just 10 million or even 100 million years “is clearly wrong,” says Herrick. Most researchers aren't so convinced, but “it's exciting,” says planetary radar specialist Ellen Stofan of University College London and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “I think they're on the right track.”

    Earlier analyses of the Magellan images seemed to show that only 5% to 10% of craters had been flooded by lava, suggesting that the Venusian volcanoes had shut off like a faucet. Entire planets weren't supposed to do that, but geophysicists soon managed to come up with any number of theories to explain it, from a sudden freezing of the surface to cyclic sinking of crustal plates (Science, 5 March 1993, p. 1400).

    Yet many craters did look as if lava had smoothed the crater floors, making them dark in radar images. That lava was usually presumed to be rock melted during the impact, but, in work presented at the recent Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, Herrick and Sharpton decided to test that assumption by measuring how deeply lavas might have flooded outside the craters as well as inside them. On a limited number of orbits, the Magellan radar imaged the same crater from two different angles, so the pair of images could create a three-dimensional stereo image. That allowed the researchers to measure, for 70 craters, the relative heights of each crater's rim, floor, and surrounding terrain.

    With this 3D perspective, Herrick and Sharpton say they can see lava not only filling crater interiors but also flooding around seemingly pristine craters. On average, both the crater floors and surrounding terrain were higher, relative to crater rims, than the floors or surroundings of bright-floored craters. “That must mean these things are not only being filled on the inside, but they're being surrounded on the outside too,” says Herrick, implying that Venus's volcanoes did indeed ooze lava during the past 500 million years. “It's going to change thinking about the whole planet.”

    Other researchers are not quite so sure, but many are impressed with the analysis. “It's clearly a significant finding,” says planetary geologist Maribeth Price of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City. Stofan's inspection of Magellan images is also suggesting that more of the craters are flooded by lava than had been thought, she says. “It seems some of [the stereo] data are pointing the same way.”

    But other scientists note that venusian craters of variable elevations may be masquerading as lava-flooded craters. “Their [elevation] numbers show a pretty big spread,” says planetary scientist Jeffrey Plaut of JPL. And to planetary geologist Geoffrey Collins of Brown University, the craters look very different from flooded craters elsewhere in the solar system. Herrick agrees, but says that venusian lava may have been more viscous and less voluminous than that found on, for example, the moon, which might make venusian flooding less obvious.

    A closer look around the craters may help settle the debate, says planetary geologist George McGill of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He inspected Magellan images of 17 of Herrick and Sharpton's supposedly flooded craters and says he spotted telltale surface features, such as tiny craters from impact ejecta, near some of them. These nearby features must have been there when the original crater formed, he notes, and would have been obliterated by any flooding. A more complete count of such features may reveal whether the onset of Venus's old age was jarringly abrupt or more graciously measured.

  9. SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY

    NAS Elects 60 New Members

    It's still a predominantly male body, but the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) continued its movement toward greater gender diversity this year with the election of nine women as new members. The 60-person class of 1999, announced last week at the academy's annual meeting, brings the total U.S. membership to 1909, of whom 118, or 6.2%, are women.

    The dearth of women has long been a sore point among NAS members, says Marye Anne Fox, chancellor of North Carolina State University in Raleigh, who moderated a symposium at this year's meeting on improving career opportunities for women. Not everyone blames the academy itself, however: University of California, Santa Cruz, chancellor M. R. C. Greenwood, who spoke at the symposium about ways to promote women into leadership positions, presented data showing that in many fields the academy has elected a disproportionately large share of women from the most likely pool of candidates, senior research faculty (see graph). Still, NAS officials are sufficiently sensitive to the issue for NAS President Bruce Alberts to note with mock surprise that the co-chair of the National Research Council's Committee on Women in Science and Engineering is a man, Harvard physicist Howard Georgi. “It's nice of the committee to let you in,” said Alberts, adding that “this is the first time we've ever had a seminar on the topic of women in science at the annual meeting.”

    The following are the new members and their affiliations. (More details are available on the academy's Web site at www2.nas.edu/whatsnew/2a06.html)

    ANDERSON, John R., Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh; ASKEY, Richard A., University of Wisconsin, Madison; AUSTIN, Robert H., Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey; BABIOR, Bernard M., The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California; BARDEEN, William A., Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Batavia, Illinois; BELFORT, Marlene, New York State Department of Health, Albany, New York; BERLEKAMP, Elwyn R., University of California (UC), Berkeley; CARNEIRO, Robert L., American Museum of Natural History, New York City; CHORY, Joanne, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California; CLEAVER, James E., UC San Francisco; COFFIN, John M., National Cancer Institute, Frederick, Maryland, and Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston; DeGRADO, William F., University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; DePUY, Charles H., University of Colorado, Boulder; DESIMONE, Robert, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland; DONAHOE, Patricia K., Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston; FELSENSTEIN, Joseph, University of Washington, Seattle; FIENBERG, Stephen E., Carnegie Mellon University; FLEURY, Paul A., University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.

    GREY, Howard M., La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, San Diego; HAMILTON, Richard S., UC San Diego; HAMMOCK, Bruce D., UC Davis; HANRATTY, Thomas J., University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; HANSEN, Lars Peter, University of Chicago; HAXTON, Wick C., University of Washington, Seattle; HIRSCHMANN, Ralph F., University of Pennsylvania; IGNARRO, Louis J., School of Medicine, UC Los Angeles; JONES, Vaughan F. R., UC Berkeley; KAHN, C. Ronald, Harvard Medical School, Boston; KARLIN, Arthur, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York City; KIVELSON, Margaret G., UC Los Angeles; LANDY, Arthur, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island; LILLY, Douglas K., University of Oklahoma, Norman; LINDOW, Steven E., UC Berkeley.

    McDUFF, Dusa M., State University of New York, Stony Brook; McINTOSH, J. Richard, University of Colorado, Boulder; MERZENICH, Michael M., UC San Francisco; MILLER, Janice M., U.S. Department of Agriculture and Iowa State University, Ames; MURRAY, Cherry Ann, Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies, Murray Hill, New Jersey; PETES, Thomas D., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; PHELPS, Michael E., School of Medicine, UC Los Angeles; PHILLIPS, Tom L., University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; POHL, Robert O., Cornell University, Ithaca, New York; PRITCHARD, David E., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge; PROBSTEIN, Ronald F., MIT; ROBERTS, Jeffrey W., Cornell University; ROKHLIN, Vladimir, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut; RUOSLAHTI, Erkki, Burnham Institute, La Jolla, California.

    SAYKALLY, Richard J., UC Berkeley; SCHAAL, Barbara A., Washington University, St. Louis; SCOTT, Matthew P., HHMI and Stanford University; SIEH, Kerry E., California Institute of Technology, Pasadena; SKYRMS, Brian, UC Irvine; SLEEP, Norman H., Stanford University; SPELKE, Elizabeth S., MIT; WACHTER, Kenneth W., UC Berkeley; WALKER, David, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, New York; WEIGERT, Martin G., Princeton University; WELCH, William J., UC Berkeley; WELLS, James A., Sunesis Pharmaceuticals Inc. Redwood City, California; WOMACK, James E., U.S. Department of Agriculture and Texas A&M University, College Station.

    Newly elected foreign associates and their country of citizenship are:

    ARROYO, Mary T. K., University of Chile, Santiago (New Zealand); BERRIDGE, Michael J., The Babraham Institute, Cambridge (U.K.); HOFMANN, Albrecht W., Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz (Germany); HUNT, R. Timothy, Imperial Cancer Research Fund, Clare Hall Laboratories, Herts (U.K.); LATORRE, Ramon, Centro de Estudios Científicos de Santiago, Santiago (Chile); LEVINE, Raphael D., Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Givat Ram, Jerusalem (Israel).

    MABOGUNJE, Akinlawon L., Development Policy Centre, Ibadan (Nigeria); MACROBBIE, Enid, University of Cambridge (U.K.); MIRRLEES, James A., University of Cambridge (U.K.); OMURA, Satoshi, Kitasato Institute, Tokyo (Japan); SALZANO, Francisco M., Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Pôrto Alegre (Brazil); SIMINOVITCH, Louis, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, Ontario (Canada); SINAI, Yakov G., Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey (Russia); STORMER, Horst L., Columbia University, New York City (Germany); YAMADA, Yasuyuki, Nara Institute of Science and Technology, Nara (Japan).

  10. SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY

    Israel Hits Rich Seam in Ex-Soviet Immigrants

    1. Richard Stone

    Ten years after Jews began arriving in droves from the former Soviet Union, newcomer researchers are transforming Israeli academia and turning the country into a high-tech heavyweight

    RAMAT GAN—In the middle of delivering a lecture to several hundred physicists in London in 1994, Moshe Kaveh spotted a stranger striding purposefully toward him down the center aisle with an intense look in his eyes. “He came closer and closer and reached inside his jacket,” recalls Kaveh, president of Bar-Ilan University. Fearing the worst, Kaveh paused his speech, transfixed. But the stranger simply removed an envelope from his pocket, handed it to Kaveh, and took a seat for the rest of the talk.

    It turned out to be a dramatic way to ask for a job: When Kaveh later looked at the résumé he had been given, he realized the stranger was Valentin Freilikher, director of the Institute of Radiophysics in Kiev, Ukraine—a fellow physicist Kaveh knew by reputation. That evening, Kaveh invited Freilikher to join him for a few days at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, learning later that Freilikher had trouble scraping together the fare for the short train ride. Fortunately, he succeeded: After talking with Freilikher and seeing him in action in the lab, Kaveh recognized a talent. “I want you to come to Israel,” Kaveh told him.

    Five years on, Freilikher is a tenured professor at Bar-Ilan, a tranquil haven in this crowded town outside Tel Aviv. He is one of more than 13,000 scientists from the former Soviet Union (FSU) who have surged into Israel since 1989, part of an exodus of more than 900,000 Russian-speaking Jews who are weaving many new threads into the fabric of this country of less than 6 million people. Bar-Ilan has welcomed the new blood. Known more for Judaism studies than for science, the university has recruited about 100 top “newcomer” scientists, setting many of them up in a gleaming new laboratory facility on campus. “For the price of a plane ticket, we are getting professors who would have cost us $1 million to bring to their present level of knowledge” if they had been trained in Israel, says Absorption Minister Yuli Edelstein, whose ministry spent $30 million last year on stipends and other support for immigrant scientists.

    Even more stunning is the rapid growth of Israel's high-tech industry since the wave of post-Soviet immigration began. “In the 1970s, Israel's major export was oranges,” says Steve Weiner, a bioarchaeologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. Now, with the help of newcomer scientists and engineers, computer and information technology firms have helped double Israel's high-tech exports from $4.5 billion in 1990 to $9 billion last year.

    But there is a darker side to Israel's transformation: While industry and academe have profited by skimming the cream off the influx of immigrants, many newcomers are struggling to find a niche in a promised land that now offers 50 Russian-language newspapers and two Russian TV stations. Most new arrivals endure a brutal competition for tenuous postdoclike positions and, once employed, earn much less than their Israeli counterparts; many fail to find jobs in their fields. “Russian immigrants have to work like slaves late into the night,” says Alexander Khain, a tropical meteorologist at Hebrew University in Jerusalem who arrived from Moscow in 1991 and now holds a tenured position. Israelis acknowledge that some immigrants are falling through the cracks. “Statistically, I think we are doing fine” in absorbing newcomers, says Tel Aviv University (TAU) chemist Eliezer Gileadi, architect of a key program for employing immigrant scientists. “The trouble is, people are not statistics. Either you have a job as a scientist or you don't.”

    Despite the hardships in their adopted country, émigrés say they have no desire to return to Russia or other former Soviet countries, where life for researchers grows harder by the day and anti-Semitism is making a comeback. And although some Israelis resent paying higher taxes to support immigrant welfare programs, they do enjoy the benefits of the economic boom fueled by the highly educated newcomers. Post-Soviet immigration is “the best thing that's happened to our country in the last 25 years,” says Weizmann president Haim Harari. And it could get even better. “We have a generation that is getting the best of both systems,” Harari says, referring to young émigrés who studied in Russia's superb high schools and now, in Israel, are learning Hebrew, serving in the army, and attending university. “The next decade will bring a fantastic wave of successes,” he predicts. “This is a whole new story beginning to unfold.”

    Stateless scientists

    Israeli science began just 75 years ago, in 1924, when the Jewish community in British-ruled Palestine established the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, a university now recognized as Israel's Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Two other institutions—Hebrew University and the Daniel Sieff Research Institute, later renamed after Israel's first president, chemist Chaim Weizmann (see sidebar on p. 896)—were founded before the state of Israel was created in 1948. During the next 25 years, Israelis fought three wars with their Arab neighbors and eked out a meager existence in a land that was mostly desert, with scant natural resources. Consequently, the country's two main scientific priorities were defense and agricultural research. Foreign aid, mainly from the United States, kept basic science afloat until 1972, when the government established the Israeli Science Foundation and set up an independent council to oversee the universities.

    By definition a land of immigrants, Israeli science got its first big injection of Russian blood in 1973, when Soviet authorities opened the door a crack for Jews to leave; about 150,000 came to Israel in the 1970s. But the Soviets did not make it easy: Jews first had to declare their intent to emigrate, a wrenching action that often turned them into pariahs. “It was a scandal when I applied to leave for Israel” in 1975, recalls Edward Trifonov, then a biophysicist at the prestigious Kurchatov Institute in Moscow, whose father and adopted father had been prisoners in Stalin's gulags. In retaliation for applying for an exit visa, Trifonov says, at a public meeting trade union officials “accused me of concealing my ethnicity for career purposes.” Trifonov spent the next year as a refusnik, locked out of his lab and waiting for an exit visa. He finally emigrated to Israel in 1976 and landed a professorship at the Weizmann Institute, where he is now one of about a dozen former Soviet professors.

    Trifonov was one of the lucky ones. Mathematician Victor Brailovsky applied for his visa in 1972, then spent the next 15 years as a refusnik, including a year in prison in Moscow and 4 years in internal exile in Kazakhstan. He and physicist Natan Sharansky—now Israel's minister of industry and trade—became causes célèbres among their Western colleagues. Among their vocal supporters were TAU president Yuval Ne'eman, a theoretical physicist, and TAU mathematicians Dan Amir and Vitali Milman, who petitioned Soviet authorities to release refusniks and helped newcomers find jobs in Israel. “Milman is an avid collector and connoisseur of fine art, and no doubt he used the same impeccable judgment in bringing together the first-class mathematicians of our school,” says TAU's Leonid Polterovich. TAU awarded Brailovsky an honorary doctorate and kept a vacant faculty position waiting for him, but it wasn't until 1987, the era of Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost, that Brailovsky was released. He now teaches at TAU.

    The dam breaks

    The year Brailovsky finally got his visa, the Israeli Academy of Sciences and Humanities made a bold prediction to then-Prime Minister Shimon Peres: With the Cold War thawing, Israel could expect 500,000 Jews to emigrate from Russia. “People at the time thought it was crazy,” says academy director Meir Zadok. In a paper suggesting how to respond to the deluge, the academy pointed out that headhunters from many countries—including Israel's enemies—would be going after talented researchers. “We thought we should be a part of this,” says Zadok. “We wanted to ensure that first-class scientists would not be neglected.”

    Two years later, the academy was proved right when the trickle of immigrants became a torrent with the arrival of 24,000 Jews, mostly from the Soviet Union. The following year, 1990, saw almost 200,000 newcomers, pouring in at a rate of more than 500 a day. The timing was not propitious: Israel's economy was mired in recession, with unemployment running at about 9%. “We were flooded by immigrants at a time of economic crisis,” says Joseph van Zwaren de Zwarenstein, director of exact sciences at the Ministry of Science. For the most part, Israelis were unprepared for the onslaught. “Many Russian scientists were hoping that after all their suffering, they would be treated like heroes,” says van Zwaren. “Unfortunately, that was not the case.”

    Israelis, in fact, were increasingly distracted by events elsewhere. Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, near the height of the immigration. “We were given gas masks at the airport,” remembers Elena Litsyn, an expert on differential equations from Perm, Russia. And in an ironic twist of fate, a week after arriving in Israel, Yuri Feldman—trained to fire scud missiles in the Russian army—watched from his new home as Iraqi scuds fell on nearby Tel Aviv. “I decided it was better to move and took my family to Jerusalem,” says Feldman, who within days had landed a position at Hebrew University.

    Most newcomers were not so fortunate. “Some had been in gulags for years, not reading the literature,” says molecular biologist Etana Padan, who heads the immigrant absorption program at Hebrew University. Many émigré scientists were in their 40s or older, she says, and could not compete for entry-level jobs with Israeli postdocs in their 30s. At the height of the deluge, newspapers and TV shows ran poignant stories of immigrant scientists sweeping streets or waiting tables. In some cases, the newcomers had skills for which Israel had little need. “Some were mine engineers. But we don't have any mines; what were we going to do with them?” says Science Minister Silvan Shalom.

    Others, however, simply could not deal with the combined stress of adapting to Israel —having to learn Hebrew, for instance—and adapting to Western science. “Many of the scientists who came here were under the impression that they could just sit back and some talent hunter from General Motors or wherever would say, ‘Here's a check for $10 million, just give me that invention of yours,’” says Edelstein. “For some strange reason it didn't happen.”

    Edelstein's ministry has tried to help. It put together a raft of programs to keep immigrants above water, from the Shapiro fund, which pays scientists a subsistence wage to get them into labs at no expense to their hosts, to Kamea, a highly competitive program that funds permanent positions as research associates. Unrest among the ex-Soviet researchers, however, spawned the Immigrant Scientists Association of Israel, which claims to represent more than 100,000 scientists and engineers. It has lobbied hard for the creation of new programs and for pay increases in existing ones, winning modest concessions. But many newcomers say they are far from satisfied with the status quo. “People in most of these programs receive no tenure. They are like marionettes—cut the strings and they fall,” says association vice president Oleg Figovsky, R&D manager of Polymate Ltd. a research shop outside Haifa.

    Newcomers say they feel intense pressures to compete for research appointments and to hold onto them. “During my first year in Israel, I slept only 4 hours a night and produced 25 papers,” says Isak Beilis, a physicist from Moscow who now has a stable position at TAU. Adds Tel Aviv colleague Emil Ginsburg, a biologist from Novosibirsk, “I know a lot of people who are very productive—and are living cadavers.” Many newcomers can endure this lab rat life—for which they receive on average about 40% of the salary of an Israeli scientist—for only so long before trying their luck in other countries. “The tragedy of Israeli science,” says Trifonov, “is that plenty of good scientists had to leave.”

    Post-Cold War dividend?

    During the 1990s. Israeli scientists have captured a growing percentage of the world's physics papers (left), and their papers are getting cited more frequently than the world average.

    CREDIT: INSTITUTE FOR SCIENTIFIC INFORMATION

    Israeli officials confirm that for the newcomers, winning a permanent position in academia is a harsh lesson in survival of the fittest. “At many universities people were just used for 3 years, then they were told, ‘You're a great guy, but we don't have money,’” says Edelstein. According to TAU's Touvia Miloh, associate dean of the engineering faculty, “only the very, very best survive.”

    Carpe immigrantes

    Despite the fact that more than 5300 scientists had registered with the Ministry of Absorption by the end of 1991, some Israelis took a more active approach to recruitment. Moshe Kaveh, for example, had strong links with many Jewish research heavyweights still in Russia and wanted to bring them out. In 1992 he approached Ne'eman, then the science minister, and asked for financial help to import 100 Russian scientists to Bar-Ilan, a university that, he says, “was basically established by immigrants.” He argued that because Israel invests about $1 million in training each homegrown scientist, bringing 100 Russians amounted to “a gift of $100 million.” Ne'eman agreed with the rationale but said the government couldn't afford to add 100 faculty to Bar-Ilan's payroll.

    Nevertheless, Kaveh pushed ahead with his plan, in the process becoming dean of natural sciences, then university president. The biggest challenge was to find the millions of dollars needed to provide equipment and salary for the newcomers, but he also faced opposition from some of his colleagues. “It was more difficult to convince others at Bar-Ilan [to accept the Russians] than it was to convince the scientists to come,” he says. “Israelis felt pushed aside a little bit.” Nevertheless, Kaveh wasted no time bringing in a few dozen Russians, even before he had secured money for lab equipment or a building to house them. “It was a dangerous gamble,” he says. The gamble paid off after a visit to philanthropist Pearl Resnick, a longtime donor to Israeli causes who was born in Okna, Russia, and now lives in New York. “I told Pearl this was a very unusual opportunity to bring to Israel our brothers and sisters, Jewish scientists of top caliber.” She agreed and gave what one source calls “a few million dollars” for a new facility, the Jack and Pearl Resnick Institute for Advanced Technology, which opened in 1997.

    Another institution that kick-started its research effort with ex-Soviet brainpower is the College of Judea and Samaria (CJS) in Ariel. Opened in 1983, CJS is one of several colleges established by the Israeli government to widen access to higher education. Situated in the West Bank, the college stumbled a bit when it started reeling in Russians in 1991. “In the beginning, we were not mature enough to judge the capabilities of newcomers,” says CJSexecutive committee chair Yigal Cohen-Orgad, who adds that the college didn't renew the contracts of several early arrivals. CJS soon brought in outside experts to vet potential faculty members and set a quality standard: “Those good enough to get external grants and teach in Hebrew will stay with us,” says Cohen-Orgad, who foresees a big need for staff as the college grows from 2500 students today to a planned 7500 in 2005.

    CJS's policy is beginning to bear fruit. Russian specialists in functional differential equations have established at Ariel the country's first center devoted to the topic. The university also scored a success in recruiting Michael Tseitlin, a specialist in petrodite crystals for solid-state lasers, who arrived in 1991 from Dushanbe, Tadjikistan. Tseitlin started out at CJS growing crystals in an improvised oven made from a samovar. From this modest setup, he developed methods for cheaply churning out high-quality crystals. Investors last year sank $1 million into a factory to mass-produce the crystals.

    Indeed, although academia has captured dozens of newcomers, the real winner has been Israel's high-tech industry. Edelstein makes no bones about his ministry's effort to pump up the country's 1800-odd technology firms. “We are trying to push as many [immigrants] as possible into the private sector,” Edelstein says. Feldman says he has noticed the change at Intel's research center in Kiryat Gat: “When I visited in 1991, people spoke English. Now they all speak Russian.”

    This push toward industry was a necessity: In the early 1990s, many more scientists and engineers came to Israel than could ever be absorbed by academia. “We had only so many places in universities, so we set out to identify weak links in the technology development chain,” says Rina Pridor, a lawyer who joined the Ministry of Industry and Trade in early 1991 to devise a program. The ministry funded the establishment of a dozen technology “incubators” across the country. These were places that any scientist could go to pitch ideas. If given the go-ahead, the scientist would get lab space, funds for a small staff and supplies, and 2 years to turn the concept into a patent-protected, marketable proposal to industry. The funding package, Pridor acknowledges, is modest: Each project gets $300,000 from the ministry and must find a mandatory $50,000 from an outside investor. Industry savants viewed the program with distaste. “Investors wouldn't even talk to us a few years ago,” says Pridor, and charged the ministry with setting up a welfare program.

    The program encountered hard going at first: Newcomer scientists were skeptical about revealing details of their ideas. “They were afraid someone would steal their baby,” Pridor says. And Russian scientists in particular had no clue how to run a company and how to divvy up equity. Incubator facilities tend to be modest: The Gat High Tech Center in Kiryat Gat, which specializes in intelligent highway projects, operates out of a nondescript concrete shed. “We draw a very low salary,” says Amos Shaham, general manager of Road Safety Technologies Ltd. a start-up that is designing magnetic strips that can be embedded in roads and scanned by sensors under a car's bumper to warn drivers of intersections or dangerous curves.

    The big test comes after the 2-year incubation, when the inventors have to make it in the real world. By the end of last year, Pridor says, half the companies that graduated from incubators were still alive, having accumulated in total more than $200 million in private investment. The incubator program “has been quite effective,” says biochemist Maxine Singer, president of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C. In the early 1990s, she points out, “people thought there wouldn't be any jobs for the Russian scientists.” Success has expanded the program, which now supports 26 incubators nationwide and has funded 400 projects, about 200 of which are still in operation. All told, the heavy thrust into technology has paid off. “We're talking about billions of shekels contributed to the Israeli economy,” says Edelstein.

    Deep impact?

    While Israeli science and industry are still riding this wave of new brainpower, some are beginning to consider the long-term impact of the newcomers. They have not stimulated all fields of science equally. “You don't need to do any survey to know we received, in general, very high-quality mathematicians,” but newcomers have had “almost zero impact in biology,” says Harari. Part of the reason for this discrepancy stems from Russia's traditional strength in the physical and theoretical sciences. Thanks to the Soviet influx, claims TAU's Amir, “Israel is now considered a superpower in mathematics.” Sergei Gelfand of the American Mathematical Society agrees: The country's strong math community, he says, “is an achievement of Israeli immigration policy and practice.”

    Citation analysis suggests that the newcomers have lifted the overall standing of Israeli science. Over the last decade, Israeli physicists have captured a rising share of total papers published in the world's major journals, and citations per publication have been climbing, according to data compiled by the Institute for Scientific Information in Philadelphia. No clear trend could be discerned in math, although mathematicians generally take longer to publish their results and produce fewer papers on average than their colleagues in physics. “The beginning of this global influence we are starting to see only now,” says Edelstein.

    The new immigrants—perhaps not surprisingly—have also strengthened the country's scientific ties with colleagues in former Soviet countries. For example, the Weizmann Institute and the Landau Institute outside Moscow have established a Joint Center for Theoretical Physics on the Weizmann campus, and the prime minister's office has just established at Hebrew University a Center for Academic Ties between Israeli scientists and their counterparts in the FSU and the Baltics. In addition, Moscow space scientists last year helped a team of researchers at the Technion—14 out of 20 of whom are newcomers—locate a satellite after the Israelis had received incorrect tracking information from the United States.

    In the long term, however, the jury is still out on the extent to which the Soviet immigrants will reshape Israeli science. Some newcomers stay in Israel only briefly before taking jobs abroad. “Many high-level scientists have left—here and there you find real losses,” says mechanical engineer Avraham Shitzer, vice provost for research at the Technion, which has retained about 190 newcomers. But, says Harari, it's too early to say what kind of scientific talent will emerge from the students who studied science in Russian schools and are now being integrated into Israeli society. Government figures show that a third of all immigrants in the university system between 1989 and 1995 majored in mathematics and natural sciences, three times the proportion among all Israeli university students. “When you come as a 17-year-old,” he says, “it's not as bad as coming as a 30-year-old who has to work as a janitor before finding a job.”

    “In Israel we have a philosophy that each family needs to raise a son, plant a tree, and have a house,” says TAU geneticist Ben-David Yair, who came to Israel in 1973 and changed his name from Evgeny Kobyliansky to protect his family back in Moscow. “I would like to add one principle: We must also accept a new immigrant.” For the most part, that philosophy seems to have taken root. “Step by step, Russian immigrants become a very important part of scientific directions, and they stop being slaves and begin to be colleagues,” says Hebrew University's Khain. Adds Zadok of the Israeli Academy of Sciences, “You don't see any Ph.D.s sweeping the streets today.”

  11. SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY

    In the R&D Sweepstakes, the Lure of a Quick Shekel Prevails

    1. Richard Stone

    JERUSALEM—The science adviser to the prime minister can't exactly claim a choice spot along Israel's corridors of power: Molecular biologist Israel Hanukoglu's cramped office sits at the far end of the building from where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds court. The physical distance roughly sums up the clout Hanukoglu has had with the embattled prime minister, who is fighting for his job in elections to be held on 17 May.

    But that hasn't stopped the soft-spoken Hanukoglu from arguing for a change of emphasis in Israeli science policy during his 18-month tenure as the country's first science adviser. He says the government's love affair with high-technology—stoked by the recent influx of thousands of skilled former Soviet scientists (see main text)—could imperil the country's basic research. “With all the rush toward technological development, we may be ignoring the need to strengthen the basic sciences,” he says. Last fall Hanukoglu wrote a position paper calling for the government to double the modest $30 million budget of the Israeli Science Foundation (ISF), the country's main granting body. But so far, the plea has fallen on deaf ears. “Israel's strength is applied research,” Netanyahu told Science. “The country is too small [to devote more resources to] basic research.”

    Many Israeli scientists share Hanukoglu's concern, arguing that conditions are deteriorating for cash-strapped basic researchers. But the impending election isn't likely to change things, no matter who wins. “Since science enjoys across-the-board support among the parties, it is in a way taken for granted,” says Hanukoglu. Any shift in priority, he and others say, will have to come from steady grassroots pressure.

    The Israeli government has always treated applied research as the favorite child, pouring most of its scant resources for science into defense and agricultural research. Haifa's Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot (see sidebar on p. 896) managed to build strong research programs, in large measure thanks to donations from Jews abroad. But as the country grew wealthier, Israeli scientists agitated for more money for basic research. In response, the government set up the ISF in 1972. Since then, Israel, despite its small size, has grown into a major player on the world science stage: According to an analysis in Science (7 February 1997, p. 793), Israel ranks second behind Switzerland in papers per capita and third behind Switzerland and Sweden in citations per capita. The analysis also showed that Israel leads the world in the citation impact of its computer science papers.

    In the past several years, however, “the pendulum has shifted from basic to applied research,” says Meir Zadok, director of the Israeli Academy of Sciences and Humanities. The key factor is the government's decision to steer most former Soviet immigrant scientists into industry. The Ministry of Industry and Trade (MIT) established a series of technology incubators for turning raw ideas from former Soviet scientists into marketable inventions. Today, MIT spends about $500 million—16 times the ISF's budget—on incubators and other programs.

    As MIT's R&D spending waxes, the Science Ministry's wanes. Its budget has shrunk from $60 million in 1995 to $50 million this year, amounting to about 8% of the share of civilian R&D. “This is one of the weakest ministries in the government,” grumbles ministry comptroller Emanuel Mudrik, who says the ministry is taking steps to increase its share to 18% by 2005, mainly through the establishment of what it calls “mini-national laboratories” for strategic research in biotech, next-generation Internet, and other areas.

    Partly accountable for the ministry's fading power is a revolving door at the top: There have been 11 science ministers in 16 years, many of whom have had their eye on other portfolios. And as Netanyahu has promised a cabinet shake-up if reelected, Silvan Shalom, the lawyer who has held the science minister post for 8 months, doesn't expect to be at the helm much longer. His most notable legacy—a program he launched called Flowers in the Desert—has won him few friends among scientists, with its aim, in Shalom's words, “to bring science to the community.” The program funds research on such topics as the sociology of Bedouin life, and it sponsors efforts to acquaint disadvantaged youth with universities. However, scientists do credit Shalom with raising the profile of the government ministries' chief scientists, who under Shalom have become the main force for setting science policy.

    With Hanukoglu planning to return full time to his lab at the College of Judea and Samaria in the West Bank town of Ariel after the elections, basic researchers will lose a valuable ally in their fight for funding—and it's unclear whether Israel's prime minister after the elections will appoint a successor. “We still have major difficulties to raise the kind of money that a U.S. lab does,” says Weizmann molecular biologist Benny Geiger. ISF grants average about $40,000 a year. “After deduction of overhead, this sum is barely enough to maintain a lab with a single research worker,” says Hanukoglu, who studies mitochondrial genes involved in steroid hormone synthesis. There are other funding sources: Israelis can apply for European Union research program money or to bilateral research funds co-sponsored by countries such as the United States and Germany.

    To give Israeli researchers a stronger voice in policy-making, Hanukoglu last year played a key role in establishing a permanent Science and Technology committee of the Knesset to discuss legislation and oversee government agencies involved in science. It will also be a target for lobbying—and Hanukoglu intends to use it to fight for basic biomedical research after he leaves the government. The way U.S. researchers lobby legislators on Capitol Hill, Hanukoglu says, “should set an example for us.”

  12. SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY

    Science Stronghold Seeks the Big Prize

    1. Richard Stone

    REHOVOT—The Weizmann Institute, an intellectual oasis in the desert south of Tel Aviv, is the very picture of a modern-day ivory tower: a quaint building housing the restored lab of the institute's founder, a futuristic 10-story particle accelerator tower, and glistening new facilities, all set among trees and luxuriant gardens. But as a research powerhouse, and perhaps Israel's best known scientific institution, the Weizmann has its own idiosyncratic way of doing science. Although the institute has 750 grad students, it is not a university, so “we have no obligation to cover every niche or field,” says Weizmann President Haim Harari. In fact, the institute picks and chooses carefully, building expertise in a particular area before moving on to something else. “We don't have to be democratic,” says Harari, whose 400 Ph.D. scientists include 14 professors in neurobiology but none in zoology.

    Keeping a tight focus has paid off: Weizmann scientists claim honors ranging from the discovery of the p53 cancer gene to the development of new encryption techniques. Former Soviet mathematicians, especially, have had “a profound effect” on the institute, says biochemist Maxine Singer, president of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C. and a member of Weizmann's board of governors. Outside reviewers, she says, cite the computer science group as “one of the strongest in the world.”

    But the Weizmann has even higher ambitions. Last November it launched a campaign to raise its endowment from $230 million to $500 million by the end of 2001. The institute's strategy is to forge strongholds in a few key disciplines, with the hope of one day capturing a trophy that has so far never been awarded to an Israeli: a Nobel Prize or a Fields medal. “There is a dilemma here,” says Harari. “We have not succeeded in creating enough centers of truly high quality in a specific field or a specific place.”

    The Weizmann was founded in 1934 by an English couple, Rebecca and Israel Sieff, who named it in memory of their son, Daniel. But it did not have an easy early life. Founder Chaim Weizmann and the team of 10 scientists that made up the Daniel Sieff Research Institute, working in bacteriology, pharmacology, and agricultural science, were soon carrying out secret weapons research for the Haganah, the Jewish underground movement opposed to British rule. Weizmann directed the institute for 18 years, even during his tenure as Israel's first president. With the young state fighting for its life, Weizmann, a gritty fighter and shrewd diplomat, came under fire for having the temerity to spend some of his country's scarce resources nurturing his beloved institute, which was renamed after him in 1949, 3 years before he died.

    In the late 1960s, with the security situation appearing more stable, Israel drew in more and more immigrants and the Weizmann began luring top-notch scientists from abroad. The institute set out to give a handful of disciplines the funds needed to compete internationally. In the 1980s it was the turn of heavy-ion research, then over the past decade Weizmann established a solar-energy research facility and a submicrometer materials science lab. Each center, Harari says, costs about $20 million up front and $2 million a year to run, a substantial chunk of the institute's $170 million annual budget. The latest pricey field that Weizmann is paying into is biological physics, to the tune of $10 million over 5 years. And next year it plans a major initiative on the genetics of cancer. “The flexibility to move in such directions counteracts the fact that it is a small institution,” says Singer. This approach, however, has alienated researchers who don't fit the mold. “Some of the best scientists got ditched and later formed outstanding laboratories in other universities,” says one prominent Israeli researcher.

    Although the institute draws half its revenue from the state, it relies heavily on the generosity of Israel's philanthropists and Jewish patrons overseas. Fund-raising offices in 21 countries pulled in about $30 million last year, including the funds necessary to open an outdoor, hands-on science museum last month. At Weizmann, almost any building, lab, or stick of furniture can have a donor's name slapped onto it, for a price. Consider, for example, the Rosalind and Joseph Gurwin Laboratory for Vacuum Processing of the Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Center for Submicron Research. According to one institute staffer, Weizmann officials one day asked a donor for money to renovate a building named after him. The donor refused, and the name came off.

    Researchers cite some drawbacks of working at Weizmann, including the physical isolation of working in the Middle East and the struggle to attract talented students. Teaching, however, is voluntary. Being able to totally immerse oneself in research, says adhesion protein expert Benny Geiger, “makes Weizmann quite special.”

  13. TECHNOLOGY

    Shoebox-Sized Space Probes Take to Orbit

    1. James R. Riordon*
    1. James R. Riordon is a science writer in Greenbelt, Maryland.

    Technological finesse and the search for cost savings are spawning a new generation of “nanosatellites,” weighing only a kilogram or so

    Peter Panetta is fond of passing around a model of a satellite he's designing. That's not unusual for a NASA engineer, but what is surprising is that the model, roughly the size of a hatbox, is a full-scale spacecraft mock-up.

    The cylindrical prototype, 30 centimeters in diameter and 10 centimeters tall, represents a conceptual design for the first of NASA's nanosatellites—spacecraft with total launch masses of between 1 and 10 kilograms, or a mere one-thousandth the mass of a conventional satellite. A hundred or more of these tiny spacecraft, at a cost of half a million dollars apiece, will swarm through the magnetic fields and trapped particles near Earth during NASA's Magnetospheric Constellation (MC) mission, planned for 2007. Other NASA nanosatellites may soon hitchhike to Mercury on a macrosatellite, carry crystal-growth experiments in low Earth orbits, or fly in formation to study Earth's atmosphere from above.

    These pint-sized satellites are the offspring of two converging trends: NASA's effort to develop faster and cheaper alternatives to the billion-dollar space science missions of the 1970s and '80s, and the promise of microelectronics and microfabrication for shrinking spacecraft parts, including sensors, power supplies, and even thrusters. The first nanosatellite has not yet flown, but NASA managers are confident that within 5 years, the technologies will be mature enough for the MC mission and, ultimately, for swarms of other nanoprobes.

    “Miniaturization is going to be pervasive in all of our spacecraft,” says Richard Vondrak, head of the Laboratory for Extraterrestrial Physics at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, Maryland. “We hope to launch them on smaller launch vehicles, do it with fewer dollars, or put up more of them.” As a result, says one enthusiast, Rick Fleeter, who is the founder and CEO of AeroAstro in Herndon, Virginia, “scientists will be able to dabble in space research in the same way they now dabble in terrestrial laboratories.”

    Panetta, who is the manager of NASA's nanosatellite technology program at GSFC, is drawing on a range of technologies to shrink satellites for the MC mission and its successors. Microelectronics will reduce the size and power consumption of data processing and communications systems, moldable batteries will be packed into the odd spaces that would otherwise remain empty, and miniaturized machines—micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS), in engineering jargon—will replace bulky mechanical systems with light, silicon-based equivalents.

    A dime-sized thruster, currently under development at NASA's John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field in Cleveland, Ohio (formerly NASA's Lewis Research Center), is a startling example of one MEMS device Panetta's group is studying. Each tiny thruster consists of a combustion chamber and nozzle etched into silicon. To eliminate the complex fuel-delivery systems of larger rocket engines, NASA engineers made each thruster a self-contained unit. Each carries a single burst of fuel sealed in its combustion chamber, and after ignition—possibly by diode lasers—it is discarded. At about a gram each, nanosatellites could carry hundreds of these thrusters for attitude control. Panetta believes MEMS thrusters will be perfected in time to be incorporated in the MC nanosatellites.

    Just downsizing larger systems won't be enough, however; miniaturized spacecraft will face some new demands. The output of the solar cell arrays that produce spacecraft power will fall to just a few watts as they shrink. With such meager power budgets, individual spacecraft subsystems must run at a half-watt or less each, roughly a fiftieth the power consumption of many conventional equivalents. As a result, nanosatellites like the MC probes, which will follow orbits taking them far from Earth, will often be beyond range of their miniaturized communication systems, putting a special premium on spacecraft self-reliance. The nanoprobes will have to collect data and make orbital adjustments autonomously; only when they pass close to Earth will they be able to download memory and receive new mission objectives.

    The payoff, in the MC mission, will be a far more comprehensive picture of the magnetosphere—a vast, teardrop-shaped region of magnetic fields and ions surrounding Earth—than one or several conventional satellites can provide. The magnetosphere is so variable and turbulent that isolated measurements cannot capture its full complexity. As MC mission program scientist Thomas Moore of GSFC puts it, “Most of what we've done up until now has been akin to trying to understand severe storm development in the Midwest by driving around in a car with one rain gauge and a thermometer hanging out the window.”

    The MC mission, currently funded at a total cost of $120 million including launch costs, will create the orbital equivalent of a terrestrial weather station network. The swarm of 100 or more probes will be packed into the payload bay of a single Delta rocket; once in space, each nanosatellite will fire a miniature propulsion system to reach its final orbit. The current plan is to place the satellites in equatorial orbits with perigees of about 20,000 kilometers and various apogees of up to half a million kilometers. The spacecraft will sample the magnetosphere with magnetometers and charged particle detectors and then download their data to ground-based computers during their closest approaches to Earth.

    The MC mission will yield time-lapse photographs of the magnetosphere, with each nanosatellite providing one pixel of data. “That's the kind of thing you could not do without a constellation of satellites, and you couldn't build big satellites to do it because you couldn't afford to,” says Dave Akin, director of the University of Maryland's Space Systems Laboratory. The ability to monitor conditions throughout the magnetosphere, space physicists hope, will let them trace turbulence stirred by the wind of particles blowing from the sun and follow the growth of electromagnetic disturbances known as substorms, which can affect satellites and ground-based communication systems.

    Other nanosatellites may also fly in the next decade. NASA is considering piggybacking a trio of nanospacecraft on the Janus Pathfinder probe to Mercury, which, if approved, could be launched as early as 2005. The mother ship would release the nanoprobes near Mercury in trajectories that would carry them through different regions of the planet's magnetosphere. And AeroAstro is developing a 1-kilogram satellite, Bitsy, that is meant as an inexpensive alternative to booking space on a space shuttle or the international space station.

    Bitsy would provide basic accommodations—power, attitude control, and communications—for experiments in low Earth orbits, such as crystal growth studies, downward-looking Earth science observations, or anything else an imaginative scientist can come up with. And it comes with a bargain-basement price, which AeroAstro estimates at $50,000 to $100,000 per satellite. To keep launch expenses down, Bitsy satellites will probably hitch rides to low Earth orbits in unoccupied space aboard NASA or European Space Agency rockets.

    Nanosatellites won't fill every niche in space science, says Akin. “There are people, I'm not one of them, who will tell you everything could be done with microsats.” There will always be a need for satellites that carry inherently large systems such as optical telescopes and other sensors, he says.

    Panetta agrees, but he can't help musing about truly Lilliputian spacecraft. “If you really want to think far reaching, there's the possibility of a femtosatellite,” essentially a solid-state satellite on a chip, weighing 100 grams or less, and about the size of a credit card. For now, he must be content with the nanosatellite that takes up nearly half the surface of a desk in his office.

  14. ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCE

    Digging in the Mire for the Air of Ancient Times

    1. Robert Koenig

    Bogs are proving to be invaluable archives of airborne contaminants, as a 4000-year record of mercury deposition in a Spanish bog shows

    BERN—Back in the 1500s, a visitor decried Ireland's “foul and stinking” bogs, reflecting the prevalent European view of bogs as squishy nuisances. Over the centuries, bogs and moors have been the background for fog-shrouded horror tales, wastelands to be drained for farms, or the raw material for peat cutters. Ecologists have long argued that this reputation is undeserved, for bogs provide critical habitats for numerous threatened species. Now, researchers from Spain to Switzerland to Scotland are giving bogs a new scientific cachet.

    Certain types of peat bogs have proven to be living archives of trace metals, capturing year-by-year records of these atmospheric contaminants from the rain and snow that fall on the surface. The records reflect human activities such as mining; recent results have shown that they also open a window on temperature and humidity trends over thousands of years. In some ways, bogs are “the ideal archive for studying atmospherically delivered pollutants,” says Peter Appleby of the University of Liverpool. Because peat layers are compact, bog researchers can uncover a 10,000-year archive by digging down several meters—a fraction of the depth needed to get an equivalent record from cores of polar ice. And bogs, unlike ice, are common in temperate latitudes, revealing past atmospheric conditions there.

    “I'm amazed by how much useful data is emerging now from peat bogs,” says geochemist William Shotyk of the University of Bern's Geological Institute, who with Appleby and other colleagues has analyzed nearly 15,000 years of atmospheric lead deposition at a bog in Switzerland's Jura mountains to derive a record of lead mining and smelting extending back to before the Roman empire (Science, 11 September 1998, p. 1635). In the most recent example, chemist and soil scientist Antonio Martínez-Cortizas and fellow researchers at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain have found that a peat bog in northwestern Spain preserves a long-term record of atmospheric mercury levels. As they report on page 939 of this issue, they were able to distinguish human contributions to the record from natural mercury sources such as volcanoes, and they also learned how temperature affects mercury deposition, enabling them to use mercury levels as a new tool for reconstructing the region's climate.

    Martínez-Cortizas and his colleagues, like other bog researchers, chose an “ombrotrophic” bog. Such bogs—about a fifth of the total—are fed only by rainwater or snow and not by streams, so that they accumulate trace metals from the atmosphere rather than from the surrounding watershed. The Spanish researchers drilled 2.5-meter-deep cores of the peat with borers, cut the cores into thin slices, and carbon-dated the layers. Peat acts as a sort of filter that chemically fixes mercury, lead, and some other metals, locking them in place even as rainwater percolates through the peat. So by analyzing the mercury concentrations within each layer, the Spanish scientists were able to assemble a record of mercury deposition over time.

    The bog they sampled is just 600 kilometers from what was the world's largest mine of cinnabar, a mercury ore. The layers of mire record a rise in mercury levels starting in the 8th century, implying stepped-up mining during Spain's Islamic period, when metallurgy flourished. They also show an earlier, gradual rise starting 2500 years ago, suggesting that the cinnabar mine may have been worked by the Celts in pre-Roman times, probably at first for the ore's colorful pigment rather than for the mercury it contains.

    But the Spanish group found that mining activity—which they traced by examining 500 years of mining records—wasn't the only factor at work. “We were struck by the big increase in mercury accumulation in the bog between 200 and 600 years ago, before the industrial revolution,” says Martínez-Cortizas. “Because the mine production records do not account for that increase, we believe that the accumulation was related to the colder climate—the ‘Little Ice Age,’ in the 15th through the 17th centuries.”

    He and his colleagues think that bogs retain more mercury in cooler weather, partly because the volatile element is less prone to evaporate from the bog surface than it is at warmer temperatures. As a result, says Martínez-Cortizas, bogs contain a sort of mercury thermometer for past climates. To take advantage of it, the team is now working at another Spanish bog to dig cores deep enough to analyze between 10,000 and 20,000 years of paleotemperatures.

    Elsewhere in Europe, bog specialists are finding other troves of information in the mires. In Norway, chemist Eiliv Steinnes of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology has analyzed ratios of stable lead isotopes in bogs to determine how much of the lead deposition in Norway comes from atmospheric lead emissions elsewhere in Europe. And Hansjörg Küster, a paleobotanist at the University of Hannover in Germany, is examining pollen from bog and fen sediments to reconstruct the vegetation—and hence the climate—of former times. “Pollen grains and other organic materials are well preserved in the wet soil,” he says. A meter below the surface of German bogs, Küster can find pollen from Roman times; 2 to 3 meters down is Neolithic pollen.

    Other researchers are trying to learn how bogs capture and preserve trace metals in the first place, which could help guide interpretations of the bog records. Chemist John G. Farmer of the University of Edinburgh, for example, has examined how humic acid, an organic acid derived from peat decay, interacts with metals, a process that can affect whether the metals remain in the bog layers where they are first deposited. And although bog research has traditionally had a European focus, a North American contribution is coming from Stephen A. Norton of the University of Maine, Orono. He has been studying atmospheric deposits of both natural and humanmade radionuclides, which could sharpen techniques for dating recent bog sediments.

    Both Norton and Shotyk caution that bogs are not infallible archives. At a recent conference, Shotyk advised researchers to be sure that the bogs they analyze are truly ombrotrophic and that the trace metals being measured have not migrated through the bog, confusing the chronology. Norton adds that the accumulation of atmospheric particles in bogs is not always even and varies with each mire's “microtopography” of small hills and valleys. And Farmer says that researchers trying to reconstruct ancient environments should call on other records as well. “It is important to be able to compare environmental records from peat bogs with those from lake sediments, ice cores, tree rings, and other potential archival material,” he says.

    Despite those caveats, Shotyk sees a great future in bog research—providing that enough bogs are still available for study. In a report being published this month in the Journal of Applied Vegetation Science, Hans Joosten of the Botanical Institute in Greifswald, Germany, estimates that only about 1% of the former mire areas now survive in many European countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, France, and Spain. Drainage programs and peat mining have destroyed many of the rest.

    Organizations such as the London-based International Mire Conservation Group have pushed worldwide programs to try to preserve bogs and other wetlands, and Shotyk is urging his colleagues to take up the cause. “The bottom line is that bogs are important for science,” Shotyk says. “And we should be trying to preserve as many bogs as we can for future generations.”

  15. SCIENTIFIC MISCONDUCT

    ORI Report Tracks Gun-Shy Feds

    1. Jocelyn Kaiser

    The gendarmes of scientific misconduct have changed their look in the last decade, with the federal government increasingly leaving the job of policing research to the universities. According to a report released this spring by the U.S. Public Health Service's (PHS's) Office of Research Integrity (ORI), universities handled 96% of the extramural misconduct cases closed in 1997, up from 64% in 1993.

    This single statistic captures both the essence of a policy shift at ORI, which since 1995 has relied on university investigations whenever possible, and a greater willingness among universities to undertake their own investigations, says acting ORI director Chris Pascal. “Many more institutions are up to speed on closing investigations and could do a good job,” he says. When PHSmisconduct regulations were first adopted in 1989, Pascal says, universities were unsure how to navigate these uncharted waters. But educational programs run by ORI and scientific societies and the chance to learn from investigations at other universities have made the academic world more comfortable policing itself, he says.

    But not everyone views ORI's laissez-faire approach as a good thing. “ORI just turns down a lot of cases” that it should perhaps take, asserts one university official who has worked with the office, noting that since 1994 ORI's policy has been to kick back to the universities plagiarism cases involving collaborators, which the office uniformly labels as authorship disputes.

    Fitting the crime?

    From 1993 to 1997, most closed cases of scientific misconduct involved falsification (left); punishments PHS meted out in this period (right).

    SOURCE: ORI

    One trend apparent in ORI's report is that allegations of scientific misconduct are ebbing. The 150 investigations tracked by ORI between 1993 and 1997 grew from nearly 1000 allegations, which peaked in 1995 at 244 cases, falling to 166 in 1997. Of the cases investigated, roughly half resulted in misconduct findings. ORI also cites its own alacrity at disposing of cases, pointing to its success at clearing a backlog from its predecessor office and closing over half of inquiries within its 60-day standard; 38% of investigations, however, dragged on for over 240 days. Besides being punished by their home institutions, those found guilty of misconduct were typically barred by PHS from serving on review panels or receiving grants (see chart). Thirteen percent had to retract or correct publications, and a handful did so voluntarily.

    The report also highlights a trend evident in earlier ORI studies (Science, 28 February 1997, p. 1255): Lab personnel lower down the totem pole are most likely to be found guilty of misconduct. This pattern held even though the accused were most often associate professors (27%), professors (19%), and postdocs (19%), with professors and deans making up the lion's share of whistle-blowers. Women were more likely than men to be found guilty—with Thereza Imanishi-Kari, the target of a decade-long investigation, a well-known exception.

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