ScienceScope

Science  04 Jun 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5420, pp. 1597
  1. Experimental Shellfish

    Mussel Shoals—now known as Muscle Shoals—may once again live up to its name. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced last week that it wants to reintroduce 16 species of endangered shellfish to the 20-kilometer stretch of Alabama's Tennessee River, once known for its dense populations of freshwater mussels.

    In the 1930s, pollution and dam construction devastated the shelly shoals. But the river has bounced back, and biologists believe that they could soon begin to restore monkeyface, pigtoed, and other mussels. Before replanting can begin, however, the FWS has to reassure some local shellfish harvesters and governments that the protected species won't bring unwanted regulation. To jump that hurdle, the service has proposed calling the returnees “nonessential experimental” populations, a designation that “will avoid lawsuits,” says one FWS official. Shellfish friends and foes have until 26 July to comment.

  2. Making Amend(ment)s

    The battle over a law that requires federally funded scientists to hand over raw data to anyone who files a request has shifted back to Congress. This spring, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) collected more than 8,000 comments on its proposal for implementing the 8-month-old measure, many from scientists worried that it would hinder research by threatening patient confidentiality and proprietary collaborations with companies. In response to that concern, House appropriations committee members James Walsh (R-NY) and David Price (D-NC) plan to offer an amendment to OMB's funding bill that would put a 1-year hold on the law pending a study on its effects.

    Business groups are squaring off over the amendment. Supporting the delay are pharmaceutical, biotech, and other firms, including GM and IBM. They are opposed by a legion of oil companies, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and small business groups. No use handicapping this contest: “It could go either way,” says a Walsh staffer.

    If approved by the House and Senate, the amendment—which could be offered as early as next week—wouldn't go into effect until 1 October, after OMB is expected to have issued its final rule.

  3. On the Move

    The headquarters of a global research collaboration aimed at eradicating malaria in Africa is moving to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) near Washington, D.C. The Multilateral Initiative on Malaria (MIM) will soon arrive at NIH's Fogarty International Center, with British advisors in tow, following an 18-month start-up run at the Wellcome Trust charity in London.

    Though the Trust played a key role in launching MIM, it did not want permanent custody of the program, which coordinates a wide range of malaria-related research. The move, announced 26 May, is designed to prevent the effort from becoming firmly “embedded in any organization,” says Trust official Catherine Davies. Officials are mum on whether other makeovers will accompany MIM's change of address.

  4. Clear Skies?

    European radioastronomers have won greater protection from the electromagnetic smog produced by a flotilla of satellites. The European Science Foundation announced this week that Iridium, a company that last year turned on a globe-girdling communications network of 66 spacecraft, will limit interference that is drowning out radio whispers produced by galactic gas clouds.

    Last year, Iridium signed similar agreements with U.S. and Indian astronomers, promising to silence its satellites for a few hours each night so that radiotelescopes could tune in to one prized signal (Science, 2 October 1998, p. 34). But European astronomers said those pacts didn't go far enough for them. The hard-nosed stance appears to have paid off, with Iridium promising clear skies over Europe about 50% of the time until 2006 under the new agreement. The company has already promised to completely eliminate its smog after 2006.

    But interference caused by other satellites could continue to grow worse, says astronomer Jim Cohen of the U.K.'s Jodrell Bank Observatory. He and other researchers are organizing to defend key pieces of the radio spectrum at a May 2000 allocation conference in Geneva, Switzerland.