ScienceScope

Science  01 Oct 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5437, pp. 21
  1. Home Again?

    Sometimes you have to go backward to make progress. That's the direction being taken by the vaccine development team within UNAIDS, the United Nations' special program on AIDS. Science has learned that the vaccine team, which left the World Health Organization (WHO) 4 years ago, will soon rejoin its original sponsor (Science, 19 June 1998, p. 1863).

    Officials hope the turnaround, long discussed by UNAIDS director Peter Piot and WHO chief Gro Harlem Brundtland, will boost international AIDS vaccine efforts. In particular, the new arrangement—probably a joint UNAIDS-WHO initiative—will allow the vaccine team to tap WHO's expertise and financial backing, according to UNAIDS vaccine leader José Esparza. UNAIDS has just $2 million annually to spend on vaccine development, he notes, not enough to capitalize on the results of trials under way in the United States and Thailand. It's not clear how much more money the new setup will produce. But Esparza is confident that “we are not really going back but forward in a more intelligent way.”

  2. You're Not Listening

    The National Science Foundation (NSF) is finding that old habits die hard. Specifically, NSF officials are unhappy that many reviewers are ignoring the broader impact of proposed research when scoring proposals. So last week NSF director Rita Colwell sent out an “important notice” to university presidents and others asking for their help in “conveying the importance of both intellectual merit and the broader impacts of research and education” to reviewers.

    In 1997, NSF changed its reviewing criteria and elevated “impact”—on everything from student learning to geographic diversity—to the same status as the quality of the proposed science. But a recent informal study of 17,000 reviews done under the new system found that just 48% addressed the nonscience criterion. NSF deputy director Joseph Bordogna says that “concern would be too strong a word” to describe the agency's reaction to the noncompliance. But Congress may feel otherwise. The Senate wants to give NSF $750,000 so that the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) can study the impact of the new criteria, which help legislators measure if NSF is meeting a 1993 law aimed at making sure agencies spend tax dollars wisely. NAPA is set to begin a similar study that was requested last year by the same appropriators.

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