ScienceScope

Science  17 Dec 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5448, pp. 2247
  1. Cell Division

    The American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB)–a small but aggressive group whose members include such scientific leaders as molecular biologists Harold Varmus and Bruce Alberts—has decided to strike out on its own. The ASCB board voted last week to split from the 67,000-member umbrella group known as the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) in 2001.

    The 9000-member ASCB can use its “limited resources more effectively” if staffers don't have to spend time coordinating with FASEB's policy review process, says ASCB president Randy Shekman. The society will continue to work with FASEB, he notes, but will focus on its own key interests. For example, FASEB took no position this year on federal funding of human stem cell research, while ASCB lobbied intensively in favor of government backing for the controversial studies. FASEB issued no comment on the ASCB's departure.

  2. Tanning Salon

    Warning: Building the space station could be hazardous to your health. That's the message from a National Research Council panel, which last week urged NASA to find a way to warn spacewalking construction crews of impending solar storms. Flares and coronal mass ejections from the sun can unleash massive streams of charged particles, which could pack enough energy to harm astronauts working outside the relative protection of the space shuttle or station modules. The risk of injury is rising, as the sun will reach the peak of activity in its 11-year cycle in 2001.

    Researchers, however, do not yet have a good grasp on predicting solar storms. So the panel, chaired by Boston University physicist George Siscoe, urged NASA and other agencies to use satellites, such as the existing Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) and spacecraft slated to begin monitoring the sun next year, to anchor an early warning system that would tell astronauts when to stay indoors. NASA solar research chief George Withbroe, who requested the report, says he is confident the new space-based sentinels—which will provide more detailed data than SOHO alone—will soon give Earth-bound researchers a better grip on predicting solar events.

  3. Data Grab

    Hoping to pry open the Clinton Administration's narrow interpretation of a new law that gives the public access to raw research data, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last week set the stage for a legal challenge by requesting data used to support several Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations and policies.

    Universities breathed a sigh of relief earlier this fall when the White House Office of Management and Budget limited the public's reach to published results used in crafting a rule or unpublished data cited in a regulation, and said only data collected under grants made after 6 November were open to scrutiny (Science, 8 October, p. 209). But such restrictions are “improper,” according to chamber vice president William Kovacs. His group has asked for raw data from several older studies used by EPA, including a 1993 Harvard University air pollution analysis that prompted the campaign to force researchers to share their data. Kovacs expects EPA to deny the requests within a couple of months. If so, the chamber will sue the government.

  4. Try, Try Again

    French research minister Claude Allègre (below) hasn't given up his idea to reform the CNRS, France's mammoth basic science agency. Allègre laid low much of this year after his first reform plan raised a ruckus (Science, 18 December 1998, p. 2162). But Allègre rebounded earlier this month, asking CNRS officials to come up with a more palatable scheme for overhauling the 12,000-researcher agency.

    The new plan—dubbed “reform light” by the French daily Le Monde–will “blend” previously suggested reforms, such as forging closer ties between the CNRS and universities, with recommendations from the Cohen-Le Déaut report, prepared by two parliamentary deputies for Prime Minister Lionel Jospin (Science, 30 July, p. 647), says Vincent Courtillot, the science ministry's research director. But the retooled proposals—which should be ready by February—are already drawing preemptory fire from researchers' unions. Unhappy about a stagnant research budget for 2000, they are planning demonstrations for January.

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