ScienceScope

Science  24 Mar 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5461, pp. 2129
  1. Complex Structures

    The National Science Foundation (NSF) is creating a “virtual directorate” to manage its rapidly growing environmental research portfolio and biocomplexity initiative (Science, 10 December, p. 2068). The new structure will have all the trappings of one of NSF's six research divisions, including an outside advisory committee. Geosciences head and environmental czar Margaret Leinen explained the plan last week to NSF's overseers, the National Science Board. But in a unique setup, the committee will include one member from each of the existing directorate panels as well as major figures in the environmental community.

    Officials say the arrangement is meant to raise the profile of environmental research, which the science board wants boosted by $1 billion over 5 years, from its current $609 million, without changing NSF's basic organizational structure.

  2. Head Hunting

    Eager to snap up a White House official who may be jobless when President Clinton leaves office in January, the Washington-based Federation of American Scientists (FAS) recently offered Henry Kelly—currently assistant director for technology at the Office of Science and Technology Policy—the top job at the organization, according to sources close to FAS.

    FAS was founded in 1945 by Manhattan Project scientists concerned about the spread of nuclear weapons. The nonprofit now works to discourage nuclear proliferation, limit government secrecy, and influence science and space policy. Previous FAS president Jeremy Stone resigned last fall after a 30-year stint, in the wake of criticism surrounding his recent book's veiled claim that an American physicist was a spy for Russia.

    Physicist Kelly, a former staffer at the Office of Technology Assessment, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and the Department of Energy, declined to say if he'll take the job. But “he was the outstanding figure” at the end of FAS's search, says one source.

  3. Donations Welcome

    Senior science policy officials from India and the United States have kicked off an effort to promote cooperation between the two countries. During President Clinton's visit this week to India, they inked an agreement to establish a joint science and technology forum. “We have neglected this relationship for more than 2 decades,” said Clinton (with Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh, center). “It is too important to ever fall into disrepair again.”

    The U.S. government has already committed $7.5 million for the forum, which will commission studies and promote research collaborations. A 14-member board will coordinate its activities and seek private and corporate funds. Says V. S. Ramamurthy, secretary to the Department of Science and Technology, who worked for 2 years to set up the forum: “A channel for communication has been opened.”

  4. Further Food Fights

    In a new sign that the battle over biotech food is heating up in the United States, a coalition of 54 consumer, farming, and environmental organizations this week petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require mandatory safety testing and labeling for bioengineered crops—neither of which is required at the moment. In the meantime, the groups want FDA to remove all transgenic products from supermarkets. By law, the agency has 180 days to respond; if it doesn't come around, the coalition promises to go to court. “This is not howling in the wind,” says Joseph Mendelson, legal director of the Center for Food Safety, the lead petitioner.

    Meanwhile, to counter the “nonsense” and “unfounded attacks” coming from opponents, almost 1900 scientists have signed a pro-biotech petition posted on the Web (http://www.agbioworld.com/) by Channapatna Prakashthat, director of the Center for Plant Biotechnology Research at Tuskegee University in Alabama. Among the signers are two Nobel laureates, geneticist James Watson and green revolution pioneer Norman Borlaug. Prakashthat says the petition, which urges policy-makers to use “sound scientific principles” in biotech regulation, will eventually be sent to world leaders.

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