Science  19 May 2000:
Vol. 288, Issue 5469, pp. 1149

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  1. Sanger Taps Homegrown Talent

    After nearly a year's search, the Sanger Centre, a major genome sequencing institute near Cambridge, U.K., has found a new director. Mouse geneticist Allan Bradley, 40, of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston will replace outgoing Sanger chief John Sulston on 1 October.

    For Bradley, a pioneer in the use of stem cells to study mouse development, the move will be something of a homecoming: The British-born scientist did his undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral studies in Cambridge. He says that he intends to take Sanger, which is mostly funded by the Wellcome Trust and is currently sequencing about one-third of the human genome, to the next stage of genome research, called functional genomics. “There will be a huge opportunity in discovering [gene] function,” Bradley says. He will also continue some of his mouse research in Cambridge, although he realizes that running his own lab and a center with 550 staff members will not be easy. Sulston, he predicts, “will be a hard act to follow.”

    Sulston, who has directed Sanger since 1992, says he has “no plans” for his next step, but adds: “I shall be looking around.”

  2. One for All

    The world's science academies agreed at a 14 May confab in Tokyo to establish an international version of the U.S. National Research Council. The new InterAcademy Council (IAC) will organize expert panels to provide scientific advice to the United Nations, World Bank, and other international organizations on issues ranging from food safety to emerging diseases (Science, 11 February, p. 943).

    The IAC, to be based at the Netherlands Academy in Amsterdam, will produce peer-reviewed reports by scientists who serve without compensation, and who will communicate mainly via e-mail. The enterprise “is envisioned as an electronic one,” said U.S. National Academy of Sciences president Bruce Alberts. The council's budget is still uncertain, but reports will be paid for by commissioning organizations. Member academies will chip in to cover the salary of an executive director, to be hired after an international search. Alberts says the IAC's “first few projects will be critical” to determining its success.

  3. Pole Researcher Dies

    A young astrophysicist has died at the South Pole. The loss has devastated the remaining nine scientists, who are part of a 49-member team wintering over at the pole, and has left a telescope out of operation.

    Rodney Marks, 32, died on 12 May of heart failure hours after experiencing breathing problems that began as he walked from a research building to the station. Marks had passed all physical exams before heading to the pole last October, and he had wintered over before, in 1998. The cause of death won't be known until his body is flown out in November, when the station becomes accessible.

    Marks was the sole operator of the Antarctic Submillimeter Telescope and Remote Observatory (AST/RO), which is mapping emissions from atomic carbon and carbon monoxide in the Milky Way. Before he died, Marks had been fixing a tricky problem with one of the telescope's receivers, which must be chilled to near absolute zero. “We don't yet know how hard it will be for others to put things back into working order,” says AST/RO project manager Adair Lane of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

  4. The Science of Diplomacy

    Acting on the recommendations of a National Academy of Sciences panel, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright this week announced that her agency will do more to stock up on science-savvy diplomats. Last October, the panel's report concluded that technical controversies were moving to the top of the diplomatic agenda just as the State Department was losing knowledgeable staff (Science, 15 October 1999, p. 391).

    To reverse that trend, on 15 May Albright released a plan for following up on the panel's dozen recommendations, including appointing a top-level science adviser and completing by this fall a study that will identify embassies in need of scientific talent. But improvements could take years, she cautioned: “It doesn't take a physicist to know that change is harder than inertia.” Indeed: Several candidates have already turned down the adviser's job, sources say.