ScienceScope

Science  04 Aug 2000:
Vol. 289, Issue 5480, pp. 709
  1. Costly Conference

    An animal genetics conference has sparked the costliest police action in Minnesota history. Police spent nearly $1 million providing security for the recent International Society for Animal Genetics conference in Minneapolis, state officials said last week.

    Animal-rights protesters had threatened to shut down the 5-day meeting of 650 scientists, which ended 26 July. But disruptions proved minimal as riot-ready police generally outnumbered protesters, who mustered just 100 people for their biggest march against biotechnology and animal experimentation. Still, “the experience was tense,” said one attending scientist.

    Some local politicians aren't sure the money was well spent. “The fact that [police spent $770,000] to control a couple of hundred protesters seems crazy to me,” city councilman Jim Niland told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Officials plan to finish a protest postmortem this fall.

  2. Switchback

    AIDS researchers in Italy are celebrating a government decision to rescind a 36% cut in extramural funding for HIV research. The change of heart leaves intact last year's grants budget of about $10 million, which mostly comes from the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS) in Rome.

    Last week's reversal came less than a month after Science reported—on the eve of the international AIDS meeting in Durban, South Africa—that authorities planned to gut the program (Science, 7 July, p. 28). “No sooner was the ink dry on the pages of Science,” commented the Italian weekly magazine L'Espresso in its 3 August issue, than “as if by magic [health] minister Umberto Veronesi put everything back in place.”

    But Stefano Vella, director of the ISS's clinical research program and president of the International AIDS Society—which organized the Durban meeting—laments that the restored funds will come from within the agency's own budget rather than from additional government spending. “This is not a permanent solution, because it causes continuous conflict within the institute” between AIDS researchers and other scientists, Vella says. “It is a war among the poor for research money.”

  3. Money and Management

    The chair of the House Science Committee, James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), is worried that the National Science Foundation (NSF) might receive too much of the first despite a shortage of the second. However, his desire to correct the perceived imbalance has stalled a bill to reauthorize NSF's programs.

    Last week the committee announced that it would mark up H.R. 4901, a 3-year blueprint for NSF to replace one that expires next month. It's the committee's fourth stab this year at a reauthorization bill (Science, 2 June, p. 1564). But moments before the panel convened, Sensenbrenner pulled the bill, citing his failure to reach an agreement on how to respond to “ethical lapses at NSF.” Sensenbrenner is incensed at the agency's response to a government finding that Luther Williams, former head of education programs, improperly accepted outside honoraria, and he has written into the bill a tough new ethics program. But Democrats and NSF officials believe the language is unnecessary. Sensenbrenner also objects to proposed language that would double NSF's budget over 5 years, saying it would undermine his panel's credibility with appropriators.

  4. Going to Sea

    Drawing on research showing that supertankers and other big ships are a major source of air pollution (Science, 31 October 1997, p. 823), two California-based environmental groups are pushing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to clamp down on the problem. Lawyers with the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund are negotiating with EPA to settle a lawsuit that calls for tougher controls on sea-going vessels, the Bluewater Network said last week.

    In a 17 July report (http://www.bluewaternetwork.org/), the network notes that big ships typically use high-sulfur fuels that produce prodigious amounts of sulfur and nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. The lawsuit, filed last February on the network's behalf, challenges EPA plans to regulate the emissions through an international agreement. The groups say EPA's plan is unenforceable and would allow emissions to increase by 13% by 2030. EPA officials, however, predict that tougher U.S. rules would cause captains to sail to other ports to refuel.