ScienceScope

Science  11 Aug 2000:
Vol. 289, Issue 5481, pp. 845
  1. Cells and Cell Phones

    The government is teaming up with the cell phone industry on studies aimed at settling the debate over mobile phone risks. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week convened a multinational scientific panel to set research priorities for the $1 million program, which is backed by the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA). Studies have suggested that microwave radiation from cell phones can cause “micronucleation,” a process in which cells form small additional nuclei that could indicate chromosome damage. To better understand micronucleation, the panel recommended funding animal experiments and investigating cellular response to microwave radiation. The FDA will send final recommendations to the CTIA within 2 months.

  2. Polling Panned

    Should Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory use government funds to improve its public image? The Department of Energy's (DOE's) inspector general doesn't think so. Last month, lab officials announced that a poll of 600 people in the San Francisco area revealed a “favorable view” of the weapons lab, despite press coverage of security problems, discrimination allegations by women and Asian Americans, and massive cost overruns in a laser project.

    But in a 19 July report, DOE Inspector General Gregory Friedman concluded that “the use of taxpayer dollars for this kind of exercise is questionable.” He recommended that DOE officials review whether the University of California, which manages Livermore, should be allowed to bill the government for the $24,000 poll, and find out whether other DOE labs have funded similar image-polishing efforts. Livermore officials say the poll, the fourth they have funded over the last decade, was needed to guide “communications efforts.”

  3. Supergrant

    The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) has won a $45 million competition to build one of the world's fastest civilian science computers. The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced last week that a PSC-led team that includes the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University will host its new Terascale computer, to be built by Compaq. The machine, which will eventually complete 6 trillion operations per second, is expected to be online by early 2001. NSF hopes to fund a second terascale machine next year, but Congress has yet to approve funding.

  4. In or Out?

    A prominent scientific misconduct case has taken another turn. An independent scholarly panel last week concluded that misconduct allegations against University of Arizona (UA) biomedical researcher Marguerite Kay were “without merit,” and two members of the panel accused university officials of promoting “a pattern of harassment and unrelenting persecution” of Kay. But the report will have little immediate impact on the legal maneuvering surrounding Kay, an immunologist who was fired in 1998 after two university panels upheld charges of scientific misconduct and mismanagement. She was partially reinstated earlier this year after a court ruled that the university hadn't followed its own rules in dismissing her, and she now faces renewed termination proceedings (Science, 18 February, p. 1183).

    Kay's supporters, who say that prior reviews of Kay's job performance were conducted by UA academics with little expertise in her field, assembled the five-member panel under university rules that allow faculty members to request an “enhanced” appraisal that includes outside academics. It teamed three researchers from UA's College of Medicine with immunologists Ronald Kennedy of the University of Oklahoma, Norman, and Vera Byers of the University of California, San Francisco. After reviewing documents and interviewing Kay and six other researchers involved in the case—but not prominent accusers—the panel evaluated 14 allegations.

    “There has been no scientific misconduct” or lab mismanagement by Kay, the group concluded in its report to John Marchalonis, chair of UA's Department of Microbiology and Immunology and a vocal supporter of Kay. “We urge [her] immediate and full reinstatement.” In an addendum, Kennedy and Byers accused UA administrators of making it “impossible for Dr. Kay to receive a fair hearing” at the university. “This is the most sordid, twisted situation I've seen,” Kennedy told Science.

    UA officials did not respond to a request for comment. But this week, they indefinitely postponed termination hearings against Kay, who is being paid but is barred from campus. Meanwhile, Don Awerkamp, Kay's attorney, is pursuing both state and federal lawsuits against the university.