Science  10 Nov 2000:
Vol. 290, Issue 5494, pp. 1065

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  1. Silver Lining

    Advocates of more controls on human subjects research will be getting help from Paul Gelsinger, father of 18-year-old Jesse Gelsinger, who died last year in a gene therapy trial at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia (Science, 12 May, p. 951). Gelsinger received a “significant” financial settlement from Penn last week, his attorney says, after agreeing to end a malpractice suit. As part of the deal, Gelsinger dropped two defendants—former medical school dean William Kelley and Penn bioethicist Arthur Caplan, who gave informal advice on the trial's design. Caplan says, “It would be horrible to have anyone sued for expressing an opinion to a colleague.”

    Gelsinger intends to use the funds to form “a private foundation to support a few organizations that we consider ethical,” including the National Organization for Rare Disorders in New Fairfield, Connecticut, and Citizens for Responsible Care & Research in New York City. Gelsinger adds: “We need legislation to protect research subjects by imposing stiff fines and jail time for violators.”

  2. Planning Ahead

    When you are shelling out $2.4 million per day, it pays to plan ahead. That is the conclusion of Britain's mammoth biomedical charity, the Wellcome Trust, which this week released its first-ever 5-year plan. The roadmap will guide the $22 billion charity's increasing spending, which has tripled over the last 3 years to about $900 million per year, says trust director Mike Dexter.

    According to the 14-page document, the trust will spend nearly $4.5 billion by September 2005 on a wide variety of projects around the globe, including research grants, lab construction, education, and its share of constructing the new Diamond synchrotron near Oxford. The trust will also create a $390 million fund to support un-expected “emerging research opportunities.” Wellcome, however, will not feel bound by the document if priorities change, Dexter says: “The plan is not written in stone. Every year we will be evaluating things.”

  3. Drilling Denunciation

    Scientists have taken a stand against drilling in Alaska's oil- and wildlife-rich Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. More than 240 scientists and resource managers released a letter to President Clinton on 1 November asking him to permanently protect the refuge. The long-running issue came up again in this year's presidential election, with candidate George W. Bush saying he would consider drilling and Al Gore vowing to bar it. The impacts of drilling, the letter signers say, have not “been adequately considered.”

  4. Everglades Green Light

    Environmentalists last week celebrated congressional approval of the first phase of a $7.8 billion Everglades restoration plan, but some scientists are withholding their applause until outside experts review the project.

    Under the Everglades “restudy,” the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would undo one of its main engineering feats: a system of pumps and levees that since 1948 has diverted water that once flowed south from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay. To restore water needed by wildlife, the corps now plans to rip out levees and canals and store water in aquifers and reservoirs.

    The bill, headed for President Clinton's signature, allots the first $1.4 billion for the 20-year project. But some scientists say the plan relies too much on engineering solutions and should have been peer-reviewed. Until a National Academy of Sciences advisory committee weighs in, says Columbia University ecologist Stuart Pimm, “it's an open question whether this plan [will] have any ecological benefit.”

  5. Next Question?

    The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which has been investigating alleged discrimination against minorities and women at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California (see p. 1072), is catching some flak from lab officials over a survey.

    After the EEOC e-mailed the questions to many nonwhite and female Livermore employees on 13 October, lab managers shot back with an e-gram of their own. The survey was “a unilateral action taken by EEOC without our knowledge,” LLNL's public affairs office wrote. “We have serious concerns about their methodology and we don't believe the confidentiality of the survey responses can be maintained.” It added that staff were “not obligated to respond.”

    Several Asian-American staff protested, saying the lab e-mail amounted to intimidation. And the EEOC warned survey recipients not to answer electronically, as “email from LLNL may be read by LLNL.” But Livermore managers say they were merely answering employees' questions about the survey. And one says the EEOC was sloppy: “They missed half the Asian Americans in the lab.” Since the flap, lab director Bruce Tarter has met with some Asian-American employees, assuring them that the lab will be working closely with EEOC investigators.