Science  11 May 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5519, pp. 1037

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  1. Megamerger Advances

    A major science publishing merger has cleared a key regulatory hurdle. Anglo-Dutch publishing giant Reed Elsevier said this week that the U.S. Department of Justice will not challenge its $4.45 billion acquisition of U.S. publisher Harcourt General. Research librarians had asked regulators to block the deal, which will give Elsevier control of more than 1500 journals, saying it will drive up prices (Science, 3 November 2000, p. 910).

    The Association of Research Libraries in Washington, D.C., which represents 120 of the largest research collections in North America, expressed disappointment with the decision. But officials noted that U.K. officials must still sign off on the merger.

  2. Thinking Again

    Criticism from researchers has prompted the World Medical Association (WMA) to reconsider new guidelines that would restrict the use of placebos in clinical trials. The group last week announced that it will review its 6-month-old interpretation of the Declaration of Helsinki, which urges researchers to avoid using placebos and instead provide test volunteers with either an experimental therapy or the best available current therapy (Science, 20 October 2000, p. 418).

    But some experts have strongly objected, saying that approach would make it difficult to test certain new drugs. In response, the WMA will “investigate whether the guidelines are likely to restrict good, ethical research in any way,” says WMA Secretary-General Delon Human. If rewording is needed, the matter will go to the WMA general assembly this fall.

  3. Grounded

    A joint U.S.-German flying telescope won't get off the ground until December 2004—2 years later than scheduled. Costs for the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) have taken off, however. NASA officials say the price of SOFIA, which will put a 2.5-meter infrared telescope aboard a modified Boeing 747 (below), has risen more than 20% to $366 million. Skyrocketing labor costs and technical difficulties are to blame, NASA Administrator Dan Goldin told a House panel last week.

  4. New Face

    France's science ministry has chosen a new research director. The government last week named Ketty Schwartz, a geneticist who specializes in the molecular biology of heart diseases, to replace geophysicist Vincent Courtillot, who is returning to his Paris laboratory (Science, 5 January, p. 27).

    Schwartz told Science that it is “too early” to outline her agenda. But the appointment of a biomedical scientist, she says, is in line with the “accent and priority” that research minister Roger-Gérard Schwartzenberg has put on beefing up life sciences research. Courtillot says that Schwartz's biggest challenges will include boosting research at universities—which lag behind France's public research agencies—and increasing the number of scholarships for doctoral students.

  5. Big Gift

    Malaria research is getting a charitable boost. Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, this week announced that an anonymous donor has given it $100 million to fund a new research center aimed at developing malaria drugs and vaccines. The school will use the money over the next decade to recruit a dozen top scientists from fields including bioinformatics and immunology and to build facilities. The cash infusion is “wonderful,” says Myron Levine of the University of Maryland's Center for Vaccine Development in Baltimore. “Malaria research has been starving for serious funds.”

  6. On the Dole

    A coalition of animal-rights groups aiming to expand government regulation of laboratory mice, rats, and birds has recruited a high-profile ally:former Republican politician Bob Dole, who as a senator helped write portions of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which sets animal care rules.

    Biomedical groups fighting the new rules—which are currently blocked by Congress (Science, 4 May, p. 830)—have argued that the law doesn't cover rodents. But in his letter, printed as an advertisement from the Working Group to Preserve the AWA in the Washington newspaper RollCall, Dole calls the claim “preposterous. … We certainly did not intend to exclude [from regulation] 95 percent of the animals used in biomedical research.” The letter is sure to be discussed at a 2-day National Academy of Sciences workshop on the issue set to start 21 May in Washington.