Science  15 Jun 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5524, pp. 1981

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  1. Clinical Elite

    Physicians will soon be given a selective invitation to join the ranks of the researchers employed by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) in Chevy Chase, Maryland—but only a few. In a new departure, the $13 billion institute plans to announce this week that it will spend up to $100 million to add five to 10 physician- scientists to its staff of 340 investigators. Only a handful of the current staff are doing patient-oriented research, according to HHMI. But the new program will make “a concerted effort to bridge the gap between molecular science and the alleviation of pain and suffering,” says HHMIchief Tom Cech. HHMI will send letters to 119 institutions seeking nominations later this year, with applications due by 1 October. The winners will be announced next year.

  2. Euro Advice

    The leaders of Europe's science academies will form a new Science Advisory Council to provide independent expert advice to policy-makers. The new council's chair, Swedish cell biologist Uno Lindberg, says that the London-based council plans to call on “Europe's best research scientists” for reports on issues “with a scientific component.”

    The council will soon poll European policy-makers “to define a list of potential projects,” says Lindberg, the foreign secretary of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which hosted a meeting this week in Stockholm. “We also plan to take our own initiative in defining some issues.”

    Peter Collins, who directs science policy for The Royal Society and is currently the council's sole staffer, says it will be much leaner than the National Research Council, which conducts studies for the U.S. national academies. The group plans to meet in September to discuss possible projects and how to bring Germany—which has no national academy—into the fold.

  3. Grafting

    Four of east Germany's top plant research institutes are banding together to form PlantMetaNet, a network to foster collaboration, coordinate purchases of big-ticket equipment, and attract top postdocs. The four centers—the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam, the MPI for Chemical Ecology in Jena, the Institute for Plant Genetics in Gatersleben, and the Institute for Plant Biochemistry in Halle—plan to meet next month in Wittenberg to discuss cooperative research on plant metabolism and defense mechanisms.

  4. Cracking the Code

    A team of cryptographers is suing the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) over the right to present a paper at a conference. In a federal court suit filed last week, Princeton University computer scientist Ed Felten and colleagues claim that a provision of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) unconstitutionally limits researchers from sharing information.

    Last year, Felten's team claimed to have cracked a digital “watermarking” scheme for music. But earlier this year the researchers dropped plans to describe their feat at a conference after feeling threatened by the RIAA, which could have sued under the DMCA (Science, 4 May, p. 826). The suit seeks to clarify their right to present the work in public.

    The lawsuit is “inexplicable,” says RIAA general counsel Cary Sherman, because the group doesn't intend to sue the team. But Gino Scarselli, a lawyer for the cryptographers, says that the court needs to “look at the long-term effects of the [DMCA]. … At its very core, it is a constraint on publication.”

  5. Partnership Perils

    A new report outlining best practices for university- industry partnerships is ruffling some feathers. The Business-Higher Education Forum last week released “Working Together, Creating Knowledge: The University-Industry Research Collaboration Initiative,” which uses case studies to highlight the promise and peril of linking scholars and corporate dollars.

    The report—produced by a panel led by Pfizer CEO Hank McKinnell and Nils Hasselmo, president of the Association of American Universities—highlights what McKinnell calls “the best of times and the worst of times.” In particular, he says that Monsanto's collaboration with Washington University in St. Louis is a good model, whereas Novartis's arrangement with the University of California, Berkeley, raises some red flags.

    McKinnell's comments weren't welcome at Berkeley. “It is understandable why the CEO of a large pharmaceutical company would strongly prefer the Washington University-Monsanto agreement,” says Berkeley economist Gordon Rausser. “Under this agreement, Monsanto controls the research agenda. … Such terms would not be acceptable [at Berkeley].” The Berkeley deal, he noted, conforms to the report's recommendations.