Science  27 Jul 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5530, pp. 585

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  1. Reaching Out

    The recent India-Pakistan summit may have ended in a diplomatic stalemate, but it did produce new joint research and training opportunities that the Indian government hopes will provide a back channel for improving relations between the two nuclear neighbors. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee earlier this month unveiled a plan to award 20 scholarships to Pakistani students to attend Indian technical institutions and invited Pakistani academics to visit “as guests of the government.” The focus would be on education, health, environment, and gender equity.

    “There is an enormous amount of misinformation about India in Pakistan,” says Pavagada Venkata Indresan, former president of the Indian National Academy of Engineering. “But once young minds can be trained at India's top technical institutions, a more positive message would certainly go out.” Pakistan reacted cautiously, with a government spokesperson calling the idea “peripheral” to diplomatic efforts.

  2. Bioprospecting Under the Microscope

    The National Park Service is starting a court-ordered environmental study of revenue-sharing agreements with firms that make profitable discoveries in national parks. Officials plan to kick off the bioprospecting assessment next month after getting public comment on the issues the study should address.

    After Yellowstone National Park signed a 1997 profit-sharing deal with a San Diego biotech, bioprospecting opponents sued, charging that commercial activities in the parks violated federal law (Science, 13 March 1998, p. 1624). A federal judge suspended the deal earlier this year, ruling that Yellowstone could make such agreements, but that it first had to study their environmental impacts. In a 25 June Federal Register notice, the service said it would study bioprospecting impacts at all 384 of its parks in order to formulate consistent policy.

    Critics want the study to take a careful look. By allowing exploitation, “these types of agreements fundamentally change the spirit of what the parks are about,” says Joseph Mendelson III of the International Center for Technology Assessment, a Washington-based group that participated in the earlier legal challenge. Comments on the study's scope are due 10 August, with a draft expected in the fall.