ScienceScope

Science  31 Aug 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5535, pp. 1569
  1. Klausner Staying Put

    Despite widely circulating rumors that he is leaving, Richard Klausner says he plans to remain at the helm of the $3.8 billion National Cancer Institute (NCI)—for now. “I am not job hunting, and I'm very happy at NCI,” the director of the National Institutes of Health's (NIH's)largest institute told Science last week. He explained that he “looked at a job this summer and then decided against it,” which he says stirred up the rumor mill. “At some point, I suspect I will move on,” added Klausner, but “I have no time frame in mind.”

    Klausner also denied reports that he's not getting along with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or its secretary, Tommy Thompson. A clampdown by HHS on large salary increases for administrative personnel, concentrated at NCI, has not affected Klausner's rapport with the secretary. “The only pressure I've gotten from Tommy Thompson,” Klausner says, “is to please not consider leaving.”

    Klausner spoke as Thompson was spending 4 days last week touring NIH, where he visited the new vaccine research center and gave blood, among other stops.

  2. Pedal to the Metal

    It is time to rethink a government-industry partnership to develop superefficient cars, according to a new National Academy of Sciences report. Although the 7-year-old Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) has made great strides in developing technologies to boost gas mileage, the program won't meet its original goal of tripling the fuel efficiency of family sedans by 2004, according to an annual review led by retired Allied Signal engineer Craig Marks. In addition, the new technologies—from fuel cells to hybrid electric-gas powertrains—face cost, pollution, and technical problems that limit their commercial appeal, the panel concluded.

    The government and the car industry —which together pump more than $1 billion a year into PNGV—should rewrite the program's specific goals, the panel recommended, particularly in light of the growing popularity of light trucks and sport utility vehicles, which were not a major focus of the original plan (Science, 30 July 1999, p. 680).

    Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, whose department is PNGV's biggest government backer at more than $100 million a year, welcomed the advice. He's pushing to have a revised PNGV plan in place by next year.

  3. West Nile Watch

    The West Nile virus's rapid invasion into North America (Science, 24 August, p. 1413) continues, with authorities in two more U.S. states last week detecting the virus for the first time. The appearance of West Nile in dead birds in Indiana and Michigan means that the virus has been found this year in 15 states and Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, Health Canada confirmed detection of the virus in 10 dead birds found in southern Ontario. The number of confirmed human cases in 2001 has grown to seven—in New York, Georgia, and Florida—including one fatal case in Atlanta.

  4. Whole Earth Catalog

    An enigmatic new organization with the lofty goal of recording all 7 million to 100 million species on Earth within 25 years is gearing up now that it's hired a CEO. The new All Species Inventory chief, Brian Boom, formerly with The New York Botanical Garden, says the effort will be “organismal biology's equivalent to the human genome project.”

    CREDIT: NOAA

    Launched last fall in California, the All Species project is backed by an intriguing alliance of science and tech figures, including prominent biologists, former Whole Earth Catalog publisher Stewart Brand, and Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired magazine (http://www.all-species.org/). Organizers explain that it won't try to duplicate ongoing species inventories and database projects. Instead, “we're looking for the bottlenecks and the holes in funding,” says Boom. He and others mention everything from genetic sampling to training lay taxonomists in developing countries.

    The inventory has over a million dollars in start-up money, but it's now moving into a major fund-raising phase, Boom says. The goal is hundreds of millions of dollars, and he claims tentative commitments from unnamed tech industry donors. Planners expect to flesh out the project at a meeting next month in Mexico and another at Harvard in October chaired by biodiversity champions Peter Raven and E. O. Wilson.