Science  14 Sep 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5537, pp. 1969

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  1. Strength in Numbers

    Biomedical researchers will now have to demonstrate that they—and not an industry or government funder—control data from a study in order to get the results published in some of the world's most prominent medical journals.

    The editors of 11 major journals this week issued a joint vow to reject studies in which the sponsor was allowed to manipulate or withhold results. Researchers say that the move will help discourage drug companies from trying to tweak or cover up results that don't support their financial interests.

    The journals will now “routinely require authors to disclose details of their own and the sponsor's role in the study.” The guidelines do allow sponsors to ask for time—30 to 60 days—to review a manuscript before it is submitted. Signers included the editors of The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, The Journal of the American Medical Association, and leading journals in Denmark, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, and New Zealand.

    The Washington, D.C.-based Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America endorsed the move. Sheldon Krimsky, a public health professor at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, who has sounded the alarm about conflicts of interest in science, calls it “a bold step forward by a small but important group of journals.”

  2. Going Slow

    A panel asked to plot the future of science at the Smithsonian Institution met last week for the first time—and speed was not on the agenda.

    The 18-member commission was appointed in the wake of Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small's controversial reorganization proposals made earlier this year (Science, 20 July, p. 408). But the panel's report may take a year or more to complete. “Given the importance and enormity of the task before us, we will take as long as it takes to do it right,” says chair Jeremy Sabloff, director of the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia.


    The panel has already received a proposal from an ad hoc group of seven scientists at the National Museum of Natural History to divide the Smithsonian into three research institutes while keeping close ties between research and public programs. Smithsonian officials also submitted charts outlining their own reorganization proposals.

  3. Patent Fight

    The Institut Curie in Paris this week said it will formally oppose a European patent for a breast cancer test awarded in January to the biotech firm Myriad Genetics, based in Salt Lake City, Utah. The test detects mutations in the BRCA1 gene, which are responsible for more than half of all hereditary breast cancers.

    Earlier this year, Curie had threatened to file the protest with the European Patent Office in Munich after discovering a mutation in BRCA1 that is not detected by Myriad's test (Science, 8 June, p. 1818). The institute claims that the Myriad patent is too broad and would block the use of other genetically based tests. “Such a monopoly will put the brakes on the development of research,” says Curie geneticist Dominique Stoppa-Lyonnet. Myriad executives were not available for comment.

    French research minister Roger-Gérard Schwartzenberg has supported the action. Last week he said the government would extend to diagnostic tests an existing law that forces biomedical firms to grant licenses to their products if their patents are “exploited under conditions contrary to the interests of public health.”

  4. Cash Prize

    Hoping to stem the flow of blue-chip graduate students to prestigious U.S. institutions, the University of Toronto will become the first Canadian university to guarantee minimum financial stipends for all doctoral candidates. Starting this fall, the school's roughly 4000 Ph.D. students will each receive at least $11,000 to cover tuition, fees, and living expenses.

    The funds will give a boost to students in the oft-neglected social sciences and humanities, who typically must pay their own way, while reducing the need for students to take part-time jobs that could interfere with their studies, says vice provost of students Ian Orchard. The stipends should also help science departments compete with U.S. institutions, Orchard adds. U.S. schools give students an average of $7800 annually—nearly 50% more than under Toronto's former policy, according to a university task force.

    Orchard predicts Toronto's move will put pressure on other Canadian universities to sweeten the pot, too. But while University of Alberta provost Douglas Owram applauds Toronto's initiative, he says his school doesn't “have the resources right now” to keep up.