ScienceScope

Science  02 Nov 2001:
Vol. 294, Issue 5544, pp. 973
  1. NIH Grapevine

    Cancer researchers are circulating a rumor that President George W. Bush favors Andrew C. von Eschenbach to be the next director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Von Eschenbach, a leader in prostate cancer treatment and a clinical researcher at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, is close to the Bush family and has been active in the American Cancer Society. Ruth Kirschstein, acting director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), says she has no information about the search for a new NCI director, although other NIH leaders say the White House has already made its decision. Von Eschenbach declined comment through a spokesperson.

  2. PAC 'Em In

    Spurred by the recent creation of a political action committee designed to fund only Republicans (Science, 7 September, p. 1747), three Washington science advocates last week set up their own—but this one will be fervently nonpartisan. Called U.S. Science (http://www.us-science.org/), the organization will contribute cash to U.S. political candidates who place a high priority on government support for science.

    The first order of business will be to set up an advisory board of eminent science supporters who will decide who gets donations, says Kevin Marvel, an American Astronomical Society spokesperson who is one of the three co-directors. “If there is a referee-type process, then scientists will be willing to give money,” he says. Once the board is in place, they intend to go after contributions. He adds that while they applaud SciPAC, the Republican-only group, “we felt it is more important to broaden support for science.”

  3. Brain Gain

    The Royal Society of London is launching a program designed to lure top postdoctoral researchers from the United States to the United Kingdom. Beginning in June 2002, it will fund 10 American postdocs to work in leading British laboratories for up to 3 years.

    The program, the product of years of discussion with the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, is aimed at sharing talent between the two nations. “We want to do it in the context of brain circulation, not just brain gain,” says Sir Brian Heap, vice president and foreign secretary of the society. Stipends will be commensurate with those available in the U.S., he says. Postdocs interested in making the jump must apply by next February. Full details available at www.royalsoc.ac.uk/funding/ig_fr.htm.

  4. Revisiting a Plague

    India is taking a fresh look at a 1994 plague epidemic in an effort to determine the cause of the outbreak. The inquiry into the 1994 episode, which killed 56 people in Surat and surrounding areas, will address persistent rumors that it was linked to a small-scale germ warfare experiment.

    The investigation was announced Monday by India's health minister, C. P. Thakur, at a New Delhi conference on biochemical terrorism. He says experts will gather later this month for a day-long review of scientific findings, including preliminary studies suggesting that the Surat plague doesn't match known natural strains. But microbiologist H. V. Batra of the Defense Research and Development Establishment in Gwalior told Science that more study is needed to nail down the strain's origins.

  5. Flying Solo?

    Fifteen Japanese research institutes face an uncertain future in the wake of the pending privatization of their affiliated national universities.

    Under the privatization scheme, government officials must reorganize facilities such as the National Astronomical Observatory (NAO) in Mitaka, the National Institute of Genetics in Mishima, and the Okazaki National Research Institutes. Options include grouping them together under a nonprofit entity like Germany's Max Planck Society, or making each one independent. The government must also decide if it will fund the institutes directly or through an intermediary body that would also review their performance.

    Norio Kaifu, NAO's director-general and head of a task force pondering these issues for the institutes, says that the group hopes to present its recommendations to the government by the end of the year, in time to influence the final decision due next spring. Kaifu believes that greater independence should benefit the institutes so long as the government provides adequate cash. But he admits that “change is scary.”