Science  22 Mar 2002:
Vol. 295, Issue 5563, pp. 2191
  1. Stem Cell Showdown

    Australia's state and federal governments are preparing to square off over human embryonic stem cell research. On 6 April, the nation's prime minister and the heads of its eight states and territories intend to discuss the regulation of stem cell research, with at least one state premier vowing to resist any national ban.

    In late February, Australian scientists were surprised by press reports that federal Cabinet members had agreed in principle to ignore recommendations from a parliamentary panel and outlaw the derivation of new stem cell lines from spare embryos left at fertility clinics (Science, 1 March, p. 1619). But Bob Carr, the premier of New South Wales, promises that his state will set up its own stem cell derivation center if that happens.

    Researchers hope the federal government will back down. Cell biologist Martin Pera of Monash University in Melbourne says that stem cell scientists have had “very positive” meetings with senior government officials, including Prime Minister John Howard. Although the lobbying effort has cut significantly into research time, Pera says the tradeoff is necessary: “If we don't get this right, we won't be able to do the research at all.”

  2. Tiny Combat

    The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) last week won $50 million from the U.S. Army for a nanoscience center. Over the next 5 years, the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies will conduct basic research aimed at developing tiny devices for everything from bulletproof uniforms to camouflage that can change color with chameleon-like quickness. The Cambridge,


    Massachusetts-based center—to be led by materials scientist Edwin Thomas—is expected to involve up to 150 researchers, including 35 professors and 80 graduate students from nine MIT departments.

    The new institute is the latest Army bid to harness academic talent to the task of modernizing the armed forces—and the first of more than a dozen university centers to be awarded through an open competition. In 1999 the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles received $45 million to bring Hollywood-style technologies to troop training. Waiting in the wings is a biotechnology center, although Army science chief A. Michael Andrews says it is likely to get less funding than the MIT and USC institutes.

  3. New Face at CNRS?

    One of the most powerful posts in French science is about to be filled. Bernard Pau, currently director of the Institute of Biotechnology and Pharmacology in Montpellier, is the leading candidate for director of the life sciences department at CNRS, France's behemoth basic research agency, Science has learned. He would replace cell biologist Jacqueline Godet when she steps down in coming weeks.

    Pau, 50, has an international reputation for developing diagnostic techniques for heart disease and other maladies. At CNRS, he would head a corps of 3285 researchers, nearly a third of the agency's total scientific cadre.

    Researchers say that Pau's nomination will continue a trend, reinforced 2 years ago when medical researcher Geneviève Berger became CNRS director-general, of recruiting administrators ready to emphasize applied research. Says one French scientist: “CNRS is pushing very hard in that direction.”

  4. Misconduct Defined

    Marking the end of a long debate, the National Science Foundation (NSF) this week adopted a government-wide definition of what constitutes misconduct in science.

    Two years ago, the Clinton Administration issued guidelines that defined scientific misconduct as fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism—"FFP” in Washington lingo (Science, 15 October 1999, p. 391). But the guidelines dropped a fourth term, “serious deviations,” that NSF had argued was needed to cover misdeeds such as sexual harassment—but scientists argued was too open-ended. The final wording, echoed by the NSF rule published 18 March in the Federal Register, preserves the concept by requiring that FFP must rise to the level of a “serious departure” to be considered misconduct.

    Other agencies are still incorporating the federal definition into their policies. The Department of Health and Human Services—the parent agency of the National Institutes of Health—expects to issue a rewrite of its 13-year-old rule later this year, according to staffers. And in the United Kingdom, the Wellcome Trust has proposed a misconduct definition far broader than FFP, including “deliberate, dangerous, or negligent deviations from accepted practices” (Science, 24 August 2001, p. 1411).