ScienceScope

Science  04 Oct 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5591, pp. 33
  1. Caught Plagiarizing

    Indian physicists are demanding an inquiry into a case of plagiarism involving a paper co- authored by the vice chancellor of a prominent regional university. Balwant Singh Rajput, a particle physicist and vice chancellor of Kumaun University in the Himalayan state of Uttaranchal, has acknowledged that he failed to properly oversee a student—S. C. Joshi—who has admitted that he plagiarized a 6-year-old paper (www.geocities.com/physics_plagiarism). Joshi's tainted paper was published in the March 2002 issue of Europhysics Letters; it borrowed extensively from an article on the properties of black holes published in Physical Review D by Renata Kallosh of Stanford University.

    Rajput says that Joshi never told him about the paper and that he has asked the journal editor to delete his name from it. An apologetic Joshi admits to having erred but says that it is the university's “usual practice” to credit superiors as co-authors.

    The Society for Scientific Values, an independent think tank in New Delhi that monitors scientific misconduct, is asking authorities to investigate. Indira Nath, an immunologist and past secretary of the group, says Rajput's response “is too flimsy.”

  2. North Korean Glasnost?

    Western experts might soon get a glimpse of North Korea's shadowy network of defense research labs. Speaking at a nuclear security meeting in London this week, Representative Curt Weldon (R-PA), a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, revealed that U.S. and North Korean officials are discussing how to redirect North Korean weapons scientists to peaceful, commercially oriented projects. The potential U.S.-sponsored effort could be modeled on the Department of Energy's Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention program, which now retrains defense scientists in the former Soviet Union.

    The possibility of working with North Korean researchers is intriguing, say some scientists. The nation's science community is a “black box,” says Abel Julio Gonzalez, a nonproliferation specialist at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria. Weldon says he hopes to lead a congressional delegation to Pyongyang later this year.

  3. Good Librations

    Advocates for human space flight have bickered for decades—mostly among themselves—over whether people should return to the moon or go directly to Mars. Now some NASA officials are urging a middle path: Create a small human and advanced robotics outpost at the point where the gravity of Earth and the moon cancel each other out.

    CREDIT: NASA

    An outpost at that stable “libration point”—just 100,000 kilometers from the lunar surface—could serve as a “gateway” for robotic and eventually human missions to the moon and Mars, says Harley Thronson, NASA's chief of space science technology and co-author of a paper to be presented next week in Houston, Texas. More immediately, the outpost could fine-tune or fix instruments—such as a planned new telescope—that will hover just beyond Earth's orbit.

    NASA is funding a $5 million study to flesh out future uses of such human and robotic platforms. An informal planning effort begun under the Clinton Administration has already borne fruit: It helped launch the space agency's push for 2003 funding for nuclear propulsion and electric technologies. Now, insiders predict that NASA's next budget request will include support for other new technologies, as a way to build up NASA's technical arsenal.

  4. Strike Three?

    France is once again on the warpath against U.S. firm Myriad Genetics, based in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Institut Curie in Paris, along with other institutes from 12 European countries, is asking the European Patent Office (EPO) to overturn a third Myriad patent on the BRCA1 gene, which is used to test for a predisposition to breast and ovarian cancer. Some of the same groups have already challenged two other related Myriad patents (Science, 14 September 2001, p. 1971); they say the claims are part of Myriad's plan for a monopoly on the tests.

    EPO is unlikely to rule before 2005, says a spokesperson. Opponents of the patent feel they need help from the European Commission in Brussels. “Being numerous doesn't necessarily mean we will win,” says Claude Huriet, Institut Curie's president. Myriad officials have consistently defended the patents as valid.

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