ScienceScope

Science  13 Dec 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5601, pp. 2109
  1. GM Corn OK

    Ending years of controversy, the Philippines has become the first Asian nation to approve the sale of genetically modified (GM) corn seed. The government's agriculture department last week gave Monsanto permission to market a strain modified to resist corn borers, a common pest. Monsanto's corn is the first major GM food crop to gain approval in Asia.

  2. Size Counts

    NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe says the international space station's crew is likely to grow after 2006. The prediction, made last week at a Tokyo meeting, was a relief to many scientists, who say that little meaningful research can be done with the current crew of three. O'Keefe told project partners that the Bush Administration's 2004 budget proposal, due in February, would include “the appropriate financing” to allow station science to expand by 2007 —a goal embraced by Europe, Japan, Canada, and Russia.

  3. New Stem Cell Law

    Australia's Parliament this week approved national stem cell legislation that will harmonize a jumble of state and territorial rules. Under the new law, which was the subject of extensive debate (Science, 6 September, p. 1627), researchers will be able to use existing human embryonic stem cell lines and create new lines from excess embryos created for in vitro fertilization prior to 5 April 2002. Biologist Martin Pera of Monash University says the rules will allow research “to go forward on a sound ethical basis.”

  4. NIH Litmus Test?

    Concerns that the Bush Administration is blackballing ideologically incompatible science advice (Science, 15 November, p. 1323) now extend to the National Institutes of Health's (NIH's) advisory councils. In a 21 November letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) and three other lawmakers ask why one nominee to a National Institute on Drug Abuse panel was questioned about his voting preferences and his views on needle exchange, abortion, and drug legalization. The nominee, psychologist William Miller of the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, says he was apparently rejected last January after giving incorrect answers. In this case and others, the lawmakers want to know “why … this information is relevant” to providing scientific advice.

  5. Mass Protest

    The rectors of Italy's 77 state universities resigned en masse this week to protest government plans to cut budgets and freeze hiring. The dramatic move came as Parliament debated plans to cut spending at some universities and research institutions by up to one-third.

    The resignations—which can still be withdrawn—are “a consequence of a policy of dismantling research and university culture,” says Flaminia Saccá of Rome University, who also handles research policy for Italy's largest opposition party, the “Democrats of the Left.” The protesters want lawmakers to restore budget increases promised by previous governments or to at least minimize cuts.

    Italy's finance ministry called the move “impetuous,” because lawmakers are still hammering out the final budget. But the rectors say the risky gesture was necessary to call attention to academia's financial plight. As Science went to press, researchers said the issue could be resolved soon.

  6. Chain Reaction

    Saddled with legal bills, a Japanese researcher once accused of industrial espionage is suing a former friend for $770,000. Hiroaki Serizawa, a biologist at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, has told a Tokyo court that he was deceived by Alzheimer's researcher Takashi Okamoto, who allegedly asked him to hold biological materials taken from the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio (Science, 18 May 2001, p. 1274).

    Last year, U.S. prosecutors charged the two scientists with conspiring to export “trade secrets.” They later dropped the espionage charges against Serizawa, who remains in the United States, but they are still seeking to extradite Okamoto from Japan for trial in Ohio. Serizawa is prepared to testify against Okamoto, says Serizawa's attorney, Patrick McLaughlin of McLaughlin & McCaffrey in Cleveland. In the meantime, he needs to pay legal fees—and he is suing Okamoto for help. The Tokyo court will start hearing the case next week. Okamoto's attorney could not be reached.

    Serizawa is also job hunting after being denied tenure by the University of Kansas. But that task has been complicated by his decision to plead guilty to one count of giving the FBI false information. It's difficult, says McLaughlin, “to recover from damage like that to one's professional reputation.”