Science  04 Apr 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5616, pp. 31

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  1. HHS Softens Conflicts Guidance

    The federal government has softened the tone of draft guidance for curbing conflicts of interest in clinical trails. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) this week released the reworked statement after biomedical groups complained that an earlier draft went too far.

    The new guidance stems from the death 4 years ago of a volunteer in a gene therapy trial in which an investigator and the university had a financial interest. Biomedical researchers and university groups said HHS's first draft, released 2 years ago, was too specific in its conflict disclosure recommendations, particularly for institutional conflicts (Science, 16 March 2001, p. 2060).

    The new draft recasts previous guidance into “points for consideration” by investigators, ethics review boards, and institutions. The draft includes suggestions that universities separate financial and research decision-making and that they define for themselves what constitutes institutional conflict.

    The document mirrors reports from two task forces co-organized by the Association of American Medical Colleges, notes AAMC's David Korn, a former Stanford University dean: “We are very pleased.” But some patient groups say mandatory rules are needed. Vera Hassner Sharav of the Alliance for Human Research Protection calls the new draft “a smokescreen” for inaction. HHS will collect comments until 30 May.

  2. Reinventing the AIDS Vaccine Enterprise?

    A coalition of prominent researchers is hatching a bold proposal to create a $5 billion fund to coordinate the hunt for an AIDS vaccine. “What we're doing in AIDS vaccine research is not systematic enough,” says one person familiar with the discussions of the group, which includes Nobel laureate and former National Institutes of Health (NIH) director Harold Varmus; Rick Klausner and Helene Gayle of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and Larry Corey, a researcher at Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center who heads the NIH-funded HIV Vaccine Trials Network.

    The new organization would need up to $5 billion, sources say, and could receive substantial funding from the Gates Foundation if the idea flies. To drum up discussion, the group soon hopes to publish an outline of the idea.

  3. Canada Hopes Civility Pays

    OTTAWA—Canada's social sciences research honcho Marc Renaud wants the government to put $6 million into figuring out how the federal funding council he heads can more effectively deal with the ills plaguing Canadian society.

    Renaud's request is based on an idea floated by Martha Piper, president of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, to convert the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council that Renaud heads into something like a Canadian Academies for Civil Society Research. The idea mimics the transformation 3 years ago of Canada's Medical Research Council into the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (Science, 8 September 2000, p. 1675). That shift has been accompanied by a significant boost in CIHR's budget, and Renaud and Piper hope to accomplish the same thing for the social sciences by taking a fresh look at social issues. Industry Minister Allan Rock calls Renaud's proposal for a 1-year road show to seek out new ideas “a very interesting approach” but says no decision has been made.

  4. NCI Restores Abortion Facts

    The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has reaffirmed a conclusion it withdrew last year under political pressure: Abortion does not increase a woman's risk of breast cancer. Last June, after complaints from several anti-abortion members of Congress, NCI withdrew a fact sheet from its Web site that cited no link. NCI Director Andrew von Eschenbach then convened a workshop in February to discuss the evidence (Science, 7 March, p. 1498). The new fact sheet ( cites the scientists' conclusion: Recent studies don't support an abortion-breast cancer link.

  5. Everglades Science Examined

    A new report calls for better coordination of research underlying the $15 billion plan to restore Florida's Everglades ecosystem. In a study released 26 March, the General Accounting Office (GAO), Congress's investigative arm, found “key gaps” in the $576 million spent since 1993 on restoration research; for example, data are lacking on pollutants. GAO concludes that the government's interagency restoration task force should beef up its science team by giving it clearer directions and more staff. The report follows a December National Research Council study that also called for better management of the Department of the Interior's Everglades research, as well as more funding.