Russia Gets New R&D Leaders
MOSCOW—President Vladimir Putin shook up Russia's science leadership last week, installing two military veterans to direct government R&D. Maj. Gen. Alexander Burutin, 47, a longtime staff officer, fills the new post of Putin's senior adviser on military industries. Boris Alyoshin, 48, a military avionics specialist currently serving as deputy minister of science, becomes deputy prime minister for science, technology, and innovation policy. He replaces his former boss, Ilya Klebanov.
The newcomers are charged with implementing a 2-year-old plan to close half of the science ministry's 1400 defense-related research enterprises and herd the survivors into about 50 industry-related groups.
It's not clear if the appointments reflect a chilling of the Kremlin's enthusiasm for boosting civilian oversight of defense research. The Institute for the Economy in Transition in Moscow says the switch reinforces a “noticeable shift” in government science funding “from the civil sector toward the defense sector.” But Mikhail Alfimov, chair of the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, predicts Alyoshin will boost civilian science.
NAS Elects Record Number of Women
A push to elect more women to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) appears to be paying off. As Science went to press, NAS announced that a record-breaking 17 women are in its new class of 72 members and that four women are among the 18 new foreign associates (for a full list, see sciencenow.sciencemag.org). The domestic number shatters last year's record of 11 women, while the foreign pool has never contained more than one. The 23% women in this year's class is roughly twice the percentage of full professors at U.S. universities, and women now make up 7.7% of the academy's 2015 living members.
“What began 4 to 5 years ago has borne fruit this year,” says NAS Home Secretary Stephen Berry of the University of Chicago. “People are clearly trying to identify women who have been overlooked, but the [nomination] process can take several years.”
Berry says he expects the number of women to remain high in the future, although the fields of economics and geophysical sciences are still “very thin.” He also notes that the academy has made little progress in electing African-American and Hispanic members and that some sort of “special mechanism” may be needed to address the issue.
Spinning the Looting?
U.S. officials in Baghdad are putting the best face on the disastrous looting at the National Museum there in the aftermath of Baghdad's fall, much to the dismay of some archaeologists. American brass, including Lt. Gen. (ret.) Jay Garner, who is in charge of postwar Iraq, visited the museum last week amid much media coverage. Later, they said that a set of records of the vast collection is intact, that many smaller pieces survived the chaos, and that many objects have been returned.
But one Western researcher with long experience in Mesopotamian materials dismissed this picture as too rosy and “positive spin.” So far, the U.S. government has not sent scholars to Baghdad to survey the damage. An archaeologist from the British Museum, however, is expected to return to London this week with Donny George, the research director of the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities. And the British government intends to announce plans to tighten antiquity purchase laws in an effort to recover the lost materials.
Cancer Group Proposes New Oversight Plan
After 3 years of debate, the 20,000-member American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) announced this week that it will tighten conflict-of-interest rules for its members and lobby to revamp oversight of clinical trials.
ASCO decided to tackle the two sticky subjects after research scandals erupted at several prominent universities (Science, 11 January 2002, p. 246). Its 20-member task force concluded that Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) are struggling to keep up with the flood of cancer trials they must approve or reject, says Harvard oncologist Lowell Schnipper, who chaired the task force. It proposes that regional IRBs oversee multisite clinical trials and adverse event reporting, lifting some burden from local boards. The system for reporting adverse events is “in great need of repair,” as one site may be unaware of problems encountered by another, agrees oncologist John Falletta, who oversees the review process at Duke University.
The National Cancer Institute is experimenting with a central IRB, but many universities are concerned about their legal liability if they cede oversight. ASCO is meeting with federal regulators about devising new rules that could dampen those worries, says Schnipper.
ASCO will also require that its members disclose all relevant financial ties when publishing, including gifts valued over $100.