ScienceScope

Science  06 Jun 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5625, pp. 1487
  1. Shining a Light on NEON

    The National Research Council (NRC) has begun a quick study of a proposed network of ecological observatories in a renewed effort by the project's supporters to win funding.

    The National Science Foundation (NSF) has repeatedly sought $12 million to start building a National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), “a network of networks” to monitor environmental change with state-of-the-art instruments. NSF would like to build 17 observatories, each costing $20 million, but Congress so far has balked at even a down payment.

    A 10 June meeting in Washington, D.C., will attempt to “clarify … the best way to achieve [NEON's] goals,” says ecologist David Tilman of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, who chairs the 14-member NRC panel. There's also a Web site for scientists to register their views (nationalacademies.org/neon). NSF would like the final report before it submits its 2005 budget request to the White House in September.

  2. Court Sentences Japanese Researcher

    One of two Japanese researchers charged with industrial espionage has been fined $500, put on probation for 3 years, and ordered to put in 150 hours of community service. A federal district court in Cleveland handed down the sentence last week after Hiroaki Serizawa, a biologist at the University of Kansas Medical Center, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of perjury.

    Serizawa's legal troubles began in 1999, when he temporarily stored DNA samples as a favor for a friend, Alzheimer's researcher Takashi Okamoto. Prosecutors allege that Okamoto stole the samples from the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio when he left for a new job in Japan. In 2001, the government charged the pair with conspiring to export trade secrets, but it dropped most charges against Serizawa after he agreed to testify against Okamoto (Science, 13 December 2002, p. 2111).

    The United States is still trying to extradite Okamoto from Japan, and Serizawa has a $770,000 civil damage suit against him pending in Japanese courts. Meanwhile, the University of Kansas denied Serizawa tenure, and he is looking for a job.

  3. NASA Weaves New Webb

    Astronomers have been worrying that a $300 million shortfall in NASA's $1.6 billion James Webb Space Telescope—slated for a 2011 launch—will force the space agency to cancel some planned scientific instruments. But a redesign and some logistical maneuvering has put the project “back in the [budget] box” without compromising science, says NASA's Richard Howard, associate director for astronomy and physics.

    By using an Ariane 5 launch paid for by the European Space Agency, turning over a guidance system to Canada, and reducing the telescope's aperture size from 29.4 meters to 25 meters, Howard says NASA is confident it can deliver the observatory on budget. “We've taken a less complicated and more straightforward approach to the instruments,” he says. The reduced aperture will reduce the Webb telescope's vision slightly, but it is still within the goal set by agency officials and outside researchers. An independent team will take a close look at the cost and design of the new plan this summe

  4. Norway Moves to Bar Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research

    The Norwegian government has proposed outlawing all research involving human embryonic stem (ES) cells. The measure, which is expected to pass the legislature later this month, would forbid scientists from deriving new cell lines or importing those derived elsewhere. It would be one of the most restrictive laws in Europe governing the controversial cells, which researchers value for their ability to morph into an array of tissues.

    The Norwegian government apparently disregarded the more permissive recommendations of an advisory group in drafting its law, says Steinar Funderud of the Norwegian Radium Hospital in Oslo, who works with adult stem cells. But he says opposition to the measure has been muted. “There are no groups in Norway working on human ES cells,” he says, because the government will not fund such work. And patient groups that in other countries have lobbied strongly for the research have remained quiet in Norway.

    Developmental biologist Stefan Krauss of the Rikshospitalet University Hospital in Oslo predicts that the law will not hamper research. “It is premature to get into a huge controversy when there are so many open questions” that can be addressed with mouse ES cells, he says. The law would put Norway in stark contrast to neighboring Sweden, where researchers have used government funding to derive more than a dozen human ES cell lines.