ScienceScope

Science  20 Jun 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5627, pp. 1859
  1. Pledge Allegiance to 'One HHS'

    Supervisors at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are being asked to sign a pledge to back Bush Administration management moves that many believe are harming the institutes. The oath is an early April “addendum” to a performance contract that about 2700 higher-level NIH staff are being asked to sign by their parent agency, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). “I hereby commit to achieve” 15 “One HHS” objectives, the statement says. Five “program objectives,” such as preventive health, are not controversial, sources say. But several “management objectives” have caused widespread angst (Science, 9 May, p. 877). They include “competitive sourcing” (opening jobs to outside contractors), “administrative efficiencies” (slashing administrative staff), and “HHS-wide procurements” (which scientists say could be disastrous for intramural research).

    “People read [the pledge] and said: ‘I can't promote this,’” says an official at one institute. Other institutes have not yet asked their employees to sign the statement, which was first reported last week by The Washington Post. It's not clear what consequences refuseniks would face. NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, who has asked his staff to come up with less disruptive ways to accomplish the One HHS goals, is to present his plan to HHS chief Tommy Thompson on 23 June, say sources.

  2. Canada's SARS Consortium

    OTTAWA—Canada has formed a nationwide research consortium to find the causes, controls, and consequences of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The Canadian Institutes of Health Research announced on 10 June that it will provide $1.27 million to four academic teams to study the biomedical and immunological aspects of SARS. The consortium meets later this month to develop a full blueprint.

  3. E.U., U.S.to Team on Hydrogen

    The European Union and the United States agreed this week to coordinate research on developing hydrogen technologies, despite differences on just how to do it. The partners pledged no new money, but proponents say the collaboration will speed efforts to evaluate and develop fuel cells that convert hydrogen gas to electricity with no pollution. Europe generally supports producing hydrogen using renewable energy sources, whereas the U.S. is also emphasizing use of nuclear power and fossil fuels.

  4. Ethiopian AIDS Project Closes

    A 10-year-old AIDS research project in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, will close next month, leaving its labs and scientists in limbo.

    Dutch AIDS researchers established the Ethiopian-Netherlands AIDS Research Project in 1993 to train local researchers and to lay the groundwork for possible vaccine trials. The program generally earned good marks, although some reviewers suggested improvements for a long-term HIV epidemiology study that tracked two cohorts of residents. The Dutch government, however, has decided to shift funding to projects that focus on family planning and HIV prevention.

    The center's loss is a blow to potential vaccine testers, says José Esparza, coordinator of the World Health Organization-UNAIDS HIV Vaccine Initiative. “This is one of the few sites in Africa where [researchers] have built trust with the community,” he says. As a swan song, the center this week hosted a meeting on AIDS vaccine development. Other funders could step forward, says project leader Eduard Sanders, “if Ethiopia decides [it wants] such projects.”

  5. Markham to Cancer Charity

    CAMBRIDGE, U.K.—A clinical scientist with a global perspective will be the new chief of Cancer Research UK, the world's largest private cancer research funder. The group announced this week that University of Leeds researcher Alex Markham (right) will take over on 1 September from Paul Nurse, who has been named president of Rockefeller University in New York City.

    CREDIT: CANCER RESEARCH UK

    The product of a 2002 merger of two groups, Cancer Research UK raised $450 million in 2002, with more than half going to basic and clinical studies in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It also has 3000 researchers working at three of its own institutes.

    Markham, 52, brings experience in industry, academia, and government to the job. One goal, he says, is to bolster the group's international ties. “I would rejoice to increase” collaborations with groups such as the World Health Organization, he says. He should have some resources to play with. A 12% increase in Cancer Research UK's revenues last year means the charity should be able to boost spending “across the whole spectrum of cancer research,” Markham says.

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