ScienceScope

Science  12 Sep 2003:
Vol. 301, Issue 5639, pp. 1453
  1. Afghan Gold Resurfaces

    A trove of 20,000 gold ornaments that had vanished during Afghan unrest is safe in a vault in Kabul.

    Soviet archaeologists uncovered the spectacular artifacts in 1978 from a hill called Tilya Tepe in Afghanistan. But researchers feared that the important collection—a rich melding of Western and Eastern styles from the first century B.C.—was melted down in the 1990s (Science, 8 November 2002, p. 1199). Senior Afghan officials now say that the collection is intact deep in a vault in the presidential palace.

    Palace staff members refused to give the Taliban the codes necessary to open the vault, they said, despite physical threats and beatings. “Everything is safe and in its place,” President Hamid Karzai told reporters late last month. Because the National Museum remains without a roof or security systems, however, the gold is likely to stay hidden from public and scholarly sight for the foreseeable future. Still, its recovery is “a major confidence boost to all those who love and respect Afghanistan's history,” says archaeologist Robert Knox of the British Museum in London.

  2. Scientists Plan Global Forum

    The annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, gives corporate and government celebrities a chance to exchange ideas on weighty issues before hitting the ski slopes. Now, researchers hope to create a similar invitation-only event on global science policy.

    This week an international group led by officials from Japan and the United States announced plans for the first Science and Technology for Society Forum next year in Kyoto. The forum is needed to spark “open, informal discussions” of thorny issues such as global warming and human cloning, says Koji Omi, Japan's former science minister and a member of parliament. “The purpose is to create a dialog with the larger society,” adds Bruce Alberts, head of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

    Planners expect to invite about 100 scientists, plus dozens of executives, politicians, and reporters. Japan is picking up most of the tab for the first meeting, scheduled for 14 to 16 November 2004. But planners hope to attract corporate support for what they say could become an annual affair.

  3. National Biobanks to Pool Data

    Leaders of four national genomic medicine projects are hoping to build a free, open-access database covering more than 2.3 million human subjects. The move is meant to counter concerns that some national “biobanks,” such as Iceland's, led by the company DeCode, are limiting access to paying customers.

    The Public Population Project in Genomics (P3G) aims to integrate data from the U.K.'s Biobank (which plans to enroll 500,000 volunteers), the Estonian genome project (up to 1,000,000), Canada's Cart@gene (60,000), and Genome EUtwin (800,000 twins from eight countries). With seed money from Genome Canada, project officials met in Montreal in July to agree on initial objectives (http://www.p3gconsortium.org/). The next step, says P3G Director Bartha Knoppers, a law professor at the University of Montreal, is finding funds to get the consortium up and running. Ultimately, any researcher with a proposal that has passed ethical and scientific review could have free access to the data.

    The plan follows on last December's call from the Human Genome Organisation (HUGO) to keep human genomic databases freely available, notes Knoppers, who heads HUGO's ethics committee. “They're on the public,” she says, “so necessarily [the databases] should be open.”

  4. Columbia Bids Goodbye to Biosphere

    It's official: Columbia University will sever its ties with Biosphere 2, the glass-enclosed eco-experiment in southern Arizona. The New York City-based school said this week that it will cease managing the facility on 22 December as part of a legal settlement with the site's owner, Decisions Investments Corp. in Fort Worth, Texas. Columbia had run Biosphere 2 since 1996 but said earlier this year that it no longer fit into the school's science or education plans (Science, 4 April, p. 47).

Log in to view full text