ScienceScope

Science  31 Oct 2003:
Vol. 302, Issue 5646, pp. 761
  1. Oxford Professor Suspended

    A professor at the University of Oxford, U.K., who rejected an Israeli graduate student because of that country's treatment of Palestinians has been suspended for 2 months without pay. The suspension is the harshest penalty Oxford can impose short of dismissal.

    Andrew Wilkie, a developmental geneticist who was appointed Nuffield Professor of Pathology in October 2002, wrote Tel Aviv University student Amit Duvshani that he had a “huge problem” with the Israeli government's treatment of the Palestinians and therefore would not consider anyone who had served in the Israeli army for a position in his lab. Duvshani had listed his compulsory 3 years of national service on his résumé.

    Wilkie, who apologized this summer for “the wholly inappropriate expression of my personal opinions” in his e-mail to Duvshani, has resigned as a Fellow of Pembroke College and will also be required to undergo equal opportunity training. A university statement said Wilkie “fully accepts the gravity of the situation.”

    “I'm happy the issue has been investigated,” Duvshani told Science. “I'm not out to get Professor Wilkie personally.” He says he is considering graduate schools in the United States.

  2. Harvard's Expanding Universe

    After a stealthy, 20-year effort to acquire land, Harvard University has gone public with plans to expand from Cambridge, Massachusetts, into a 200-acre site across the river in Allston. The new campus will feature a science hub, according to a letter released last week by Harvard President Larry Summers.

    A lack of space for science is the main driver behind the move, Summers wrote. “We need to invest not only in the more traditional approaches to science led by single investigators,” he wrote, but in “more integrative approaches” that require more complex facilities. The Allston campus will likely be home to the graduate schools of education and public health, as well as one or two undergraduate houses.

    During a presentation to the faculty, Summers took sharp questions from physicist Daniel Fisher, among others, who suggested that new spending on bricks and mortar might shortchange the single-investigator work that is Harvard's hallmark. To hash out such concerns, Summers is assembling a large body of advisers, including a science and technology task force led by Provost Steven Hyman.

  3. Neuroscientist Reprimanded

    BERLIN—A misconduct investigation into the work of Heinz Breer has concluded with a public reprimand for the prominent neuroscientist. The German science funding agency DFG said last week that Breer and colleague Johannes Noé were guilty of scientific misconduct for manipulating figures in a paper published in 1998. The reprimand is the mildest punishment option.

    Breer, a prize-winning researcher at the University of Hohenheim near Stuttgart, studies how olfactory neurons detect scents. In April, a former postdoc in Breer's lab alleged that data and figures in two publications had been manipulated.

    A DFG committee cleared Breer's team of wrongdoing in one case (Science, 11 July, p. 150) but concluded that researchers had altered figures in a 1998 Journal of Neurochemistry paper. The panel found that Breer and Noé had made two figures depicting Southern blots that detect DNA appear more dramatic by “cleaning up” the primer bands. The alterations did not affect the paper's conclusions, but the committee said the failure to note the change constituted misconduct. Despite the reprimand, both Breer and Noé, who is now a professor at the University of Zürich, Switzerland, are still eligible for DFG grants.

  4. Warning on Spanish Cell Bank

    BARCELONA—Spain's Health Ministry is threatening to sue Andalusia's state government to block its plan to establish a bank for human embryonic stem cells, saying it could conflict with a planned nationwide repository. Andalusia health officials last month announced plans to provide researchers with cells from the bank as part of a $4.3 million research program. But national health minister Ana Pastor, who has clashed before with Andalusian authorities over their less restrictive approach to stem cell research, said the plan could lead to each of Spain's 17 states establishing banks operating under different rules. The government may go to court to prevent that, she warned last week.

  5. Leavitt Takes EPA Reins

    The Senate this week confirmed Utah Governor Mike Leavitt (R) as the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency on an 88-8 vote. The top job has been empty since Christine Todd Whitman stepped down in May (Science, 30 May, p. 1351). Leavitt is expected to face controversy over a range of issues, including a pending effort to rewrite clean air laws.