ScienceScope

Science  02 Jan 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5654, pp. 25
  1. Growing pains

    The European Union will gain 10 members in May, adding new voices to science policy debates. For instance, the new members, mostly former Eastern Bloc nations, have been friendlier to genetically modified crops than cautious Germany and the United Kingdom. On embryo research, the newcomers are as divided as the old guard. Czech scientists have derived human embryonic stem cells using government funds, but largely Roman Catholic Poland is expected to align with countries such as Italy, Germany, and Austria, which back limits on E.U.-funded embryo studies. 2004 could also bring a change at the E.U. research policy helm. It is not yet clear whether E.U. research commissioner Philippe Busquin will run for a second term when his current one ends in November.

  2. Heavenly science

    Although human space flight is on hold, NASA's planetary science program is racing ahead. Two rovers are slated to land on Mars this month to join a European orbiter and lander. Meanwhile, a mission to Mercury will launch by summer, and a spacecraft designed to blast a hole in a comet will go in December. But the most spectacular news may come from a July visit to Saturn by Cassini as part of its 4-year tour of Titan and other saturnian moons. And on Christmas Eve 2004, a European-built probe will attempt to land on Titan's surface.

  3. Sharing old news

    New U.S. guidelines on sharing hot hominid fossils may arrive. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has set a 1 February deadline for paleoanthropologists to respond to a survey (www.nsf.gov/sbe/bcs/common/dataaccess/start.htm) on sharing fossil data, which has been the subject of much controversy (Science, 30 August 2002, p. 1464). Harvard University paleoanthropologist David Pilbeam and NSF officials will review the responses and then offer recommendations.

    “We want to get a sense of what people think is reasonable and equitable,” says Mark Weiss, NSF program director for physical anthropology, adding that the agency is not looking to create “the fossil police.”

  4. Gut decision

    Physicists will choose the basic technology for the innards of a proposed $6 billion, 30-kilometer-long particle smasher known as the linear collider. They must decide between two radically different designs for the “radio frequency cavities” that will push particles to immense energies. A German-led team is developing superconducting cavities; American and Japanese researchers are concentrating on more conventional copper ones. An international panel of 12 experts will recommend one design by year's end, says Maury Tigner, chair of the International Linear Collider Steering Committee. “It will be extremely difficult,” Tigner says. But things will only get tougher: Physicists will then have to persuade politicians to fund the machine.

  5. Repair mission

    The White House hopes to bind up a fraying half-century-old partnership with academia. Taxpayers funnel $25 billion a year to universities for R&D. But the money comes with a growing set of rules—on everything from cost reimbursement to experiments with human subjects—that drive campus officials crazy. To ease tensions, last year the White House formed an interagency panel to study ways to improve research business models. “Most of these problems have been around for decades,” admits panel co-chair Connie Atwell of the National Institutes of Health. “But what's different is that we have … [a] science adviser who's determined to make things happen.” Will this attempt succeed where others have failed? Don't bet the rent.

  6. Genomes for all

    Instead of just piling up genome data on humans and key model organisms, the Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute (JGI) in Walnut Creek, California, will soon be decoding new DNA sequences that could help answer key evolution and development questions. It will devote about 60% of its sequencing capacity—about 2.5 billion bases per month—to an array of unsequenced organisms that could range from the leech to the armadillo. “Everything is on the table,” says JGI evolutionary biologist Jeffrey Boore, as investigators in fields from geology to developmental biology are invited to apply.

    Meanwhile, the mouse genome will be finished and should be as complete as the human one. And draft blueprints of the chimp, rat, honeybee, and a fruit fly called Drosophila pseudoobscura will soon follow, as will those of pathogens including the bugs that cause sleeping sickness and Chagas disease.