Science  09 Jan 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5655, pp. 153

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  1. Biosafety Laboratory on Defense in Boston

    Neighbors in Boston's South End and Roxbury neighborhoods are up in arms over plans to build a large biosafety level 4 lab at Boston University Medical Center. The 21,000-square-meter lab is slated for completion by 2008 as part of a broader National Institutes of Health effort to build up to a dozen new laboratories for handling the most dangerous biological agents (Science, 10 October 2003, p. 206).

    University officials have said the lab will meet tough safety standards. But some three dozen protesters picketed a recent public meeting on the lab sponsored by the city. Klare Allen of Alternatives for Community and Environment wore a gas mask to underscore her group's opposition to locating the facility in a densely populated area, and others raised a banner reading “Anthrax. Coming to a lab near you.” Lab defenders found themselves shouted down during the meeting. And the issue is likely to grow more contentious: Allen says her group is planning a people's forum for the near future to highlight potential dangers.

  2. Stem Cell Studies Backed By New Jersey Law

    New Jersey has become the second state to legally endorse stem cell research, over the vocal objections of some antiabortion activists and Catholic church leaders. Governor James McGreevey on 3 January signed a law that permits scientists working in the state to derive human stem cells from any source, including embryos destined to be discarded. It also bars cloning to produce a baby.

    Patient groups strongly backed the measure, arguing that it will help keep open potentially promising avenues of research that could be blocked by federal restrictions on government-funded researchers. But religious groups condemned McGreevey's move, with a spokesperson for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops predicting that it will produce “government-sanctioned ‘human fetus farms.’”

    California passed a similar measure in 2002, and bills are advancing in Illinois, New York, and Massachusetts. Louisiana, Missouri, and Rhode Island have passed less-sweeping laws backing so-called therapeutic cloning.

  3. Harvard-am-Main?

    Worried that German universities are absent from the top of international rankings, Germany's leaders say they want to create as many as 10 “elite” campuses to compete with Harvard and Cambridge for professors, students, and academic renown. Boosting a handful of German universities to world-class status will be a priority for the ruling Social Democratic Party, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and research minister Edelgard Bulmahn announced this week. Existing schools would compete to become Germany's academic jewels, they said, and the winners could get funding from the federal government instead of just the states.

    Research leaders have been lobbying politicians for more than a year to adopt such a plan, says Karl Max Einhäupl, the head of Germany's science council. But he warns that bringing it to fruition will be difficult.

  4. Grim Forecast for U.S. Science Budgets

    Major U.S. science funding agencies won't have much to celebrate in President George W. Bush's upcoming 2005 budget request, early reports indicate. The White House is expected to propose small increases for both the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), insiders say.

    Biomedical research is one place Bush will slow spending in order to rein in the budget deficit. NIH's raise will likely be 2.5%, according to a knowledgeable source in the advocacy community. NIH's 5-year run of 14% to 16% increases ended this year. A pending 2004 spending bill includes only a 3% boost, to $27.8 billion. A second year of slow growth “would threaten some of the progress made under the doubling,” says Tony Mazzaschi of the Association of American Medical Colleges in Washington, D.C.

    Meanwhile, White House budgeteers have ignored the double-digit increases called for in an NSF reauthorization bill signed by the president last fall. It calls for nearly doubling the agency's budget, to $9.8 billion, by 2007. The new request is expected to be just 2% higher than 2004 levels. Bush will unveil his 2005 budget on 2 February, 2 days after the current extension of the 2003 budget expires.