Science  26 Mar 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5666, pp. 1955

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  1. Africa on $3000 a Day

    A recent decision by Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tommy Thompson to save money by slashing the number of government scientists allowed to travel to an upcoming AIDS meeting in Bangkok has sparked outrage at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Science, 19 March, p. 1747). Costs, however, didn't crimp an HHS-sponsored AIDS delegation that Thompson led to Africa last December, agency documents suggest.

    HHS spent $726,734 to send Thompson and some three dozen government employees to five African nations for 1 week last December, according to records obtained by Science under the Freedom of Information Act. The total included $11,000 for cell phone charges, $10,000 for a public relations firm, and nearly $400,000 for a chartered airplane. It did not include the cost of flying to the trip's starting point in Frankfurt, Germany. And several dozen nongovernment guests—including members of faith-based groups, industry titans, one of the secretary's daughters, and the rock star Bono—reportedly paid their own way, contributing an additional $98,430.

    Still, the trip's cost—some $20,000 per government employee—particularly rankled one critic of the recent decision, who notes that HHS wants to limit its travel expenses for the Bangkok meeting to $250,000 for 50 people.

  2. Rewriting the Biosafety Bible

    Uncle Sam wants your help in revising the bible of biosafety. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) will host a 3-hour workshop on 12 April to discuss the “successes and challenges” of implementing the recent flood of new rules designed to keep deadly “select agents” out of dangerous hands. The goal: to include lessons learned in a new edition of Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories—the influential safety guide known to bench scientists as the BMBL.

    OSTP is looking for opinions on a wide array of issues, including the costs and benefits of the new select agent rules, according to a notice published in the 14 March Federal Register. Those wishing to share their thoughts—in person or in writing—should contact OSTP staffer Rachel Levinson by 7 April (mailto:“levinson{at}”). The meeting will be held on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) campus in Bethesda, Maryland. NIH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hope to publish a new BMBL by the summer of 2005.