ScienceScope

Science  02 Apr 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5667, pp. 29
  1. Showing Brussels Their Muscles

    Frustrated with the European Union's (E.U.'s) funding system, a grassroots movement of life scientists across Europe is asking Brussels to reduce paperwork and boost funding. The online petition, organized by the European Life Scientist Organization (http://www.elso.org/), will be presented to the European Parliament this fall, says Belgian Alzheimer's researcher Bart De Strooper, who drafted the statement.

    Currently, “it takes an advanced degree in bureaucracy” to apply for a contract under Europe's Framework 6 research program, which focuses on applied studies, says De Strooper. And the money comes with a “huge administrative burden” that lasts for years, he adds. The petition, which has attracted more than 3500 signers so far, asks for simpler procedures. It also urges the European Commission to get serious about a plan to spend 3% of each country's gross domestic product on research and to create a Europe-wide basic research agency akin to the U.S. National Science Foundation (Science, 2 January, p. 23).

    The petition is “very interesting and useful feedback,” says Fabio Fabbi, a spokesperson for the European Commission. The EC is willing to look at ways to cut red tape, he says, adding that the creation of a basic research agency is already on the EC's agenda.

  2. New Genomes Down on the Farm

    Plant scientists soon expect to have online access to part of the corn genome. Agribusiness giant Monsanto and its partners announced on 15 March that they will combine their private sequence data with public results and share the information with academic researchers. The collaboration should speed by years the unraveling of corn's full genome, with a complete sequence available perhaps by 2007. Academics wanting to use Monsanto's data will have to sign a simple agreement.

    Meanwhile, the fruit of another Monsanto partnership went public this week. The St. Louis, Missouri-based company and the Whitehead-MIT Genome Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, released a draft sequence of a mold, Aspergillus nidulans, that can cause allergies and, in people with weakened immune systems, serious infections. The much-studied mold is related to fungi that attack crops.

  3. E.U. Braces for New Trials Rule

    A controversial European Union (E.U.) directive on clinical trials threatens to wreak havoc, researchers warn. The 2001 directive requires member states to tighten clinical trials regulations by 1 May. That will mean more inspections, stricter controls on manufacture and labeling of drugs, and greater liability if something goes awry. Critics are skeptical. “I don't think it will improve quality of research or patient safety,” says Françoise Meunier, director general of the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer.

    Noncommercial trials will now be covered by more stringent regulations governing commercial trials. Cancer Research UK, a nonprofit organization, estimates a fourfold increase in trial costs. And in Italy, the European Institute of Oncology in Milan has already seen an eightfold rise in the cost of insurance for one cancer trial. The European Commission is consulting with researchers before releasing final guidelines later this year.

  4. Okamato to Stay in Japan

    TOKYO—Takashi Okamoto won't be extradited from Japan to the United States to face charges of stealing genetic material from the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, where he once worked as a researcher (Science, 6 June 2003, p. 1487). The U.S. Justice Department had sought his return under the Economic Espionage Act, which makes it a crime to steal secrets for the benefit of foreign governments or related organizations. But the Tokyo High Court ruled on 29 March that Japan's Ministry of Justice, on behalf of the U.S. government, didn't offer adequate evidence that Okamoto intended to benefit a foreign entity. Reiji Kiyoi, Okamoto's lawyer, praised the court's “wise judgment” in rejecting what he labeled the ministry's “imprudent” request. Okamoto, meanwhile, is reportedly working as a medical doctor on the northern island of Hokkaido.

  5. Correction

    An item in last week's ScienceScope incorrectly stated the costs of a trip to Africa by a delegation headed by Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson. The total cost of the trip was $477,736 after reimbursements from some private individuals, not $726,734 as reported. A total of 34 government employees made the weeklong trip, but the government also paid the way for several nongovernment delegation members whose costs are included in the $477,736 total. The rock star Bono was invited on the trip but did not participate, as reported. Science regrets the errors.

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