ScienceScope

Science  04 Jun 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5676, pp. 1425
  1. NIH Ponders Massive Biobank of Americans

    The National Institutes of Health (NIH) wants to collect health and genetic data on perhaps half a million volunteers to tease out links among genes, environmental factors, and common diseases. But getting the money for such a massive project won't be easy.

    The long-term cohort study would be akin to “biobank” projects in Iceland, the United Kingdom, and Estonia that are gathering people's DNA and health records (Science, 8 November 2002, p. 1158). U.S. researchers need access to a biobank whose findings will be relevant to the diverse American population, says NIH genome institute director Francis Collins, who described the idea last week in Nature. “If we don't do this, in 5 or 6 years we're going to be kicking ourselves,” he says.

    NIH is accepting comments on the idea (grants1.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-04-041.html), and a working group hopes to produce an outline by fall. “If it can be pulled off, it would be terrific,” says human geneticist Stephen Warren of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Funding will be a big factor: A similar proposed NIH study of 100,000 children has been struggling to attract $2.7 billion. The first indication of support from the Bush Administration could come next February, when the White House delivers the agency's next budget request to Congress.

  2. NASA Advances Plan for Robot Repair of Hubble Telescope

    Following through on its plan for extending the life of the Hubble Space Telescope (Science, 14 May, p. 940), NASA this week issued a formal request for proposals to send a robot to service and eventually deorbit the 14-year-old spacecraft. “If we're going to get a robotic servicing mission by December 2007, we've got to get contracts in place by October 1 [2004],” NASA space science chief Ed Weiler told a National Research Council panel studying options for servicing Hubble in the wake of the Columbia accident.

    Meanwhile, 26 former astronauts are urging President George W. Bush to override NASA's decision not to send a space shuttle to service Hubble. In a petition forwarded to the White House by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), the astronauts argue that “the attendant risks of the Hubble servicing mission are no more than the 90 previous manned missions to similar orbits.”

  3. Japan May Up Ante for ITER

    TOKYO—Japan may significantly increase its contribution to the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in a bid to land the stalled project, according to news reports in Japan. Officials are discussing boosting the nation's contribution from about 48% to as much as 65% of the total $10 billion construction and operating cost, the reports suggest. Government officials, however, declined to confirm the reports for Science.

    The partners can't agree on where to build the reactor. The European Union, Russia, and China favor a site in Cadarache, France, whereas the United States, South Korea, and Japan back Rokkasho, Japan. Another meeting is planned later this month.

  4. Pacific Salmon Status Mostly Unchanged

    A controversial decision by federal officials to count hatchery fish in deciding whether Pacific salmon populations are endangered has not led to the widespread delisting that some observers feared (Science, 7 May, p. 807). The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced last week that 26 salmon populations being reviewed will remain on the protected list; just two will be downgraded from “endangered” to “threatened.”

    Salmon advocates are relieved, but property owner groups that won the 2001 court decision forcing the agency to consider counting hatchery fish vowed to take the new decision back to court.

  5. U.S. Laureate to Head South Korean Science Institute

    SEOUL—A U.S. Nobel laureate has been picked to become president of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), the first time that a foreigner has headed any Korean university.

    Robert Laughlin, who won the 1998 physics prize for discovering a new form of quantum fluid, is a professor at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, with extensive ties to Korea. His appointment still must be approved by the Ministry of Science and Technology. “This is not a done deal yet,” says Laughlin, who last month was named director of the Asia Pacific Center for Theoretical Physics in southeastern Korea. The KAIST post, a 4-year appointment, is full-time. But Laughlin says he remains “strongly committed” to his current work.

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