Science  30 Jul 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5684, pp. 589

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  1. GAO Faults Science Agencies on Title IX Compliance

    Three top U.S. science agencies have failed to enforce a federal law aimed at increasing female participation in educational programs, according to a report unveiled last week by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress's investigative arm. The report, which was requested by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) after a 2002 hearing (Science, 11 October 2002, p. 356), says the Department of Energy, NASA, and the National Science Foundation have not been monitoring grantee institutions to check if they are complying with Title IX. The 32-year-old legislation, which allows the government to withhold funds from institutions that practice gender discrimination, applies to all fields of education, but its impact has mostly been limited to athletics.

    The GAO report confirms that the federal government needs to enforce Title IX “not just on the playing field but also in the classroom,” says Wyden. He believes compliance reviews by granting agencies are essential to close the gender gap in the sciences and engineering. Massachusetts Institute of Technology biologist Nancy Hopkins, who chaired a study on the status of women faculty members at MIT's School of Science, predicts that “without government oversight and support, the full participation of women and minorities in science and engineering will not occur in our lifetime—or in the lifetime of our children.”

  2. Mexico Approves Genomic Medicine Institute

    After 5 years of discussion, Mexico is getting a new institute for genomic medicine. President Vicente Fox last week approved construction of the $200 million INMEGEN center in Mexico City, which is expected to employ 120 researchers and open it first units next year.

    The institute, which will focus in part on disease susceptibilities among Mexico's dozens of indigenous groups, will be led by biomedical researcher Gerardo Jiménez-Sánchez of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland (Science, 11 April 2003, p. 295).

    “We cannot afford the luxury of not joining this knowledge revolution,” said Fox. Jiménez-Sánchez says INMEGEN researchers will not work with human embryos. Mexican law allows both embryo research and therapeutic cloning.

  3. Panel Pans UC-Novartis Deal

    The University of California (UC), Berkeley, should pass on any proposals similar to the agreement it once made with pharmaceutical giant Novartis, according to a new independent report commissioned by the school's academic senate. In 1998, Novartis pledged $25 million over 5 years to the plant and microbial biology department in exchange for significant access to the department's labs and scientific discoveries. The agreement was greeted with outrage by many researchers at the school and across the country (Science, 17 January 2003, p. 330).

    The direct impacts of the pact on the university “have been minimal,” concludes the report, authored by food and agricultural specialist Lawrence Busch of Michigan State University in East Lansing and colleagues. Although graduate students in the field enjoyed increased stipends, “few or no benefits” in terms of patent rights or income went to the university or to Novartis and its successor Syngenta, according to the report. Busch and his co-authors also concluded that the agreement did not damage the department's basic science efforts, as many opponents feared it would. But the report recommends that Berkeley avoid future industry agreements “that involve complete academic units or large groups of researchers” and urges “broad debate early in the process of developing new research agendas.” The study will be submitted to the Berkeley Senate on 1 August for consideration.

  4. House Cuts EPA R&D, Restores STAR Grants

    Research budgets at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would face a 4.3% cut, to $589 million, in a spending plan approved last week by the House appropriations committee. The cuts are part of an increasingly gloomy budget picture for science (see p. 587).

    Environmental researchers did get some good news, however. The panel restored funding to EPA's extramural grants program, called Science to Achieve Results (STAR), bringing the program back to its fiscal year 2004 level of about $76.1 million, with an additional $9.5 million spent on graduate fellowships. In February, the Bush Administration proposed deep cuts to both STAR grants and the fellowships. The House support for STAR is encouraging, says Craig Schiffries, director of science policy at the National Council for Science and the Environment in Washington, D.C., but he's disappointed that the funding is still lower than the $100 million requested in recent years.