ScienceScope

Science  21 Jan 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5708, pp. 333
  1. NIH Revises Public Access Policy

    The National Institutes of Health (NIH) plans to ask its grantees to send their research articles to a public database, which would post them 1 year after they're published in a journal. That's double the length of time it proposed last year in the wake of congressional pressure to give the public greater access to such research (Science, 26 November 2004, p. 1451).

    Scientific societies are “pleased” with the extension, says Martin Frank, executive director of the American Physiological Society, noting that it conforms to the policies of many nonprofit journals (including Science). But he maintains that the archive isn't necessary and that having both the archived manuscript and the published article on the Web will be confusing. Groups that had pushed for quicker public access also had a mixed reaction: “NIH punted,” says Rick Johnson, director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Research Coalition. But he thinks the policy's impact “could be positive.”

    NIH was set to unveil its policy on 11 January. But the briefing was cancelled the evening before, prompting speculation that Bush Administration officials didn't want the issue to complicate hearings this week on the confirmation of Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt.

  2. Korea OK's Work Under New Stem Cell Law

    TOKYO—The Korean group that produced the first embryonic stem cell line from cloned human cells has gotten the green light to resume its research.

    Woo Suk Hwang of Seoul National University and colleagues did their initial work (Science, 12 March 2004, p. 1669) before there were any national rules about embryonic stem cell work. On 1 January, South Korea's Bioethics and Biosafety Act took effect, and 2 days later, Hwang applied to the Ministry of Health and Welfare for permission. The work involves so-called therapeutic cloning, which promises stem cell therapies with genetic material that matches that of a patient and could avoid immune rejection problems. “I'm hoping we can get some results within 2 or 3 months,” Hwang says.

    Meanwhile, a long-delayed National Bioethics Review Committee will soon review the legislation. Any recommendations could end up extending the approval process.

  3. EPA Asks for Advice on PFOA

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has asked experts to help it assess the health dangers of a common chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

    PFOA and related chemicals are used to make nonstick and stain-resistant coatings, including Teflon. The chemicals apparently do not break down in the environment and have been widely found in people and wildlife (Science, 10 December 2004, p. 1887). Little is known, however, about how people are exposed. EPA officials trying to assess PFOA's risks also face a host of technical issues, says Charles Auer, director of EPA's Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, including how to compare blood levels in humans and animals.

    So last week, the agency turned to its Science Advisory Board for guidance on how to address these problems. “We're trying to assess the science issues,” Auer says. “We're not attempting to make a critical judgment of the risks.” But toxicologist Timothy Kropp of the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization in Washington, D.C., says that EPA has left important issues off the table, such as the potential for breast and testicular cancers. “This is one of the largest reviews that EPA has embarked on in a long time,” he says. “They need to give it a really thorough and fair review.”

    The advisory board will meet next month in Washington, D.C., to begin a review of EPA's proposed approaches that is expected to take several months.

  4. NASA's $800 Million Gamble

    NASA is keeping mum on how it plans to finance $800 million in projects approved last month by Congress.

    The agency's plan for spending what appears to be a robust $16.24 billion budget this year does not include some $300 million needed to get the space shuttle flying again this summer, more than $100 million to repair the Hubble Space Telescope, or $400 million-plus in legislative earmarks. Any realistic spending plan will have to include most, if not all, of that money, which means agency managers must eventually make huge cuts.

    Congressional sources worry that much of the squeeze ultimately will defer or even cancel a host of science projects. NASA officials say the agency will reveal the details when the 2006 budget request comes out on 7 February.

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