ScienceScope

Science  15 Apr 2005:
Vol. 308, Issue 5720, pp. 337
  1. Zerhouni Hopes to Revise Stock Limits

    1. Jocelyn Kaiser

    Two months after announcing new conflict- of-interest rules, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Elias Zerhouni is rethinking the strict limits on owning biomedical stock.

    The ethics rules were imposed after revelations that some NIH researchers had received hefty consulting payments from industry. But the stock limits are deterring some from joining NIH and persuading others to leave, including James Battey, director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, Zerhouni told a Senate subcommittee last week (see p. 334). He explained that the stock rule was imposed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Office of Government Ethics, which felt that NIH should be treated like a regulatory agency. “We need to reevaluate” the stock provision “quickly,” Zerhouni said.

    Last week, a group of senior NIH scientists asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to review the rules in part because HHS didn't collect comments first.

  2. Hungarian Faculty Face Layoffs

    1. Gretchen Vogel

    Already squeezed by cuts to the national granting agency (Science, 26 November 2004, p. 1455), hundreds of Hungary's scientists now face layoffs stemming from a $21 million shortfall across higher education. A government-mandated 7.5% pay raise for faculty went into effect on 1 January this year, but funding increases for universities, which are overwhelmingly government-supported, have not kept pace. Science classes are more expensive than are the humanities, notes George Kampis of Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, whose department of history and philosophy of science is under the gun.

  3. Trying Again on ITER

    1. Dennis Normile

    TokyoJapan and the European Union last week set an early July deadline to resolve the 15-month stalemate over which one will host the $5 billion International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). Japan's Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology Minister Nariaki Nakayama and European Commissioner for Science and Research Janez Potocnik discussed how to iron out the main sticking point, that is, what to give the loser in exchange for not hosting the reactor. An agreement on how to split responsibilities for the mammoth project will hopefully set the stage for a unanimous selection of either the French or Japanese site.

  4. Lockheed Boosts Los Alamos Bid

    1. Eli Kintisch

    U.S. aerospace giant Lockheed Martin strengthened its bid to run Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico this week by recruiting a key senior scientist. Sandia National Laboratories Director C. Paul Robinson, who spent 18 years at Los Alamos before moving to Sandia in 1990, has joined the proposal team for the Bethesda, Maryland-based company.

    Lockheed officials want Robinson, 63, to head Los Alamos if they beat out the lab's current contractor, the University of California. Final competition details are expected soon, with bids in the summer. Meanwhile, former weapons chief Thomas Hunter has been promoted to director of Sandia, which has facilities in California and New Mexico.

  5. Pig Flu Scare-Case Closed?

    1. Martin Enserink

    The World Health Organization (WHO) hopes that the results of a new study will put to rest suspicions that pigs in South Korea have become infected with a potentially dangerous flu strain.

    Last fall, Sang Heui Seo of Chungnam National University in Daejeon, Korea, deposited flu sequences in GenBank that suggested that Korean pigs carried WSN/33, a flu strain widely used in labs but not known to occur in nature. Several experts and WHO dismissed the findings as the result of lab contamination (Science, 4 March, p. 1392); now, Yoshi Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and his colleagues have tested 400 samples from two Korean pig farms, WHO says, and found no trace of WSN/33.

    Seo declined to comment. Henry Niman, a business owner in Philadelphia who backs Seo's claim, says Kawaoka's study wasn't broad enough to refute the theory. But, says WHO flu expert Klaus Stöhr, “we've spent too much time on these speculations already.”

  6. Plant Center to Cut Jobs

    1. Eliot Marshall

    The John Innes Centre in Norwich, U.K., one of Europe's top plant science institutions, plans to cut up to 35 researchers from its 800-person staff. Director Christopher Lamb announced on the center's Web site last week that the center began losing money 18 months ago when two funders—the European Union and private industry—became “less reliable sources.” Income to the center, which has a $40 million annual budget, has dropped by $5.7 million.

    This is “a big blow,” says plant geneticist Michael Wilkinson of the University of Reading, U.K., adding that the institution produces an “astonishing number” of widely cited basic science papers.

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