Science  29 Apr 2005:
Vol. 308, Issue 5722, pp. 613

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  1. Congress Probes Charges of Harassment at NIH

    1. Jocelyn Kaiser

    Two congressional committees are looking into charges of sexual harassment at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The complaints arose after National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) staffer Jonathan Fishbein alleged that a landmark clinical trial, which found that the drug nevirapine can reduce mother-to-infant transmission of HIV, was seriously flawed.

    An Institute of Medicine panel recently concluded that, although researchers failed to report some adverse events data, the NIAID-funded nevirapine trial was scientifically valid (Science, 15 April, p. 334). But the Senate finance committee is now following up on a complaint from Fishbein accusing a supervisor of sending profane e-mails, as well as recent depositions by two female NIAID staffers involved in monitoring the trial that allege inappropriate behavior by supervisors. The committee chair, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), has asked NIH for more information, citing Associated Press articles that first reported the depositions and evidence obtained by committee staff.

    The matter is also under review by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Joe Barton (R-TX). An NIH spokesperson says the agency is conducting its own investigation as well.

  2. Two Israeli Universities Targeted for Boycott

    1. Eliot Marshall

    CAMBRIDGE, UNITED KINGDOM—The U.K. Association of University Teachers (AUT) has called for a boycott of two Israeli universities said to be supporting Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory.

    After little debate, the group voted 22 April that its members—from professors to university support staff—should shun Bar Ilan and Haifa universities. The boycott's proponents claim that Bar Ilan is affiliated with a West Bank school “in the illegal settlement of Ariel,” and that the University of Haifa has harassed a senior lecturer who guided a student's investigation into the conduct of Israeli soldiers.

    The universities deny the allegations. Moshe Kaveh, president of Bar Ilan University and a well-known physicist, called AUT's decision “very unbalanced” and “shameful.” AUT, meanwhile, has asked members to delay implementing a boycott pending legal advice.

  3. Griffin Moves Fast To Reshape NASA

    1. Andrew Lawler

    NASA's new chief Michael Griffin is making his mark after only 2 weeks on the job. Last week, Griffin reversed a decision by his predecessor Sean O'Keefe to split the NASA Advisory Council into two panels—a move that critics feared would weaken its ability to receive impartial external advice. He also told managers that congressional pork—or “earmarks”—would be funded expeditiously by NASA. O'Keefe had refused to dispense the money for those earmarks in the current budget.

    Griffin decided to keep NASA interim chief Fred Gregory as his deputy but has created a position to handle the agency's day-to-day operations. It will be filled temporarily by Courtney Stadd, an entrepreneur who has worked for several agency administrators.

  4. Netherlands Reports First vCJD Case

    1. Martin Enserink

    The Netherlands has become the fifth European country affected by variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), the human counterpart of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). On 21 April, health authorities reported that a 26-year-old woman had been diagnosed with the fatal brain affliction. The Netherlands has registered at least 77 cases of BSE.

    Of 171 cases of vCJD so far, 155 have occurred in the United Kingdom, nine in France, two in Italy, and one in Ireland. Four additional patients from outside Europe had all lived in the U.K. for varying periods.

  5. UC Retains Oversight of Lawrence Berkeley

    1. Robert F. Service

    It came as little surprise, but last week the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded the University of California (UC) a 5-year contract to manage Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). UC has run LBNL since its inception more than 60 years ago, but this was the first time the university had been asked to submit a competitive bid. UC was reportedly the only bidder for the contract, valued at $2.3 billion.

    UC President Robert Dynes says the university is still considering whether to submit a bid to continue managing Los Alamos National Lab (LANL) in New Mexico under a new contract that begins 1 October. It will do so, Dynes says, if DOE puts the emphasis in LANL's mission on science and technology instead of weapons development. Defense giants Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman also plan to bid for the LANL contract.