Science  20 May 2005:
Vol. 308, Issue 5725, pp. 1099

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  1. UC Beefs Up Team Eyeing Bid to Run Los Alamos


    The University of California (UC) has moved closer to competing for the management of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) by announcing a major partner and a team leader. University officials said this week that Michael Anastasio, now director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, would head the New Mexico nuclear weapons lab if it won the Department of Energy (DOE) contract. Last week the university said it was aligning with industrial giant Bechtel in advance of the DOE contract specifications, due out this week.

    If UC submits a bid, it will be the third industry-academic alliance to enter the fray to manage the $2.2 billion lab, created in 1943. Sandia National Laboratories manager Lockheed Martin has already announced its decision to join with the University of Texas on a bid, with Sandia Director C. Paul Robinson as the would-be head. A third defense contractor, Northrup Grumman, plans to bid in collaboration with an as-yet-unnamed academic partner.

    Anastasio, a weapons designer, has run the Livermore weapons lab since 2002. San Francisco-based Bechtel, which runs several government nuclear facilities, bolsters the university's safety and management skills. “They needed a partner like that if they were to have a chance,” says former LANL assistant director Tom Meyer. But he worries that a culture of scientific freedom at Los Alamos could suffer if Bechtel became “a dominant partner.”

  2. Global Network for Health Data

    A global coalition of foundations, countries, and development agencies has formed to improve the collection of health data in the world's poorest countries. The Health Metrics Network, announced at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, this week, aims to strengthen disease reporting, tracking, and analysis.

    Many countries don't even fully record births, deaths, or causes of death. Better health information would also guide international efforts to fight disease, says David Fleming, director of Global Health Strategies at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is supporting the initiative with $50 million. “It's about making sure that every life counts and is counted,” Fleming says.

  3. Battey Staying at NIH

    The odds that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will soften its strict rules on stock ownership improved this week after an institute director heading out the door decided to stay put and a senior scientist with qualms about becoming an institute director agreed to take the job.

    James Battey, director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, had declared this spring that a prohibition on senior staff owning biomedical stock was forcing him to leave because he manages a family trust (Science, 8 April, p. 197). Battey had applied for a post at the new California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. But this week he said in an e-mail that he has dropped his job search and is “confident” that he can “fulfill my obligations to my family while remaining at NIH.” He will also be reinstated as director of the NIH Stem Cell Task Force.

    David Schwartz, incoming National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences director, said this week he will join NIH on 23 May because “my concerns about the conflict-of-interest rules have been heard and are being seriously considered.” Schwartz, now at Duke University, had said earlier that the stock ban was a deterrent to his taking the new job.

  4. U.S. Mineral Research Spared the Ax

    The House appropriations committee last week took the first step in restoring funding to a $54 million program on mineral research that the Bush Administration wants to gut.

    Run by the U.S. Geological Survey, the mineral resources program surveys imports, exports, and production of economically important and strategic minerals and predicts their future availability. Program scientists also research basic questions such as how microbes influence the geochemistry of mercury, arsenic, and other harmful minerals.

    Faced with a loss of revenue from a malfunctioning LANDSAT satellite, the Bush Administration proposed a 53% cut for 2006 in the program and the elimination of 240 positions. The House committee “strongly disagrees” with that move, says report language, and recommends that the program be fully funded. The Senate is expected to take up the bill in the next few weeks.