Science  10 Jun 2005:
Vol. 308, Issue 5728, pp. 1529

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  1. Ban on Airborne Animals Draws Protest

    British Airways (BA) caved in to U.K. activists by agreeing not to transport animals used in medical or scientific research, says Colin Blakemore, chief executive of the U.K.'s Medical Research Council. “I worry that one company folding under pressure would very quickly scare off everyone in the same circle,” hurting research, he says. After learning late last year that BA had extended a policy against carrying research animals to mice, Blakemore fired off a letter in February to the airline arguing that its policy would actually hurt animals by forcing them to use less direct routes that require more loading and unloading. The Research Defense Society, which represents U.K. medical researchers, shares Blakemore's concerns and is working to ensure researchers' access to animals.

    The airline's change of policy, reported in The Guardian in May, has activists claiming success. The airline, for its part, says the move adheres to International Air Transport Association rules and that transporting the animals is not profitable.

  2. House Wants NSF Prizes

    U.S. legislators want the National Science Foundation (NSF) to offer innovation prizes for the best research in various fields. The suggestion comes from Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA), the new chair of the spending panel that oversees NSF and NASA. Wolf's subcommittee suggested this week that the National Academies develop “rules and conditions … with plans [for NSF] to initiate a prize program in fiscal year 2006.” No word on the scope of the program, but the panel suggests that NSF sweeten the pot with nonfederal money.

    Elsewhere in the House's budget bill for NSF, legislators removed the entire $56 million that NSF had sought for the Rare Symmetry Violating Processes physics project at Brookhaven National Lab in Upton, New York, but approved full funding for its other new facilities. They also granted NSF the flexibility to use non-Coast Guard vessels in Antarctic icebreaking (Science, 4 March, p. 1401). Members said they expected NSF to pursue “more economical solutions.” NSF is still trying to figure out how the Coast Guard keeps its books, says Karl Erb, head of polar programs, which were tapped for an additional $9 million this year for ship repairs.

  3. French Science Policy Shakeup

    PARIS—Junior research minister François d'Aubert has been ousted as part of the new government formed by Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin following France's overwhelming rejection of the European constitutional treaty. Politician François Goulard, 51, who served as junior transport and sea minister in the last government, now assumes France's top science policy position and will be responsible for higher education, which d'Aubert was not. Bringing the two portfolios together is “good news,” says Alain Trautmann, spokesperson for France's researcher protest movement. A long-awaited science reform bill is due to be published next week.

  4. Final Biodefense Centers Announced

    The final pieces of a 10-site national network of biodefense research centers have been put into place. Last week, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases announced grants totaling $80 million over 4 years for two new Regional Centers of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research.

    One center, a consortium led by Colorado State University, will focus on diseases transmitted by animals. Another team, based at the University of California, Irvine, will host clinical trials of vaccines as well as basic research on bioterrorism agents and infectious diseases. Director Alan Barbour says the center will provide “immediate research capability” in case of an outbreak.

  5. Stem Cell Institute Faces Possible Vote

    California legislators were expected to vote this month on a measure that would tighten conflict-of-interest rules for advisory bodies to the state's new institute for regenerative medicine (CIRM). A committee of overseers at the nascent stem-cell institute moved last week to consider toughening its policies in hopes of heading off the legislation, seen as potentially limiting the participation of experts. If passed by two-thirds of both houses, the proposed constitutional amendment will go before voters in November.

    Meanwhile, amid pending lawsuits and financial uncertainty, CIRM this week received $5 million from San Francisco sound pioneer Ray Dolby to help it get started. The institute is also pursuing a $100 million loan.