Science  03 Feb 2006:
Vol. 311, Issue 5761, pp. 605

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  1. On Campus


    Skeletons In The Closet. A paleontologist at the Burke Museum of Natural History in Seattle, Washington, flouted state and federal permitting laws and cut scientific corners in amassing a major collection of vertebrate fossils. That's the conclusion of a three-person panel brought in to examine the 35-year legacy of John Rensberger, who dug up almost all of the museum's more than 45,000 vertebrate fossils before retiring in 2004.

    “Many specimens in the Burke Museum are beautifully preserved and skillfully prepared, but their significance to modern paleontology may have been drastically and perhaps irretrievably reduced” because of incomplete or erroneous information, says the panel, whose 18-page report was released 26 January. The collection “obviously comes up wanting,” says panelist Theodore Fremd, head paleontologist for the National Park Service's John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in Oregon.

    The University of Washington, which runs the museum, is funding a graduate student to assist the new curator in straightening out the collection. Rensberger, who isn't commenting, has handed over 10 field notebooks dating from 1967 to 2003. “It's going to be a lot of work,” Fremd says.

  2. Jobs


    New Mission. Space scientist Scott Hubbard will soon begin looking for conditions conducive to extraterrestrial life after an inhospitable climate forced him out as head of NASA's Ames Research Center. On 15 February, Hubbard assumes the Carl Sagan Chair for the Study of Life in the Universe at the SETI Institute, in nearby Mountain View, California, where he'll help expand the institute's astrobiology efforts.

    “[NASA Administrator] Michael Griffin and I talked before the holidays and agreed that he should have the ability to pick a center director of his own choosing,” says Hubbard, whose replacement at Ames will reportedly be astronomer and retired Air Force Brigadier General Simon P. Worden. Wesley Huntress, director of the Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C., says that Ames “blossomed” under Hubbard's 3-year directorship: “NASA loses a very good man.”

  3. Awards

    Welcoming Foreign Talent. A transplanted Spaniard is the first winner of a $50,000 prize to honor immigrant scientists in the United States.

    Joan Massagué, 52, of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City has captured the Vilcek Prize in Biomedical Research for his work deciphering metastasis. Massagué came to the United States in 1979 as a postdoc. But instead of returning to Barcelona, he nabbed a faculty position at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester. “There was no grand plan, no deep vision, just a guy who had some ability,” he says, lamenting that tighter U.S. immigration rules discourage young foreign scientists today from pursuing the path he took.

    The prize was created by Jan and Marica Vilcek, who fled Communist Czechoslovakia in the 1960s for the United States. Jan Vilcek spent his career at New York University, where he helped invent the blockbuster drug Remicade to treat autoimmune diseases.

  4. Politics

    Promises. Creating more opportunities for young scientists is a top priority for Egypt's new science and higher education minister, a geological engineering professor at Cairo University. Hany Mahfouz Helal, who comes to the post after working on plans for a new science and technology university, hopes to establish centers of excellence in nanotechnology, biotechnology, and information technology.

  5. Pioneers


    Voices From Within. Unhappy with events at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, senior staffer Robert Keegan has launched a Web site where employees and CDC watchers can vent. Keegan, deputy director of CDC's Global Immunization Division, says CDC Chatter ( is “a forum where people can talk” about issues at the agency, including a controversial reorganization begun by CDC Director Julie Gerberding 3 years ago.

    Keegan, 53, is one of a few staffers who have openly criticized the reorganization, which some say has driven away many top scientists and managers. Judging from entries posed since the Web log went live on 1 January, the agency hasn't turned the corner yet. Anonymous writers have commented on everything from “ongoing and endless reorganization and resultant chaos” to CDC's “totally embarrassing” response to Hurricane Katrina. A 4% cut in division budgets to pay for Gerberding's management initiative” is causing considerable anger and loss of morale,” says one staffer.