News this Week

Science  07 Apr 2006:
Vol. 312, Issue 5770, pp. 32

    Premier Science University Ousts Unpopular President

    1. D. Yvette Wohn*
    1. D. Yvette Wohn is a reporter in Seoul.

    SEOUL—An ambitious experiment to have an outsider reform South Korea's top science education institution has come to an ignominious end. Last week, trustees of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in Daejeon voted not to renew the contract of its first non-Korean president, Robert B. Laughlin.

    Parting shots.

    As the mystique of Stockholm faded, Nobelist Robert Laughlin (left) lost KAIST's support; he says he took the rap for systemic problems in Korean science.


    Two years ago, South Korea's science ministry recruited Laughlin, a Nobel laureate physicist from Stanford University, to transform the government-supported institution into one of the top-ranked universities in the world. Laughlin resolved that KAIST, focused largely on graduate training, should make radical changes. Among other recommendations, he proposed adding premedicine and prelaw departments and privatizing the university so it could charge tuition. Many faculty members opposed the measures, arguing that Laughlin's mandate was not to overhaul KAIST, but to raise funds and raise its profile. “Laughlin failed to carry out three terms in his contract: developing a vision for the school, making it a globally competitive institute, and attracting funding to invite finer students and professors,” says physicist Choon-sup Yoon, head of KAIST's faculty association.

    Faculty members stepped up their criticisms earlier this year after Laughlin vowed to press ahead with unpopular reforms (Science, 20 January, p. 321). At a press conference organized by the faculty association on 23 March, several professors questioned Laughlin's integrity and leadership qualities, accusing him of being “dogmatic” and “impulsive.” The association released a laundry list of derogatory statements about KAIST that it claims Laughlin made in lectures abroad and in meetings with foreign university heads. In mid-March, three of the university's four deans submitted letters of resignation, followed by the resignation of all 20 department chairs.

    Presented with such overwhelming antipathy toward Laughlin, the 13 trustees present at the board meeting last week voted unanimously against a contract extension.

    Laughlin says he is a victim of political circumstances, citing public distrust of scientists in South Korea in the wake of the scandal over disgraced cloning scientist Woo Suk Hwang. He dismisses the faculty reaction as “emotional” and characterizes himself as a fall guy for shortcomings of the South Korean science system. “They can't hit government, so they hit me,” he says. “My strategy for making KAIST better was to find things that were not good and expose them. Talking about the real problem is healthy. This unhappiness is the first step.”

    Some observers say that Laughlin's tenure was doomed from the outset. “The board made a mistake when they hired him. A lot of people knew it was a mistake, but Korea has a ‘Nobel disease,’ so a lot of people thought that someone with a Nobel Prize could fix anything,” says Chung Wook Kim, a Korean-American physicist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Although Chung calls Laughlin “a good physicist and a friend,” he says Laughlin was “not qualified” to lead KAIST and that his “definition of reform was vague.” Yoon emphasizes that the faculty is not allergic to reform: “Korean or foreign, if someone with statesmanship and management skills is appointed as president, we will support him or her.”

    Laughlin counters that his mandate was vague. “Everyone has different expectations, and … expectations got blurred,” he says. The science ministry, meanwhile, has washed its hands of the affair. “What happens at KAIST is an internal issue,” says a ministry official.

    Laughlin plans to return to Stanford after his term ends on 14 July. His stature in South Korea may be diminished, but his bank account is not: He told Science that he accepted the KAIST presidency in the first place because the salary, approximately $500,000, was “too high to refuse.” KAIST's future is less assured. If the trustees want reform, says Chung, they should appoint someone who is familiar with South Korean culture and politics.


    Revised NASA Media Rules Promise Greater Openness

    1. Eli Kintisch

    The NASA scientist who said this winter that the agency had muzzled his views on climate change now says that he's “reasonably happy” with a draft media policy unveiled last week. But he and others worry about the rules' impact on whistleblowers.

    Speak up.

    Griffin clarifies NASA policy.


    On 29 January, The New York Times described complaints of harassment by James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies at Columbia University, including how a 24-year-old administrator with no scientific expertise had repeatedly blocked his efforts to share climate data and analysis with reporters. At the time, House Science Committee Chair Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) assailed NASA's behavior as “wrong.”

    A few days later, the official was fired after it became clear that he had embellished his résumé. NASA Administrator Michael Griffin also ordered up an internal review of the agency's policies. On 30 March, Griffin released an eight-page document that says scientists “may speak to the media and the public about their work” as long as they give officials advance notice “whenever possible.” Previously, scientists say, the unwritten policy was that employees needed to check first with public affairs officials.

    Boehlert proclaimed himself “very pleased” with the revised policy and said he plans to monitor its implementation. Thomas Devine of the Washington, D.C.-based Government Accountability Project says that the rules fail to follow federal law on describing protection for whistleblowers, however, and that a vague description of what constitutes “sensitive but unclassified” data could give officials carte blanche in stifling dissent. Hansen says he's “a bit disappointed” by that ambiguity but that the new rules nevertheless represent “a huge change” for the better.

    “The new policy does not establish any new restrictions,” says a NASA spokesperson. The agency plans to finalize the policy in the near future.


    Fossil Shows an Early Fish (Almost) out of Water

    1. Elizabeth Pennisi

    A fossil discovered in the upper reaches of Canada has revealed a creature that had the jaws of a fish, a head like a crocodile, fins better engineered for standing than swimming, and a future on land. This 375-million-year-old find, reported in the 6 April issue of Nature, is the latest—and most telling—fossil showing how aquatic vertebrates turned into four-legged landlubbers called tetrapods.

    “It's the most significant discovery in years,” says John Maisey, a fish paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. “It's got features that other fish don't have and features that tetrapods don't have.”

    Until now, the few fossils representing missing links between aquatic and terrestrial vertebrates have tended to be mostly fishlike or tetrapodlike instead of true intermediates. In 1999, paleontologists Neil Shubin of the University of Chicago and Ted Daeschler of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, happened upon a description in an undergraduate geology text of a large, isolated rock formation that was the right age to contain better representatives of this key transition. Canadian geological survey data indicated that these rocks were formed in a delta that emptied into an inland sea—a good environment for land-bound piscines.

    For 4 years, the pair, along with Harvard zoologist Farish Jenkins Jr. and various students, traipsed north through the Nunavut Territory to field sites hundreds of kilometers from the nearest village or an airport. But they had little to show for their efforts until the first 3 days of their last season. Then, Shubin recalls, “we hit the mother lode.” All told, the group has excavated 10 jawbones, three skulls, and two specimens in which the head and part of the trunk are in one piece—all of them belonging to a species the group calls Tiktaalik roseae, Inuit for “big freshwater fish.”

    Getting these treasures back to the labs intact was challenging, Shubin notes, and part of the biggest specimen had to be left behind. Daily sleet, snow, and cold weather also slowed the drying of the plaster casts needed to transport the rock. Colleagues are ecstatic that the group made such heroic efforts. “It's remarkably complete material,” says Maisey. “We can see quite a bit of the anatomy.”

    Landward bound.

    This ancient fish is a missing link between fish and land vertebrates.


    Tiktaalik is not quite midway on the path to life on land, but close. Key tetrapodlike features have all but replaced fish traits, the researchers report. For example, until Tiktaalik came along, the earliest transitional fish still had gill cover plates, which pumped water over the gills, and its shoulder girdle was fused to the skull. Tiktaalik has no gill cover plates and just a few, reduced bones to tie the shoulder girdle to the skull. (Land vertebrates don't have any of these bones.) This fish therefore had a neck, concludes Daeschler. Also, he notes, it may have favored breathing air over underwater respiration.

    Tiktaalik's head is flat with the eyes on top and the back of the skull squared off, much like the head of the earliest tetrapods. The fish does have the typical scales, but underneath them are overlapping ribs, which Jenkins had suggested 35 years ago would be needed to help support a body outside water.

    The pectoral fins are lobelike, as expected, but their bones are like those in the arm and forearm, with hints of a wrist and hand at the very tip, says Jenkins. Novel joints observed in the fossil suggest that Tiktaalik could swing its fins out and forward, enabling it to push up and eventually lumber onto shore, says Shubin.

    Why head for the shore? These misfit fish, says Maisey, “could barely crawl on land, and they could barely swim.” Still, the ability to flop out of the water likely helped them escape aquatic predators, and lifting their heads to look for land predators paved the way for descendants that abandoned their watery existence, he suggests.

    The new fossil, says paleontologist Per Ahlberg of Uppsala University in Sweden, “goes a long way in filling one of the big gaps in the origin of tetrapods.”


    With Friends Like CAESAR's, Who Needs Brutus?

    1. Gretchen Vogel

    BERLIN—The perceived threat of a hostile takeover has researchers at the Center of Advanced European Studies and Research (CAESAR) worried for their jobs. The 7-year-old institute, which has 140 researchers in nanotechnology, bioelectronics, and medical imaging, received disappointing grades from a national evaluation team in 2004. Now Germany's Max Planck Society (MPG) has offered to take the institute under its wing. But the plan includes a bitter pill: It would scrap CAESAR's current agenda and focus instead on neuroscience.

    New mission.

    The Max Planck Society has said the Center of Advanced European Studies and Research in Bonn should abandon nanotechnology and imaging research and focus instead on neuroscience.


    CAESAR started as a consolation prize. When the reunified German government voted in 1994 to move its capital back to Berlin, the city of Bonn was awarded €1.4 billion ($1.7 billion) to turn itself into a “science city” (Science, 8 June 2001, p. 1827). CAESAR received a quarter of that sum as an endowment, with an ambitious mission to produce high-tech patents and spin off companies for the region. But in 2004, a harsh evaluation from the German Science Council (Wissenschaftsrat) said CAESAR had fallen short of expectations and recommended an overhaul. Although some groups ranked well, the report said, the institute suffered from a lack of focus. In response, CAESAR's governing board asked MPG to form a commission to advise it. The results, made public last month, were not what most at CAESAR had expected. The committee recommended that CAESAR be partially integrated into MPG as an institute for neuroscience, funded by the existing endowment. Current researchers on 5-year contracts would presumably not be rehired.

    CAESAR scientists say that goes too far. “We are ready to sharpen our focus, but [the MPG plan] would mean simply giving up on everything we've done so far,” says CAESAR spokesperson Francis Hugenroth. The institute has issued a formal reply, arguing that Germany already has a half-dozen top neuroscience institutes and that more than €15 million invested in materials science equipment would simply be written off. CAESAR also charges that patents and spinoff companies would be few and far between under the Max Planck plan.

    Max Planck spokesperson Christina Beck says that far from a takeover, the MPG panel offered constructive suggestions for how to improve CAESAR's performance. “We have well-established, successful strategies” that govern many top institutes, she says. “That's why they asked us for advice.” The panel decided that a focus on neuroscience would build on strengths at the University of Bonn and its research clinic, she says.

    CAESAR researchers have at least one more chance to plead their case. On 12 April, the German Science Council's evaluation committee will hear presentations from CAESAR and from MPG. The overall council will then offer its public advice on 19 May. It would be hard to dismiss the Max Planck's plan completely, predicts Friedrich Tegelbekkers, head of the Science Council's evaluation committee, but “several details need to be discussed,” including the prospects for industry spinoffs for the region. A decision from CAESAR's governing board is expected in June.


    Major Fisheries Bill Introduced in House

    1. Erik Stokstad

    Call it a net gain. Conservationists accuse the chair of the House Resources Committee of trying to water down environmental rules governing the management of U.S. fisheries. But the proposal by Representative Richard Pombo (R-CA) to reauthorize the 30-year-old Magnuson-Stevens Act would also elevate the role of science in fisheries management. And many environmentalists and scientists hope that legislators will tap elements of a second bill introduced last week to produce something more to their liking.

    “I think we're moving in the right direction, but there are some things that make me nervous,” says Andrew Rosenberg of the University of New Hampshire, Durham. Rosenberg and others say Pombo's bill (H.R. 5018) is less draconian than they had feared; they also like some of the features in a proposed bill (H.R. 5051) from Representative Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD), chair of the fisheries subcommittee, such as strict deadlines for ending overfishing.

    The Magnuson-Stevens Act was last updated in 1996. Last fall, the Senate took up a measure (S. 2012) introduced by one of its namesakes, Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK), that garnered mixed reviews (Science, 25 November 2005, p. 1261), in part because fisheries managers would only need to consider scientific advice when setting limits on annual catches. Pombo's bill would require managers to follow the advice and, among other things, develop a procedure for peer-review.

    But two other changes are setting off alarm bells. Pombo wants the secretary of commerce to have more discretion to extend a 10-year deadline for recovering overfished stocks. The secretary would also be able to exempt management plans from comprehensive analyses required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). “These are large loopholes,” says Lee Crockett of the Marine Fish Conservation Network in Washington, D.C.

    Conservationists prefer the bill by Gilchrest, which doesn't fiddle with NEPA or change the rebuilding timeline. Moreover, it also provides a mechanism to enforce annual catch limits, as does Stevens's bill. In addition, Gilchrest calls for a new 1-year deadline to cease overfishing of any stock identified as depleted. Scientists also like a provision that would require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop guidelines for ecosystem-based management of fisheries.

    A staffer for Gilchrest concedes that Pombo's leadership post allows him to call the shots on the reauthorization. But Gilchrest hopes that some of his provisions will be folded into whatever bill moves forward. No House hearings have been scheduled; Stevens's bill is awaiting floor action.


    New Polymer May Rev Up the Output of Fuel Cells Used to Power Cars

    1. Robert F. Service

    ATLANTA, GEORGIA—Most technologies must keep constantly improving to stay on top. But in the world of low-temperature fuel cells—the sort used to power cars—a polymer membrane made by DuPont, called Nafion, has been the gold standard for decades. Last week, however, at a meeting here of the American Chemical Society, researchers from North Carolina unveiled an upstart that might finally dethrone Nafion and markedly improve the performance of automotive fuel cells.

    Fuel cells work by converting chemical fuel directly into electricity without burning it. The standard approach requires reacting hydrogen and oxygen at two different electrodes separated by a thin plastic membrane. At one electrode, hydrogen molecules are stripped of their electrons, which are then sent through an external circuit to do work. The leftover protons are channeled through the polymer membrane to another electrode, where they meet up with oxygen and the circulating electrons to produce water.

    But making good proton conductors from polymers isn't easy. Nafion's strategy is to link acid groups to the end of fluoropolymer chains. Because acids hold on to their protons only loosely, they are good proton conductors. But acids also readily dissolve in water, which is needed for standard proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells to operate. So if you put too many acids on your polymer, it falls apart when you run your fuel cell.

    Power plastic.

    A better proton (H+) conductor bids to unseat the longtime champion at the heart of large fuel cells.


    In hopes of boosting the acid content of their polymers, Joseph DeSimone, a chemist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and his graduate student Zhilian Zhou decided to create a polymer with extra links between the chains so that it wouldn't dissolve in water. They started with a heavily fluorinated polymer called perfluoropolyether, which they copolymerized with a derivative of an acid-rich compound called styrene sulfonic acid. The researchers mixed the compounds as liquids and then polymerized them using ultraviolet (UV) light. The UV light knitted the two compounds together into chains and forged links between the chains, creating an extended network of polymers that doesn't dissolve when the water content climbs.

    Because the polymer contained more acid groups, it conducted protons nearly three times as well as Nafion. “This sounds very nice and could set a new gold standard,” says Robert Hockaday, a fuel cell expert who runs Energy Related Devices Inc., a fuel cell company in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

    Unlike Nafion, which comes only in thin sheets, the new polymer also can be cured from its liquid precursors in essentially any shape. Zhou and DeSimone, for example, patterned their polymer using a standard stamping technique into a form with a much higher surface area than a flat film. That surface area is key to fuel cells because engineers pattern the two sides of their films with the metals, such as platinum, that make up the electrodes that carry out the needed chemical reactions. An increased surface area allows for a more widespread platinum coating, leading to increased power. In this case, the patterning doubled the power output of their fuel cells.

    The new polymers could bring another advantage as well. Because the crosslinked polymers are likely to be far more robust than Nafion, they should withstand higher operating temperatures. That's key, because raising a fuel cell's operating temperature from the standard 80°C to about 120°C ought to prevent contaminants such as carbon monoxide from glomming onto the platinum catalyst and sapping the cell's performance. DeSimone says he expects that their new crosslinked polymer membrane will hold up far better than Nafion at higher operating temperatures, but he and Zhou haven't had a chance to run the experiment. Their continued success could herald a new king of the hill among polymer fuel cells.


    Villagers Drafted Into China's Model of 'Sustainability'

    1. Richard Stone

    HUANGBAIYU, CHINA—Nestled in jagged, snow-clad hills near the North Korean border, the 42 unfinished gray houses laid out in neat rows have all the glamour of a trailer park. But the cookie-cutter single-story homes of Huangbaiyu, or “Yellow Cyprus Valley,” are the nucleus of China's first “sustainable village.”

    Socialist paradise?

    Huangbaiyu should free land for sowing crops and reforestation—if Dai Xiaolong can persuade villagers to move in.


    Proponents say that the new Huangbaiyu, set to open this summer, marks the start of a revolution: a path for China to slash its voracious consumption of natural resources and convert wasted rural space into croplands or forests. Huangbaiyu's houses are made largely from renewable materials, and residents will cook with gas distilled from agricultural waste. “It's a good concept,” says Guofan Shao, a forest ecologist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, who has conducted research near Huangbaiyu but is not affiliated with the project.

    The experiment's timing could not be more propitious. Alarmed by a growing divide between rich cities and impoverished villages, Chinese leaders at the annual meeting of the National Peoples' Congress last month gave marching orders to improve rural conditions. Huangbaiyu's village committee director, an entrepreneur named Dai Xiaolong, wants to spread the “brand” to every corner of China. That ambition unsettles some observers, who fear that indiscriminate adoption of the model could line the pockets of a handful of developers while blighting the landscape. It's also not clear whether villagers will voluntarily move from dwellings scattered in a several-kilometer radius into their new digs.

    The author of the village concept is Deng Nan, a daughter of former premier Deng Xiaoping. Responding to Deng's overtures, former U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1999 tapped architect William McDonough to be U.S. co-chair of a newly created China-U.S. Center for Sustainable Development, a nonprofit organization in Portland, Oregon. (Deng, a former vice-minister for science, is China's co-chair.) The winning proposal was submitted by Huangbaiyu, southeast of Benxi, a polluted industrial city.

    The Appalachia-like landscape, pocked with open-pit mines and marred by denuded hills, is ripe for revitalization. Life is hard for the valley's 1400 denizens, most of whom subsist on growing corn, raising Cashmere goats, and farming rainbow trout; they earn on average $440 per year.

    At the demonstration village site, the smell of burning coal fills the air. The project is designed to make life more comfortable as well as improve energy efficiency. The new homes are made from compressed earth blocks using technology from Vermeer Manufacturing; BASF has donated roof insulation; and BP solar panels are being tested on two homes. “We will raise the living standard of the peasants,” Dai says. As a measure of optimism, each house has a one-car garage; few residents currently own cars.

    Around 400 houses are planned, enough to accommodate virtually the entire present population. As families move to new homes, their scattered former dwellings will be demolished. “We have very limited land resources, so reuse is very important,” says Benxi mayor assistant Dai Limin. Dai is a senior researcher with the Institute of Applied Ecology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shenyang, which will monitor the land reclamation. Concentrating villagers in a single residential area, says Shao, should allow managers to improve the health of the mixed pine and broadleaf forest.

    The benefits are less obvious to Huangbaiyu residents. Shannon May, a graduate student in anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, who has been living here for the past year, says many residents worry that they may have to forfeit access to land near their current homes where they rear trout or graze goats. Local officials may feel compelled to resort to “top-down coercion to make people move” before the China-U.S. center's board visits Huangbaiyu in June, May says: “The next few months will be a pretty anxious time for everybody involved.”

    In the meantime, other regions, including Beijing and Shanxi, are contemplating similar projects. For China's 900,000 villages, Huangbaiyu's experience may be the first step toward a distant dream of sustainable development—or a dystopian nightmare.


    Old Drug, New Hope for Marfan Syndrome

    1. John Travis

    People with Marfan syndrome live with a ticking bomb. Their aortas, unless surgically replaced, gradually enlarge and weaken until they fatally rupture. But prompted by a new explanation of what causes Marfan syndrome, pediatric cardiologist Harry Dietz of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and his colleagues may have come up with a surprising tool to defuse this lethal situation: losartan, a drug already approved in the United States for use against high blood pressure. On page 117, they report that in a mouse model of Marfan syndrome, the drug prevents aortic aneurysms as well as lung problems sometimes seen in the condition.

    “It's a beautiful story. It's one of the most classic examples of translational science I've seen in the cardiovascular arena,” says Kenneth Chien, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital cardiovascular research center in Boston. The study, he adds, “makes a very compelling case” that losartan should be tested immediately in people. In fact, Dietz's team has begun administering the drug to a few children with a severe form of Marfan syndrome who have rapidly deteriorating aortas. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) plans to start a large trial of the drug as soon as this fall.

    This enthusiasm is a far cry from the pessimism that has plagued the Marfan field. Experts once thought that a structural defect in connective tissue led to the aortic aneurysms, lung problems, and other features of Marfan syndrome. In 1991, Dietz and other researchers had reported that mutations in the gene encoding fibrillin-1 are responsible for the syndrome. This protein forms fibrils in the matrix outside cells, so the mutations were thought to rob elastic tissue of a key building material. The only apparent way to treat such a defect was to restore the missing fibrillin-1, yet gene therapy and other potential replacement solutions seemed like distant prospects.

    Almost from the outset, Dietz had doubts about this explanation for Marfan syndrome. “We began to recognize that selective features couldn't be explained by disease models that relied on weakness of tissues,” the Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator says—bone overgrowth, for example, was difficult to reconcile.

    In 2001, Dietz's team reported creating mice that make low amounts of fibrillin-1 and develop emphysemalike lung problems similar to those seen in about 10% of Marfan patients. But a close look at the mouse lungs showed that the defect began early in development, challenging the notion that the emphysema was due to the deterioration of lung tissue over time. The scientists instead fingered overactivity of a protein called transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β); they also found that administering antibodies to it prevented the lung damage in the mice.

    Heart of the matter.

    The aorta (arrows) of a normal mouse (A) and a losartan-treated mouse with a fibrillin-1 mutation (D) are indistinguishable, but those of mutant mice treated with a beta blocker (B) or placebo (C) have aneurysms.


    Dietz now believes that fibrillin-1 binds TGF-β in the extracellular matrix, keeping it inactive. In people with Marfan, the growth factor is unleashed, he hypothesizes. Indeed, Dietz and his group have also shown that antibodies to TGF-β can prevent heart valve problems and aortic aneurysms in their Marfan-like mice.

    Seeking a more practical way than antibodies to block TGF-β signaling, the researchers hit upon losartan, which was known to somehow thwart the growth factor. It seemed a natural drug to explore because many physicians treating Marfan syndrome already prescribe blood pressure-lowering drugs called beta blockers to ease stress on the aorta and slow its growth.

    For their losartan study, Dietz's group worked with mice engineered to have a fibrillin-1 mutation analogous to those seen in Marfan syndrome. They began administering the drug to 2-month-old mice, which already have obvious aortic changes. After 6 months, the aortic aneurysms had worsened in mice given either a placebo or a beta blocker, but normal mice and losartan-treated Marfan ones were indistinguishable, indicating that the drug had reversed the early aorta damage. “It was truly a jaw-dropping moment. It was beyond anything I could have anticipated or hoped,” says Dietz.

    Because the drug has a good safety record in people, Dietz and his colleagues are already giving losartan to a few children. But he cautions that there could be unanticipated side effects in those with Marfan syndrome. These initial tests on the children with rapidly progressing aneurysms are ethically defensible, says medical geneticist Peter Byers of the University in Washington, Seattle, because the children will otherwise need multiple, risky surgeries as they outgrow initial aortic replacements.

    Dietz says NIH is also finalizing plans to enroll 700 to 1000 people with Marfan syndrome, ranging from 6 months to 25 years old, in a trial coordinated by a multicenter group called the Pediatric Heart Network. Patients will receive either losartan or a beta blocker. Byers notes that the “striking” mouse results could make it difficult to recruit patients into a trial in which they may not receive losartan.

    Meanwhile, Dietz and his colleagues are looking into whether losartan can treat additional conditions associated with aortic aneurysms. “I think you are going to see this [drug] extended across diseases that are TGF-β-related,” predicts Chien.


    Cleaning Up the Paper Trail

    1. Jennifer Couzin,
    2. Katherine Unger

    Once an investigation is completed and the publicity dies down, what happens to fraudulent or suspect papers? In many cases, not much

    What now?

    Several papers by Korean cloner Woo Suk Hwang and his team have already been retracted, but who will validate or remove the rest?


    Last October, after a 14-month investigation, immunologist Luk van Parijs was fired from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge. The school alleged that he had confessed to faking data in one published paper, several unpublished manuscripts, and grant applications.

    Van Parijs's academic future may be shot to pieces. But his scientific past, so far, is intact: roughly 40 papers stretching back to 1994, many of them in the blossoming field of RNA interference. None has yet been publicly labeled fraudulent or retracted. MIT has not said which paper it found to be problematic. Other investigations are continuing.

    “One of the biggest problems in these fraud things,” says Kathleen Case, publisher at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is that “the investigations get finished, the wrist-slapping [ensues]. And the last thing people think of is the journals.” AACR publications ran three of van Parijs's papers.

    An examination by Science of more than a dozen fraud or suspected fraud cases spanning 20 years reveals uneven and often chaotic efforts to correct the scientific literature. Every case has its own peculiarities. Whether wayward authors confess to fraud; whether investigations are launched at all, and if they are, whether their scope is broad or narrow; whether fraud findings are clearly communicated to journals—each of these helps determine how thorough a mop-up ensues.

    Large-scale fraud cases are rare. But scientists whose work is challenged have often co-authored dozens or even hundreds of papers. How their legacy is handled may determine whether work by innocent co-authors, particularly young scientists, is wrongly tainted. But debates rage over how comprehensive fraud investigations need to be—whether, for example, they ought to examine a scientist's entire body of work regardless of expense.

    And then there are the journals, keepers of the historical record. Journal editors often stress—and universities and funders agree—that publications are in no position to investigate fraud. The burden, they say, should be on institutions and funding agencies; they have the money and staff to convene sweeping inquiries and demand raw data. Traditionally, journals wait for the results of inquiries to steer decisions on problem papers. Some act only if a retraction has been requested by a paper's authors—preferably all of them. But authors accused or suspected of fraud often don't agree to a retraction. Editors must then make a potentially career-wrecking decision, with varying degrees of guidance.

    Even papers that investigators have found fraudulent can linger in the scientific record for years. In one case, findings of a fraud investigation in Germany were not translated into English. In another, some journals declined to correct obesity papers that a U.S. agency's exhaustive inquiry had deemed partly fake.

    Fear of being sued lies behind inaction in some cases, especially when there has been no clear-cut finding of fraud. Some journals, however, are becoming more assertive, contacting investigators and settling on their own middle ground in nebulous cases. “All the participants are making up the rules as we go along,” says Barbara Cohen, executive editor of the Public Library of Science (PLoS) Publications.

    Mopping up

    A researcher is found guilty of fraud. A black mark is splashed across certain published papers, and it's recommended that they be withdrawn. What happens next?

    “The responsibility is very much on the shoulders of those who know [of fraud] to correct the record as speedily as possible,” says Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. In the mid-1990s, one of his graduate students, Amitav Hajra, confessed to faking data on leukemia projects. In that case, all the authors requested that three papers be retracted and two others corrected. The journals responded within months.

    For the journals, a confession followed by author unanimity to pull a paper is a best-case scenario. “The official rule for journals is that the authors must do the retracting,” says AACR's Case. A retraction on these terms sharply reduces the legal risk that journals will be accused of tainting a scientist's reputation by retracting a paper without his or her consent.

    What to do when an alleged fraudster doesn't confess is fuzzier. “More and more, … the authors dig in their heels and try to salvage some of their reputation,” says Case. When this happens, journals often rely on the findings of investigators.

    And here, they often hesitate.

    Last March, for example, the Office of Research Integrity (ORI), which was formed in 1989 to investigate misconduct cases involving funds from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and certain other federal agencies, broke bad news to 10 publications: a paper they had published was fraudulent.

    The news was not wholly unexpected. Eric Poehlman, an obesity and aging researcher at the University of Vermont in Burlington, had left the school after a whistleblower brought concerns of research inconsistencies to university officials. ORI oversaw its biggest inquiry ever, covering 10 papers co-authored by Poehlman and 15 of his NIH grant applications. All 10 papers, they determined, contained fabricated data and ought to be retracted or corrected.

    An ORI finding, many journal editors say, gives publications ironclad backing to withdraw a paper even if an author doesn't cooperate. But ORI officials weren't happy with the journals' response in the Poehlman case. By last September, 6 months after the office issued its report, six of 10 journals had published retractions or corrections, supplied by Poehlman as part of his agreement with government officials. Two more followed. But two journals have not acted at all, according to ORI officials and journal records. (Poehlman has pleaded guilty to making false statements on a federal grant application and is awaiting sentencing.)

    The spotty response in the Poehlman case echoes another from 2 decades ago. In the mid-1980s, Paul Friedman, a radiologist and then-associate dean of the University of California, San Diego, spent 15 months overseeing an investigation of 135 publications by a colleague, Robert Slutsky, who was accused of widespread fraud. Of the 60 publications judged fraudulent or questionable, Science found retractions for 18. “The journals responded very variably,” says Friedman.

    Journal editors, however, say the situation is rarely black and white. In the Poehlman case, the two journals that haven't carried out ORI's recommendations are outside the United States. Their editors may be less familiar with ORI, although ORI officials have no evidence that this explains their inaction.

    Lengthy inquiries and garbled communication can also complicate removing tainted papers. Both were on vivid display in the case of cancer specialist Friedhelm Herrmann, who worked in Berlin, Freiburg, and Ulm, Germany.


    In 1998, Ulf Rapp, a cancer researcher at the University of Würzburg in Germany agreed, with some trepidation, to lead an inquiry into Herrmann's work set up by the DFG, Germany's main science funding agency. Rapp and his helpers painstakingly examined hundreds of autoradiograms, images that reflect RNA and protein production. In paper after paper, they uncovered autoradiograms that had been manipulated, flipped upside down, or recycled from earlier experiments. The investigators identified 29 “falsification-beset” publications; 28, they concluded, “should be withdrawn,” and in one case, a correction “would be sufficient.” Another 65, nine of them book chapters, were deemed “strongly suspicious.”

    The investigation took more than 2 years, during which editors came and went at many journals. “What may have been on one person's radar isn't going to show up on another person's,” says John Hawley, executive director of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, which publishes the Journal of Clinical Investigation. JCI issued four retractions of articles co-authored by Herrmann, but three appeared in 2003, years after retractions elsewhere. (The fourth was retracted in 1998 at the behest of two authors.) JCI, says Hawley, was unaware that some other journals were retracting Herrmann's work. “But of course,” he says, “we will become aware of something eventually.”

    In the Herrmann case, the DFG notified some journals directly, says DFG spokesperson Eva-Maria Streier, although none with whom Science spoke could recall having heard from the agency. The DFG “got cold feet,” says Rapp, because Herrmann vigorously denied fraud and threatened to sue. The DFG posted Rapp's report on its Web site, but, Rapp recalls, it wasn't easy to find there.

    Streier responds that the DFG distributed the report at a press conference and posted it online. The list of papers was in English, she says, although she acknowledges that blurbs summarizing the fraud status of those publications went untranslated.

    At the journals, the result was chaos. AACR journals had published six papers co-authored by Herrmann that Rapp's inquiry deemed fraudulent or suspicious. Case, who never saw the DFG report, contacted Rapp. He recommended the papers be withdrawn. But “this is one guy saying you probably should,” says Case. All six papers are still in the literature.

    “I think we got a preliminary report … that was written in German” but couldn't glean a clear message from it, says Richard Dodenhoff, journals director of the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, which publishes Molecular Pharmacology. Like other editors, he says he traditionally waits for guidance from investigators. “Normally, we rely on some official body to tell us that there's something wrong,” says Dodenhoff, adding that the journal was never informed that its papers should be pulled. The journal has three publications on the “falsification-beset” list and one on the “strongly suspicious” list. None was retracted.

    Other journals reacted differently. Blood, a popular venue of Herrmann's, was well aware of the investigation early on. The editor at the time, Kenneth Kaushansky, a hematologist at the University of California, San Diego, retracted eight articles by Herrmann, all of those it knew to be problematic, over protests from the journal's attorney that the corresponding author—in several cases, Herrmann himself—had not given permission.

    Finally, fraud investigators propose another reason why journals sometimes might be reluctant to pull a paper: Retractions may rank low on the priority scale and can breed bad blood between the journal and researchers. They can also reflect poorly on a publication. “You don't want to make waves,” says Friedman. The journals with which he corresponded in the Slutsky case ranged from pleasantly collegial to downright defensive.

    Rapp's contact with the journals left a bitter taste in his mouth. Most ignored his notes and faxes, he says, or “wrote back very nasty letters.” Several, he says, remained determined to get permission from every author on the paper. The reaction “did surprise me. … It seemed to me we were helping those guys. They had a rotten egg in their basket. We gave them a chance to clear it up.”

    Casting the net

    If a critical question for journals is whether to retract papers, the typical bind for investigators is how wide a net to cast after a paper is alleged to be fraudulent. The spectrum of opinions here is vast. An investigation's breadth lays the groundwork for how much might be corrected, and how much collateral damage—papers by a suspect researcher left unexamined by investigators—will remain.

    Some investigators are driven by sheer curiosity and a desire to get at the truth. Uncovering some fraud leaves the nagging question: “You wonder, is any of his previous work, and there was a lot of it, invalid?” says Friedman, explaining the investigation of Slutsky, which examined every one of the radiologist's papers.

    But is it worth parsing a 10- or 20-year-old paper when this saps time and money from university faculty members, government officials, and journal editors? Some scientists and journals favor digging into every paper by a known or suspected fraudster, whereas others believe that narrower inquiries suffice. Often, there is no easy way to measure the value of catching fakery in the scientific literature.

    For people like Steven Shirey, that value is incalculable. Last July, the Washington, D.C., geologist had a 2-cm by 2-cm square of skin excised from his tongue. The experience was traumatic enough, but Shirey felt he had no choice: Genetic testing had revealed that a lesion found there was aneuploid, meaning it had an abnormal number of chromosomes. A Norwegian oncologist, Jon Sudbø of the University of Oslo, had found that 84% of people with aneuploid lesions go on to develop a deadly form of oral cancer. The work appeared in 2001 and 2004 in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

    “Based on Sudbø's article, I thought I had a death sentence,” Shirey says, adding that he would have signed up for a preventive chemotherapy trial had one been available.

    In January, after a whistleblower raised questions about data in a recently published Lancet paper, Sudbø admitted through his attorney to faking signature findings on aneuploid lesions in the 2004 NEJM paper. The 2001 paper is under suspicion after journal editors found that it contains a pair of duplicate images. Anders Ekbom, a surgeon at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, is leading an investigation into all of Sudbø's 38 research papers. He hopes to complete it later this spring.

    Shirey knows now that one of the publications that guided him as a patient contained faked data (although its conclusions may turn out to be correct). But his story is a cautionary tale of the devastating impact fraudulent findings can have. Of all types of fraud, fakery in clinical research tends to engender the greatest sense of urgency among universities and investigators. In its breadth, the Sudbø inquiry mirrors unusually comprehensive inquiries in two other fraud cases, those of Herrmann and Poehlman. All encompass clinical research that can directly affect patients—and in some instances, already has.

    Even in cases like these, though, there's disagreement over the hours, money, and sweat worth pouring into an investigation. ORI prefers extensive inquiries and frequently prods institutions to expand them, says Alan Price, ORI's associate director for investigative oversight. But there comes a point at which even ORI feels it has to stop. Investigating 100 papers “is a horrendous investment,” says Price. The inquiry into 10 papers and 15 grant applications of Poehlman's took the better part of 2 years. Poehlman's name is on 204 papers in all. “At some point,” says Price, “you have to say, ‘Maybe this implies that his work cannot be trusted.’”

    But Poehlman's employer, the University of Vermont College of Medicine, isn't satisfied. After ORI's findings on Poehlman were released a year ago, “we were left with nothing said about the vast majority of his 200-odd papers,” says Russell Tracy, senior associate dean for research and academic affairs. The school, says Tracy, felt an obligation to those who participated in Poehlman's menopause studies, “and responsibility to the people of the country whose clinical care might be impacted.” Pressed in part by faculty members whose names appear on papers alongside Poehlman's, Vermont is asking geographically dispersed co-authors whether they can vouch for the data in an additional 125 papers or so—all those published since 1995.

    The investigation into Herrmann and his colleagues, who had published many studies of drug effects on cancer cells, was even more exhaustive. DFG asked Rapp to examine more than 600 publications. Herrmann was a co-author on 347 of them. “My main goal was to clear up the literature—that's a community service,” says Rapp. The work with clinical implications left him especially queasy. “Just imagine someone in New Zealand reads this paper and says, ‘That's cool, I can do this with my patients,'” says Rapp.

    In other fields, investigators may worry less about dissecting a scientist's multiyear oeuvre. The name of Jan Hendrik Schön, a Bell Labs physicist at the center of one of the most notorious fraud cases in the physics world, appeared on more than 90 papers. After whistleblowers alerted Bell Labs in the spring of 2002 to an identical figure in two papers, Bell Labs launched an investigation. But it chose to examine only papers about which concerns were being raised, 25 in all.

    “Our committee was put together to investigate allegations of scientific misconduct, not to go look for it,” says Malcolm Beasley, a physicist at Stanford University in California who headed the 4-month inquiry. That arrangement was driven in part by the numbers of co-authors involved. Bell Labs was also under heavy pressure to assess Schön's fakery quickly. Beasley's committee found that 17 papers contained fake data; all were retracted, along with an additional 14 that had been based on the suspect work.

    Both Beasley and Lydia Sohn, one of the Bell Labs whistleblowers who is now at the University of California, Berkeley, believe that because so many of the papers examined were fraudulent, the rest can safely be considered tainted. “The burden of proof shifts under these circumstances,” says Beasley. Adds Sohn: “Pretty much people have written off” anything by Schön.


    “Over some measure of time, the community … has a way of self-correcting,” agrees Samuel Kaplan, a microbiologist at the University of Texas, Houston, and chair of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) publications board. ASM journals published one paper by Herrmann, one by MIT's van Parijs, and one by Hajra, Collins's student. (The latter's work was retracted.) Referring generally to older and clearly fraudulent research and speaking for himself, Kaplan argues that “if those papers are hanging out there, they're probably not going to do any harm. We could go ahead and say in a journal in 2006, a paper published in 1997 is suspect—but no one's going to do that.”

    Collateral damage

    Between clear fraud and clean data lies a vast sea of gray. Inevitably, investigators label some papers “suspicious” but not definitively fake. University investigations fail to confirm fraud without ruling it out. Some fraud inquiries sought by worried journals never launch.

    “We don't condemn people for crimes that we couldn't prove,” says PLoS's Cohen, pointing out the difficulties of retracting a suspect article. But at the same time, suspicions of fraud that are never established put journals in an uncomfortable position. These uncertainties are “the Achilles' heel of the process,” says Kaplan, and no one seems to know how to handle them.

    Legal concerns weigh heavily. “I have not seen actual litigation, but I have seen threats of it,” says Debra Parrish, an attorney at Parrish Law Offices in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Threats are sometimes enough to discourage journals from taking action. Dodenhoff, who oversees Molecular Pharmacology, recalls an instance when the journal stepped away from alerting readers to suspicious findings for fear of a lawsuit. “We're fairly small, we don't have a lot of money, and frankly we backed off,” he says.

    Attorneys say that journals' legal fears are sometimes overblown. “If there has been a complete due process investigation, … a journal can rely on a report,” says Barbara Mishkin, a partner at Hogan & Hartson in Washington, D.C. But retractions in suspicious cases are “going to be a close call for the journal editor,” she says. In theory, publications could be sued for libel or defamation, explains Mishkin, or even contract interference, if the retraction torpedoes a scientist's chance for a job for which he'd been under consideration.

    Occasionally, journals take calculated risks, retracting a paper even absent misconduct findings or author unanimity. In late 2004, Cell and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) retracted papers co-authored by Meena Chandok, a plant biologist who had been working at the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) for Plant Research in Ithaca, New York. According to a lawsuit later filed by Chandok, her supervisor, Daniel Klessig, “accused her of falsifying her research data” and requested the retractions. BTI also began conducting an investigation.

    PNAS's executive editor, Diane Sullenberger, said in an e-mail message that the journal attempted to get all the authors to agree to the retraction but couldn't locate Chandok. It pulled the paper anyway. The retraction mentioned that Chandok had not signed off on it, a stance Sullenberger says the journal felt comfortable with.

    In the end, BTI's president David Stern said in a memorandum, the allegation was “not substantiated,” although he noted “numerous disputes on factual issues.” Chandok sued Klessig last August for defamation that her lawsuit claims has “significantly damaged” her scientific reputation. The journals were not included in the suit.

    If the authors don't initiate retractions, publications usually wait for the findings of an investigation before assessing their options. Doing otherwise carries grave risks, editors believe. “Our lawyers have told us that we [would be] wide open for a lawsuit,” says Kaplan.

    But what happens when an investigation doesn't cover a particular journal's papers, or isn't undertaken at all? Since stem cell scientist Woo Suk Hwang, formerly of Seoul National University, was accused last fall of one of the most brazen frauds in recent memory, multiple investigations have swung into gear in South Korea and the United States. It's not yet clear how many of the dozens of papers by Hwang and his collaborators at MizMedi Hospital and Hanyang University in Seoul the investigators will be examining.

    That's prompting some editors to take matters into their own hands. At Stem Cells, executive editor Martin Murphy is angst-ridden over a paper the journal published in 2004, whose nine authors include seven Hwang collaborators. Desperate to learn whether the paper is fraudulent, he has contacted officials at Seoul National University, MizMedi Hospital, Hanyang University, and the University of Pittsburgh, where two of the scientists had been working. No Korean investigation has scrutinized the paper. A Pittsburgh dean, he says, told him that “since no one was of employ at Pittsburgh at the time the papers were published, it's outside our review.”

    Murphy's concern is twofold: correcting the literature in his journal, and shielding the innocent. “You really have to protect those folks who were swept along,” he says. Unable to identify the blameless, Stem Cells has for now banned articles by any of the nine authors. On 2 April, Stem Cells issued an editorial retraction of the paper.

    Sometimes investigations simply don't happen or quickly peter out. “Papers from outside Northern Europe, Australia, North America, some countries where regulatory bodies are extremely reluctant to get involved, we usually have to give up in the end,” says Harvey Marcovitch, chair of the Committee on Publication Ethics, a U.K. group that advises journals on ethics matters. Geographic patterns aside, this can happen anywhere.

    In 2000, for example, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) rejected a paper by Ranjit Kumar Chandra, a nutrition researcher then at Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada. The work examined how a multivitamin improved the memory of older individuals. But a BMJreviewer had concerns about its statistical analyses, says Richard Smith, then the journal's editor. Concerned, Smith contacted Memorial.

    Unbeknown to him, the university had been handling complaints against Chandra since the early 1990s, according to a statement now posted on its Web site. But “repeatedly Dr. Chandra avoided fulfilling” the university's requests for his data, the statement notes, at one point claiming “that the data had been stolen.” Christopher Loomis, vice president of research at Memorial, says that absent Chandra's cooperation, the school couldn't reach a definitive outcome. “We ended up with a ‘he said, she said’ situation,” he says.

    Meanwhile, in 2001 Chandra published in Nutrition the paper originally submitted to BMJ, says Smith, who contacted Michael Meguid, the journal's editor, to let him know. Nutrition took the rare step of launching its own investigation, says Meguid. Meguid asked outside scientists to examine the study's data, and in 2005 the paper was retracted. The Nutrition retraction notice described statistical concerns and added that “Chandra failed to declare that he … has a financial stake” in a vitamin supplement formula the study was testing.


    Chandra has published some 200 articles in a career that dates back more than 30 years. The Nutrition paper was the only one for which Science found a retraction.

    In general, in the absence of firm investigative findings or unanimous author requests for a retraction, journals do not retract a paper. Increasingly, however, they are seeking a middle ground to accommodate the fuzziness they keep encountering. The “Expression of Concern,” an editorial acknowledging worries about a paper without formally pulling it, has been popping up more and more. In the Sudbø case, for example, The New England Journal of Medicine quickly published an expression of concern about the aneuploid papers after noting duplicate images in one, although Sudbø had not personally and publicly confessed to faking them and the investigation was just beginning.

    A creative approach was taken by a senior scientist trying to clear his name after the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, Germany, concluded that his lab technician had falsified experiments. In 1999, plant biologist Jeff Schell of Max Planck published a paper in The Plant Journal detailing eight papers co-authored by the technician that he and his colleagues stated could not be replicated. Two other papers on which the technician was an author had already been retracted.

    Schell's paper was handled delicately by the journal and published like any other new finding, says Irene Hames, now managing editor of The Plant Journal. As a condition of publication, Schell sent letters of correction to each of the journals that had run the articles in question. “I think the journal is the primary point of enforcement” against fraud, says Harry Klee, The Plant Journal's current editor. “In the end, it's our process that got that work into publication.”

    But that attitude doesn't seem to be widely shared. Eight years after undertaking his mammoth investigation of Herrmann, Rapp's tone is flat and dispirited. “It was a waste of time,” he says now. Science found that just 13 of the 29 “falsification-beset” papers were retracted. Six others in the suspect category, out of 56 papers, were also pulled, and two corrected. Problematic papers identified by Rapp's investigation still litter the scientific record. Their influence on ongoing research is anyone's guess.


    Even Retracted Papers Endure

    1. Katherine Unger,
    2. Jennifer Couzin

    Like ghosts riffling the pages of journals, retracted papers live on. Using Thomson Scientific's ISI Web of Knowledge and Google Scholar, Science found dozens of citations of retracted papers in fields from physics to cancer research to plant biology.

    Seventeen of 19 retracted papers co-authored by German cancer researcher Friedhelm Herrmann have been cited since being retracted, in some cases nearly a decade after they were pulled. Together, two of those papers were cited roughly 60 times. Examination of one Nature paper by former Bell Labs physicist Jan Hendrik Schön, published in 2000 and retracted in 2003, revealed that it's been noted in research papers 17 times since, although the drop-off after retraction was steep: Prior to being pulled, the paper was cited 153 times.


    This Science paper was retracted nearly 7 years ago, but that hasn't stopped other researchers from citing it.


    It's “quite embarrassing,” says Richard Smith, former editor of the British Medical Journal, of references to retracted publications. “If people cite fraudulent articles, then either their research is going to be thrown off or something will be wasted,” says Paul Friedman, a former dean at the University of California, San Diego, who oversaw an investigation into papers by radiologist Robert Slutsky in the mid-1980s.

    In some cases, citations are “negative”: The paper is cited precisely because it was retracted, and the retraction duly noted in the text. But those familiar with postretraction citation consider that rare. “It almost never happens,” says Drummond Rennie, a deputy editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Spot checks of 10 papers that cite withdrawn publications found no negative citations.

    Instead, scientists often don't know that the work they are citing has been retracted. Lon Kaufman, a cell biologist at the University of Illinois, Chicago, was surprised to learn from Science that his 1999 article in The Plant Journal cited a Nature paper retracted the year before by its authors.

    In 2003, immunologist Michael Croft of the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology in San Diego, California, published an article in Nature Reviews Immunology. Unbeknown to him, his references included a paper co-authored by Herrmann that was retracted in 1997; it had appeared in 1996 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). “I actually had no idea that paper had been retracted,” says Croft.

    Although the Internet has made it easy to link retractions to articles, “if something has been published in a paper journal and been bound, and then retracted later, no one's going to know,” says Science Editor-in-Chief Donald Kennedy. And even online retraction notices don't always get picked up. Croft, for example, says he had overlooked the retraction notice tacked to Herrmann's PNAS paper online.

    An online retraction notice probably wouldn't have helped biochemist Hans Vogel of the University of Calgary in Alberta. Vogel says he was “unnerved” to learn from Science that his 2005 Biochemistry article cited a paper that had been retracted from Cell 4 months earlier. Although Vogel's paper was submitted before Cell issued its retraction, he says, “I would have probably cited it again.” Like many scientists, Vogel keeps records of papers he's cited in a personal electronic reference manager, and it's not updated to include retractions.

    Vogel suggests that journals should play a more active role in purging the literature of retracted data. When they publish a retraction, he believes, they should alert those who previously cited the work. But journal editors say they don't have the resources to prevent retracted papers from enduring. Checking every citation in submitted papers, for example, “would be beyond our means,” says Richard Dodenhoff, journals director of the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, which publishes five scientific journals. “We don't look up every reference, and I know our reviewers don't” either. Still, reviewers intimately familiar with a given field “ought to recognize a name that's suspicious” in a citation, says Friedman.

    Publicity may be among the best tools to keep the lid on retracted papers. In her 2005 master's thesis tracing retracted publications, librarian Mary Gabehart, now at Cato Research in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, measured a gradual drop in citations after a 2000 Schön paper from Science was retracted in 2002. (The paper has been cited 25 times since.) In contrast, Science found that a 1996 paper co-authored by Inge Czaja retracted from the journal in 1999 with less publicity garnered roughly 46 citations after it was pulled (out of about 112 in all). “The less media coverage it receives,” says Gabehart, “the more likely it [is] to continue to be cited.”


    NSF Board Wades Into Swirling Debate on School Reform

    1. Jeffrey Mervis

    A new commission hopes to point the way toward helping U.S. students do better in science and math

    What ails U.S. science and mathematics education? The candidates include teachers who don't know the subject matter, lousy textbooks, a badly designed curriculum, low expectations by educators and parents, an outmoded school calendar, and the debilitating effects of poverty and race.

    These causes, and many more, have been offered up over the years in innumerable reports to explain U.S. students' dismal showings on international tests. So why did a presidentially appointed oversight body for the National Science Foundation (NSF), whose responsibilities include improving science and math education at all levels, decide last week to take another bite at this well-chewed apple?

    School's in.

    Legislators heard last week about reforming K-12 science and math education from five Administration witnesses: (from left) Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, NSF's Arden Bement, NASA's Shannon Dale, NOAA's John Kelly, and Energy's James Decker.


    “We decided that someone needs to look at what's feasible, what's affordable, and what's politically acceptable,” says Purdue University president emeritus Steven Beering. A member of the National Science Board, Beering chaired a trio of recent hearings leading up to the board's decision to form a blue-ribbon panel on improving student achievement at the elementary, secondary, and undergraduate levels (

    Agreeing that the country doesn't need “one more report on the problem,” board chair Warren Washington says that he hopes the 15-member commission, to be appointed by mid-May, will instead produce an “action plan” covering needed improvements in curricula, teacher training, and evaluation. It will also describe the appropriate role for NSF and its $800-million-a-year Education and Human Resources (EHR) directorate.

    Whatever they conclude, says Washington, panel members will also need to sell their advice. Federal intervention in what is traditionally the purview of local and state governments is often controversial, and the panel's recommendations could also bump up against provisions of President George W. Bush's signature No Child Left Behind (NCLB) education program. For example, NCLB penalizes schools whose students don't continue to improve on annual math and reading tests (a science test will be added in 2008) but leaves it up to states and local districts to devise standards for measuring that progress. In addition, critics say the law has been severely underfunded.

    Beering, the odds-on favorite to be chair, would like the panel to tackle incendiary topics such as differential pay for science and math teachers, a year-round school calendar, and standard curricula. He's also anguished by the yawning achievement gap between schools in rich and poor neighborhoods. “We need a dialogue on these and other issues,” he says. “The problem is so enormous, and it's going to take significantly more resources. At the same time, there's a lot we can do without additional investment.”

    There is no shortage of efforts already under way. In fact, the White House has implied that that could be part of the problem. Last month, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings convened the first meeting of a cross-agency panel examining what the Administration calculates are 207 education programs spending $2.8 billion a year to improve math and science education, half of which have budgets less than $1 million. The group will compile an inventory on the way to determining what programs are effective and, thus, deserving of continued support. At the same time, her department is poised to begin a review of precollege math curricula and teaching with the hope of funneling $250 million next year into elementary and middle schools that use high-quality materials and proven training methods.

    Coincidentally, last week also featured a first-ever gathering before the House Science Committee of Spellings, NSF Director Arden Bement, and officials from three other science agencies—NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Department of Energy. The quintet discussed efforts to improve precollege science and math education. Not surprisingly, the Administration officials and legislators agreed more on the severity of the problem than on how to solve it.

    One point of contention is the educational component of Bush's proposed American Competitiveness Initiative (Science, 17 February, p. 929). Spellings defended the decision in Bush's 2007 budget request to give her department the entire $390 million. Two good ways to improve the quality of secondary school teaching, she added, would be to prepare more people to teach advanced-placement courses and to recruit scientists and engineers from high-tech companies and the military.

    But both the committee chair, Representative Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), and ranking minority member, Representative Bart Gordon (D-TN), took the Administration to task for not giving NSF a major role. In addition, Gordon questioned why 70% of the initiative would be spent on elementary and middle school math materials when there are so many other areas of great need. In particular, Gordon cited a warning to the panel last month from 2001 Nobelist Carl Wieman, who has focused on improving undergraduate physics education, that “unless you improve science education at the college level, you are wasting your time and money on trying to make major improvements in K-12.”

    These and other issues are exactly why Boehlert had urged the science board to keep its focus on NSF. “We're afraid that they will give short shrift to [reviewing] the adequacy of NSF's programs,” says David Goldston, the House committee's chief of staff. “Given the anemic state of EHR's budget, there's a real question of whether NSF's programs will grow or wither away. And if NSF gets caught up in a controversy surrounding one of the panel's recommendations, then so much the worse.”

    Washington says that it's impossible to separate NSF's role from the larger issues. He also believes that the panel needs to take a national view to influence legislators and the White House. He hopes the panel will issue a report within a year of its first meeting.


    Qatar Taps Wells of Knowledge

    1. Lone Frank*
    1. Lone Frank is a science writer and author in Copenhagen.

    This small Persian Gulf emirate is preparing for life after oil and gas by pouring wealth into education and research


    With the help of government grants, Western universities have raised their tents in Qatar's desert.


    DOHA, QATAR—On this sun-scorched campus, the range of architectural styles is extreme: from futuristic rectangles surrounding a giant egg to a more traditional earth-toned arabesque building. Prominent signs indicate the presence of educational heavyweights, including Weill Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, and Texas A&M. From the pale, sandy ground and barren landscape, this could be any number of places in the southwestern United States. But it isn't. This unusual gathering of American academic muscle is on the shores of the Persian Gulf.

    Welcome to Education City. This 1000-hectare international campus outside Doha is the centerpiece of Qatar's ambition to become the brainy hub of the Gulf region. The small emirate—home to just 800,000—is sitting atop the world's third largest natural gas reserve, and while the money keeps flowing, it hopes to reinvent itself as a knowledge economy. “What we have here is unique,” says Egyptian-born Ahmed Zewail, a professor at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and 1999 chemistry Nobelist who is advising the efforts in Qatar. “They are overhauling the educational system from bottom to top,” not to copy the West, he says, but “to find a model suited to the country.”

    Qatar is not the only Gulf state to realize that one day the oil will run out and that education may be the key to prosperity when it does. The emir of Sharjah, part of the United Arab Emirates, recently injected millions of dollars into local universities and tried to create a research foundation (Science, 5 December 2003, p. 1652). And just weeks ago, Dubai announced the opening of a branch campus of Canada's University of New Brunswick. However, Qatar is aiming to reform education from first grade to Ph.D. level, and with spending in the billions, its efforts dwarf other initiatives in dollar terms. Lars Erslev Andersen, a Middle East scholar at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, characterizes Qatar's efforts as “the region's most ambitious, far-reaching, and focused.”

    It's not just the money that makes world-class institutions set up shop so far from home but an urge to spread American academic values. “This has never been done [by a U.S. medical school],” says Daniel Alonso, dean of the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar. “Bringing our standards and degrees abroad is challenging, and by coming to the Gulf, we engage in what I'd call educational diplomacy.”

    Cultural revolution

    To transform Qatar is the grand vision of its emir, Hammad bin Khalifa Al-Thani. After seizing power from his father in a bloodless coup in 1995, Sheikh Hammad began a modernization drive that included the creation of the independent Qatar Foundation for Education, Science, and Community Development, with an endowment reputed to be in the billions of dollars. It is run by the emir's wife, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al-Misnad.

    One of the foundation's chief beneficiaries, Education City, is a work in progress. Three years after the official launch, three-quarters of the planned buildings are still taking shape amid a forest of cranes. In its final incarnation, the now-dusty campus will boast green lawns, palm trees, student housing, cafés, and shops. The foundation has attracted some top-flight U.S. universities to set up shop here by offering to pay for all buildings, overheads, and staff salaries. Student fees go straight into the universities' coffers back home. Today, there are only 500 students at Education City, 60% Qatari nationals and the rest recruited mainly from Arab countries. The plan is to enroll a broad international crowd of 8000.

    Qatar is “undergoing a cultural revolution,” says geologist Saif Al-Hajari, vice chair of Qatar Foundation. “We cannot live in a closed world but must invite a mixture of cultures, nationalities, and ideas.” Mohammad Hassan, director of the Third World Academy of Sciences in Trieste, Italy, agrees: “Embracing globalization and emphasizing quality in education is critical to development in the Arab world but so far lacking.” If Qatar's experience is positive, he thinks the initiatives will inspire governments around the region.

    The revolution begins in Qatar's primary and secondary schools, which have begun to dispense with traditional rote learning, Al-Hajari reports, replacing it with curricula designed to stimulate creative and independent thinking. And it extends to Qatar University, which was founded in 1977 and is independent of Education City. In 2003, the emir appointed Sheikha Abdulla Al-Misnad, an educationalist trained at the University of Durham in the U.K., as president. Her mandate is to turn what she calls a “typical Third World institution” into a modern and competitive university.

    According to Al-Misnad, wealthy Gulf societies have fostered a “culture of entitlement” among young people: “Students feel they have a right to a degree whether they qualify for university or not.” Al-Misnad has set about upgrading the university's six colleges to qualify for international accreditation and has applied quality control and accountability to all levels of the institution.

    Women to the fore

    This overhaul of Qatar University has had an unexpected side effect: Three-quarters of the students accepted for admission are now female. Although this may seem a triumph in a region where higher education is often out of bounds for women, Al-Misnad sees a potential backlash if future generations of men are not as well educated as women. She has launched a study into how young and restless Qatari men can be motivated to take up higher learning. It may not be easy, suggests one student, who asked to remain anonymous, from Georgetown University's outpost in Qatar. “After high school, most young men here just want to have fun and perhaps get a job to be independent. At 16, the girls are not allowed to do that. Their only option is to study,” he says.

    Because many girls are not allowed to go abroad alone to study, their best option for a first-class international education is Education City. Suresh Tate, who teaches biochemistry and basic science at Weill Cornell here, has been struck by the “tremendous enthusiasm and commitment of women students.” And Dean Charles Thorpe at Carnegie Mellon's facility reports that “academically, the women generally outdo the men.” According to 18-year-old Noor Al-Maadeed, who studies computer science at Carnegie Mellon: “New opportunities are opening up for women, and personally I want to work to help my country develop further.”

    Although students may be thriving academically, adapting to the ethos of American institutions has not been without problems. These are Qatar's first co-ed institutions, and this causes friction, as when students at the Texas A&M outpost recently asked for gender-segregated lounges. Dean Mike Kemp urged them to look over the horizon: “My answer was: We are trying to make them into engineers. Out there in the workplace, they can't control whether their colleagues are men or women.”

    Qataris have criticized Education City at times in the op-ed and letters pages of local newspapers. “Some believe we should develop local universities rather than import foreign ones,” says Abdulla Al-Thani, the Qatar Foundation's vice president for academic affairs. “This is a major cultural experiment, and changes toward more westernized norms cannot happen overnight,” says Texas A&M technical consultant Naguib Ktiri-Idrissi, adding that some students have told him that more conservative families are reluctant to send their children to Education City. Despite this, says economist Ibrahim Oweiss of the Georgetown facility, the modernizers are advancing. “The reforms taking place are radical and happening at a fast pace,” he says, but the “immense coherence” of Qatari society will enable it to absorb change.

    Icing on the cake

    In spite of the reservations, Education City is set to grow. The Qatar Foundation wants to add as many as four more branch campuses before the end of the decade and is holding talks with universities in Europe and Asia to provide selected programs. Beyond that, a leap into postgraduate study and genuine research is being planned. Abdulla Al-Thani regards this as “necessary to make the education drive sustainable and to develop home-grown knowledge industries.”

    Across cultures.

    Cornell University's Weill Medical College runs training programs in diabetes and others areas of local concern, and aims to lay the foundation for research careers.


    Arab countries do not, however, have a good track record in science, spending just 0.15% of gross domestic product—little more than a 10th of the global average—on research, according to United Nations figures. Qatar aims to buck the trend. Education City is equipped with teaching and lab facilities that would be the envy of most Western universities. At the branch campuses, research by faculty members is funded by the Qatar Foundation. The foundation will also launch a grant-giving fund this year, under the watchful eye of international peer review. In another initiative, Skeikha Mozah has dedicated the proceeds from an entire oil well—as much as $80 million per year—to research, creating a fund known as the Well of Knowledge.

    Research programs at the branch campuses have so far tended to align with Qatar's needs. Texas A&M is setting up joint research with the oil industry and studies related to clean air, while Weill Cornell will concentrate on biomedical projects relevant to local health problems. “With the world's third highest diabetes incidence, Qatar is well placed for diabetes research,” says Alonso. Further down the line he also has an eye on embryonic stem cell research—a no-go in New York but legal in Qatar.

    To accelerate the process, Alonso plans to bring interested scientists from Weill Cornell's New York base and recruit postdocs. For his part, Al-Thani hopes to lure back expatriate Arab scientists currently flourishing in the West. “Many diaspora researchers are interested in going back if the infrastructure is there,” says Hassan. To capitalize on the research, the Qatar Foundation is building the Qatar Science and Technology Park right next door to Education City. Already, big players in industrial R&D, including GE, Microsoft, and ExxonMobil, have signed up and are waiting to move in.

    But could Qatar—a country without the slightest research tradition—become the Singapore of the Arab world? “It's a possibility,” says Zewail. “But it's important to realize that great buildings and big budgets are not enough; the essential thing is a system that appreciates scientists.”


    Technique From Outer Space Takes On Earth Observation

    1. Daniel Clery

    By keeping a close eye on GPS satellites, a team of researchers hopes to measure atmospheric temperatures on the cheap

    Weather forecasting has come a long way since the era of dog-eared almanacs and barn-door barometers. Nowadays, numerical models running on the world's most powerful supercomputers crunch data from a host of sources that include ground-based weather stations, radar, aircraft, and satellites. But one key type of information—vertical profiles of how temperature, pressure, and water vapor vary through the atmosphere—is still gathered the same way it has been since the 1930s: with weather balloons.

    Locked on.

    Cosmic satellites (blue, right) track signals from GPS satellites (beige, right) and log how the atmosphere bends them (above)—data that reveal temperatures.


    Every day at noon and midnight, hundreds of them rise from stations around the globe bearing small instrument packages skyward. Each “radiosonde” beams down data as it climbs to an altitude of about 30 kilometers; then the balloon bursts, and the instruments parachute back to Earth. The system isn't perfect. The balloons fly only twice a day and are concentrated over the populated Northern Hemisphere. The oceans and the south are data deserts. It's wasteful, too. The U.S. National Weather Service estimates that of the 75,000 radiosondes it launches every year, 80% disappear without a trace. So far, however, no other data-gathering method can match their accuracy and vertical resolution. “Radiosondes are the gold standard,” says atmospheric physicist Sean Healy of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) in Reading, U.K.

    That may be about to change, thanks to six simple satellites collectively known as Cosmic, due for launch in mid-April. Each carries a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver, a communications link to the ground, and not much else. The receivers will lock onto transmissions from the U.S. Air Force's constellation of 24 GPS satellites and watch how the atmosphere bends the radio waves. From that information, each Cosmic spacecraft can get a vertical profile of the atmosphere's temperature, pressure, and water content above one spot on Earth's surface with surprising accuracy and vertical resolution. All together, the fleet will make 3000 “soundings” a day, evenly distributed across the globe.

    Cosmic is an academic research project largely financed by the Taiwanese space agency, but its proponents expect it to have a major impact on day-to-day weather forecasts: Meteorologists at the world's major weather agencies are poised to receive Cosmic's data. “It will be a major breakthrough in the science of climate, … [providing] a whole new scale of accuracy,” says atmospheric chemist James Anderson of Harvard University. Anderson likens current efforts to measure the state of the climate to trying to reconstruct a rugby game from five or six fuzzy photographs. Cosmic data will be like having “thousands of high-resolution pictures” of the match, he says.

    For atmospheric scientists used to large, expensive Earth-observation satellites operated by the likes of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and EUMETSAT, Europe's weather satellite operator, GPS sounding is an unknown quantity. “For most, it is still a strange idea from out in the wilderness,” says sounding pioneer Thomas Yunck of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. But he predicts Cosmic data will be “far beyond anything we have imagined” and will lead to a “major sea change in atmospheric sensing.” Healy agrees: “When people see the data and the quality of it, they will be won over.”

    From outer space

    The methods that Cosmic will use were first forged deep in space. In the early days of planetary exploration, researchers realized that as a spacecraft passed behind a planet during a flyby, the planet's atmosphere would briefly refract radio signals passing through it en route to Earth. In the early 1960s, teams at JPL and Stanford University worked out how to use the radio signals to deduce information about planetary atmospheres. The technique, dubbed radio occultation, made its debut when Mariner 4 visited Mars in 1965, and it has now probed the atmosphere of almost every planet in the solar system and many of their moons.

    Closer to home, however, radio occultation had a harder time finding a niche. Researchers weren't sure that the new technique would be more accurate than established methods for studying the atmosphere. What's more, to achieve global coverage, an occultation-based system would need a constellation of satellites transmitting radio signals—an unthinkably expensive proposition until the U.S. Air Force helpfully began lofting GPS satellites for navigation in the 1980s.

    In 1988, a team at JPL, including Yunck, won approval for a proposal to put GPS receivers for radio occultation onto all the craft of NASA's Earth Observing System and other satellites, but the plan fell victim to budget cuts. Researchers at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, had better luck with a National Science Foundation-funded project to launch a proof-of-principle receiver. The GPS/MET instrument took to the skies in 1995 aboard NASA's Microlab I satellite; it exceeded everyone's expectations. The experiment produced data for 2 years, and UCAR researchers achieved vertical resolution of 100 meters and temperature accuracy of better than a degree. “GPS/MET was a great success,” says Bill Kuo of UCAR, director of the Cosmic project. NASA then sponsored receivers to fly on the Danish Ørsted mission, South Africa's Sunsat, Argentina's SAC-C, and Germany's CHAMP.

    Watchful eyes.

    The six Taiwan-built Cosmic satellites will do the job of the hundreds of radiosonde weather balloons launched each day.


    CHAMP, which has operated in low Earth orbit continuously since 2000, gave researchers a chance to hone occultation into a precision instrument. To take a sounding, a GPS receiver on the satellite locks onto the signal from a GPS satellite descending toward the horizon. As it gets lower, the atmosphere bends the path of the signal and delays its progress, until the limb of Earth cuts it off altogether. The whole process takes between 1 and 2 minutes.

    CHAMP ignores the navigation information that the signal carries and just looks at the underlying radio wave. “The receiver counts cycles, looking for a Doppler shift in the frequency,” says JPL's Ian Harris, who worked on the Cosmic receivers. The shifts give the bending angles; from the angles, researchers can calculate the atmosphere's refractivity at each altitude. A computer model of the atmosphere can then work out a profile of temperature and water vapor from the refractivity. “There is real art and elaborate theory in extracting the data,” says Yunck.

    Despite the evidence that GPS sounding worked and produced valuable data, researchers found it hard to get backing for a constellation of craft to produce enough regular soundings for weather forecasters. “We tried to talk to U.S. agencies, but they were focused on big, established missions,” says Kuo. Many atmospheric scientists work for decades on large missions that cost $400 million apiece. A science-grade GPS receiver hardened for space, by contrast, costs only a few hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the whole of Cosmic costs $100 million. “Cheap sounding missions are potentially a threat, so the community is suspicious,” says Kuo.

    Kuo, who was born in Taiwan, discovered through his contacts there that Taiwan's fledgling National Space Organization was looking for projects to help build up the country's space industry. In 1997, a deal was signed in which Taiwan would assemble the Cosmic satellites with JPL-designed receivers, and UCAR would provide the ground processing and archiving. Taiwan is footing 80% of the bill.

    With funding from various U.S. agencies, UCAR has worked hard to streamline the processing so that the data can reach forecasters as soon as possible. With ground stations in Fairbanks, Alaska, and Kiruna, Sweden, each of the satellites can download data once per 100-minute orbit. Transfer to Boulder takes 5 minutes, and processing takes 10 to 15 minutes, so Kuo predicts that data can be in the hands of weather agencies on average 90 minutes after the sounding was made. The U.S. National Centers for Environmental Prediction, ECMWF, and the U.K. Met Office hope to start receiving the data a couple of months after Cosmic is launched. “Researchers love this stuff and are well prepared for the data,” says Yunck.

    Climatologists, too, are looking to GPS sounding for a solution to a long-standing problem in their field: getting consistent measures of the atmosphere. Over years and decades, instruments drift away from calibration, and new instruments may be biased differently from the ones they replace. Cosmic data don't have those problems, says Harvard's Anderson, because the frequencies the receivers record are basic measurements. “There are no fudge factors, no conversions,” Anderson says. “These very high accuracy global measures produce a climate record of Earth that is permanent and unequivocal.”

    If GPS sounding enthusiasts are right, soon the weather will hold fewer surprises, and climate researchers will be building up an accurate three-dimensional map of the atmosphere that will keep them busy for decades. Already, some are looking ahead to an expanded “Cosmic 2” constellation or to new efforts as other agencies jump on the bandwagon. “The success of Cosmic could stimulate a multisatellite mission in Europe,” says Jens Wickert of the CHAMP team at Germany's GFZ geosciences research center in Potsdam. In a possible sign of what's to come, EUMETSAT is putting a single GPS receiver on its Metop-2 satellite, due for launch in June. This will be the first truly operational radio-occultation receiver.

    Before fleets of other sounding spacecraft can take wing, however, Cosmic will have to show what can be done with a few simple satellites and some GPS receivers. JPL physicist James Zumberge, for one, is betting on the underdog. “Radio occultation has a bright future,” he says, “and Cosmic is the next step in that future.”

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