Science  21 Apr 2006:
Vol. 312, Issue 5772, pp. 349
  1. Anthros Happy: No Bones About It

    Because $4 million buys a lot of anthropology research, scientists are celebrating a grant of that size from the European Union to promote research into human origins and anatomical variation in primates. “It's the largest ever in Europe for a project centered mostly on paleoanthropology,” says Jean-Jacques Hublin of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, a member of the European Virtual Anthropology Network.

    The new consortium, launched last month at a meeting in Athens, Greece, will create more than 30 doctoral and postdoctoral positions at 15 participating institutions. The young scientists will learn the latest techniques in 3D imaging, computer modeling, and virtual reconstructions of humans, apes, and their ancestors (Science, 3 June 2005, p. 1404).

  2. Super-K A-OK

    Japan's Super-Kamiokande neutrino detector is back at full strength, 4.5 years after a shock wave triggered by the implosion of a damaged photomultiplier tube destroyed 7000 of its 11,000 sensors (Science, 23 November 2001, p. 1630). Super-Kamiokande made headlines in 1998 by providing evidence that neutrinos have mass, but manufacturing replacement photomultiplier tubes after the subsequent accident took a while. “There is still a lot of neutrino research to be done,” says Kamioka Observatory Director Yoichiro Suzuki.

  3. Postdocs off the Docket

    Two former postdocs at Harvard Medical School in Boston last week admitted that they took research material from their lab without permission, but charges against them were dropped as part of a deal with prosecutors.

    The saga began in early 2000, when Jiang Yu Zhu and his wife Kayoko Kimbara shipped reagents from Harvard to the University of Texas, San Antonio, where Zhu had been offered employment (Science, 28 June 2002, p. 2310). Researchers often transfer such materials when they change jobs, but the couple failed to seek permission from their professor, sparking a court case. Prosecutors initially alleged that the couple intended to use the reagents, used in organ-transplant research, to produce a commercial product. After a 2002 arrest, the pair pleaded not guilty. Under a deal with the government, the indictment will be dismissed in 1 year if the spair stays out of trouble.

  4. EPA Air Review Draws Fire

    Activists are criticizing a proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to speed up its regular review of air-quality standards. They fear that some of the changes would allow undue political influence on staff scientists who develop the standards.

    By law, EPA must revisit its National Ambient Air Quality Standards every 5 years. Staff scientists evaluate the latest research and propose ranges for new standards, which are then reviewed by the agency's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC). Because EPA regularly misses its deadline and gets sued, an internal EPA committee proposed several suggestions in April for speeding up the process. Among them, the panel called for “early involvement of EPA senior management and/or outside parties in the framing of policy-relevant issues.”

    That language set off “flashing red lights” for John Walke of the Natural Resources Defense Council, who worries about political interference. “The idea isn't to have the policy drive the science,” counters EPA chief scientist George Gray. Instead, he says, management and CASAC would help experts focus on the most relevant research. EPA is eager to act soon, but Gray says there will be opportunities for public comment.

  5. Nuke Tests Prove Critical Issue

    DELHI—Casting further doubts on the uncertain fate of a landmark nuclear pact, India has rebuffed a U.S. bid for India to forswear further atomic bomb tests.

    Under the deal last month, India agreed to place a majority of its power reactors under safeguards in exchange for the right to import nuclear energy technology (Science, 10 March, p. 1356). With approval required from legislators skeptical of the deal's nonproliferation merits, the U.S. government earlier this month sent India a draft agreement that includes a clause declaring an end of cooperation if India were to detonate a nuclear device. Although India has adhered to a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear tests since its last round of detonations in 1998, the government deemed the clause a poison pill.

    “There was no place for any such provision” in an agreement, says a spokesperson for India's Foreign Office. Negotiations are ongoing, with a team of senior U.S. officials expected in Delhi some time next week to continue talks.