Science  19 May 2006:
Vol. 312, Issue 5776, pp. 985

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  1. Exile for Export Rule Change

    1. Yudhijit Bhattacharjee

    Under pressure from researchers, the U.S. Commerce Department has retreated from new export-control rules that would have made it harder for nationals from some countries to do research in the United States. One year ago, the government proposed new rules on safeguarding sensitive technologies, one of which would have required schools to obtain export licenses before employing foreigners including Indians, Chinese, and Russians in certain projects. Universities argued that the rules were so onerous that they'd hinder research (Science, 13 May 2005, p. 938).

    Commerce now wants “to step back … and consider more broadly how best to balance national security with openness in research,” says Under Secretary of Commerce for Industry and Security David McCormick. Commerce is forming a committee to review the issue and report back within a year. Academics hope any new policies will address their concerns.

  2. Regrets Only

    1. Jocelyn Kaiser

    A going-away party for the director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has been postponed after questions of propriety arose. Andrew von Eschenbach, who is also acting chief of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and has been nominated to head the agency, was to be the subject of a 17 May reception and roast until The Cancer Letter questioned the invitation's statement that “gift contributions [are] also welcome.” Federal ethics rules bar gift solicitations for a superior; the National Institutes of Health makes an exception if the official has resigned, but von Eschenbach hasn't yet and also regulates NCI clinical trials at FDA. NCI says the event has been postponed, and “there will not be a gift.”

  3. Canada on Kyoto: What a Gas

    1. Paul Webster

    Two weeks after Canada's new Conservative government terminated a package of programs designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Canadian Environment Minister Rona Ambrose calls Canada's Kyoto Protocol commitments “unachievable.”

    In a formal submission to the United Nations last week, the government explained that energy-exporting countries such as Canada “provide other countries with opportunities to switch to cleaner sources of fuel.” Ambrose plans to unveil new emissions controls this fall, but activists say Ottawa is abdicating its responsibility.

  4. It's Unanimous: Patents Not Omnipotent

    1. Eli Kintisch

    Patent holders don't have an automatic right to shut down their competitors to protect their intellectual property rights, the Supreme Court decided this week. The 15 May ruling involves a case brought by a small Virginia company, MercExchange, against eBay, the online trading giant. The high court focused on the proper use of injunctions, the orders that judges file to halt companies from operating after they're found guilty of infringement.

    In 2003, after eBay was found guilty of infringement, a district court denied MercExchange's request to halt the operation of aspects of its rival's Web site, citing fairness. But last year an appellate court declared that judges should deny injunctions only in “exceptional circumstances.” In sending the case back to the lower court, however, the high court slammed the appeals court for having “erred in its categorical grant” of injunctions for patentees. Yet the nine justices also recognized that “university researchers or self-made inventors” can stop infringers' operations even if as innovators they don't market their technology.

    “If this were golf, this [ruling] was right down the fairway,” says Kevin Noonan, a patent attorney with McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP in Chicago, Illinois. Information technology companies and the biotech and pharma communities line up on opposite sides of the issue, with the former complaining about so-called “patent trolls” who target their products and the latter worried about losing their research investments. Legislation to reform the patent system is stalled in Congress.

  5. Government Crackdown, Please

    1. Hao Xin

    Concerned about the chaotic way scientific misconduct allegations in China are being publicized, Chinese scientists are asking the government to step in. More than 120 Chinese researchers, most U.S.-based, have signed a letter calling on research agencies to create an official process for addressing such charges. The letter was drafted by Xin-Yuan Fu, a microbiologist at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, who says the “rule of law” should also apply to Chinese science. The appeal was triggered by a heated Internet debate on the credibility of two biomedicine papers by Wei Yuquan, vice president of Sichuan University in Chengdu. Wei, 46, who specializes in tumor biotherapy, has denied wrongdoing and called for an investigative hearing.