ScienceScope

Science  30 Jun 2006:
Vol. 312, Issue 5782, pp. 1857
  1. Denice Denton (1959-2006)

    Denice Denton, chancellor of the University of California (UC), Santa Cruz, and a champion of diversity in science and engineering, jumped to her death from a San Francisco apartment building on 24 June.

    An electrical engineer, Denton became the first female dean of engineering at a major research university when she came to the University of Washington (UW), Seattle, in 1996. At UW, she established programs to bring more women and minorities into engineering and introduced policies to enable female faculty members to balance work and family. “She had the ability to make everyone feel included,” says Eve Riskin, an electrical engineering professor at UW.

    CREDIT: UC SANTA CRUZ

    In February 2005, she moved to UC Santa Cruz, where she was criticized for helping her partner, materials scientist Gretchen Kalonji, get a UC administrative job and for the $600,000 spent on renovations to her campus home.

    Last fall, Denton expressed frustration about her job during a meeting on women and science at the U.S. National Academies. “It's lonely at the top. No one has on their list of things to do, ‘Be nice to the dean or the provost today. [Ask yourself] what can I do to support them in their endeavors for social justice?’” A colleague said Denton confided on 3 June that she was “very demoralized” and “didn't know how much more she could take.”

    “Denice was an accomplished and passionate scholar whose life and work demonstrated a deep commitment to public service and to improving opportunity for the disadvantaged and underrepresented,” says UC President Robert Dynes. An interim chancellor is expected to be appointed soon.

  2. A Taste for Variety

    MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA—The Human Variome Project—a planned database of all variant forms of human genes and their phenotypes—got off the ground here last week. Fifty-five international experts met to lay out a framework and name geneticist Richard Cotton their chief. Cotton says the project, which aims to cull global mutations data from databases and medical records to understand disease, needs $60 million.

  3. Discovery Carries Heavy Load

    A successful trip for space shuttle Discovery, set for launch this weekend, will boost prospects for repairing the Hubble Space Telescope and completing the half-built international space station. Despite concerns by safety officers, NASA approved the second shuttle mission since February 2003, when Columbia disintegrated upon return. Even if all goes smoothly, the agency said last week, it plans to scale back U.S. research aboard the station by eliminating a centrifuge and other scientific equipment.

  4. Get Your Shots

    Thirty British doctors this week called for responsible media coverage amid published doubts about the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Concerns over MMR have accompanied a decline in the number of vaccinated U.K. children from 93% in 1995 to 83% in 2005, and the doctors cite a “dramatic” rise of measles this year as well as a fatality, the first in 14 years. To blame, they say, is a 1998 Lancet paper linking the jab to autism by Andrew Wakefield, who was charged with misconduct this month by the U.K.'s General Medical Council. “Illness or death” could befall unimmunized children, the signatories warn.

  5. Patently Obvious? Ask The Supremes

    Is the U.S. government granting patents for inventions that are obvious? This week, the U.S. Supreme Court accepted a case that biotech attorneys say could make new patents harder to obtain. KSR International v. Teleflex involves a dispute over a gas pedal, but the case has “tremendous implications for biotech,” says Hal Wegner of Foley & Lardner LLP in Washington, D.C. That's because the court could toughen a standard used to determine the validity of an application that combines elements of published ideas or patents. The standard is whether the published work includes a specific “suggestion” to combine existing parts. A 2004 National Academies panel called for “a stricter standard” to improve biotech patent quality. Arguments are set for autumn in the case, which is expected to pit the software industry against the biotech and pharma sectors.

    In other patent news, last week the justices decided not to act on a case they had heard involving whether scientific information can be patented (Science, 17 February, p. 946).