ScienceScope

Science  15 Sep 2006:
Vol. 313, Issue 5793, pp. 1553
  1. Interest in Conflicts

    1. Jennifer Couzin

    The influential officials who oversee conflict-of-interest policies for their institutions think that a little disclosure goes a long way. A survey of 45 senior U.S. researchers in the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics has found that although all believe conflicts should be disclosed to volunteers participating in clinical research, few thought that the details of those conflicts were worth sharing. “I do not really think that there is a lot of need for saying Company XYZ is paying me $6000 for every patient we enroll in this” if the money funds research, one of those surveyed explained. Thirty-four researchers believed the funding source should be disclosed, but many feared that given dollar amounts, research participants would overestimate the influence of the payment on the investigator's behavior. An earlier study by the researchers who did the survey, led by scientists at Johns Hopkins University, found that both healthy and chronically ill people rated disclosure more important as the risk of research rose.

  2. Conferences to Get Less Perky

    1. Yan Zhao

    BEIJING—Members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering enjoy privileges including easy grant money, housing subsidies, and personal drivers. But organizers of the Xiangshan Science Conferences have decided to bar academy members from using their titles when registering for conferences or in proceedings publications. Held every 2 weeks throughout the year on topics as diverse as neurobiology and robotics, the meetings influence the government's research priorities. The new rules send a message that “every conferee is equal,” says Xiangshan staffer Liu Yuchen.

    The change “emphasizes that equality among scientists … determines the development of science,” says Zhu Pengcheng, a molecular biologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston who attended a recent Xiangshan meeting in Beijing.

  3. Tumor Gene Troika

    1. Jocelyn Kaiser

    Three types of cancer—lung, brain, and ovarian—have been chosen for a pilot run of The Cancer Genome Atlas, a $1.5 billion plan to search for all mutations involved in cancer (Science, 8 September, p. 1370). The cancers were chosen because the tissue banks supplying them met ethical and scientific standards, say the National Institutes of Health's cancer and genome institutes, which are sponsoring the $100 million, 3-year pilot.

  4. NASA Science Chief Calls It Quits

    1. Andrew Lawler

    One year after taking the job, NASA's science chief last week told her staff she will resign this spring. A biologist and former astronaut, Mary Cleave oversees the agency's space, planetary, and earth sciences research—programs in turmoil over budget overrun pressures. Cleave, who was unavailable for comment, alienated many scientists during her brief tenure by backing the elimination of a host of projects and reduced research funding. Meanwhile, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin told key senators in a letter that a plan to eliminate space-station research funding was simply “intended to prepare for potential budget reductions.” The senators had complained that cutting research made no sense given the investment in building the orbiting lab.

  5. Cancer Watch at Ground Zero

    1. Erik Stokstad

    Public health researchers in New York will begin a long-term surveillance program next month of workers exposed to dust during rescue and recovery efforts after the 2001 World Trade Center attacks. Some 40,000 workers combed through the rubble, breathing dust laced with toxics such as dioxin or asbestos. According to a paper published in Environmental Health Perspectives last week, 61% of 9442 workers surveyed have developed acute respiratory problems such as labored breathing.

    The new effort will receive $26 million in federal funds until 2009 and track some 30,000 workers for long-term lung problems as well as cancers. Society owes answers to the “volunteers who leapt into the fray,” says co-leader Philip Landrigan of Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, one of five clinical centers on the effort.

  6. Academic Demotion

    1. Bryon MacWilliams

    MOSCOW—The Russian Academy of Sciences could be stripped of authority to select a president and control its own finances if proposed changes in Russia's law on science take effect. A closed Cabinet meeting last week endorsed legal changes that could clear parliament in a matter of weeks, observers say. Critics of the move say that the new scheme will give the government new authority to set the nation's basic research agenda and that the academy will be turned into a club. Many scientists fear that the government will sell off the academy's valuable property assets. Putting a good face on the situation, academy spokesperson Irina Presnyakova said that the pending changes will bring the academy prestige and fiscal certitude.