Science  22 Sep 2006:
Vol. 313, Issue 5794, pp. 1727

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    MINORITY REPORT. A physics professor at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah, was placed on paid leave this month in connection with controversial statements and writings he has made on the 2001 destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City. Steven E. Jones is among a small group of scientists who cite photos, material evidence, and lab experiments to advance the hypothesis that explosive devices planted inside the towers—perhaps by the U.S. government—are what caused their destruction.

    Jones's work on the subject includes a recent paper in the online Journal of 9/11 Studies, which he co-edits. That paper includes a disclaimer labeling it “the sole responsibility of the author.” But the university is anxious to dissociate itself from Jones's hypothesis, saying it has “not been published in appropriate scientific venues.”

    The school is looking into whether Jones has sufficiently clarified when he is speaking for himself and not the university. Eric Combest of the Washington, D.C.-based American Association of University Professors says BYU's actions are a “fairly egregious violation of academic freedom.” Jones declined to comment.


    “As administrator, I put the Hubble Servicing Mission back into our science plan. I rebalanced the science portfolio out of respect for National Academy priorities and out of concern for the health of important disciplines like earth science and heliospherics. … So what's all the tumult and shouting about? A few key things come to mind: … money, respect, and power.”


    —NASA Administrator Michael Griffin in a 12 September talk followed by a discussion at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. He said his remarks were intended to “reduce some of the angst in the [scientific] community” about his recent controversial moves.


    NURTURING TALENT. The new president of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World says stemming brain drain from developing countries will be one of his top priorities. The 700-member academy is headquartered in Trieste, Italy.

    Jacob Palis, a 66-year-old Brazilian mathematician who was elected to the post this month, promises that he will work hard during his 3-year term to get scientifically advanced nations to help improve graduate and postdoctoral education elsewhere. “We must also take advantage of the growing scientific proficiency of such developing countries as China, India, and Mexico,” he says, to build the capacities of the world's poorest countries.


    Another priority for Palis, a researcher at the Institute of Pure and Applied Mathematics in Rio de Janeiro, will be increasing the participation of women in science, especially in leadership positions. Palis succeeds Indian materials scientist C. N. R. Rao, who completes his term in January.


    NAE PRESIDENT. Former Massachusetts Institute of Technology president Charles Vest has been nominated to lead the National Academy of Engineering. A mechanical engineer with a long career in administration and policy, Vest, 65, serves on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. He says he wants to “inspire a new generation of young men and women to pursue careers in engineering to improve the quality of human life and strengthen the American and worldwide economies.” If elected—he is the unanimously chosen nominee for the position—Vest will begin a 6-year term in July 2007, succeeding William Wulf.


    VIOLENT ACTIVISM. Three animal-rights activists have been handed prison sentences for terrorizing U.S.-based employees of a British life sciences company. The trial, heard before a federal court in Trenton, New Jersey, was the first to be conducted under a new antiterrorism provision that was added to the Animal Enterprise Protection Act in 2002. The activists are members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), which has been running a global campaign against Huntingdon Life Sciences. The company tests drugs on animals at centers in the United Kingdom and in Princeton, New Jersey.

    In a 12 September ruling, U.S. District Judge Anne Thompson found the three guilty of stalking Huntingdon employees and of provoking threats and vandalism against them. She sentenced Kevin Kjonaas, 28, to 6 years' imprisonment, Lauren Gazzola, 27, to 4 years and 4 months, and Jacob Conroy, 30, to 4 years and ordered them to pay $1 million in damages to the company.