Science  13 Oct 2006:
Vol. 314, Issue 5797, pp. 249

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    AVOIDING SEX IN SPACE. Author Laura Woodmansee was ready to sign her new book, Sex in Space, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) 22 September. But JPL Ethics Officer Lani De Benedictis and her colleague Bonnie Gerszt had other ideas. They sent an e-mail to thousands at the Pasadena, California, lab shortly before the event, noting that the signing had been canceled “due to ethical issues” that were not specified. Woodmansee complained to JPL officials, and De Benedictis later e-mailed her to explain that the decision was made in part based on the book cover, which shows a not-at-all-racy spiral galaxy behind the provocative title.


    Woodmansee says that her book, which quotes NASA scientists, “includes a lot of science about the possibilities of reproduction in space and on other planets.” Her previous works include Women of Space and Women Astronauts. “This has been a heartbreaking week for me,” says Woodmansee. “I need to clear my good name as a science journalist, and I'm not sure what to do.” JPL spokesperson Veronica McGregor said that the cancellation reflected the lab's policy of not endorsing any products and added that the initial approval to conduct the Sex in Space signing was a mistake made by a new employee.


    FOCUSING ON SCIENCE. Chemist Chi-Huey Wong admits he will have big shoes to fill when he replaces Yuan-Tseh Lee next week as president of Academia Sinica, which oversees Taiwan's premier research labs. Lee, a chemist and the island's only Nobel laureate, turned Academia Sinica into “a world-class research institution,” Wong says. Lee also used his towering authority to influence political elections, steer educational reform efforts, and condemn corruption throughout Taiwan. Wong says he instead intends to focus solely on advancing Academia Sinica's research “to a higher level.”


    A native Taiwanese, Wong, 58, has spent close to 30 years in the United States. He earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and served on the faculty of Texas A&M University before joining the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, California, in 1989. Since January 2003, he has also been the director of Academia Sinica's Genomics Research Center. “It's a good time for me to do another type of public service; I'm from Taiwan, so I feel a special responsibility,” Wong says.

    He believes the key to keeping Academia Sinica on top will be to continue recruiting the best people. But with science budgets rising across Asia, he expects the organization to face stiff competition for talent.


    “I need to show better performance, better books. This will be a rebuilding year.”

    —Jay M. Cohen, head of the science and technology directorate within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, after Congress passed the 4-year-old department's 2007 budget on 29 September. Legislators slashed funding for Cohen's Office of University Programs from $62 million to $50 million, citing poor financial management. But they refrained from imposing an anticipated 3-year limit on the funding of university centers (Science, 4 August, p. 610).



    PARIS—Mathematician Jacques Stern has been awarded the 2006 Gold Medal of the CNRS, France's basic research agency. Stern, who specializes in computer science and cryptology, says he had no interest in future academic renown but wanted to have an impact on the present world. “At the beginning of my career in mathematical logic, I realized that the results of my work would not be seen for at least a century, if ever. So I looked around for a field where I would see the results quickly,” he says. He had been working on mathematical impossibilities; in cryptology, “all I had to do was switch to creating impossibilities for adversaries.”

    Stern, 57, a professor at the École Normale Supérieure and head of its computer science lab, has broken about a dozen cryptographic systems, including several tough ones offered by major international research groups. He has also developed a mathematical method to prove that a system cannot be attacked and trained about 30 Ph.D.s, including, he says, many “prominent members of the cryptology community.” He declines to be drawn out on future plans: “I would like to be surprised and prefer just to wait and see what happens.”