Science  20 Oct 2006:
Vol. 314, Issue 5798, pp. 415

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    DOUBLE CREDIT. Cell biologist Elizabeth Blackburn, who made headlines 2 years ago when she was dismissed from the President's Council on Bioethics, has won the $250,000 genetics prize from the Peter Gruber Foundation. The 57-year-old professor at the University of California, San Francisco, received the award last week for her scientific work as well as her opposition to the politicization of science.

    In the 1970s, Blackburn and her colleagues discovered an enzyme called telomerase, which repairs the ends of chromosomes and keeps cells young and dividing. The finding has helped researchers understand how normal cells become cancerous. But Blackburn earned wider publicity in 2004 when she spoke out against what she perceived as the council's bias against embryonic stem cell research. As a result, she was not reappointed at the end of her 2-year term. “The emphasis [of the council's reports] was not balancing science as we knew it,” she says, noting that the problem exists in many areas of science policy today.

    Cancer biologist Thomas Cech, who heads the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Maryland, says Blackburn's outspokenness “showed a lot of courage and strength of character.”


    NEW IOM MEMBERS. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) last week named 65 new members, taking its total membership to 1501. It also named five new foreign associates, which takes its total number in that category to 82. The list of the new inductees is at


    EXPLORER. Philanthropist, yachtsman, and Lands' End mail-order empire builder Gary Comer, 78, died 4 October at his Chicago, Illinois, home after a long battle with prostate cancer.

    In addition to donating tens of millions of dollars to bolster his boyhood working-class neighborhood of South Chicago, Comer became the leading funder of scientific research on abrupt climate change (Science, 24 February, p. 1088). “He's an explorer,” said friend Philip Conkling of the Island Institute in Rockland, Maine, who noted that Comer's trip through the legendary Northwest Passage “transformed his life. He determined to understand from a scientifically rigorous point of view what was happening in the Arctic.”

    Comer's climate science largess totals some $35 million, half of which went toward a geochemistry building on the campus of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, that was dedicated a week before he died.


    DISSERTATION BLUES. A Seoul National University (SNU) panel has concluded that four former members of the research team of now-disgraced Korean cloning scientist Woo-Suk Hwang committed misconduct while writing their doctoral theses.

    The panel examined the theses of nine SNU veterinary school graduates who worked with Hwang. Yang Kuk, head of SNU's Office of Research, says one student replaced a photo of a somatic cell of a Korean beef cow with a somatic cell photo of a Holstein dairy cow. Another used photos of a pregnant cloned pig instead of the claimed ultrasound photos of a pregnant tiger. In the other two instances, Kuk says students used data or photos from papers authored by other people without properly citing them.

    Kuk says that Hwang most likely did not know of these activities. The panel plans to recommend disciplinary measures that could include retracting or revising the theses.


    MORE ASHORE? How many foreign scientists and engineers would enter the U.S. workforce if the immigration bill passed by the Senate in May became law? Over a 10-year period, five times the number allowed under current rules, says B. Lindsay Lowell, a demographer at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., who worked out the estimate for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers-USA (IEEE-USA).

    The estimate* is based on the impact of Senate provisions, such as the granting of automatic green cards to foreign students earning U.S. graduate degrees in science and engineering (S&E). Those provisions, the study shows, would let 1.9 million more foreign S&E professionals into the country by 2017—far more than the 355,000 expected to join the workforce under current law.

    That number far exceeds the projected demand for S&E workers in the American economy by 2017 as estimated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Lowell notes (see graph). Many, including Lowell, expect that the Senate bill will never become law because of House opposition.