Science  24 Nov 2006:
Vol. 314, Issue 5803, pp. 1227

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  1. Controversy on the Brain

    1. Andrew Lawler

    The Nobel Prize-winning director of a neuroscience center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is stepping down in December in the wake of a controversy over the abortive hiring of a young female biologist in June. Earlier this year, Susumu Tonegawa, who leads the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, discouraged a young brain scientist from taking a job with a rival institute at MIT.

    A panel examining the incident released a report 2 November that criticized the conduct of Tonegawa and other faculty members involved. It said their behavior illuminated the lack of a clear mission for the school's many-faceted neuroscience effort and turf battles between its parts (Science, 10 November, p. 913). Tonegawa, who said last week that he would remain at MIT but would focus solely on research, has declined comment. But Stanford University neuroscientist Ben Barres, who has closely followed the controversy, called the resignation “an important step forward” to foster “a more collaborative and supportive environment” for MIT neuroscience.

  2. Cell Scanning and Shuffleboard

    1. Gretchen A. Vogel

    Germany's Max Planck Society is considering opening an outpost in the Sunshine State. This month, society President Peter Gruss visited South Florida to discuss joining the Scripps Research Institute, the Burnham Institute, and several other high-profile research organizations that Governor Jeb Bush has lured to Florida (Science, 1 September, p. 1219). Scripps President Richard Lerner introduced Bush and Gruss during a Bush-led trade mission to Europe last year and has pushed the idea of Germany's premier research organization joining the Florida research pack. If the deal goes through, says Enno Aufderheide, chief of Max Planck's external relations, as many as three of the society's top scientists could take up residence in Palm Beach County. Aufderheide says the new institute would focus on bioimaging to complement the biochemistry, cancer research, and translational medicine research Scripps plans to do at its new campus in Palm Beach Gardens. The deal, worth several hundred million dollars, hinges on financing from state and local sources. No German taxpayer money would fund the new institute, Aufderheide says. The idea is “very attractive but far from a final decision,” he says.

  3. Sought: Reruns of The Office

    1. Jeffrey Mervis

    With Democrats assuming control of Congress, Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) is hoping its Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) will be revived. Holt says Congress needs the one-stop think tank, which the Republicans gutted after taking power in 1995, to help explain a variety of issues from electronic voting to nanotechnology, and that it could be reconstituted for $30 million a year. Holt hasn't yet asked for the support of Democratic leaders, but Representative Bart Gordon (D-TN), in line to become chair of the House Science Committee, likes the idea. Last summer, at a hearing on the topic, Gordon said, “We could use a service like OTA” to help legislators assess conflicting expert opinion. But the retiring chair of that panel, Representative Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), thinks OTA is “desirable but not essential” and that Congress is not lacking in objective data.

  4. Cloning Ban Imperiled

    1. Elizabeth Finkel

    Australia's 2002 ban on the cloning of human embryonic cells may soon be lifted if a bill to repeal it gets a majority in the House after clearing the Senate this month. Mal Washer, the Liberal Party member behind the House bill, predicts a large margin of victory. But Family First Party leader Steve Fielding, who supports the ban, says it's too early to tell, noting that repeal passed the Senate by one vote. If approved, the new bill would forbid the making of sperm-fertilized embryos for research and the implantation of a cloned embryo into a woman's uterus. It would also bar the transfer of a human nucleus into an animal egg. The bill would allow human somatic cell nuclear transfer and narrow the definition of embryo to cover only entities surviving the first mitotic division.

  5. Assessing the Assessment

    1. Eli Kintisch

    The Bush Administration is breaking a 1990 law that requires a quadrennial assessment of how climate change affects the United States, a lawsuit filed last week alleges. The last such assessment was published in 2000, and the Bush Administration says 21 specialized reports on climate topics follow the law's intent. The suit was filed by environmental groups in a northern California federal court. In a statement supporting the suit, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) condemned what he called the Administration's “foot-dragging.” A Kerry aide says that next year's Democratic majority in Congress may try to compel compliance through spending measures or new laws. “All options are on the table,” she says.