ScienceScope

Science  26 Jan 2007:
Vol. 315, Issue 5811, pp. 447
  1. Kansas Standards Evolve Again

    1. Yudhijit Bhattacharjee

    Eighteen months after its state education board adopted science standards promoting the teaching of intelligent design (ID), Kansas is set to toss them out. Next month, a newly aligned board expects to adopt standards that emphasize evolution.

    The change follows elections that flipped the board's 6-4 conservative majority to a 6-4 margin for moderates (Science, 11 August 2006, p. 743). As a result, the board replaced the former chair, ID proponent Steve Abrams, with Bill Wagnon, who has fought against the ID-tainted standards since their adoption in August 2005.

    The pending standards have been written by a committee appointed by the board that delivered a product deemed unacceptable by conservatives. “We'll be glad to bring back standards that do not contain supernatural explanations and are in line with national and international norms,” says Sue Gamble, a moderate board member. “These standards will help teachers to strengthen the teaching of evolutionary content.”

  2. No Roving for Moon Rovers

    1. Andrew Lawler

    Budget troubles at NASA will likely nix plans to send a series of sophisticated robotic rovers to the moon after the agency sends an orbiter there next year. NASA officials blame a tight exploration budget and the rising cost of the rovers, which were meant to find possible human landing sites and gather scientific data. Industry and agency sources say that up to half of the roughly $800 million set aside over the next 3 years for rover development at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, could go to Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, to design smaller and cheaper spacecraft that could do similar jobs.

    The decision to cancel the original set of rovers comes just a few months after NASA chief Michael Griffin moved the program from Ames to Marshall. That decision, sources say, was made to please Congress's Republican-dominated Alabama delegation, but the recent election, which put Democrats in the driver's seat, took pressure off the agency. The remainder of the would-be rover funding would cover budget shortfalls in NASA's effort to develop a launcher to replace the space shuttle, slated for retirement in 2010. The proposed cuts are part of the agency's 2009 budget request to be announced on 5 February.

  3. New Cell Rules

    1. Eli Kintisch

    The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) has scaled back tough licensing rules restricting academic research on its broadly patented human stem cell lines. Previously, a company needed a license even for university-based research using the WARF lines. That restriction has been lifted, although a company must still have a license to do its own work or develop products. The foundation also clarified its fees and how academics can transfer cell lines.

    Jon Soderstrom, managing director of Yale's Office of Cooperative Research, says the old rules were confusing, restrictive, and inconsistent. The change is “coming at a very crucial time for us,” he says, as the school is now setting up a new stem cell program. The Santa Monica, California-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) says the move alleviates its concerns about restrictive policies that would hinder work at the new California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. However, FTCR still believes WARF's patents are invalid, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is currently reviewing an administrative request filed by the group to review the patents.

  4. Big Bucks for ALS

    1. Jennifer Couzin

    The latest sign of the increasing focus of disease advocacy groups on research is a $36 million pledge by two nonprofit groups to identify new molecular targets against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The venture comes as one of the groups abandons efforts to tackle ALS via published drug targets. After testing 150 existing drugs in 22,000 mice, “we've pretty much exhausted all the logical targets for ALS,” says Sean Scott, president of the ALS Therapy Development Institute (ALS-TDI) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

    ALS-TDI is partnering with the wealthier Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) in Tucson, Arizona. Scott's research staff of 24 will add 10 scientists probing gene and protein expression across healthy and diseased mice and human tissue collected through MDA's network of medical clinics. The goal is to identify genes that behave differently in ALS in hopes of finding out how those differences affect the disease.

    Jeffrey Rothstein, who is supporting work on new ALS mouse models at the Robert Packard Center for ALS Research through Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, has high hopes for the new partnership. But he worries that existing mouse models may not be reliable enough to serve as a guide.

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