ScienceScope

Science  02 Mar 2007:
Vol. 315, Issue 5816, pp. 1205
  1. Speaking of Intellectual Property …

    NEW DELHI—A controversial report arguing that India's patent laws are out of line with global norms has been withdrawn under a charge of plagiarism. One paragraph of the report, delivered to the government late last year by a blue-ribbon panel chaired by India's top expert on intellectual property, Raghunath Anant Mashelkar, states that incremental innovations to a patented product “may be of tremendous value … [and] ought to be encouraged.” Analysts say that statement favors pharmaceutical companies and could sway a case in Madras High Court in which the drug giant Novartis has challenged India's rejection of its patent application for the cancer drug Gleevec.

    Mashelkar has acknowledged that the paragraph on incremental innovations was copied verbatim, unacknowledged, from another source: “A slip did happen, and I deeply regret it.” Last week, he offered to submit a new version in 3 months that would follow “best ethical practices.” Some in Parliament have demanded that the government scrap the Mashelkar committee and start over. The government earlier this week said it is still weighing its response.

  2. Europe Launches Its Own NSF

    BERLIN—In what many describe as a fresh start for European science policy, hundreds of scientists and politicians celebrated the launch of Europe's new research funding agency here at a meeting on 27–28 February. Modeled on U.S. agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), the European Research Council (ERC) will focus on funding basic research and rewarding proposals according only to their quality—characteristics that set it apart from the E.U.'s existing funding schemes. “This is a revolutionary development,” says Imperial College London biologist Fotis Kafatos, who chairs ERC's Scientific Council. He hopes ERC, whose annual budget is set to grow to €1.3 billion, will help retain Europe's top talent and lure back scientific stars working abroad.

    Staff members at ERC's Brussels bureau are still working frantically to prepare for the expected flood of grant applications. The agency can handle up to 3000 proposals for the 200 grants it has available in 2007, says Vice President Helga Nowotny. “If it's twice that number, we'll have a problem,” she adds. This year's grants, worth €1.5 million on average, will go to young scientists; larger grants for senior researchers will become available in 2008.

  3. Ethics at Issue in China

    BEIJING—China's largest research body is getting serious about misconduct. Earlier this week, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) unveiled guidance on what constitutes misconduct and set up a high-level academy committee to investigate allegations.

    In recent months, a series of high-profile misconduct cases has tarnished the reputation of China's scientific community (Science, 9 June 2006, p. 1464). CAS this week ordered each of its 100 institutes to set up their own committees to probe allegations against their researchers and to educate staff about ethical behavior. The CAS panel will investigate higher profile allegations. With Chinese science becoming more competitive and well-funded, the new rules should deter misconduct, says Zhou Xingjiang of CAS's Institute of Physics in Beijing.

  4. Those Crafty Europeans

    Next stop for the European Space Agency (ESA): Mercury, perhaps the least well known of the planets. Coming on the heels of recent missions to Mars, Venus, and Saturn's moon Titan, ESA last week approved construction of BepiColombo, which will launch in 2013 and reach Mercury 6 years later. Only NASA's Mariner 10 spacecraft has visited Mercury before, in 1974–75, and NASA has dispatched another craft, dubbed Messenger, to arrive in 2011. BepiColombo is designed to split into two orbiters upon arrival at Mercury: one to study the planet and the other—provided by Japan—its magnetosphere.

  5. South Africa Listens Hard

    PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA—South Africa's new proposed budget aims to improve the country's chances of beating out Australia for the world's most powerful radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). About 40% of the government's proposed $172 million budget increase for science and technology (S&T) would fund an upgraded pilot instrument, the Karoo Array Telescope (KAT).

    The nation's SKA project manager, Bernie Fanaroff, says an expanded version of the demonstrator array, called the MeerKAT, will “optimize the science we can do” with available funds. Although some scientists question devoting so much of the budget to KAT, zoologist Robin Crewe, who is president of South Africa's leading science academy, predicts that a successful bid's information network would benefit other areas of South African research.

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