ScienceScope

Science  09 Mar 2007:
Vol. 315, Issue 5817, pp. 1351
  1. Broad Institute Given $100 Million

    1. Andrew Lawler

    The already well-heeled Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, this week announced a $100 million gift from a wealthy direct marketer to conduct research on severe mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The funding from the Stanley Medical Research Institute will allow the Broad—a joint venture between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University—to create an interdisciplinary center that will draw on the universities' expertise in neuroscience and genomics. That center, located within the Broad Institute, will be led by Edward Scolnick, a former National Institutes of Health researcher and president of Merck Research Laboratories. The money from the Stanley Institute, founded by the family of Theodore and Vada Stanley, will help Broad researchers apply “the most advanced genomic tools” to the biology of mental illness, says Harvard Provost Steven Hyman.

  2. Ganging Up on Jupiter

    1. Andrew Lawler

    A NASA probe heading to Pluto and a European Space Agency (ESA) spacecraft on its way to a comet will team up in coming weeks in an unusual effort to observe Jupiter. ESA's Rosetta, launched in 2004 and currently in the neighborhood of Mars, will examine the ring of electrically charged particles around the gas giant planet that may stem from volcanic eruptions on its moon Io. Meanwhile, NASA's New Horizons mission (below) sped past Jupiter last week after leaving Earth in January 2006. As the probe uses the planet's gravity to slingshot its way to Pluto, the onboard instruments are monitoring the Jupiter system.

    CREDIT: NASA

    The roughly simultaneous observations from the two probes could provide a unique set of data on the planet. “We couldn't pass up this opportunity to study Jupiter's meteorology, rings, aurorae, satellites, and magnetosphere,” says New Horizons principal investigator S. Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. The joint effort augurs well for future international cooperation in space science: Stern takes over as NASA's science chief next month.

  3. The Continuation Saga (Cont.)

    1. Eli Kintisch

    It's been more than a year since the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) proposed limiting add-on patent applications, which allow additional information to be submitted on existing applications. PTO says so-called continuations are hurting patent quality and drowning examiners in paper (Science, 28 July 2006, p. 425). The proposal was met with a firestorm of attacks during a public comment period last year. Some biomedical scientists say continuations are necessary to keep patent applications up to date. “There must be some kind of hellacious political pressure on some numbnuts at the PTO, because almost every one of those public comments was resoundingly negative,” wrote lawyer Mark Perdue of Storm LLP in Dallas, Texas, on the popular Patently-O blog last summer.

    PTO Director Jon Dudas disagrees. “We're being very thoughtful about this,” he told Science. “People don't want to change.” He says he expected the backlash when he proposed the limits. He hasn't decided when to issue a final decision on the rules. Another Dudas initiative, a pilot project to allow the public to rate technical information to help examiners with software patents, is expected to go online soon.

  4. Different Ways to Compete

    1. Jeffrey Mervis

    When it comes to improving U.S. innovation, some legislators are thinking big whereas others say that small is better. This week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) led a bipartisan coalition of senators endorsing the America COMPETES Act, a sprawling bill drawn from the recommendations of a 2005 National Academies report on how to strengthen the U.S. scientific enterprise (Science, 21 October 2005, p. 423). The proposal would authorize a doubling of funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Office of Science and support a raft of programs to train more scientists and improve science and math education at all grade levels. Reid said he plans a floor vote on the bill, whose provisions would cost $16 billion over 4 years, sometime next month.

    Meanwhile, the House Science and Technology Committee last week approved a measure to expand early career and graduate training programs at NSF and DOE and monitor the need for research instrumentation across the government. The bill (H.R. 363) addresses a tiny slice of what the Senate legislation covers, but the panel's chair, Representative Bart Gordon (D-TN), believes that narrowly focused legislation stands a better chance of passage by Congress.

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