Science  15 Jun 2007:
Vol. 316, Issue 5831, pp. 1553

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  1. Hubble Due for Fall 2008 Makeover

    1. Andrew Lawler

    It's official: In 15 months, NASA will send a space shuttle to service the aging Hubble Space Telescope. Plans to return to Hubble were put on hold 4 years ago after Columbia disintegrated. NASA chief Michael Griffin pledged last year to reverse his predecessor's decision to let Hubble die, but the space agency waited until Atlantis lifted off from its Florida launch pad last week to put the 10 September 2008 servicing flight on the busy shuttle schedule.

    If the maintenance mission—its fifth—is successful, Hubble will sport two new instruments. The Cosmic Origins Spectrograph and Wide Field Camera 3 will, respectively, measure the structure and composition of matter and examine the universe in multiple wavelengths. By replacing gyroscopes and filling the fuel tank, the mission is also expected to extend the life of the telescope, first launched in 1990, to 2013. That's also when NASA intends to launch its James Webb Space Telescope, Hubble's follow-on.

  2. Peer Review Peered at, Reviewed

    1. Jocelyn Kaiser,
    2. Eliot Marshall

    Two new panels will try to figure out how to tweak the vaunted peer-review process at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to cope with soaring numbers of applications and other pressures on the agency.

    NIH has created two working groups—one external, one internal—to examine the “content, criteria, and culture of peer review” in light of flat budgets, a rising number of grant applications, shrinking success rates, and a dearth of experienced reviewers (Science, 20 April, p. 358). The external committee is co-chaired by cell biologist Keith Yamamoto of the University of California, San Francisco, a member of the last review panel 8 years ago. Yamamoto expects the new panel to probe the current emphasis on preliminary results and weigh the proper balance between the bona fides of the investigator and the value of the project itself. The internal group, co-chaired by Jeremy Berg, director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, will examine the same issues. Both panels are to gather input and report back in December.

    Meanwhile, a House spending panel last week voted to add $750 million next year to the agency's current $29 billion budget, a 2.6% raise that lags biomedical inflation. The increase drops to 1.9% if $200 million tagged for the global AIDS fund is removed.

  3. War on TB

    1. Jon Cohen

    The World Health Organization (WHO) has jumped on the news wave following the Atlanta lawyer who flew commercially to several countries with a dangerous form of tuberculosis. WHO's Stop TB Partnership will issue new guidance this month for countries battling drug-resistant forms of the disease. Although TB is curable, drugs fail in one-third of people with multidrug-resistant strains and in more than two-thirds of those with extensively drug-resistant forms.

    WHO's Paul Nunn says strengthening labs in the developing world is key. “South Africa has more laboratories capable of doing culture and drug-susceptibility testing than the rest of the continent put together,” he says. The plan also calls for expanding surveillance and implementing infection-control measures in hospitals. The plan's estimated yearly cost is $1 billion, but Nunn predicts it would save 1.2 million lives by 2015.

  4. Trial for Vaccines

    1. Erik Stokstad

    Parents who blame vaccines for their children's autism finally have their day in court. Congress shielded vaccine manufacturers from liability in 1986, requiring that claims be filed with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., before a federal compensation fund pay damages. More than 4800 parents have filed claims since 1999, and the court began hearing evidence this week in a representative test case.

    The main focus is on a mercury-based preservative called thimerosal. Epidemiologists have found no link between autism and this ingredient, which has been phased out of almost all childhood vaccines (Science, 12 September 2003, p. 1454). “This sort of palaver has the potential to inhibit vaccination,” rues William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. A ruling could take as long as a year.

  5. Get Back to the Lab

    1. Daniel Clery

    Asian research funding could soon eclipse European public and private spending on research and development (R&D), says a new report released by the European Union (E.U.). China could overtake the E.U. by 2009 in terms of R&D spending as a percentage of gross domestic product, the report says. It notes that European industry contributes less to research: only 55% of total R&D spending, compared to 64% (U.S.), 67% (China), and 75% (both Japan and South Korea).