Science  08 Feb 2008:
Vol. 319, Issue 5864, pp. 707

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  1. THREE Q'S


    Josephine Briggs, 63, a nephrologist and former National Institutes of Health (NIH) administrator, this week became the second director of its 9-year-old National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). She replaces Stephen Straus, who died in 2007.

    Q: NCCAM is probably the most controversial institute at NIH. That didn't deter you?

    I think it's also an area that's very high on the public profile. The aim [of the institute] is absolutely no relaxation in the notion of rigorous science. We're going to try very hard to continue to support only very top-ranked, careful, rigorous science.

    Q: Have you ever tried alternative medicine yourself?

    Well, I'm a regular exerciser. I do some yoga. It's sort of part of the whole mind-body interface.

    I pay attention to this literature. A lot of people, including a lot of scientists, are using these agents. I think the real rationale for NCCAM's investment is the enormous public interest in this. I think we all want answers as to which of these approaches really will help with the symptoms of aging.

    Q: Is there anything that has come out of alternative medicine that you think clearly works?

    There are small, promising areas. The tai chi for shingles was a very nice study (


    LINKING UP. Plant geneticist Richard Jorgensen was trained as an engineer, a background that should help the University of Arizona, Tucson, researcher lead a $50 million initiative to build computational tools and interdisciplinary teams for plant biology.

    Jorgensen, 56, is known as the “Petunia Man” for his work on gene silencing and flower color in that species. Over the years, his research has increasingly required the analysis of large data sets about proteins and genes. This effort, along with his 5-year stint as editor-in-chief of The Plant Cell, convinced him that the plant community needed better ways to compile and analyze information across disciplines as disparate as genomics and ecology. Last week, the multiuniversity consortium he proposed to accomplish that goal, called the iPlant Collaborative, got a 5-year grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation.


    Plant biologist Robert Last of Michigan State University in East Lansing says Jorgensen's experience makes him an ideal person to lead the effort, which will involve “bringing together biologists, information scientists, computer infrastructure [engineers], and informatics experts to work as teams.”


    The Israel-based Wolf Foundation has announced prizes to honor a host of accomplishments in basic and applied science, from geometry to pest management. William Moerner of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, and Allen Bard of the University of Texas, Austin, will be awarded the chemistry prize for their contributions to single molecule spectroscopy. John Pickett of Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire, U.K., James Tumlinson of Pennsylvania State University in State College, and W. Joe Lewis of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Tifton, Georgia, will share the agriculture prize for helping develop better pest-control methods. The mathematics prize will honor Pierre Deligne and Phillip Griffiths, both of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, and David Mumford of Brown University for their contributions to arithmetic, complex differential geometry, algebraic theory, and several other topics. And the medicine prize will recognize Howard Cedar and Aharon Razin, both of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel, for helping to advance the understanding of how gene expression is controlled. Each prize is worth $100,000.

    Bill Read has been named director of the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami, Florida. A meteorologist who once served in the U.S. Navy, Read has served as the center's acting head since the controversial exit of Bill Proenza last summer (Science, 13 July 2007, p. 181).



    EVOLUTION OF AN IDEA. Sometime this year, visitors to the Stanford University library will be able to look into the mind of Stephen Jay Gould, the Harvard paleontologist and popularizer of science.

    Gould, who died in 2002, bequeathed his notes, letters, and office library to Stanford in hopes it would put the materials online. Hyperlinks among the digitized documents would allow users to trace the evolution of Gould's ideas from handwritten marginal notes to outlines, manuscripts, letters, and final published works. But the library does not yet have the funds to do the required scanning and exhaustive indexing, says Henry Lowood, curator of Stanford's History of Science and Technology Collections.

    In the meantime, Lowood's staff is still cataloging the monumental stack of materials it began receiving in 2004, with the goal of putting it on public display. “Steve was a pack rat,” says artist Rhonda Shearer, Gould's widow. Organizing his collections—which included not only academic texts but also Beanie Babies and baseball memorabilia—“could sometimes feel glacial,” she says.