Science  09 May 2008:
Vol. 320, Issue 5877, pp. 731

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  1. FDA Drops Helsinki Rules

    Drug companies doing clinical trials outside the United States will no longer have to follow long-standing international ethical guidelines to pass muster with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Agency officials say that the Declaration of Helsinki, adopted in the 1960s, favors available treatments over placebos, which FDA prefers in some circumstances. The periodic amendments to the declaration could create confusion among drug companies, they add. “We're saying that our regulations should not depend on any documents outside our control,” says FDA's Rachel Behrman.

    In criticizing FDA's decision last week to reject the declaration, Peter Lurie of Public Citizen, a public interest group in Washington, D.C., says the agency is sending a message that the United States is exempt from international guidelines.

  2. The Next Lyme Battle

    The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) is bracing for a new public review of its stance on Lyme disease now that Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has ended an investigation of alleged financial conflicts. The society has opposed as dangerous the long-term use of antibiotics, a practice favored by some activists and doctors. Last week, Blumenthal agreed to drop an 18-month probe in return for IDSA's promise to reconsider its treatment guidelines. Disease activists had faulted IDSA members for taking fees from insurance companies. “We hope [last week's settlement] clears the air,” says IDSA spokesperson Steven Baragona. The society's next step is setting up a panel of certified conflict-free experts who will reconsider the 2006 guidelines.

  3. Clearing the Air

    New York City officials heard a plea last week to turn back an attempt to control the proliferation of environmental monitoring devices. Pending legislation that would require users to obtain a permit and give the police department broad powers of enforcement is a bad idea, environmental and public health organizations and universities told a city council panel. Exempting devices used for teaching, research, and industrial hygiene would help, they said, although retaining emergency authority to confiscate instruments might still impede science.

    The bill is an attempt to keep track of devices that might provide early warning of terrorist attacks and to prevent false alarms.

  4. Korea Targets Basic Science

    Worried about a widening deficit in high-tech trade, South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak said last week that he wants overall research spending to rise from 3.2% to 5% of the country's gross domestic product by 2012. Insiders say his Administration, which took office in February, wants to lead the way by doubling government spending.

    The government currently funds about one-fourth of the $30 billion now spent on research. Private-sector spending is targeted at applications, and 75% of government spending goes to applied areas. Officials in the Lee Administration hope to make basic research half of the government's overall portfolio. Yu Hee-Yol, chair of the governmental Korea Research Council of Fundamental Science & Technology, says the country's scientists and engineers are “very excited about” the new funding targets.

  5. Solar Sensor Back on Board

    A key climate sensor has been restored to the $12 billion National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS). The Total Solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS) had been removed along with four other key climate sensors in 2006 when the Pentagon restructured the program (Science, 31 August 2007, p. 1167). But lawmakers and officials who run NPOESS vowed to fix the problem, and last week, managers announced that the sensor will fly on the first NPOESS mission in 2013.

    “It's fabulous,” says space scientist Judith Lean of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. The last scheduled flight for the sensor had been as part of a NASA payload in 2010. Lean says it's important for TSIS missions to overlap for proper calibration. “Without that important [solar] record, the whole climate field is up for speculation,” she says.

  6. Not So Presidential

    The 99 winners of the annual Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching came to Washington, D.C., last week to be feted and to learn about federal efforts to improve science and math education. But for only the second time in his 8-year term, neither President George W. Bush nor his wife, Laura, hosted them at the White House. Coincidentally, the visit overlapped with a symposium in which academic and industrial leaders bashed the government for its inadequate support of science (see p. 728).