Science  06 Jun 2008:
Vol. 320, Issue 5881, pp. 1273

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  1. NASA Suppressed Science

    1. Jocelyn Kaiser

    NASA's inspector general (IG) has confirmed allegations made 2 years ago that political appointees in the agency's press office suppressed discussion of climate change research.

    Fourteen senators requested the IG investigation after NASA climate change researcher James Hansen told The New York Times in January 2006 that he had been muzzled. In a 2 June report, the IG finds that from fall 2004 through early 2006, the NASA headquarters public affairs office “reduced, marginalized, or mischaracterized climate change science.” The 48-page report also confirms that NASA barred Hansen from being interviewed by National Public Radio partly because of concerns that he would discuss policy.

    However, the IG found no evidence that research activities were suppressed at NASA's research centers. Rather, the problems involved “a few key senior employees” in the central NASA public affairs office, not NASA leaders or Bush Administration officials outside the agency. NASA spokesperson Michael Cabbage notes that once senior NASA officials became aware of the problem, they issued a new media policy allowing openness (Science, 7 April 2006, p. 32).

  2. Banking on Europe's Biobanks

    1. Gretchen Vogel

    Europe urgently needs to coordinate its biobanks, according to a report released 27 May by the European Science Foundation (ESF). Several European countries have “an enormously rich resource” of tissue samples and health records stretching back decades, the report says, but varying standards and regulations prevent scientists from combining different collections. ESF calls for harmonizing sample storage and record keeping and for countries to draw up laws and regulations that make international collaborations possible.

    Earlier this year, the European Union awarded €5 million to the Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure (BBMRI), which aims to integrate Europe's existing biobanks into a single network. That's an important first step, says Frank Skorpen of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, cochair of ESF's expert group, but ultimately much larger sums will be needed. To attract sustained funding, says Kurt Zatloukal of the Medical University of Graz in Austria, coordinator of BBMRI, researchers need to estimate the economic impact of a pan-European biobank. “We need to quantify the potential return on investment.”

  3. More Clouds Over Fermilab

    1. Eli Kintisch

    The United States's last dedicated particle physics laboratory faces a bleak future if Congress doesn't come through with new money, say advisers to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Batavia, Illinois, is already feeling a budget crunch (Science, 30 May, p. 1148). But last week, DOE's Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel reported that if DOE's current $688 million budget for high-energy physics remains flat, then Fermilab researchers will have to wait an extra 3 to 5 years, to roughly 2017, to start building a high-intensity proton source that would be the lab's new centerpiece. Also, the lab's particle smasher, the Tevatron, would have to close in 2009, a year earlier than hoped, giving it less time to beat a new machine in Europe at finding the prized Higgs boson.

    Lab spokesperson Judy Jackson says she is optimistic that “many members [of Congress] understand the plight of high-energy physics” and will act accordingly. However, Congress has not followed through with proposed increases for two straight years and last year cut the particle physics budget by $64 million.

  4. Rock Art Dustup

    1. Keith Kloor

    A new federal analysis could halt controversial plans to expand gas development in Utah's archaeologically rich Nine Mile Canyon. The remote canyon, which features an estimated 10,000 rock art images, also holds major reserves of natural gas. In 2004, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) permitted drilling projects to commence in Nine Mile. A recent BLM-commissioned study supports archaeologists' fears that the rock art is being damaged by dust from trucks and rigs plying an unpaved road (Science, 25 January, p. 394).

    Now the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of its review of a BLM plan to allow 600 new gas wells, has entered the fray. Last week, EPA found BLM's draft Environmental Impact Statement “unsatisfactory” because it did not “adequately assess” potential ozone pollution. EPA also expressed concern that dust is compromising the “physical integrity” of the rock art. The EPA evaluation “reaffirms that we're not the only ones who think something is amiss,” says archaeologist Jerry Spangler, executive director of the Colorado Plateau Archaeological Alliance, an antiquities preservation group. BLM has agreed to conduct more air-quality testing, which could delay the new wells indefinitely.