Science  26 Nov 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5445, pp. 1657
  1. Replay

    A University of Arizona (UA), Tucson, immunologist dismissed for scientific misconduct will get a second chance to plead her case. Arizona Judge Stephen Villarreal ruled on 16 November that former Regents Professor Marguerite Kay was wrongly denied legal representation during a hearing that led to her dismissal (Science, 5 November, p. 1076). Villarreal ruled that the university erred in barring Kay's attorney from speaking at the hearing and should grant a new one.

    Kay feels vindicated. But Villarreal did not comment on the misconduct allegations or say that the UA must rehire her. UA attorney Jane Eikleberry says Kay will get a new hearing, though administrators “have not resolved” whether it will include another review of misconduct evidence.

  2. Getting Credit

    High-tech executives have won a lengthy extension of a coveted tax credit. The House and Senate voted last week to give the R&D tax credit—which allows companies to deduct research expenses—a new 5-year lease on life. The credit expired 30 June, and industry had lobbied hard to avoid another single-year renewal of the perk, saying such short extensions wreak havoc with financial planning. Although backers failed to make the credit permanent, Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), head of the House Science Committee, said the 5-year extension will finally “put an end to the start-and-stop approach” that long bedeviled the policy.

  3. Feeding the Debate

    With activists dressed up as monarch butterflies protesting outside, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) kicked off a three-stop listening tour about genetically modified food in Chicago last week. The meetings were set up to explain FDA's approval policy for transgenic crops, which critics say is lax (see p. 1664).

    Overwhelming interest forced FDA to find a larger venue just 2 days before the Chicago session, and many of the speakers came out strongly against biotech crops. But that doesn't signal an impending change of public opinion in the United States, says Mike Phillips of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, who sat on one of the meeting's panels. “There are hundreds if not thousands of zealots,” says Phillips. “But did the average man on the street come in and say anything? The answer is no.” Crowds are expected at the remaining two hearings, in Washington, D.C., on 30 November and Oakland, California, on 13 December.

  4. Ensnared

    A Ukrainian scientist accused of selling “a national treasure”–plankton biodiversity data—to the West was charged last week with illegal currency transactions. A conviction could torpedo millions of dollars in research support to Ukrainian scientists from the European Union (EU).

    The Ukrainian security bureau (SBU) is accusing Sergey Piontkovski (right) of the Institute of Biology of the Southern Seas in Sevastopol of diverting British and EU grant money—used to digitize the plankton data—to foreign accounts, rather than putting it in agreed-upon Ukrainian vaults (Science, 29 October, p. 879). Unnamed experts valued the data at more than $200 million in the 16 November Slava Sevastopolya newspaper, suggesting that the transfer was a rip-off. But Piontkovski says he has tried “to explain … that countries invest millions in getting data, but the data themselves are free for scientific exchange.” He denies that money ended up in personal accounts.

    Piontkovski faces up to 5 years in prison and expects the SBU to bring lesser charges against at least one colleague. A trial could begin as soon as January. But a spokesperson for the EU's INTAS program—one of the researcher's funders—said “there will be consequences” for its funding in Ukraine “if the questions are not fully resolved by mid-January.”

  5. Retooling

    Sweden's research funding system appears headed for a radical overhaul. Responding to controversy over a streamlining plan released last year (Science, 20 November 1998, p. 1401), a government panel last week proposed replacing existing basic research councils with a single entity and trimming the number of government agencies with responsibility for applied studies from eight to three. It also called for new fora to discuss funding coordination and communicate with policy-makers.

    The plan has won guarded praise from researchers, though some fear it could create artificial divisions between basic and applied studies. But panel head Hans Wig-zell, president of the Karolinska Institute, hopes parliament will consider the plan early next year and that Sweden will begin 2001 “with a totally new organization.”

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