Science  06 Dec 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5600, pp. 1865

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  1. Indian Biodiversity

    After years of debate, India is close to adopting a biodiversity protection law that regulates foreign access to, and use of, the nation's biological wealth and indigenous knowledge. This week, the lower house of parliament approved a bill requiring overseas collaborators to get permits before conducting research or commercializing discoveries. Some researchers worry that the rules, intended to clarify complex issues, might also add to bureaucratic red tape.


    The new rules would require any foreign entity to get permits from India's environment ministry before working with biological resources. The ministry would also assign ownership rights to any related intellectual property. Indian citizens must obtain permission to transfer materials or knowledge to foreign partners.

    The new law should bolster collaborations, says Kamaljit Bawa, a biologist at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and a trustee of the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment in Bangalore, but it could also delay studies. Researchers in India, he says, already “face far too many hurdles even without regulation.” Observers predict that the bill will soon sail through Parliament's upper house.

  2. Drug Abuse Chief?

    Nora Volkow, a psychiatrist who now heads life sciences at Brookhaven National Lab in Upton, New York, has been offered the top job at the National Institute on Drug Abuse—but she hasn't yet decided if she'll take it. The institute, which will have a budget of $970 million in 2003, has lacked a director since Alan Leshner stepped down last year to head AAAS (publisher of Science).

    Volkow, 46, trained in her native Mexico and uses brain imaging to study the neurobiology of addiction. She has shown that drug addicts tend to have fewer than normal dopamine receptors. She has also found that dopamine signaling could be linked to obesity. “She's a hot-shot researcher who has quite a vision and is not afraid to express it,” says Alan Kraut, director of the American Psychological Society.

    Volkow's appointment would also fit with the growing emphasis on linking basic and clinical research, says neuroscientist Eric Nestler of the University of Texas, Dallas. “Nora embodies translational research,” he says. Volkow expects to make a decision by 1 January.

  3. Diverse Views

    Attempts to create a more diverse scientific work force will be undermined if the Supreme Court prohibits U.S. universities from using race as a criterion for admission, according to the head of the country's leading consortium of research universities. The thorny issue is back in the news this week after the high court agreed to hear two cases involving admissions practices at the University of Michigan.

    Nils Hasselmo, president of the 62-member Association of American Universities (AAU), says that affirmative action “has been an effective means of achieving academic diversity,” and that it is especially important “at the most selective end of the spectrum.” He expects AAU to join other scientific and educational organizations in urging the court to uphold race-based admissions efforts.

    But opponents say that several states have come up with alternative ways to increase diversity on campus without discriminating against Caucasian students, two of whom filed lawsuits seeking to overturn Michigan's policies.

  4. Stressed Out

    The average corporate executive is more relaxed than an academic at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), according to a university-sponsored survey released this week. More than 60% of MIT's nearly 1000 professors say that they are emotionally and physically drained at the end of the workday—and 78% say they can't get everything done no matter how hard they try, according to the study, which took the pulse of faculty stress. By comparison, just half of corporate executives feel the same way, according to the independent company that analyzed the data.

    The study also found that two-thirds of MIT faculty are not happy with their job's pace and pressure. Less than half worked 60 hours a week or more in 1989; now two-thirds do. And more than half say the pressure has a negative effect on family life and professional relationships. Women and untenured professors report feeling more stressed and overworked than their tenured male counterparts do.

    The alarming statistics have prompted MIT administrators to order a new committee to look at ways to monitor and ameliorate stress. “We have to learn how to monitor this,” says Provost Robert Brown. “But the question is: Will the faculty have time to read the report?”