Science  28 Jul 2006:
Vol. 313, Issue 5786, pp. 437

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    VISUAL APPEAL. As a graduate student researching insect systematics, Brian Farrell (above) fell in love with the Dominican Republic's amber-encased specimens. Over the next 17 years, his passion has spread to educating children and undergraduates on the Caribbean island. The Harvard entomologist is well known for the 30 posters he and his students have hung in schools and orphanages to popularize the country's entomological heritage. They range from individual insects to collages of species. A subset was on display at the Cambridge Multicultural Art Center in Massachusetts and then will go to Punta Cana International Airport on the east end of the island.

    Last week, Farrell began a new project: an effort at the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo to help preserve the country's most extensive insect collection. Students will gain expertise in entomology as they work to make “virtual” collections available on the Internet. To “make a difference on a national level is a great privilege,” he says.


    RESEARCHER CONVICTED. William French Anderson, 69, a University of Southern California biochemist and renowned pioneer of gene therapy, has been found guilty of child molestation. Anderson, who began working on human gene transfer methods at the National Institutes of Health more than 2 decades ago, shares one of the broadest patents in this field.

    In 2004, the teenage daughter of a researcher in his lab—whom he had coached in martial arts—accused him of having sexually abused her years earlier. On 19 July, the Los Angeles Superior Court found him guilty of sexual abuse and lewd behavior over a 5-year period. Anderson is scheduled for sentencing on 17 November; he could face more than 20 years in prison.



    NEW WEIZMANN HEAD. The next head of the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel, says science can “bridge cultural differences” and should “never be a tool of politics.”

    In December, particle physicist Daniel Zajfman, 47 (above), will become the 10th—and youngest ever—president of the 72-year-old institute. Zajfman, who has been at Weizmann for 15 years, wants to strengthen curiosity-driven research and preserve “complete academic freedom.”

    Weizmann has 2500 students and faculty members whose links to the rest of the world, he says, are “critical to the future of the institute.” But Zajfman admits that recruitment is a challenge, and he condemns the failed attempt earlier this year by U.K. academics to impose a boycott of Israeli institutions (Science, 2 June, p. 1289). “Why should they punish scientists for what the government is doing?” he asks. “Why not boycott the United States for what its [military] is doing in Iraq?” Zajfman succeeds plant scientist Ilan Chet, who is stepping down after 5 years.


    CLOSE SHAVE. The attempted bombing last month of the home of a primate researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), has heightened safety concerns for biomedical researchers working with animals. On 11 July, the group Animal Liberation Front posted a “communiqué” on its Web site from an anonymous source who claimed to have left a Molotov cocktail on the researcher's doorstep on 30 June. Fortunately, according to the FBI, the device did not detonate. The FBI, which has offered a $30,000 reward in the case, also said the bomb was actually deposited at the house of a 70-year-old neighbor.

    Frankie Trull of the Foundation for Biomedical Research says attacks on animal researchers are on the rise. Even people and businesses that provide services to animal researchers have become targets, she says.



    HARDBALL. Information is the coin of the realm on Capitol Hill. So the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has paid a price for not responding quickly enough to a query from the legislators who set its budget.

    This month, the Senate Appropriations Committee prohibited OSTP from spending any of its $5.4 million budget next year for its office of legislative affairs, occupied by Ben Fallon. The language appeared 2 days after Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) asked how the research provisions in a $51 billion bill funding dozens of federal agencies, which the panel took up on 11 July, compared with the recommendations from last fall's report by the National Academies on national priorities and with President George W. Bush's proposed American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI).

    To find out, appropriations staffers asked OSTP for immediate help in comparing ACI with the academies' report. When Fallon raised objections, the committee decided to silence the office that handles OSTP's interactions with Congress.

    Nobody's talking on the record. And the massive spending bill isn't expected to be completed until after the November elections. In the meantime, the OSTP language reminds the agency's lobbyists that communication is a two-way street.