5-Prime | The Headline Grabbers
This year's science newsmakers, besides comparative genomics and systems biology, include ...
McSequence Remarkably, scientists completed the genomic sequence of the coronavirus responsible for the SARS pandemic less than two months after it was first identified. "We never had a disease [that] was so much into the public news," says Bhagirath Singh, scientific director of the Canadian Institute for Health Research's Institute of Infection and Immunity. He says that genomic information allowed public health officials to identify treatment options more quickly.
Publications made public In September, the Nature Publishing Group revised its policy on conflicts of interest disclosure to include authors of review articles after it was disclosed that one author, Charles B. Nemeroff of The Emory University School of Medicine, wrote, in part, about three products to which he had financial ties. The Public Library of Science published the inaugural issue of PLoS Biology in October, and BioMed Central, an open-access publisher and a partner of The Scientist, received official UK funding support in June.
Biosecurity Thomas Butler, the Texas Tech microbiologist accused of lying to the FBI about the whereabouts of missing vials of pneumonic plague bacteria, was found innocent of that charge but guilty of fraud and improper shipping at his trial in November. Steven Hatfill, the former Fort Detrick virologist whom Attorney General John Ashcroft named "a person of interest" involving the anthrax investigations, sued the FBI and US Justice Department in August for violating his personal rights.
Title II of the 2002 Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act now requires labs working with hazardous agents to be certified, but US agencies were forced to issue provisional certifications when the FBI didn't complete inspections by the Nov. 12 deadline. Janet Shoemaker, the American Society for Microbiology's director of government relations, says that guidelines restricting the publication of papers potentially hazardous to biosecurity have had little effect on research.
Postdocs unite The National Postdoctoral Association, founded this past January with $450,000 from the Sloan Foundation and sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, has appointed a new executive director and held executive board elections. Its first annual meeting is scheduled for April 2004.
New actions on old issues Mixed reviews greeted the European Union's guidelines on funding human embryonic stem cell research, approved by the European Parliament in November. And while the US Senate stalled legislation to ban human cloning, the UN decided to postpone voting on a cloning ban until 2005.
--Maria W. Anderson
Cambridge Healthtech Institute