News in a nutshell
Hungary spill may be worse than expected; Good citations make good papers; More negative findings for XMRV/chronic fatigue link; National Medals of Science awarded
__Murky science after Hungary's spill__
|NASA Satellite image of Hungarian sludge spill|
New research has reported that the levels of harmful chemicals, such as arsenic and mercury, in the red sludge that spewed from a Hungarian aluminum oxide factory earlier this month are much higher than initially expected.
The study, commissioned by environmental group Greenpeace and conducted by Austria's Federal Environmental Agency, reports that more than 50 metric tons of arsenic may have been released from the plant in western Hungary when a torrent of rust-colored sludge blanketed the surrounding area, seeped into local streams, and killed 7 people in the beginning of October. Some Hungarian chemists are skeptical of the results, because the ore used to make aluminum oxide contains neither arsenic nor mercury. The Hungarian government has yet to publish the results of its own analysis of the spill site. (Hat tip to the linkurl:__Global Security Newswire__.);http://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/gsn/nw_20101014_9222.php
__The genealogy of great science__
Papers that cite highly cited research tend to be more influential in their own right, according to a new __PLoS ONE__ linkurl:analysis;http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0013327 of approximately 870,000 articles published in 2003. More than half of the references in highly cited life science research papers were themselves top-cited articles. "Isaac Newton seems to have been right when he said that he had been able to 'see further only by standing on the shoulders of giants'," study leader Lutz Bornmann, a bibliometrics researcher at the Max Planck Society in Munich, Germany, told linkurl:Nature
More stem cell legal wrangling
The legal battle over US funding for human embryonic stem cell research rages on. Last week, federal lawyers filed details of their appeal of the August 23rd
injunction barring the National Institutes of Health from funding research that uses hESCs. The opposing side in the court battle also filed a document, replying to the government's assertions that the funding of embryonic stem cell research is legal under US law. (Hat tip to linkurl:__ScienceInsider__.);http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2010/10/more-legal-jousting-in-stem-cell.html
__XMRV/chronic fatigue link weakens__
Two new studies have failed to find XMRV in patients suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, adding to the ever-growing pile of conflicting evidence on the topic. A Harvard Medical School group, led by Athe Tsibris, searched for evidence of the retrovirus in patients afflicted with chronic fatigue syndrome, HIV, rheumatoid arthritis, or people who had recent organ transplants. "We found nothing," Tsibris told the __Chicago Tribune__ last week. "I would say that is the largest surprise for us. We could not detect XMRV in any sample." His study, plus one conducted by researchers at Oxford University (both published online in __The Journal of Infectious Diseases__), adds to a growing body of literature that cannot replicate the linkurl:findings;http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/1179052 of linkurl:Judy Mikovits;http://www.wpinstitute.org/research/research_profiles.html of the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease and other groups, including scientists at the NIH and Food and Drug Administration, who have linkurl:reported;http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/08/16/1006901107.abstract finding a higher prevalence of the virus in chronic fatigue patients.
US govt gives new rules to stop terrorism
The Department of Health and Human Services issued a set of guidelines last week aimed at preventing synthetic DNA sequences from getting into the hands of terrorists. The voluntary guidance advises genomic product providers to clearly document the identities and backgrounds of their clients, to assess the suitability of their requests for synthetic DNA, and to screen requested sequences to assure that they do not include select agents, such as Ebola virus and ricin. For a more in-depth look at the topic, see linkurl:this article;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/57355/ in the May 2010 issue.
US names National Medal winners
On Friday (15th October) the White House awarded 10 researchers the National Medal of Science, the highest honors bestowed by the US government on scientists, engineers, and inventors. You can see the list of winners linkurl:here.;http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/10/15/president-obama-honors-nations-top-scientists-and-innovators
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:Stem cell ruling lamented, appealed;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/57633/
[25th August 2010]*linkurl:Q&A: Why I delayed XMRV paper;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/57628/
[23rd August 2010]*linkurl:Synthetic Bio, Meet "FBIo";http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/57355/