Science Rules
The Mobile Scientist
Martina Habeck | Jul 4, 2004
File PhotoThe European Commission (EC) is putting an ever increasing emphasis on excellence and mobility of researchers. Yet, according to Euroscience board member Christine Heller del Riego, the proportion of mobile scientists in Europe is low. What is holding scientists back?A long list of obstacles faces the migrant scientist, especially if children are involved. Moving from one country to another means not only finding a new place to live, but also coming to grips with different tax and heal
How to Talk About Ethics
Peg Brickley | Jun 20, 2004
Assessing whether a laboratory practice makes great science or an invitation to an ethics investigation is not always easy in the highly charged atmosphere of a research enterprise.
Germans Want to Save Animals by Suing Scientists
Martina Habeck | Jun 6, 2004
File PhotoA legal initiative is underway in Germany to give animal-rights organizations the standing to sue scientists and others who violate animal rights granted in a 2002 amendment to the German constitution. Animal-rights activists argue that the constitution offers no way of enforcing those rights. "Animal experiments have to be 'necessary' and 'ethically justified,' but those are vague legal terms," says Eisenhart von Loeper, an attorney and chairman of People for Animal Rights Germany. "T
Study Seeks to Uncover Unofficial Rules in Science
Peg Brickley | May 23, 2004
File PhotoLife in the laboratory can seem increasingly rule-bound, especially in these high-security times. In studying what makes life scientists tick, some researchers suspect that the most important decisions fall into the gray areas between the rules, leaving scientists groping for guidance."If you were to go into a laboratory and just watch for a month ... you would probably find a whole culture governed by rules that are largely not written down at all," says Nick Steneck, a University of
EU Exacts Toll from Underfunded Countries
Martina Habeck | May 9, 2004
With the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), the European Community has focused funding on projects designed to forge lasting research partnerships across Europe and to achieve highly ambitious goals, such as developing novel technologies for proteomics research, and decreasing the Europe-wide burden of allergy and asthma.The European Life Scientist Organization (ELSO) recently launched a petition to lobby for changes, but it's the scientists from the 10 countries that joined the European Union in
Feared Rules Save Research Time
Peg Brickley | Mar 28, 2004
File PhotoThe rush to put new rules in place for handling potentially dangerous materials in US laboratories last year put many in the research community on edge.Long before the prospect of bioterrorism became a national worry, scientists studying virulent pathogens had worked out safety standards to make sure the ugliest of bugs were not let loose on the public. The fear was that government regulators would add only more paperwork and costs to the process, getting in the way of research.Regulat
Peers Ponder Review
Martina Habeck | Mar 14, 2004
File PhotoThe peer-review system of the German Research Foundation (DFG) is unique, as proposals are reviewed by experts nominated and elected by the scientific community. This will change in the spring, however, when the DFG will select the reviewers; the elected representatives will be responsible for quality control and for writing funding recommendations based on the initial reviews. The DFG claims that the reform strengthens the principle of academic self-government, but critics of the new
Fight About Fees Unites Foes
Peg Brickley | Mar 1, 2004
File PhotoAboycott over the high price of online access to scientific journals has turned into a rolling protest with faculty and administrators, for once, on the same side of a budget battle.By last month, Harvard University, Cornell University, Duke University, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had all joined the movement that started in 2003 at the University of California, San Francisco. The schools' faculty took a hard line in contract nego
Tissue Troubles
Martina Habeck | Feb 15, 2004
The British Parliament will this year pass a revised Human Tissue Act, prompted by a series of incidents in which hospitals retained children's organs without their parents' permission. According to the new law, scientists will have to obtain informed consent when using human organs or tissues for their research.The new regulations will bring legal certainty to British scientists, but across Europe, they only add to the crosshatch of conflicting rules regarding the use of human materials. A few
Help for the Harried Grant Writer
Peg Brickley | Feb 1, 2004
Figure 1Most US researchers have their own version of the burst dot-com bubble: the failed promise that electronic communications would ease the process of interacting with the federal government.Just like the old paper world of forms, forms, and more forms, the Internet has filled up with systems, systems, and more systems for applying for grants electronically. Each system requires researchers and laboratory staff to master a new set of clicks, meet a new set of deadlines, follow a new logic.B
Shh! Don't Talk to Your Lawyer
Peg Brickley | Jan 18, 2004
At $300 or $400 or $600 an hour, a chat with a patent lawyer should offer some measure of comfort for a research scientist venturing into the potential minefield of discoveries worthy of legal protection. Rather than soldiering blindly forward with research in one of the hot new areas, a scientist can always consult a lawyer to check out the patented competition and avoid intruding on someone else's territory, right?Actually, no. In fact, according to briefs filed with the nation's leading paten
Red Tape, Paperasserie, Papierkrieg, Papeleo ...
Martina Habeck | Dec 14, 2003
The clock is ticking for the implementation of a common set of rules that will regulate the conduct of clinical trials in EU member states. The European Commission (EC) passed the EU directive on clinical trials in May 2001 in an attempt to simplify the clinical testing of medicines in Europe and to ensure that trials meet the highest standards of quality. Member states must comply with the new rules by May 1, 2004. But, some scientists worry that the proposed regulations will damage noncommer
Proposed Peer-Review Rule Calls Academicians Biased
Peg Brickley | Dec 1, 2003
File photo Scientists are debating the implications of a proposed new set of rules requiring federal agencies to consult outside scientists systematically when revising regulations. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) says that the "peer-review" requirements are meant to "further engage the scientific community in the regulatory process." Under the draft rules, independent scientists must review significant amendments to any federal agency rule, which includes amendments tha
Nordic Countries Find Funding for All
Martina Habeck | Nov 2, 2003
File Photo To make it easier for scientists from Nordic countries to apply for multinational European Union grants, the Nordic Medical Research Councils and the Nordic Councils of Ministers launched a program in October that aims to encourage more collaboration across Scandinavia. The initiative has a budget of about $1.25 million (US), which will be divided among two to three research networks--the virtual Nordic Centres of Excellence in Molecular Medicine. The money will be given to researc
Journals 'Fess Up to Authors' Financial Conflicts
Peg Brickley | Oct 19, 2003
File Photo Major peer-reviewed science journals are toughening rules that require authors to say when they have a financial stake in topics of their articles. The moves from Science and Nature come in response to letters exposing what critics say were a series of publications by people whose pocketbooks could have been hurt or helped by articles published in the journals. Nature's new policy takes effect in October, while Science has underlined its existing policy and asked its editorial boar
Emerald Isle of Opportunity
Martina Habeck | Oct 5, 2003
File Photo A new association will be launched in New York City this month to unite Irish expatriates in the United States who are involved in life sciences. The aim of BioLink USA-Ireland, to be officially launched Oct. 9, is to help people reconnect with their home country and help develop the Irish biotech industry. Enterprise Ireland (EI), the trade and technology board of the Irish government, is setting up the project. Over the past year, EI established contacts with 400 people involved
An Expert Career
Peg Brickley | Sep 21, 2003
File Photo Paul D. Ellner was nearing retirement from his professorship in microbiology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons when he stumbled on his second career "quite by accident." A colleague who had enlisted as an expert witness in a legal case was overwhelmed with work and passed the job on to Ellner. "I found it very challenging, very interesting," says Ellner, who has been hired as an expert witness in more than 70 cases since his retirement from Columbia almost 1
New EU Money for Research
Martina Habeck | Sep 7, 2003
File Photo The European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) is setting up a grant program to fund ¤30 million each year for outstanding research in molecular biology. The program may be of particular interest to scientists from smaller countries and to those who are working in research that is difficult to fund (such as work with genetically modified plants). This scheme may make science more competitive because researchers will vie for grants with peers from all over Europe, rather th
Document Your Use of Patented Tools
Peg Brickley | Aug 24, 2003
File Photo Like their colleagues in private industry, academic researchers need to think defensively when it comes to the use of research materials covered by patents. Many university-based scientists may have systems in place already to document the equipment and materials used for experiments related to research financed by commercial sponsors. It is up to the company sponsoring the work to ensure that technology is licensed and the royalties paid. But a drawn out legal battle has ended in
European Economy Strikes at Rising Stars
Martina Habeck | Jul 27, 2003
Establishing oneself as an independent investigator is not easy, and this is especially true for young scientists in Europe. The good news is that in many European countries, substantial reforms and improvements have begun to reverse the brain drain. The bad news is that because of the economic slowdown, science funding is often being squeezed, and this always affects people at the junior end. Germany's Max Planck Society (MPG), for example, recently announced dramatic cuts to cope with a de