Former Industry Oil and Gas Geologist Up for Top Job at USGS
The Bush administration has appointed a long-time industry geologist and former director of Alaska's oil and gas division to run the U.S. Geological Survey. If confirmed by the Senate, Mark Myers, who also ran Alaska's geological survey, will be the first director recruited from outside USGS or academia in half a century. Myers' employment with the oil industry has some environmental groups worried that he will push to open up the Arctic Wildlife Refuge for drilling, according to Environmental Science & Technology. But Myers and six other Alaskan officials resigned in protest last year over Gov. Frank Murkowski's efforts to relax regulations on natural gas pipelines. Myers wrote that "staying in this position would require me to compromise my values as to what is right, both legally and ethically, and what is in the interests of the state."
NIH's Conflict-of-Interest Disclosure Rule for Universities: "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"
The National Institutes of Health is failing to enforce its conflict-of-interest rules at universities that receive the lion's share of the agency's $28 billion budget, the San Jose Mercury reported. Medical schools are required to promptly notify NIH when faculty members with government grants develop financial ties with private companies worth more than $10,000 or own 5 percent of a company. But NIH has only two reports from Stanford on file even though eight faculty members submitted conflict-of-interest disclosure statements. The agency blamed clerical errors. Another six faculty members, including Harry B. Greenberg, a senior associate dean for research and chairman of the school's conflict-of-interest committee, failed to notify either the university or NIH. The Health and Human Services Department Inspector General will begin investigating NIH's conflict-of-interest enforcement procedures later this year.
Open Access Publishing Registers More Gains
Open access publishing got a boost last month when the Medical Research Council - the British equivalent of the National Institutes of Health - announced that all peer-reviewed papers derived from government-funded research must be made freely available through PubMed Central within six months of publication. The new rule will apply to all grants awarded after October 2006. The U.S. House of Representatives in June attached an amendment to the NIH appropriations bill (not yet approved by the Senate) that would make full text articles funded by the government available through PubMed Central one year after publication. NIH currently has a voluntary guideline encouraging open access publishing after a year. Many journal publishers, who charge up to $30 for single copies of journal articles, oppose the measure although Elsevier Ltd., the world's largest academic publisher, recently issued a statement supporting the NIH guideline.
Public Disclosure to Fight Misuse of Science Funds in China
Research organizations in China that misuse government funds will be publicly discredited, the Chinese Minister of Science and Technology stated at a national conference last week in Beijing. In addition to building a database containing histories of how applicants for research funding used previous grants, scientists that misuse funds or misstate results "will be warned and [it will be] made public," Xu Guanhua, the Minister of Science and Technology, said. The decree comes after several high-profile cases of fraud by university scientists, which included faked research and lying about previous work experience.
Odds and Ends
A law school in San Antonio has been given $1 million by the federal government to research state policies on a public right-to-know law that was signed 40 years ago. It's an attempt to restrict the amount of sensitive data released through freedom-of-information requests . . . The National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have collaborated to develop an online scientific integrity information project which will offer essays and articles on the topic for scholars, scientists and educators.