Italian Scientists Protest Job Cuts, a Libel Lawsuit Over an MRI Drug

Here's a rundown of some of the stories we've been following on Science's policy blog, ScienceInsider:

With a rooftop protest televised over the Internet and a surreal video depicting masked scientists being gunned down, Italian researchers working for the country's main environmental research institute are protesting job cuts recently announced by Minister of Environment Stefania Prestigiacomo. Already, 200 people have been fired this year and another 250 may not see their short-term contracts renewed for 2010. The jobs of more than one-third of the 1000-plus scientists working at Italy's Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA) are at risk, say the protesters.

After stepping down as head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) almost a year ago, Julie Gerberding has a new gig: She will preside over vaccine development at the drug giant Merck. The company announced the appointment yesterday, adhering to the requirement that civil servants wait a year before joining an industry they helped regulate.

In a joint report, The Sunday Times and ProPublica, an American investigative journalism enterprise, have detailed a libel lawsuit against Henrik Thomsen, a Danish clinician who is among those that alerted patients and regulators to potential risks of a drug called Omniscan that is administered to people receiving MRIs in order to improve the images.

Most of the controversy over probiotic therapies, in which live "beneficial" bacteria or other microbes are administered to treat or prevent disease, has centered on their effectiveness, not their safety. That's why it was such a shock early last year when during a Dutch probiotic study for acute pancreatitis, significantly more patients died in the treatment arm than in the placebo arm. Last week, the Dutch Health Care Inspectorate published a critical review of the so-called Propatria study.

For more on these stories and the latest science policy news and analysis, visit ScienceInsider.