NIH to Downplay Single Investigators?

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

Is National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins planning to steer his ocean liner of an institute toward "big biology" at the expense of single-investigator grants? That was the fear of some in the biomedical science community last week when Collins discussed President Barack Obama's budget request for a 3.2% raise, to $32 billion, for NIH in 2011. But other NIH watchers say that a close look at the budget proposal suggests that Collins's words are just spin.

Russian science has been getting some bad press recently, what with a recent report on its declining productivity in scientific papers and a letter from expatriate scientists to the Russian president and prime minister warning of the parlous state of basic research. But there were some reasons to be hopeful in a speech delivered yesterday by President Dmitry Medvedev on the occasion of Russian Science Day while handing out prizes to young researchers.

For years, Asian carp have been slowly moving up the Mississippi River. In addition to competing with native fish, they jump out of the water when startled--sometimes even posing a hazard to boaters. Now, with the invasive fish nearing Chicago, the Obama Administration has announced a new strategy for preventing the carp from entering the Great Lakes, where they could threaten a sportfishing industry worth $7 billion. The plan also includes money for research on how to battle the fish. However, the move appears unlikely to end a feud between midwestern states over what to do about the carp.

In what may presage an intellectual property battle, Rudolf Jaenisch of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and Konrad Hochedlinger of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston will be awarded a patent on a technique for turning adult mammalian cells into stem cells that can in principle become any kind of cell in the body. The approach--reprogramming somatic cells--promises to be a boon for regenerative medicine. But other groups have similar patent claims pending, and some researchers worry that a tangle of patents could delay medical applications.

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