Friday, 21 August 1992 Washington, DC
1. NSF PROPOSES REQUIREMENTS FOR CONFLICT OF INTEREST
The proposal, published in the 16 July 92
Federal Register, would require grantee institutions to maintain
"an appropriate written and enforced policy on conflict of
interest." Each proposal to NSF would have to include a list of
significant financial ties between the investigators (or family
or business associates) and parties that might have a financial
stake in the outcome of the research. Why now? I mean, besides
the fact that this is the season when most faculty take their
vacations. The short answer is John Dingell (D-MI), the chairman
of the House Investigations Subcommittee that uncovered research
fraud in the Baltimore case and overhead abuses at Stanford.
Dingell's investigators are now looking into whether faculty at
major universities have diverted federal research funds into
support for commercial enterprises.
The deadline for comments on the proposed changes is 14 Sept 92.
2. IRONICALLY, THE SCIENCE BOARD WANTS STRONGER INDUSTRIAL
The problem of conflict of interest mushroomed
following adoption of legislation in 1980 allowing universities
to hold the patents to technologies resulting from government-
funded research. The intent was to accelerate applications of
basic research. The next step, of course, is to do applied
research in the first place--and that is just what the National
Science Board recommends for NSF in a report released last week.
The NSB plan has already had an impact; it was incorporated into
the report language of the Senate VA/HUD/IA appropriations bill
(WN 7 Aug 92), which will be taken up
by the full Senate as soon as it returns in September.
Meanwhile, NSB has established a Special Commission on the Future
of the National Science Foundation that seems to be charged with
figuring out how to make the Foundation a handmaiden of industry.
The Endless Frontier, Vannevar Bush's visionary 1945 study, con-
tains a warning by a committee that included I.I. Rabi, professor
physics at Columbia, Oliver Buckley, President of Bell Labs, and
Edwin Land, President of Polaroid: "Under pressure for immediate
results, and unless deliberate policies are set up to guard
against it, applied research invariably drives out pure."
3. BUT NASA IS PREPARING TO ANSWER "A BASIC BIOLOGICAL
Thirty people have worked for over 8 years
getting ready for this Spacelab mission, which will cost about
$1B. Biologists the world over are tingling with anticipation as
they await results of the early September mission to find out "if
gravity is essential to the normal fertilization of frog eggs and
the early development of frogs." Although frog eggs have been
studied in space before, this will be the first time they have
been fertilized in space. The mission will also test the
effectiveness of "autogenic feed-back training" on space
sickness. The tadpole experiment is a worthy successor to last
year's jellyfish mission, in which 4,238 jellyfish were
photographed swimming in zero gravity. It was reported that the
jellyfish seemed confused. So who isn't?