The THES Diary

February 26, 1999

Safety in risk business

If plant genetics has proved an ethical minefield lately, human genetics is even more fraught. But it will be less of a worry now for Sir Colin Campbell, vice-chancellor of the University of Nottingham, who last week tendered his resignation as chair of the Human Genetics Advisory Commission for a world of more easily evaluated risks.

According to the Department of Trade and Industry's statement:

"He was anticipating non-executive responsibilities with a major insurance company and in case the HGAC should in the future return to consider genetics and insurance he wished to remove himself from any possible future embarrassment."

The danger in Igs

An acute sense of humour failure seems to have struck Sir Robert May, the normally cheerful chief scientific adviser to the government.

In recent years he has written to the Boston-based organisers of the satirical Ig Nobel Prizes demanding their abolition. At the California meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science last month he went one further, according to Mini-Annals of Improbable Research, an online journal associated with the Igs.

In a heated discussion, the journal claims, he said the Igs are so dangerous they should not be awarded to any scientist without the approval of their supervisor and their government. The THES puts Sir Bob hot favourite for the next round of awards.

Thieves for a fee

Student hardship part II. Two top students at the University of California at Santa Cruz have been charged with armed robberies, which police say they committed to pay for their tuition, room and board.

First-year Emma Freeman, a National Merit Scholar and aspiring writer, was arrested with her boyfriend, Anthony Cristofani, a philosophy major.

The two, with an accomplice who is an elementary school teacher, allegedly stole cash from a hair salon and electronic items from a retail warehouse.

Dolly's heavy petting

For those who fear the living results of scientific research are poorly treated, Harry Griffin, director of the Roslin Institute where Dolly, the first cloned sheep, was born, offered reassurance this week.

He told an audience on patenting life that his lab has about "three times as many vets per 1,000 sheep as this government aspires to have GPs per 1,000 of the population".

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