NEWS (back to top)
CSTL MEMBER NEWS (back to top)
In November, CSTL lost a respected friend and colleague with the passing of Margaret Berger. Professor Berger was a member of the faculty of Brooklyn Law School for more than thirty-five years. She was a pioneer in the field of scientific evidence and a founding member of CSTL. Margaret served on numerous ad hoc National Research Council (NRC) and CSTL committees, including the CSTL committee on Daubert standards (as Co-Chair) and the committee that issued the landmark 2009 report on forensic science in the United States (as a member). Unlike many other meetings, she once said, she never wished for CSTL committee meetings to "go away." Margaret may have "gone away" from us, but her humor, intellect, and vitality will not be forgotten, nor will her tremendous influence on CSTL. She is sorely missed.
CSTL Member Arthur Bienenstock Elected to Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences
In March 2010, Arthur I. Bienenstock, Special Assistant to the President for Federal Research Policy and Director of the Wallenberg Research Link at Stanford University, was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences. On October 29, 2010, he was sworn in at a ceremony in Stockholm. As director at the Wallenberg Research Link, Dr. Bienenstock has promoted exchange between Stanford and Swedish scientists. Working with "my colleagues in Sweden has been a great joy and source of satisfaction," Bienenstock remarked, and "I look forward to working with the Academy in the coming years."
CSTL Member Marcus Feldman Wins $1M Dan David Prize
In April, CSTL member Marcus Feldman, Burnet C. and Mildred Wohlford Professor of Biological Sciences at Stanford University, was awarded one of three million dollar prizes by the Dan David Foundation. The prizes recognize "achievements having an outstanding scientific, technological, cultural or social impact on our world. Each year fields are chosen with the three time dimensions - Past, Present, and Future." Dr. Feldman was awarded the prize for his work on the past (human and animal evolution and the application of mathematical theory to the evolution of behavior). "His work has led to highly focused insights of cultural significance such as the out-of-Africa model of human evolution, as well as cultural preferences in different civilizations," the Foundation said.
CSTL Member Elizabeth Blackburn, "Rock Star of Science"
In June 2009, the Geoffrey Beene Foundation launched a national advertising campaign to make science more appealing to young people. This past December, CSTL member Elizabeth Blackburn, Morris Herztstein Professor of Biology and Physiology at the University of California, San Francisco, appeared with seventeen other "Rock Stars of Science" in the campaign's second wave. Blackburn, Nobel Laureate and expert in telomere and telomerase research, was featured in print ads with fellow molecular biologist Phillip Sharp and members of the rock group Heart.
CSTL EVENTS (back to top)
April 2011 CSTL Meeting
The next meeting of the Committee on Science, Technology, and Law will be held on April 11-12, 2011 in Washington, DC. The meeting will feature panel discussions of the following topics: 1) Knowledge in the Public Interest; Consideration of Incidents Where Scientific and Technical Knowledge Is Kept from the Public Because of Sealed Settlements and Other Restrictive Agreements; 2) Re-examining the Governing Rationales and Terms of Agreement Associated with the Use of Data and Tissue Samples for Biomedical and Related Research; and 3) Tort Reform and Medical Malpractice. For more information about the April and future meetings, please contact Steven Kendall at 202-334-1713 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Second Raymond and Beverly Sackler U.S.A.-U.K. Scientific Forum: Neuroscience and the Law
At the request of the National Academy of Sciences' Executive Office and in collaboration with The Royal Society, CSTL assisted with the organization of The Second Raymond and Beverly Sackler U.S.A.-U.K. Scientific Forum. The Forum was held on March 2-3, 2011 at the National Academies' Beckman Center in Irvine, CA. It brought together experts for presentations and moderated discussions in the following topic areas: 1) Neuroscience in Court; 2) "Mind Reading" (including a discussion of lie detection, pain, and false memory); 3) Criminal Responsibility and Sentencing; 4) Moral Reasoning and Psychopathy; and 5) The Developing Brain. Look for the video podcast of the Forum later this month at http://sites.nationalacademies.org/PGA/stl/PGA_059703.
The Economic and Social Life of Synthetic Biology
On behalf of the National Academy of Sciences and with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, CSTL and the Board on Life Sciences (BLS) is organizing, in conjunction with the National Academy of Engineering, the British Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Chinese Academy of Engineering, three high-level international symposia to address next-generation policy challenges for synthetic biology. The first symposium, entitled The Economic and Social Life of Synthetic Biology , will be held in London at the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering on April 13-14, 2011. Future symposia will be held in Shanghai and Washington, DC. Each symposium will concentrate on specific groups of issues with the aim of building on and adding value to international synthetic biology-related discussions currently underway. The project follows upon earlier CSTL work in the field of synthetic biology - most notably an international symposium organized by CSTL in the summer of 2009.
Neal Lane and Nora Volkow Speak at Fall CSTL Meeting
At the October 2010 CSTL meeting, Neal Lane, former director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science Foundation and current Malcolm Gillis University Professor, Professor of Physics, and Senior Fellow, James A Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University and Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addressed the committee.
In his remarks, Dr. Lane reflected on strategies for reorganizing/rethinking science and technology policy in light of the tremendous growth in world population and the rapid pace of scientific and technological advances. Referencing Vannevar Bush's seminal 1945 report, Science The Endless Frontier, Dr. Lane was an advocate of the continued and robust promotion of science and scientific advancement by the federal government through investments in basic and applied research. He argued, however, that the current government-university basic research partnership system should be closely examined to determine which aspects are most successful in producing tangible results. Further, he called for greater Congressional and inter-agency cooperation in promoting the scientific enterprise.
During her presentation to the committee, Dr. Volkow demonstrated how recent advances in neuroimaging have provided dramatic insights into the mechanics of drug addiction. Drug addiction, she observed, is clearly a disease of the brain, as it affects tissue function just like other diseases. Subsequent discussion focused on the implications of these findings for U.S. law and policy.
CSTL IMPACT (back to top)
2001 Anthrax Mailings
On February 15, 2011, at a public news conference and briefing, Dr. Alice Gast and Dr. David Relman, Chair and Vice Chair of the CSTL/BLS committee tasked with the review of the scientific approaches used during the FBI's investigation of the 2001 anthrax mailings, released the NRC report Review of the Scientific Approaches Used During the FBI's Investigation of the 2001 Anthrax Mailings . Embargoed copies of the much anticipated report, which determined that it is not possible to reach a definitive conclusion about the origins of the anthrax in letters mailed to New York City and Washington, DC, based solely on the available scientific evidence, were requested by fifty-one credentialed reporters. The release was attended by nineteen reporters and included cameras from C-SPAN, FOX News, CNN, CBS, ABC and FRONTLINE. A webcast of the event may be viewed here.
Five newspapers, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Examiner, Frederick News Post, and Hartford Courant, featured the report on their front page. More than 400 stories have appeared in print, internet, and broadcast media. Among the news outlets that covered the report were The New York Times, Associated Press, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, National Public Radio, Science, Nature, MSNBC.com, PBS NewsHour, The Washington Times , Reuters, UPI, and the BBC. The Associated Press story alone has run on more than 200 websites across the country.
Drs. Gast and Relman also provided briefings to the FBI, Congressional staff, and the White House. The report prompted Representative Rush Holt to reintroduce the Anthrax Attacks Investigation Act, legislation that would establish a Congressional commission to investigate the 2001 anthrax attacks and the federal government's response to and investigation of the attacks.
CSTL Forensic Science Report Fuels Legislative Reform Efforts/PBS Expose
On January 25, 2011, due in large part to the 2009 CSTL report Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward , Senator Patrick Leahy introduced legislation to strengthen and improve the quality of forensic evidence routinely used in the criminal justice system. In a statement, Senator Leahy cited the CSTL report as "asserting that the field of forensic science has significant problems that urgently need to be addressed" and suggesting "that basic research establishing the scientific validity of many forensic science disciplines has never been done in a comprehensive way." "The National Academy of Sciences' report," Leahy concluded, "was an urgent call to action" and many of its recommendations are incorporated into the proposed legislation. (Source: "Leahy Proposes Landmark Forensics Reform Legislation," available at: http://leahy.senate.gov/press/press_releases/release/?id=6ae7da4b-ec1f-465e-b521-d763ecdc853fUS).
On February 7, 2011, Judge Harry T. Edwards, Co-Chair of the CSTL committee that authored the forensic science report, appeared before the Council of the District of Columbia's Committee on the Judiciary to testify in support of the general aim of the District's Department of Forensic Sciences Act, namely ensuring that the District's forensic science laboratory will be independent of law enforcement control. "Removing all public forensic laboratories and facilities from the administrative control of law enforcement agencies or prosecutors' offices" is a primary recommendation of the CSTL report.
On February 1, 2011, PBS began airing an episode of FRONTLINE entitled Post-Mortem: Death Investigation in America. The episode, which featured interviews with Dr. Marcella Fierro and Dr. Ross Zumwalt, members of the CSTL committee that authored the forensic science report, exposed serious deficiences in the U.S. coroner system. Because of systemic problems within the coroner system, CSTL's forensic science report recommends replacing coroner systems with medical examiner systems. View a video preview of the FRONTLINE episode at http://sites.nationalacademies.org/PGA/stl/PGA_060511.