AI helps find missed meteorites
Antarctica is famously good at preserving meteorites, burying the rocks in snow and ice until they resurface. They often become concentrated in regions of compacted “blue” ice that make up about 1% of the Antarctic surface. But finding the meteorites within those tracts has been an ad hoc affair. Now, researchers have a new tool for the hunt: an artificial intelligence algorithm that predicts their location. A team of Belgian researchers announced last week that it employed the machine-learning software to help discover five meteorites, including a massive, 7-kilogram specimen, in a blue ice region of East Antarctica not previously known to harbor them. The software, described in a study published last year in Science Advances, uses satellite data about known, meteorite-producing regions, such as slope, blue ice content, and temperature, and is trained to predict locations that have similar characteristics. Scientists search an ice field in Antarctica for meteorites.

Another HIV vaccine fails testing
The beleaguered effort to develop an HIV vaccine has yielded yet another failure in the final stage of testing a candidate. An efficacy trial of a complicated vaccine regimen, developed by a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary in cooperation with the U.S. National Institutes of Health, stopped early because an interim analysis showed it offered no protection, sponsors announced last week. The placebo-controlled study, dubbed Mosaico, assessed whether a series of six different shots could prevent HIV infection. Four shots delivered adenoviruses carrying a “mosaic” of genes from different HIV subtypes, and the final two contained two versions of HIV’s surface protein. The trial involved 3900 men in Europe, South America, and the United States who have sex with men and with transgender people. A similar study in sub-Saharan African women that ended in 2021 also found the strategy offered no protection. No other experimental HIV vaccines are in or nearing efficacy trials.

African science leaders named
Two institutes within CGIAR, an international organization that supports agricultural research, will soon be headed by African scientists for the first time. Cameroon-born Appolinaire Djikeng will direct the International Livestock Research Institute starting in April. It operates in Africa and Asia, with headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and an annual budget of about $80 million. Djikeng currently directs the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health at the University of Edinburgh. Rwandan scientist Éliane Ubalijoro has been named CEO of the $100-million-a-year CIFOR-ICRAF, which funds research on deforestation, unsustainble food systems, and other topics. It includes two partners, the Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry. Ubalijoro will also direct the latter, which is based in Nairobi. She comes from McGill University’s Institute for the Study of International Development.

War moves up Doomsday Clock
Russia’s war against Ukraine helped prompt keepers of the iconic Doomsday Clock last week to advance it by 10 seconds, to 90 seconds before midnight. It’s the clock’s closest approach to “midnight”—which symbolizes humanity’s self-annihilation—since the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists began the annual exercise in 1947. Besides the Russia-Ukraine war, the group cited high risks from climate change, disinformation, and future pandemics.

Human geneticists apologize
The American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) apologized this week for the participation of some of its early leaders in the eugenics movement and for other injustices committed by researchers in their field. Before the 1970s, many of its past presidents supported forced sterilization of people with “undesirable traits,” and the society stayed silent about the use of genetics to justify discrimination against Black people, according to a report issued by ASHG. It wasn’t until the early 1990s that the society formally opposed eugenics theories. Also during that decade, Arizona State University’s Diabetes Project studied the genetic information of Havasupai tribe members without their consent, and ASHG remained uncritical. Historians had documented several of these cases, but their extent is “shocking, disturbing, and surprising,” says Sarah Tishkoff, a University of Pennsylvania geneticist and member of an ASHG expert panel that guided the report, prepared by a contractor. To redress these harms, ASHG said it would strengthen diversity initiatives. It also will remove the names of all scientists from awards it bestows, pending a review of their actions.

Convicted scientist avoids prison
An academic scientist in the United States convicted of failing to fully report his ties to a Chinese university will not be imprisoned or fined. In sentencing chemical engineer Franklin Tao last week, U.S. District Court Senior Judge Julie Robinson rejected the government’s request that the former faculty member at the University of Kansas (KU), Lawrence, serve 30 months in prison and be fined $100,000. Robinson also chastised prosecutors for misunderstanding the culture of academic research, another setback to a Department of Justice initiative that has prosecuted some two dozen Chinese-born scientists. “There was no evidence of any conflict of interest … and this is not an espionage case,” Robinson said in court. “What the government is claiming is a conflict of time [commitments].” Despite spending time in China, she said, Tao was also able to supervise research at KU “because apparently he is somebody who can work 70 or 80 hours a week consistently.” KU put Tao, who was a tenured professor, on unpaid administrative leave after his August 2019 arrest and this month said he was no longer an employee.

Biden ups science board diversity
President Joe Biden this month announced eight new members he plans to appoint to the body that oversees the National Science Foundation (NSF). The new class will give the National Science Board its most diverse makeup ever and reverse an emphasis on white, male appointees under former President Donald Trump. The board’s new class includes seven women and one man, five of whom are scientists of color. In all, the 24-member board will feature 10 women, four Black scientists, and three Latino scientists. Board members serve 6-year terms, and one-third are replaced every 2 years.