With two days left in the Obama administration, the federal agency charged with protecting human beings in research on Wednesdayissuedan overhaul of rules that had been caught up in more than five years of acrimonious debate.
The rule changes,which will begin to take effect next year regardless of the change in presidents, will generally allow for a single review of human protections in studies that occur at multiple universities, and will allow broader exemptions from such reviews for researchers whose study interactions are limited to interviews.
My grandfather was born in 1909. Too young for the First World War and too old for the Second, he served in the U.S. Navy between the two. He finished eighth grade before leaving to work, returning to school — through correspondence courses — only in the 1950s. I remember him, though, as an old man prone to quoting Scripture and Shakespeare and singing lines of Handel’s Messiah (interspersed with saltier fare). His brushes with institutional education notwithstanding, he always struck me as self-taught in a way that is now difficult to fathom.
What I remember about him best are his things: his trumpet, with a mute that fascinated me; his tools, including, exotically, a glass cutter and some beekeeping gear; the decorations of his and my grandmother’s small-town New England house — an old wooden relief of an eagle, a framed map of Connecticut. When he died, I inherited — or chose to take — two of these things. One was a worn-looking hammer I still use. The other was a small, lined, leatherette notebook, the first page of which bears the penciled heading, "Thought for the day."
Right under that line is the first and last entry in the notebook: "Nothing so far."
Although a law that places new requirements on foreign nonprofits operating in China was scheduled to go into effect January 1, foreign NGOs in the country remain unclear about the details of the rules and their impact on their ability to continue their work in the new year, theNew York Timesreports.
Passedby China's national legislature last April, the law states that foreign NGOs must not endanger China's national security and ethnic unity. To that end, foreign nonprofits such as foundations, charities, and most business associations must register with the police, be sponsored by state agencies and organizations, and submit regular reports on their activities. Many aspects of the law remain opaque, however, and some organizations fear their work will be curtailed or even banned. Calls to a hotline recently set up by the Ministry of Public Security to answer questions about the law have gone unanswered.