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Vol. 342 ,
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
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Austria Nominates Controversial Science Minister For Top E.U. Post
27 October 2009 4:31 pm
The conservative Austrian government has nominated its science minister, Johannes Hahn, 52, for the top job in European science policy, that of Commissioner for Research. Hahn has been dogged by criticisms from some scientists in his own country for limp research funding and a failed attempt to pull Austria out of CERN.
Hahn, who earned a Ph.D. in philosophy, has worked both in the gambling industry and in local politics. Since Austria’s ruling Christian-democratic party, ÖVP, tapped him as science minister 3 years ago, he has proven himself hard-working and tenacious, says Stefan Bernhardt, head press officer for the Austrian Science Fund (FWF). “There was a big shake-up of the government last year and most ministers lost their jobs. Hahn was one of the few to keep his.” Media reports today suggested that Hahn's nomination is the result of a political compromise.
The mandate of the current Commissioner, Janez Potočnik, ends this month along with that of the entire European Commission. But it's far from certain that Hahn will replace him. Under E.U. rules, the entire slate of new Commissioners—one from each country—must be approved by the European Parliament. And Commission President José Manuel Barroso, in complex negotiations with member states, determines who gets which post in the new Commission. There have been rumors lately that Greece has designs on the research post as well, and that it plans to nominate Achilleas Mitsos. As a former head of the directorate-general for research—the highest-ranking civil servant under the Commissioner—Mitsos knows the playing field in Brussels like few others.
In Austria, Hahn's performance has been a mixed bag, says Bernhardt. “He made a lot of promises about boosting funding for science that never materialized. But it was really the fault of the economic downturn. The FWF was hit very badly.” However, Austria’s oft-stated goal has been to set aside 3% of its GDP to science. “We're currently at 2.74%. That's above average for Europe,” he says. “It could have been much worse for Austrian science if it weren't for [Hahn’s] efforts.”