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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
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Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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British Science and Climate/Energy Ministers Named
13 May 2010 1:09 pm
Following the formation of the United Kingdom's Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition government, Conservative Member of Parliament David Willetts has been named as the new minister of state for universities and science. Like his predecessor, Paul Drayson, Willetts will attend cabinet meetings without being a full cabinet member. Although he doesn't have a science background, he has strong connections with academia and has spoken strongly in favor of science and so has been cautiously welcomed by researchers.
Willetts studied philosophy, politics, and economics at the University of Oxford and later served in a number of government departments as a policy adviser. Elected to parliament in 1992, he held a number of minor government posts and, because of his policy background and cerebral approach, earned the nickname "two brains." With the Conservatives as the leading minority party since 1997, Willetts held various "shadow" cabinet jobs, including shadow education secretary and, most recently, shadow minister for universities and skills. Among the pressing research issues he will face will be determining the level of funding for Britain's research councils, which will be laid out in a comprehensive spending review this autumn. The new government is looking for £6 billion in cuts across government spending this year to tackle the huge budget deficit, so he will have to work hard to protect science. There is also the question of how to allocate funding for research in U.K universities. This was previously allocated on a department-by-department basis according to a peer-review assessment of research strengths. The previous government was due to replace that assessment system with one based on metrics. The Conservative manifesto pledged to delay the implementation of the new system, but to what end? (A previous ScienceInsider noted the Conservative Party's plans for science.)
Also in the science spotlight will be Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne, the new secretary of state for energy and climate change. Huhne was the Lib-Dem spokesperson on the environment a few years ago and has spoken in favor of green taxes. He has the unenviable position of being in charge of the coalition government's policy of promoting new building of nuclear power stations, whereas Liberal Democrat policy opposes them.