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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
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...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
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...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
- About Us
A Win for German Science?
23 September 2013 2:30 pm
The world’s most powerful Ph.D. chemist was the big winner of yesterday’s elections in Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel, who started her career as a quantum chemist, and her party, the center-right Christian Democrats (CDU), won 41.5% of the vote. That was far ahead of their main rivals, the Social Democrats (SPD), who received 25.7%.
The victory presents Merkel with a quandary, because her coalition partner of the last 4 years, the Free Democrats (FDP), received only 4.7% of the vote, failing to reach the 5% cutoff for representation in the German parliament, the Bundestag. That means she will have to form a coalition with one of two center-left parties, the SPD or the eco-oriented Greens, both of which say they are reluctant to form a coalition with the CDU. The negotiations are expected to take some time; SPD leaders said today they wouldn’t start possible talks until Friday.
Observers say a “grand coalition” between CDU and SPD is most likely. But the SPD might drive a hard bargain. The party was the coalition partner during Merkel’s first term from 2005 to 2009, but they then lost badly in the 2009 election. Party leaders want to avoid that fate this time around. The other alternative for Merkel, the Green Party, would be a new pairing at the federal level. At least one major sticking point between the parties—differing positions on nuclear energy—disappeared as Merkel’s CDU decided to support Germany’s phaseout of nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster.
Germany’s “Energiewende,” the effort to transition away from nuclear and fossil fuels toward renewables, is likely to continue no matter what coalition forms. All the parties have ambitious carbon dioxide-reduction goals in their platforms. Both CDU and SPD see efficient coal- and gas-fired electricity plants as an acceptable and important bridge technology. The Green Party wants to block any new coal-fired plants from being built.
The just-elected parliament will also face several key decisions on research funding, which will have far-reaching consequences for German scientists. Several big funding programs run out between 2015 and 2019, and the next government will shape their replacements. There is broad support across parties, however, for continuing the programs in some form.
Some observers say that a grand coalition could be the best chance for a constitutional amendment that research leaders have long argued is essential: allowing the federal government to finance universities directly. (Now, only the Länder, or states, are allowed to directly fund education.) Previous attempts at reform have been blocked by disagreement between CDU and SPD over whether to lift the ban just at the university level—the CDU preference—or whether to allow federal funding for preschools through universities, as the SPD wants. A grand coalition might force compromise on the issue.
In any case, Merkel has reason to understand the issue’s importance to researchers: Her husband is a chemistry professor at Berlin’s Humboldt University.