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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
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...
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,...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
- About Us
- Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - 5:45pm
As eagerness to explore the Arctic’s oil and gas resources grows, the threat of a major Arctic oil spill looms ever larger—and the United States has a lot of work to do to prepare for that inevitability, a panel convened by the National Research Council (NRC) declares in a report released today. The committee, made up of members of academia and industry, recommended beefing up forecasting systems for ocean and ice conditions, infrastructure for supply chains for people and equipment to respond, field research on the behavior of oil in the Arctic environment, and other strategies to prepare for a significant spill in the harsh conditions of the Arctic.
The report “identifies the different pieces that need to come together” to have a chance at an effective oil spill response, says Martha Grabowski, a researcher in information systems at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York, and chair of the NRC committee.
Even in the absence of oil and gas exploration, the Arctic’s rapidly intensifying traffic—whether from barges, research ships, oil tankers, or passenger cruises—makes oil spills increasingly likely. So “the committee felt some urgency” about the issue, says geologist Mark Myers, vice chancellor for research at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. The report, sponsored by 10 organizations ranging from the American Petroleum Institute to the Marine Mammal Commission, focused primarily on the United States’ territorial waters north of the Bering Strait, including the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.
- Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 4:15pm
It has been more than a week since a U.N. panel released a major report on mitigating climate change, but some scientists who helped write a key summary say they continue to smart from some disconcerting last-minute edits.
“We are still shaking,” says Giovanni Baiocchi, an economist at the University of Maryland, College Park, whose work was central to the debates over the summary’s wording. The episode is making some researchers reconsider participating in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) process in the future.
The 13 April release of IPCC’s mitigation assessment—the third of three reports—was capped by 5 days of negotiations in Berlin over the wording of the report’s “Summary for Policymakers.” It is a 33-page boil-down of key points culled from the report’s 2000 pages. Unlike the text in the body of the report, which scientists essentially control, the influential summary is the product of give-and-take with government diplomats and requires consensus.
- Monday, April 21, 2014 - 2:30pm
NEW DELHI—The top two suppliers of foreign graduate students for U.S. universities are heading in opposite directions. Over the past 2 years, applications from India have skyrocketed, while those from China have tapered off—leaving analysts scrambling for answers.
According to a report released on 17 April by the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS), a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., the number of applicants to U.S. graduate schools from India grew by 32% in the past year, following a 22% rise the previous year. The new report also documents a parallel decline in Chinese applications, which fell by 1% this past year and 3% the year before, according to 294 colleges and universities that responded to a CGS survey.
If current trends continue, India may soon surpass China in the number of graduate students it sends to the United States. In 2013 alone, the number of Indian students taking the Graduate Record Examination, widely used to evaluate applicants to U.S. institutions, rose by 70%, and India has already overtaken China in the number of test takers. And in a 2012 study, Rupa Chanda, an economics professor at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, found that the number of Indian students—both undergraduate and graduate students—going abroad grew by a whopping 256% between 2000 and 2009. “There’s rising demand for higher education, growing aspirations, and affluence which enable people to go abroad,” Chanda says.
- Friday, April 18, 2014 - 2:15pm
BEIJING—The Chinese government has lifted the veil just a bit on a nationwide soil survey that it had classified as a state secret. The environment ministry posted a bulletin to its website yesterday divulging that 16% of sites tested during the 5-year survey are polluted. The report concludes, dryly, that China’s “overall national soil environment” is “not optimistic.”
“Finally the public really knows the overall situation of the pollution under their feet, and the severe situation of food pollution,” says Chen Nengchang, a soil scientist at the Guangdong Institute of Eco-Environmental and Soil Sciences in Guangzhou. However, much of the data from the survey—which ran from 2005 to 2010—remains under lock and key. “The transparency is not enough,” says Chen Ruishan, a geologist at Hohai University in Nanjing.
Most worrying to researchers is that pollution is most widespread on agricultural lands, where 19% of sites are tainted. Major contaminants, the bulletin noted, are heavy metals such as cadmium, mercury, arsenic, and lead. The report blames mining and industrial waste for fouling croplands.Continue Reading
- Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 4:45pm
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is dropping a policy that gave researchers only one chance to revise a rejected grant application before having to start over with a new idea—a rule that was especially hard on young investigators. Instead, the agency will allow an applicant to resubmit the identical proposal as many times as they like as a new submission.
The change is the result of years of complaints that the agency’s “two strikes” rule, as it is sometimes called, is forcing scientists who would be funded in a better budget climate to abandon their work and start over. Under the two strikes rule, researchers get two chances to submit the same proposal—the A0 and A1 versions. If the second submission misses the funding cutoff, they have to start over with a fresh A0 application that is closely scrutinized to make sure it is substantially different from the rejected versions. This rule was difficult for new investigators, who lacked the resources to come up with fresh ideas, as well as for established labs with productive long-term projects, said Sally Rockey, NIH deputy director for extramural research, in a press call today.
Under the new policy that takes effect today, scientists will still have just one chance to resubmit a proposal and respond to reviewers’ comments. However, if this A1 application fails, they can resubmit the application as an A0 and NIH reviewers will consider it a fresh proposal. “We believe this is a very positive move for our applicants. I’m very optimistic that this change will give the research community greater versatility in allowing them to present their phenomenal ideas to NIH,” Rockey said.Posted In:
- Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 4:00pm
This week the new winners of the most prestigious U.S. government prize for young scientists were honored at the White House, although they had to cool their heels as President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin exchanged some harsh words. The 102 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers recipients also had some advice to those hoping to follow in their footsteps. Read about it on Science Careers.Continue ReadingPosted In:
- Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 5:15pm
A Tyrannosaurus rex baring banana-sized teeth is taking over Washington, D.C.—and it came via FedEx. The 12-meter “Nation’s T. rex” arrived this morning at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History accompanied by a police escort and was greeted by a packed hall of reporters and dinosaur lovers. The 66-million-year-old bipedal dinosaur, uncovered in 1990, journeyed 3200 kilometers from its former home in Bozeman, Montana, in a dino-decorated delivery truck complete with its own tracking number. “I’m happy to say we FexExed the T. rex,” joked museum director Kirk Johnson before signing a 50-year loan agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the fossil’s former caretaker.
The 7-ton dinosaur, one of the five most complete specimens ever unearthed, will become the centerpiece of the museum’s $48 million renovated National Fossil Hall, scheduled to debut in 2019. The hall will be named in recognition of David Koch, executive vice president of Koch Industries Inc., who donated $35 million toward the makeover. The museum currently displays a replica skeleton erected shortly after the Smithsonian’s failed 1999 bid for the famous T. rex nicknamed “Sue.” Until National Fossil Day on 15 October, visitors can watch museum staff unpack, catalog, and 3D scan the fossilized bones in a “Rex Room” exhibit. The bones will then be shipped to Toronto for mounting.Continue Reading
- Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 4:00pm
Earlier this month, many cetacean researchers and conservationists rejoiced when Japan canceled its controversial scientific whale hunt in Antarctica in response to an order from the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands. Now, however, Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) says it plans to resume research whaling in the region next year, with a program that is “in accord” with the court’s ruling. But ICR’s move could be just a legal maneuver, some observers say.
ICR’s plans became public last week, after the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS), an antiwhaling group known for harassing Japanese whaling ships, publicized legal briefs the research agency filed in a federal court in Seattle, Washington. (ICR is seeking a court order preventing SSCS from interfering with its fleet when killing whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.) Although the documents provide few details, ICR says it plans to resume its Antarctic hunts beginning in the 2015 to 2016 season. (Japan has a second scientific whale hunt in the North Pacific that is not affected by the international court’s ruling.)
The news came as little surprise to those following the controversy. “It’s entirely consistent with what I would expect from ICR,” says Phillip Clapham, a marine biologist with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, Washington. Clapham has served as a member of the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee, which for decades has been critical of Japan’s research whaling program.Continue Reading
- Monday, April 14, 2014 - 3:15pm
The U.S. biomedical science system "is on an unsustainable path" and needs major reform, four prominent researchers write in an opinion piece published today by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers should "confront the dangers at hand,” the authors write, and “rethink” how academic research is funded, staffed, and organized, according to Science Careers (published by AAAS, which also publishes ScienceInsider).
The four authors are Bruce Alberts, former president of the National Academy of Sciences and former editor-in-chief of Science; Marc Kirschner, founding chair of the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School; Shirley Tilghman, former president of Princeton University; and Harold Varmus, Nobel laureate and current director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Among other issues, they suggest that the system may be producing too many new researchers and forcing them to compete for a stagnating pool of funding.
It’s not the first time research leaders have raised such alarms. In 2012, Tilghman co-chaired an advisory panel to the National Institutes of Health, NCI’s parent and the nation’s major biomedical research funder, that suggested a glut of trainees and a dearth of academic positions were creating a dysfunctional biomedical research system.Continue Reading
- Monday, April 14, 2014 - 1:00pm
The Communist Party’s effort to root out corruption in officialdom is now targeting its biggest fish to date in the Chinese science establishment. On 12 April, the state news agency Xinhua reported that Shen Weichen, Communist Party secretary at the China Association for Science and Technology, or CAST, “is now under investigation for suspected serious violation of discipline and laws.”
On its website, CAST describes itself as “the bridge linking Chinese science and technology community with the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government.” The nongovernmental organization, headquartered in Beijing, may be best known in China for its efforts to popularize science for the general public and its occasional reports on the state of the nation’s scientific workforce. Its U.S. equivalent is AAAS, publisher of ScienceInsider.
- Sunday, April 13, 2014 - 5:00am
BERLIN—Global greenhouse emissions are skyrocketing. Emissions cuts required to avoid dangerous impacts of climate change are steep. And despite decades of talk, world governments have made paltry efforts to address the problem.
That’s the grim picture painted by a major report on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions released today by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
“There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual,” said Ottmar Edenhofer, an energy expert at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, who was a co-chair of the roughly 500-page report, in a statement.
The report also describes the daunting work required to sidestep climate dangers, says energy expert Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, California. “To greatly reduce [carbon dioxide] emissions, we must revolutionize our systems of energy production and consumption,” he says. And that’s a “long, hard, and costly undertaking.”Continue Reading
- Friday, April 11, 2014 - 4:45pm
A 2012 paper on the regenerative powers of the human heart has been retracted from the journal Circulation amid an investigation of compromised data. The American Heart Association, which publishes the journal, issued an 8 April retraction for the paper, whose corresponding author was Piero Anversa, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. The retraction states that “an ongoing institutional review by Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital has determined that the data are sufficiently compromised that a retraction is warranted.”
Another author is Circulation’s editor-in-chief, Joseph Loscalzo, who is chair of Brigham’s Department of Medicine. The journal received a letter late last week from Harvard University’s dean for faculty and research integrity calling for the retraction, Rose Marie Robertson, chief science and medical officer at the American Heart Association, tells ScienceInsider. She said the letter mentioned problems with the data in several of the paper’s figures. A Brigham representative declined to give any details about the ongoing review. Robertson said that, based on Harvard’s letter, she has no concerns about Loscalzo’s role in the paper and that he recused himself from both the review process and the retraction.
- Friday, April 11, 2014 - 4:00pm
President Barack Obama today nominated Sylvia Mathews Burwell, director of the White House budget office, to replace Kathleen Sebelius as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Burwell, 48, has a background in public policy and held several positions in the Clinton administration, including deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). From 2001 to 2011, she worked for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where for several years she headed the foundation’s Global Development Program. Under her purview were projects ranging from agricultural development—including crop research—to polio eradication. She directed the Walmart Foundation before she became OMB director a year ago.
As HHS director, Burwell will continue efforts to carry out the Affordable Care Act. Sebelius struggled with that task, enduring months of criticism for problems with the government’s health insurance website. The former governor of Kansas announced her resignation today.Posted In:
- Friday, April 11, 2014 - 3:45pm
Imagine the McDonald’s Australia Antarctic Expedition or perhaps the launch of Australia’s new research vessel, the Microsoft Australis. These scenarios are not complete fantasy. Government officials this week told staff at the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), the nation’s lead polar science agency, that planned funding cuts mean the division will be seeking “[a]lternative funding models” for research, including philanthropic donations and commercial sponsorship.
Gordon de Brouwer, secretary of the federal Environment Department, which oversees AAD, told scientists and support staff on 8 April that the division, based near Hobart, Tasmania, also faces an unspecified number of “voluntary” job losses. According to the acting regional secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, Jessica Munday, AAD has already lost 30 employees over the past few months, leaving the remaining 300 staff members stretched. “So more cuts could impact workloads and research capabilities,” she told Fairfax Media.
The news follows a warning issued late last month by the Australian Academy of Science that the country’s strategic position in Antarctica is at risk because of a declining scientific effort there. Seven countries have made territorial claims to Antarctica under the 1961 Antarctic Treaty, and Australia’s claim of 43% of the continent is the largest. Such claims, however, have little practical effect under the treaty, which does not recognize, dispute, or establish territorial claims, and establishes an access system to the continent governed by the 50 nations that have signed the treaty.Continue Reading
- Friday, April 11, 2014 - 2:45pm
A proposal to move the U.S. Air Force’s basic research office from the Washington, D.C., area to an air base in Ohio has crashed. The office is “staying put,” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James told a Senate hearing yesterday, according to a story published by FYI, an online newsletter published by the American Institute of Physics.
The proposed move, publicly floated this past January, had drawn opposition from research and university groups, who worried it would result in a greater emphasis on applied research programs at the expense of basic science.
Yesterday’s statement appears to nail down a decision made in the past month or so. In late February, Alan Shaffer, a senior Pentagon research official, wrote a letter to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a major professional association that opposed the move, saying that the relocation was unlikely to occur. “We were most pleased” to hear that news, wrote Thomas Tierney, the vice president of the group’s Government Relations Council, in reply to Shaffer in a 4 March letter.Continue ReadingPosted In:
- Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 6:30pm
ITER, the international fusion experiment under construction in Cadarache, France, aims to prove that nuclear fusion is a viable power source by creating a "burning plasma" that produces more energy than the machine itself consumes. Although that goal is at least 20 years away, ITER is already burning through money at a prodigious pace. The United States is only a minor partner in the project, which began construction in 2008. But the U.S. contribution to ITER will total $3.9 billion—roughly four times as much as originally estimated—according to a new cost estimate released yesterday. That is about $1.4 billion higher than a 2011 cost estimate, and the numbers are likely to intensify doubts among some members of Congress about continuing the U.S. involvement in the project.
The United States and ITER share a complicated history. The project was first proposed in 1985 as a joint venture with the Soviet Union and Japan. The United States backed out of that effort in 1998, citing concerns over cost and feasibility—only to jump in again in 2003. At the time, ITER was envisioned to cost roughly $5 billion. That estimate had grown to $12 billion by 2006, when the European Union, China, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and United States signed a formal agreement to build the device. The United States agreed, essentially, to build 9% of the parts for the reactor, at whatever price was necessary.
- Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 6:15pm
The next chapter in the long-running scientific story of Michigan’s Isle Royale wolves will not include a dramatic genetic rescue. After 2 years of consideration, the National Park Service (NPS) announced this week that it will not introduce mainland wolves to revive the genetically inbred and declining wolf population on the isolated island. “The decision is not to intervene as long as there is a breeding population,” Isle Royale National Park Superintendent Phyllis Green tells ScienceInsider.
Isle Royale, in Lake Superior, is a wilderness area where hands-off management has been the rule. But a recent record decline in wolf numbers—and ripple effects on the island’s moose and forest—convinced researchers studying the predator-prey system that genetic rescue of the wolves was an ecological necessity. The decision not to introduce wolves is disappointing to many scientists who have consulted with NPS about its plan.
Wildlife ecologist Rolf Peterson of Michigan Technological University (MTU) in Houghton, who has been studying the Isle Royale wolves since 1970, notes that the park service announcement makes no mention of ecosystem functioning or health. He and MTU collaborator John Vucetich are planning a response to the NPS decision, which they will release next week. It will accompany their annual report on this winter’s fieldwork, the 56th year of the study. “I’m sure the word disappointed will be in our statement,” Peterson says.Continue Reading
- Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 2:30pm
BERLIN—Former German Education and Research Minister Annette Schavan is giving up her fight to keep her Ph.D. title, she announced today on her website. It marks the end of one of the most hotly debated plagiarism cases here in recent years.
Schavan was awarded the degree in educational science at the University of Düsseldorf after completing her dissertation in 1980. More than 30 years later, Schavan, by then the nation's education and research minister, was charged with plagiarism by an anonymous accuser who posted an analysis of the dissertation online. The University of Düsseldorf investigated and in February 2013 revoked the degree. Just 4 days later, Schavan resigned.
But the wrangling continued even after her resignation. Although Schavan acknowledged mistakes in her dissertation, she denied any intent to mislead and took her case to court. Last month, the Düsseldorf Administrative Court ruled that the university's action "was taken in compliance with the law." Schavan had taken several passages from secondary sources without citing them correctly, the court found. "After being able to think about the judgment … for a few days, I have decided not to appeal and to end the legal fighting," Schavan wrote in the statement on her home page. "Now I am preparing for new challenges and am looking forward to them." Schavan, a devout Catholic, has been tapped as Germany's ambassador to the Vatican.
- Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 7:15pm
BMJ has published the latest volley in a battle over one of the most controversial drugs of the 21st century: the anti-influenza compound oseltamivir, better known as Tamiflu. A working group of the Cochrane Collaboration, an international network of scientists that performs systematic reviews of the medical literature, has carried out the most exhaustive meta-analysis yet of the drug’s efficacy—and its conclusions are, once again, pretty damning.
Tamiflu can make flu symptoms disappear a little sooner than they would otherwise, the authors say, but there is no evidence that it can prevent serious complications from flu, or keep people out of the hospital. The group questions the wisdom of buying massive stockpiles of the drug to prepare for influenza pandemics, as many countries have done.
The review comes after a long, drawn-out fight to obtain all available data from Tamiflu trials from Roche, the company that produces the drug. The Cochrane group, with active support from BMJ, eventually won that tussle, and in doing so made Tamiflu the poster child for a successful broader campaign to ensure access to clinical trial data. (The European Medicines Agency has already said that it will make the information it receives from drug companies publicly available, and several companies—including Roche and GlaxoSmithKline—have pledged to become far more transparent.)Posted In:
- Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 6:45am
TOKYO—In her first appearance before the press since her claims of an astounding breakthrough in stem cell research started unraveling, Haruko Obokata, of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, apologized for the trouble she has caused her employer, her colleagues, and the scientific community. But she also firmly maintained that STAP cells, the new type of stem cells she claims to have developed, exist, and said she will not retract the two Nature papers reporting her finding.
“I sincerely apologize to RIKEN, my co-authors, and to many others for the trouble I caused through my insufficient experience and carelessness," Obokata said with a deep bow at the beginning of the press conference, which was held in Osaka. But "STAP cells exist!" she defiantly declared in response to a question. She also pledged to "go anywhere" to help any interested scientist reproduce her results.
Obokata last faced the press when she and colleagues at RIKEN and other institutions in Japan and at Harvard Medical School in Boston published a research article and a letter online in Nature on 29 January. The 30-year-old was lionized in Japan for her unexpected breakthrough, a method to create stem cells that she called "stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency," or STAP. It works by subjecting mature cells to a brief acid bath and then tweaking culture conditions. But soon there were reports of doctored images and plagiarism, and to date, no one has reported replicating the first step in creating STAP cells. One co-author has called for the papers to be retracted.
- Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 6:15am
BRUSSELS—A group of European pro-life organizations is mobilizing against embryonic stem cell research in a way that the European Commission cannot ignore. One of Us, a so-called European citizens' initiative, has collected 1.7 million signatures from all 28 E.U. member states for a proposal that would block funding for research in which embryos are destroyed; under E.U. rules, the European Commission must now consider turning the proposal into legislation.
Research commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn will meet the organizers of the initiative here today; on Thursday, they will defend their case during a public hearing at the European Parliament. The commission has until 28 May to spell out its response.
The proposal is a direct attack on a delicate compromise over the use of embryonic cells in research, a topic on which the union is sharply divided. “Any roll back of this agreement would be a major step backwards for research across regenerative medicine, reproductive health and genetic disease, and delay the development of much needed treatments for a host of untreatable conditions,” said a group of 31 research organizations and universities from across Europe today in a statement. The group, led by the Wellcome Trust, urged the commission and the Parliament to oppose the initiative.
- Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - 5:30pm
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has been at the receiving end of tough questions from Congress numerous times over the past 5 years. But his pugnacious exchange with lawmakers at a hearing of the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee today is likely to go down as one of his more memorable visits to Capitol Hill.
Bolden was first grilled by Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA), chair of the commerce, justice, and science appropriations subcommittee, over alleged lapses of security at NASA, which Wolf and many others believe has made the agency vulnerable to espionage by China. Bolden said NASA was improving its security.
Then Wolf demanded to know why NASA had been slow to share information with the committee on the expected budget and schedule for programs and the road maps for achieving goals such as the development of a rocket that can take astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). “As a result, we are often required to make decisions in an information vacuum,” Wolf said. At one point, he remarked, “Instead of posturing, let’s just be honest.”
The comment got Bolden hot under the collar. “Every time I come here, my integrity is impugned,” Bolden replied. He insisted that he had never misrepresented anything to the committee. “I am offended,” he said.Continue Reading
- Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - 12:30pm
London’s ebullient and media-friendly mayor, Boris Johnson, today unveiled an initiative that aims to attract commercial investment to the bioscience research powerhouses of London, Oxford, and Cambridge.
Johnson hopes that his plan—dubbed MedCity—will forge a “golden triangle” of research collaborations between the three cities, bring in venture capital financing for spinout companies, and encourage major pharmaceutical companies to establish bases in the region.
At the heart of the plan is the £650 million ($1 billion) Francis Crick Institute, now under construction in London and led by geneticist Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society. When the institute opens in 2015, it will be the biggest biomedical research facility in Europe, employing about 1250 scientists and with an annual budget of more than $160 million.
- Monday, April 7, 2014 - 3:45pm
A proposal by the Obama administration to close a historic marine research laboratory near Beaufort, North Carolina, is drawing pushback from the scientific community and local members of Congress. Although the administration frames it as a tough choice in a time of fiscal restraint, critics argue that the proposed closure of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) lab would endanger crucial marine research.
Founded more than 100 years ago, the NOAA laboratory on Pivers Island near Beaufort conducts research into a variety of marine science subjects, including fish stocks, ecosystem function, and the health of aquatic creatures. Its work has helped scientists improve how they forecast harmful algal blooms, and it set in place the first study of invasive lionfish in the South Atlantic, those familiar with the lab say. And it is the only NOAA lab between Miami, Florida, and Sandy Hook, New Jersey.
The Obama administration quietly proposed closing the lab in the president’s fiscal year 2015 budget request released last month, citing the tough fiscal environment. The lab, which employs 108 workers and contractors, has a roughly $1.6 million operating and maintenance budget (which does not include salaries).
The closure is far from set in stone. Congress would have to approve the request as part of the spending plan for the 2015 fiscal year, which begins 1 October. But that work isn’t expected to be finished until late this year, after the November elections.Continue Reading
- Monday, April 7, 2014 - 1:30pm
Republican lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives are raising objections to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plan to lift a 1983 ban on Libyan nationals receiving pilot training or studying nuclear science in the United States. At a hearing last week, supporters of lifting the ban said the move is needed to help Libya rebuild global ties after decades of international sanctions during the dictatorship of Muammar Gaddafi. Critics, however, worried it could help train potential terrorists.
The regulations at issue were created by President Ronald Reagan’s administration in the early 1980s, when Libya hosted terrorist training camps and sought to procure nuclear weapons. Libya was already included on the U.S. State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, but the Reagan administration wanted to make sure that Libyans were not able to come to the United States to learn to fly or repair aircraft, or study the nuclear sciences. Wanting to improve foreign relations with the United States, in 2003 Libya voluntarily ended its nuclear program, which was still in the early stages of uranium enrichment. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice removed the country as a state sponsor of terrorism in 2006.Continue Reading