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6 March 2014 1:04 pm ,
Vol. 343 ,
Antiretroviral drugs can protect people from becoming infected by HIV. But so-called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP...
Two studies show that eating a diet low in protein and high in carbohydrates is linked to a longer, healthier life, and...
Considered an icon of conservation science, researchers at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) headquarters in Washington, D.C.,...
The new atlas, which shows the distribution of important trace metals and other substances, is the first product of...
Early in April, the first of a fleet of environmental monitoring satellites will lift off from Europe's spaceport in...
Since 2000, U.S. government health research agencies have spent almost $1 billion on an effort to churn out thousands...
Magdalena Koziol, a former postdoc at Yale University, was the victim of scientific sabotage. Now, she is suing the...
- 6 March 2014 1:04 pm , Vol. 343 , #6175
- About Us
- Monday, February 2, 2009 - 3:26pm
It's expected that the Obama Administration will nominate one of several big critics of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to run the beleaguered agency. Yesterday, the president signaled in a pre-Super Bowl interview with NBC's Matt Lauer that he is prepared to give the next FDA head wide berth in fixing things:
MATT LAUER: There’s been a massive peanut butter products recall in this country over the last several weeks. Most of the products track—trace to one plant down in Georgia that has a bit of a history of sending out products even though there have been traces of salmonella found.
The question—the obvious question people want to know, is the FDA doing its job?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that the FDA has not been able to catch some of these things as quickly as I expect them to catch. And so we’re going to be doing a complete review of FDA operations. I don’t want to prejudge this particular case, but there have been enough instances over the last several years--and at bare minimum we should be able to count on our government keeping our kids safe when they eat peanut butter.
- Monday, February 2, 2009 - 11:44am
“The greatest risk in periods of tight economic times and tight budgets is to stop taking risks.” That FDR-style aphorism about the need to spend more money on risky science even in hard times—uttered by former U.S. National Institutes of Health Director Elias Zerhouni—appears in a paper issued Friday by the National Academies, a summary of last month’s so-called Biosummit of biomedical research leaders. The report, which says recommendations will follow, signals the start of an effort to get comment from the field and to draw up a long-term agenda for bioscience later this year.Continue Reading
- Friday, January 30, 2009 - 4:48pm
The $6 billion National Science Foundation usually flies under the radar here in Washington, D.C., but a kerfuffle involving Internet pornography has angered hard-charging senator Charles Grassley (R-IA). And that's got fans of NSF worried.
A September 2008 report by the foundation's inspector general listed six cases involving foundation officials viewing pornography at work. In one case, an unnamed "senior official" was found to have viewed pornography at work over 2 years, costing the foundation $58,000 in wasted time. In a statement and subsequent appearances on CNN and Fox News, Grassley questioned whether NSF is fit to manage the $3 billion that the U.S. House of Representatives has proposed giving to it as part of the stimulus package.
Grassley is not a member of the Senate appropriations committee, so he won't have a direct effect on the fate of that proposed boost. But lobbyists who follow NSF closely worry that Grassley's concerns could sour some lawmakers concerning NSF, which generally enjoys a stellar reputation as a well-run ship. "It's just the absolute wrong time for questions about management at NSF to be coming out,” said one lobbyist. "This is the time to stay out of the newspapers."
Previously, Grassley has used his perch on the Senate Committee on Finance to investigate everything from megachurches to conflicts of interest among health scientists at U.S. universities. Researchers affiliated with the U.S. National Institutes of Health certainly know the rigor with which the Republican can challenge federal scientists.
For his part, NSF Director Arden Bement said through a spokesperson that he's not worried about the incidents affecting his organization’s chances to get big boosts as Congress debates what the final level for NSF should be in the stimulus package. "We expect [lawmakers] to focus on stimulus funding for theContinue Reading
- Friday, January 30, 2009 - 2:46pm
according to Beryl Lieff Benderly, to help young students who want to pursue scientific careers get ahead and thereby bolster America's stature as a research powerhouse. Politicians who want to boost American researchers may focus on federal money for science, but she says it's an overhaul of the basic research system in the United States that's needed. There have got to be jobs available for students when they leave universities with Ph.D.s, she says, and the current hierarchical system of basic research labs based in universities isn't cutting it:
Instead of depending for labor on a constant stream of cheap, temporary students and postdoc “trainees,” labs need to establish many long-term positions that offer workers a realistic income commensurate with their education and experience as well as opportunities for advancement within predictable career tracks. A model that many experts favor is staffing labs primarily with bachelors- or masters-level career technicians and PhD-level permanent staff scientists while using much smaller percentages of grad students and postdocs.
Because these new-style labs would not depend on student labor, they would not need to be in universities. ... Janelia Farm. the Howard Hughes Research Institute’s innovative new research facility in Ashburn, Virginia, eschews university-style hierarchy and places a strong emphasis on employing long-term PhD staff scientists.Continue ReadingPosted In:
- Friday, January 30, 2009 - 12:19pm
Seven so-called neglected diseases just became a little less neglected. This morning, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced a new $34 million grant in support of a global network that aims to slash rates of easily treatable infectious diseases that affect as many as 1.4 billion poor people.
While research and treatment budgets for HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis have exploded in recent years, many lesser-known tropical diseases have not gotten nearly the same attention—even though their collective disease burden is just as high or higher, and cheap, effective drugs exist for the seven most common ones, says Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, D.C., and one of the founders of the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases.
Part of the grant, announced today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, will be used to help drum up more financial support for the network, Hotez says, while the rest will go to scaling up treatment of the seven infectious diseases in developing countries. The septet includes ascariasis, hookworm, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, trachoma, and trichuriasis.Continue Reading
- Thursday, January 29, 2009 - 5:26pmPosted In:
- Thursday, January 29, 2009 - 3:27pm
Researchers funded by Genome Canada, Canada’s preeminent funding body for large-scale genomics and proteomics research, are reacting with shock to news that the Canadian government is withdrawing funding from the 9-year-old organization. The government says the organization can rely on last year's money.
“This is extremely serious,” says Anthony James Pawson, a University of Toronto-based cell biologist who won the $550,000 Kyoto Prize in 2008 for his work on cell communication through signaling proteins, which has been praised for establishing one of the basic paradigms of signal transduction.
Since 2000, the research body has received about $600 million from the Canadian government and has matched that in cofunding. Genome Canada had expected about $100 million from the government for the year ahead. The cut to the genomics budget comes as Canada scales back research funding amid a budget crisis.
Instead, the government has offered nothing. "It's like we fell between the chairs," says the organization’s president, Martin Godbout.
Genome Canada currently supports 33 major research projects at Canadian schools and hospitals, with operating grants of around $10 million a year for each.
Godbout said the lack of funding won't affect projects now funded through previous budgets, but it will limit Canada's ability to contribute to new, large-scale genetics research projects. A lack of funding effectively stalls any new research initiatives, said Godbout.
The Canadian government says that funding from previous years was intended to cover this year.
“There is no cut to funding for Genome Canada," Annie Trépanier, spokesperson for Industry Canada, told ScienceInsider. “Genome Canada has received $840 million since 2000. Budget 2008 provided $140 million, which will support genomics research and Genome Canada operations from 2009-10 to 2012-13.”
But Godbout says this budget strategy is news to him. While money fromContinue Reading
- Thursday, January 29, 2009 - 2:21pm
While President Obama says he's reaching out to Iran and his Iranian counterpart is responding with bombast, the outlook for scientific diplomacy with Iran is growing chillier than ever. Two Iranian medical researchers, Arash and Kamiar Alaei, both highly respected for their work combating HIV/AIDS, have been sentenced by Iran's Revolutionary Court to 6 years and 3 years in prison, respectively. Their charge? International academic collaboration which, according to the Iranian government, is intended to foment a "velvet revolution." The lead editorial in today's issue of Nature calls on Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to make good on his promise, made last year at Columbia University, to support international academic collaboration. The sentence comes just a month after Glenn Schweitzer, director of Eurasian programs at the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, was detained and interrogated while visiting Tehran to build collaborations in the medical sciences.
The Alaei brothers are only the latest Iranian academics targeted by their own government in a crackdown that began when Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005. As in other cases, it is alleged that solitary confinement and torture are being used by the Iranian government to extract confessions. The Alaei brothers have 20 days to appeal the verdict. The organization Physicians for Human Rights is calling on the academic community to take action.
- Thursday, January 29, 2009 - 1:46pm
California marine scientists have encountered some rough seas lately, following the state finance department's decision last month to freeze all funding derived from the sale of bonds. That decision was a response to the state's dismal financial situation: A projected $40 billion budget deficit and sinking credit rating have scuttled the state's ability to sell bonds to raise capital for projects that include freeway repairs and library construction. Thanks to several conservation-minded propositions passed by California voters in recent years, these bond-funded projects include dozens of studies aimed at documenting and protecting the state's natural resources.
Researchers were ordered to stop work immediately, says Rikk Kvitek of California State University, Monterey Bay, a principal investigator on a $20 million sea-floor mapping program funded by the state (see above.) A major goal of the project is to create high-resolution digital maps to aid in establishing a statewide network of marine protected areas. "We had a 200-foot vessel that was collecting data along the north coast" when the stop-work order came through on 18 December, Kvitek says. "On the 19th, they had to just go into port." Kvitek has managed to find temporary funding so that 15 students and staff members in his lab can keep working on data analysis, but he says that money will last only 2 or 3 months.
At the University of California, Santa Cruz, marine ecologist Mark Carr has already had to let four technicians go. Carr works on a state-funded project to monitor ecosystems inside and outside marine protected areas on the California coast. The goal of the $8 million, 8-year project is to collect baseline data that can be used to assess whether the protected areasContinue Reading
- Wednesday, January 28, 2009 - 3:11pm
Officials at Los Alamos National Laboratory announced today that they are investigating a mysterious case of beryllium contamination. Recent tests revealed that a storage building contained high levels of beryllium dust, which if inhaled can cause people to become especially sensitive to further exposure and eventually lead to lung disease. Officials could not pin down when the contamination occurred because the building, which has not been used for beryllium processing for many years, was last given a clean bill of health in 2001. Laboratory officials are notifying 1800 people who since that time either worked in or visited the building, in a part of the lab called Technical Area 41.
The beryllium contamination was discovered through happenstance. Los Alamos spokesperson Kevin Roark says that a package arrived in Technical Area 41 late last year bearing a beryllium warning sticker. Because the package appeared to be damaged, safety officers tested it for beryllium residues. Those tests, however, revealed much more extensive contamination in the area.
According to Roark, the tests found levels of beryllium dust as high as "a couple of hundred" micrograms per 100 cm2. This far exceeds the lab's limit, which is 0.2 micrograms per 100 cm2. A panel of experts convened by the U.S. National Academies concluded last year that any exposure to beryllium, no matter how small, can be hazardous, and studies have shown that some people are much more prone to beryllium sensitivity than others.
The laboratory is offering to test everyone who spent time in that building, to see if they have developed beryllium sensitivity. The laboratory estimates that 2% of the 240 employees who worked in the area could have developed beryllium sensitivity, and that some of them might have become ill. The risk to those whoContinue Reading
- Wednesday, January 28, 2009 - 2:47pm
The Senate yesterday released its markup of the massive stimulus package, an $825 billion spending and tax bill meant to revitalize the U.S. economy. As with the draft released by the House of Representatives, the Senate package includes billions for federal scientific research. In many cases, the level of funding for research and related activities differs quite a bit from what the House wants. Here’s a first cut at the overall numbers, ranked roughly by increasing disparity. The House was voting today on amendments to its bill and is expected to pass it today or tomorrow; the Senate will then pass its bill. The two sides are hoping to pass a stimulus package by 16 February, President's Day.
Stay tuned for further analysis agency-by-agency. Links to past coverage below, with agencies apart from NIH after the jump.
National Institutes of Health
House: $3.5 billion (includes $1.5 billion for extramural research, over 2 years, $1.5 billion for extramural facilities, and $500 million for on-campus buildings.)
Senate: $3.5 billion ($2.7 billion split between director's office and the institutes, $500 million for on-campus buildings, and $300 million for extramural instrumentation.)
Department of Defense (Biodefense)
House: $900 million (including $430 million for BARDA and $420 million for pandemic flu vaccine development)
Senate: $870 million (entirely for flu vaccine development)
House: $1 billion (including $600 million for climate sensors and modeling, $400 million for habitat restoration)
Senate: $1.2 billion (including $795 million for facilities and equipment, $427 million for restoration and maintenance)
Department of Energy
House: $41 billion (including $2 billion for the Office of Science, which supports U.S. physics, and $400 million for ARPA-E)
Senate: $40 billion (including $430 million for Office of Science, $2.6 billion for energy efficiency and renewable-energy research)Continue Reading
- Wednesday, January 28, 2009 - 10:42am
Canadian scientists are afraid that the government's decision to cut funding to the main source of research grants will trigger a new brain drain to the United States.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper unveiled a budget yesterday aimed at pulling the country out of the global recession. Although reducing funding to three government councils that provide grants to scientists, the budget includes $1.62 billion over 2 years to retrofit aging academic buildings as part of a $10 billion investment in all manner of infrastructure. But scientists say that the economic stimulus package moving quickly through the U.S. Congress provides so much support for research that Canadian scientists once again will be tempted to cross the border, offsetting gains made over the past decade as a result of faculty-recruitment programs.
“That’s one of our worries,” says Claire Morris, president of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. “You know how many people we attracted back with our Canada Research Chairs program. The flow can go both ways.”
Under the proposed budget, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council will see their budgets collectively reduced by an aggregate $113 million over the next 3 years. A breakdown of the blow each council must individually absorb in each year was not made available. Currently, the councils' respective base budgets are $597 million, $577 million, and $202 million.
Harper's budget contains some initiatives that would cushion the blow to researchers, but they come with strings attached. It promises $488.5 million for the Canada Foundation for Innovation to hold a research infrastructure competition by 2011, with the priority areas to be set by the federal industry minister. Similarly, it proposes to spend $71.2 million over 3 years for 500 new doctoral,Continue ReadingPosted In:
- Tuesday, January 27, 2009 - 4:19pm
The deep-sea scientific drilling ship JOIDES Resolution, the JR for short, has finally left the shipyards. The newly renovated vessel departed Singapore on Sunday, marking the end of an unprecedented 3-year hiatus in U.S. drilling.
The demands of an exploration-crazed oil industry created a shipyard backlog that delayed the $130 million renovation of the 20-year veteran of scientific drilling for the better part of a year (Science, October 24 2008.) But on March 5, the ship is scheduled to set off from Honolulu on the first of a year’s worth of expeditions to sample the sea floor and monitor processes there.
Things are looking up across the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, says David Divins of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership in Washington, D.C. March is also the scheduled return to action for the Japanese drill ship Chikyu, in the yards to repair damaged thrusters used to keep the ship over a drill hole.
And plans are moving ahead for the JR to spend more time at sea than before, Divins says. IODP has funds for only 8 months of drilling, so the program is looking for oil companies to use the ship for drilling targets of shared interests. If that plan does not come together in time, Divins adds, South Korea has expressed interest in having the JR drill for exotic methane hydrates.Continue ReadingPosted In:
- Tuesday, January 27, 2009 - 1:25pm
PARIS— Words can still sting. Incensed by a provocative policy speech delivered by President Nicolas Sarkozy last Thursday—and fed up with the frantic pace of reform—France’s researchers’ unions have threatened to go on strike indefinitely starting 2 February. Despite the warning, the government says it plans to forge ahead with the science and higher education reforms that have led to this war of wills.
The strike's official purpose is to force a reversal of a recent decision, issued by governmental decree, to allow university presidents to decide how academic staff members divide their time between research and teaching. But the discontent is much broader. Unions and allied movements such as Sauvons la Recherche (SLR) and Sauvons l'Université are fiercely opposed to a raft of ongoing changes that move the country closer to an Anglo-Saxon system based on university autonomy and competitive funding rather than state control and lifetime employment for scientists.
In his feisty speech—the official transcript is riddled with exclamation marks—Sarkozy lambasted the research system as "infantilizing and paralyzing," argued that French scientists aren't productive enough, and announced that after decades of failed attempts at change, radical reforms are now his government's top priority. "The forces of conservatism and immobilism have always triumphed," he said, "and that has to stop." He also said that the National Center for Scientific Research will essentially become a funding agency instead of carrying out research of its own, and he announced an 18-member panel to come up with a new National Research and Innovation Strategy. Sarkozy threatened that promised budget increases for university funding will go through only if the reforms are accepted.
- Tuesday, January 27, 2009 - 10:38am
In a move that has drawn international protests, Leiden University in the Netherlands has responded to governmental budget cuts by firing a group of tenured evolutionary biology researchers. A petition protesting the dismissals questions why molecular biologists within the same department were spared, and some of the fired staff are vowing to bring lawsuits for the unexpected dismissals.
Like other universities in the Netherlands, Leiden is facing a smaller annual budget after science minister Ronald Plasterk’s decision last year to shift €100 million in research funding to the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, the main grant-giving institution in the country. By forcing scientists to compete for grants, the move aims to raise the Netherlands’ overall research quality. But the changes in funding are having an impact on the operational expenses of universities.
In Leiden, the budget cuts have led to the dismissal of eight evolutionary biologists, including tenured professors, and the better part of the Department of Biology’s technical staff. The protest petition, circulating in the Netherlands and online, notes that molecular biologists within the same department will be unaffected and calls the favoring of that discipline over evolutionary biology an “alarming national trend.” More than 2000 people have signed the petition in its first 2 days, says its creator, Isabelle Olivieri of the University of Montpellier 2, president of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology.
Frietson Galis (pictured, credit: Joris van Alphen), the president of the European Society for Evolutionary Developmental Biology,
is one of the Leiden staff members who received a termination letter from the university shortly before Christmas. “Evolutionary biology is not in good shape in the Netherlands,” says Galis, noting that the dismissalsContinue Reading
- Monday, January 26, 2009 - 6:06pm
ScienceInsider can report that a 10-week, 300-km² experiment to create a massive bloom of algae in the Southern Ocean will begin tomorrow. Furor over the potential environmental impact of the project had threatened to shut it down. The experiment, known as LOHAFEX, is the world's largest geoengineering project to date; scientists aboard the German research vessel Polarstern (see photo) will create the bloom in a patch of sea about halfway between the southern tip of South America and South Africa using 6 tons of iron, roughly three times more iron than previous oceanography experiments have used in catalyzing the growth of algae. The goal of the experiment, led by oceanographers Victor Smetacek of Germany and Wajih Naqvi of India, is to characterize how the ecosystem of the Southern Ocean, closely monitored for 2 months, would respond to such a massive dose of iron. Some scientists, including Smetacek, believe the technique could be an important way to sequester carbon into the ocean and even to restore harmed ocean ecosystems. But earlier this month, environmentalists attacked the experiment as reckless.
After the German Environment Ministry came under pressure from environmental groups, the German Research Ministry ordered that the experiment be put on hold while independent scientific reviews by non-German scientists were done. So scientists with the British Antarctic Survey and the French oceanography institute IFREMER examined the experiment and issued an assessment of the possible environmental impacts of the project. (The patch of ocean that the scientists will fertilize is roughly one-millionth the size of the rest of the ocean.)
A spokesperson for the German Embassy in Washington, D.C., told ScienceInsider this afternoon that the experiment was deemed "acceptable” by the experts.The science ministry has found that "there are no scientific or legalContinue ReadingPosted In:
- Monday, January 26, 2009 - 3:39pm
In his first presidential radio address on 24 January, Barack Obama announced that the Administration's proposed stimulus package working its way through Congress would "triple the number of fellowships in science to help spur the next generation of innovation." Universities and scientists love the concept, and more fellowships is something that researchers have long called for.
But the tripling is a fuzzy goal.
The White House provided a bit more clarity about the objective in an online fact sheet: tripling the number of undergraduate and graduate fellowships. What's not clear, however, is precisely how Obama wants to achieve that goal. Different U.S. agencies award thousands of fellowships to graduate students every year, in addition to a multitude of scholarships for undergraduate students. The National Science Foundation, for example, supports about 3000 Graduate Research Fellows; each fellow receives an annual $30,000 stipend for 3 years. The National Institutes of Health award about 15,000 doctoral and postdoctoral fellowships. The House of Representatives version of the draft stimulus package does not specify how much money NSF, NIH, and other science agencies will be expected to carve out from their portions of the boost the House wants to give them for scholarships and fellowships, besides $60 million for NSF’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, which is aimed at getting undergraduates majoring in science and engineering fields to become teachers.
Regardless of the details, the announcement “is an encouraging sign,” says Debra Stewart of the Council of Graduate Schools. “It shows that the Administration gets what it takes to be competitive in this new economy.” Is she worried that more fellowships will lead to a glut of master's and Ph.D. holders who won’t find jobs if the current labor market woes continue into the future? No, says Stewart, pointing out that theContinue Reading
- Monday, January 26, 2009 - 2:30pm
The Ebola-Reston virus, recently found for the first time in pigs in the Philippines, has now been confirmed to have infected at least one human. Scientists are relieved because the person did not get sick and is unlikely to have passed the virus to others. The virus is related to Ebola strains that have caused fatal hemorrhagic fever in humans in Africa. But Ebola-Reston has not caused serious illness in the two dozen people previously infected through contact with monkeys dying from the viral disease. Officials are concerned about finding the virus in pigs because the farm animals live in close proximity to humans and are thought to be "mixing vessels" where animal viruses mutate into forms dangerous to humans.
The virus has been known to be circulating in the Philippines since 1989, periodically appearing in outbreaks fatal to monkeys. The virus was confirmed in pigs for the first time last fall, prompting a joint investigation by the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health. The person in the Philippines who was found to have the disease, announced jointly by the Philippine departments of health and agriculture on 23 January, remains healthy, and officials believe it extremely unlikely the virus was passed to other humans. The international and local experts are still trying to determine how the person got infected, if the virus causes illness in pigs, and if it is in wider circulation among pigs. Their findings will likely lead to recommendations to prevent pigs from being exposed to the virus.Continue Reading
- Friday, January 23, 2009 - 4:20pm
A new report from the U.S. National Academies warns that the country's top ranking in information technology research and development "is now under pressure" and could disappear within a generation. To prevent any slippage, the report says, the federal government should reform the patent system to make litigation less common, ease financial regulations that may impose special burdens on start-up companies, and fund research programs aimed at some of the field’s biggest challenges.
Randy Katz, a computer scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, who co-chaired the panel that wrote the report, says the country should “embrace” the globalization of R&D but also “take it as a challenge: How do you keep the U.S. a good place for innovation?” Katz suggests that one good place to start would be a 2002 law that imposed greater financial reporting requirements on public companies. The law, meant to increase accountability, has had the unintended effect of making it hard for many small companies to go public because of the additional cost of meeting the law's strict requirements on disclosure. Congress should consider reducing the law’s burden on small start-ups, he says.
The government should also step into the yawning gap between purely academic research and industrial R&D, says Katz. He cites the High-Performance Computing and Communications initiative of the 1980s and '90s as a successful example of what he calls "programmatic research [that can] build communities of researchers that collaborate and also compete while pursuing a particular goal.” The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) no longer funds such research, notes another panelist, economist Steven Klepper of Carnegie Mellon University in Pitsburgh, Pennsylvania.
What are the chances that the report, requested by the National Science Foundation, will shape the policies of the new Administration? Klepper says that NSF “doesn’t have the powerContinue ReadingPosted In:
- Thursday, January 22, 2009 - 1:50pm
Europe is increasingly becoming a popular place to do science, according to a report released today by the European Union. But that's not due to any big funding increases from E.U. governments or industry. The report says that the research workforce in the 27 E.U. nations grew twice as fast as in the United States between 2000 and 2006, reaching 640,000 researchers, while also attracting more foreign researchers and more private R&D investment from the United States. During that same period, however, "R&D intensity"—research spending as a percentage of gross domestic product—pretty much stayed around 1.84%. That's a long way from the E.U.'s self-imposed Lisbon Goal—set during a meeting in the Portuguese capital in 2000—of reaching an R&D intensity of 3% by 2010.
A breakdown by country, after the jump.
Things have not been uniformly stagnant across the E.U. Some 17 countries, particularly those that started with a low research intensity, made marked improvements, but the other 10 decreased, including science powers such as France, Italy, and the United Kingdom. Although the overall amount of research spending increased over the 6 years, GDP also grew, leaving intensity flat-lined. Meanwhile, Japan increased its intensity from 3.04% to 3.39%, Korea from 2.39% to 3.23%, and China from 0.90% to 1.42%. (U.S. research intensity fell, from 2.74% to 2.61%.)
The villain of the piece is European industry, which the report blames for not spending enough on R&D. That has long been a problem in Europe, which has a smaller research-intensive industry than some of its competitors. This has to change, E.U. research commissioner Janez Potočnik and Vice-President Günter Verheugen said in a statement, even though the current global financial situation makes it difficult. "In a time of crisis, it is not the moment to take a break inContinue Reading
- Thursday, January 22, 2009 - 3:07am
At the end of 2008, a British court found four people guilty of conspiring to blackmail companies that work with an animal testing laboratory. Yesterday, those four, and three others who admitted to the charge, received stiff jail sentences ranging from 4 to 11 years, an outcome that scientists and research officials hope will strongly discourage other animal rights activists.Continue Reading
- Wednesday, January 21, 2009 - 3:01pm
The U.S. House of Representatives Technology Committee has reintroduced legislation to reauthorize the National Nanotechnology Initiative and beef up environmental and health research related to nanotechnology. The bill is essentially the same one overwhelmingly passed by the full House last fall.
It never made it though the Senate, thanks to the economic meltdown, the election, and the indictment of Ted Stevens (R-AK), which forced a shuffle of committee assignments among lawmakers in the Senate. Now the issue of how carefully the government should scrutinize nanotechnology will in large part be up to the new president.
Even if the house nano bill had made it, it wasn't clear whether President Bush would have signed off. Administration officials lobbied successfully to have some provisions removed from the bill, which was reintroduced last week, such as the requirement for spending a specified percentage of NNI funds on environmental, health, and safety (EHS) research.
But other controversial provisions remain, including the requirement to appoint an associate director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to be the coordinator—or, if you like, NanoTzar—for all EHS research across the 25 federal agencies that are part of the NNI.
Another sore spot: The bill creates a standing advisory committee for EHS matters, stripping it away from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Even though PCAST has a higher profile, and thus is more likely to be able to bend the President's ear, they have less hands on expertise in nano-EHS research.
So, now team Obama will have to decide soon whether they're comfortable with the House bill or to push for changes in the Senate.Continue Reading
- Wednesday, January 21, 2009 - 12:42pm
Should the Iraqi government reopen its long-shuttered archaeology museum in Baghdad? An Iraqi minister says yes, and the head of the country's archaeology board says no. So on 11 January, the minister fired the board president.
The trouble began 3 January, when Iraq's new minister of tourism and antiquities, Qahtan al-Juburi, made a surprise visit to the Iraq Museum in Baghdad. He demanded that the museum be opened to the public by mid-February, say several Iraqi sources. The acting head of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH), Amira Edan, argued against the minister's proposal, citing the uncertainty regarding Baghdad's security, says Donny George, former head of SBAH and now a professor in the United States, who spoke with Edan about the incident. When Edan was quoted in the Iraqi press shortly after opposing the minister's idea, the minister sent an 11 January letter accepting her resignation.
Edan had previously offered to resign because she lacked the confidence of the ministry, but that offer had not been accepted, says another source close to her who requested anonymity. Neither the ministry nor Edan responded to requests for interviews. But several U.S. and Iraqi archaeologists say that the minister wants to reopen the museum, which contains priceless artifacts from the first cities and empires, to show that Baghdad's long period of urban violence is over.
The ministry is controlled by a Shiite party eager to see U.S. troops depart Iraq. "If the museum is open, that is a message to the world that everything is fine and that the Americans can leave," says George. Unlocking the museum doors, he adds, "is a terrible thing to do." Another archaeologist close to Edan agrees that "this is all about political pressure."
But one researcher familiar with the situation says that a limitedContinue ReadingPosted In:
- Tuesday, January 20, 2009 - 12:52pm
Given how many problems the country faces, researchers in the United States will no doubt welcome this brief promise in President Obama's inauguration speech:
For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act—not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.Continue ReadingPosted In:
- Monday, January 19, 2009 - 7:50am
BEIJING—Chinese scientists have long hungered for a news forum they could call their own: a magazine that would probe beyond the headlines of the latest findings and explore issues critical to their professional lives, such as the latest funding trends and which high-profile expats are coming home. They now have it: Science News (科学新闻), a biweekly that had its coming out party here on 16 January. (The publication has no relation to the long-running U.S. magazine Science News, itself now a biweekly.)
China’s Science News debuted this month with a diverse collection of journalist-penned articles, including an investigation of pollution on the Songhua River in northeastern China and a feature on the Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fiber Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST; Science, 4 April 2008, p. 34). Science News is borne of the establishment: Its publisher is the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). Nevertheless, Science News’s editor, veteran science journalist Jia Hepeng, promises that his magazine will have an edge as his team of young journalists digs into shoddy science and shady funding practices. (Any skeletons in CAS’s closet, Jia acknowledges, may have to stay there.)
Science News, available by subscription and on select newsstands here, will have an initial print run of 30,000 copies, with a target of 50,000 by year end.Continue ReadingPosted In: