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- Monday, December 29, 2008 - 12:31pm
A member of a U.S. scientific delegation headed by the President of the Institute of Medicine was interrogated for 9 hours earlier this month in his Tehran hotel. The U.S. National Academies labeled the incident a “serious breach,” and declared on Friday that they “cannot sponsor or encourage American scientists to visit Iran unless there are clear assurances that the personal safety of visiting scientists will be guaranteed.”
IOM President Harvey Fineberg and the small delegation were visiting Iran to identify opportunities for cooperation in the medical sciences. They were accompanied by Glenn Schweitzer, director of Eurasian programs at the Academies, who has spearheaded an 8-year effort to nurture scientific ties with Iran in the absence of diplomatic relations between the two countries. On 4 December, three men who claimed to be security officers detained Schweitzer in his room for 3 hours of questioning. Two days later, they returned for another 6-hour session. The men threatened to prevent Schweitzer from leaving Iran and told him that exchange visitors are not welcome. None of the other members of the delegation were questioned, and the men, who did not identify themselves, did not explain why Schweitzer was targeted.
“This really was a big surprise. It’s a risk we did not expect at all,” says William Colglazier, executive officer of the Academies’ National Research Council.
One Iranian scientist told Science that two Iranian scientific academies have delivered “official apologies” to Schweitzer, who was allowed to leave the country with the rest of the delegation on 7 December. But Colglazier says the Academies are still awaiting a formal response from the Iranian government.
It’s unclear whether the incident is the opening salvo of a concerted effort to derail scientific cooperation with the West. “There are various interest groups who are unhappy about people-to-peopleContinue ReadingPosted In:
- Tuesday, December 23, 2008 - 4:35pm
Emory University has taken the unusual step of banning one of its own, prominent psychiatrist Charles Nemeroff, from collecting industry money at certain speaking engagements. The decision comes after Nemeroff spent months under the uncomfortable spotlight of Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), who accused him of failing to report at least $1.2 million of the more than $2.4 million he earned by consulting for drugmakers. Nemeroff subsequently stepped down from his post as department chair.
Yesterday, Emory reported the results of its internal investigation into Nemeroff's dealings with GlaxoSmithKline. The Atlanta, Georgia, university found that Glaxo paid him more than $800,000 over 5 years for giving 250 speeches, money he did not report to Emory. Although Emory says Nemeroff's failure to disclose the amounts he received didn't taint his research or patient care, the university imposes these limitations on his activities: Nemeroff will need to "seek review and approval by the dean's office of any and all outside compensated engagements before he accepts them," and he can't seek National Institutes of Health grants for 2 years. When it comes to speaking at continuing medical education events, Nemeroff will be permitted to talk only at those "sponsored by academic institutions or professional societies."
Emory spokesperson Ron Sauder declined to tell ScienceInsider whether the measures were taken to appease Grassley or because Emory doesn't trust Nemeroff to participate in industry-sponsored events. "I really can't interpret that for you," Sauder said, beyond noting that the measures don't apply to other faculty members.
Nemeroff said in the statement that he had misunderstood the disclosure rules and thought he was following them properly.Continue Reading
- Tuesday, December 23, 2008 - 1:53pm
In a verdict that U.K. scientists see as a turning point in efforts to protect animal researchers against illegal attacks, a British court yesterday convicted four people of conspiring to blackmail companies that supply an animal testing laboratory.
The activists had targeted employees of Huntingdon Life Sciences, Europe's largest contract medical testing center, with threats of violence, vandalism of homes and businesses, letter bombs, and firebombs between 2001 and 2007. Prosecutors at the trial, held in the southern English county of Kent, said the campaign was also directed against GlaxoSmithKline, Astellas Pharma Inc., F2 Chemicals Ltd., and Biocair. The defendants, members of the group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, will be sentenced next month along with three people who pleaded guilty earlier to conspiracy to blackmail. One defendant was acquitted.
The Kent trial grew out of 30 arrests made during a May 2007 police raid across the United Kingdom, dubbed Operation Achilles, which included sites in the Netherlands and Belgium. Simon Festing, the executive director of the Research Defence Society, tells ScienceInsider that, combined with similar trials over the past few years, the total number of convictions of such activists now stands at 30. He says those outcomes send a strong message that U.K. authorities are capable of protecting researchers. "This shutters the largest, most aggressive, and most unpleasant animal extremist organization in the world," says Festing, who notes that U.K. police have estimated the group contained about 40 to 60 active members. "Confidence is growing that police can deal with this problem. As a result, more and more scientists are willing to come out and explain the importance of animal research."
- Tuesday, December 23, 2008 - 11:17am
SEOUL—South Korea is better plugged into the Internet than any other nation, and its economy is dominated by megacompanies like Samsung whose inexpensive consumer electronics are now sitting under millions of Christmas trees. By any measure, the country is a technology powerhouse—but its achievements have come more from emulation than innovation. A new program called the 577 Initiative aims to change that.
Each digit has significance. The "5" is a pledge to raise the percentage of GDP spent on R&D from 3.23% in 2006 to 5% in 2012. Part of that boost will come from the government, which plans to increase R&D spending by 50%, from $8.4 billion in 2008 to $12.6 billion in 2012. To hit the 5% target, the private sector must contribute three-quarters of total R&D spending; the government plans to roll out tax incentives to grease those wheels.
Money will be funneled to "7" major technology areas. South Korea's business-savvy president, Lee Myung-bak, spent 27 years at Hyundai Group, and he doesn't intend to neglect South Korea's cash cows: Its consumer electronics and automobile industries are 577's area number one. "Big science" is another category, including the country's space program, nuclear energy development, and military technologies such as next-generation weapons. So-called convergence technologies—melding disparate advances in, say, nanotechnology and robotics—comprise a third area.
That may sound like a tech-heavy agenda, but by 2012, half of the government's R&D budget will be spent on basic and fundamental research—up from the current 25.6%, says Park Chan-Mo, Lee's special adviser on S&T. "Basic research is very strongly emphasized," says Park, former president of Pohang University of Science and Technology. If all goes to plan, the funding pot for individual research grants will triple to more than $1 billion in 2012; the ratio of university science professors who receive basicContinue ReadingPosted In:
- Monday, December 22, 2008 - 5:18pm
The Picower Foundation is the latest U.S. charity to be sunk by Bernard Madoff and his self-admitted $50 billion Ponzi scheme. Researchers are reeling from the blow to the foundation, which in 2007 listed assets of $958 million.
On Saturday, The Boston Globe reported that foundation president Barbara Picower had sent out an e-mail declaring, "it is with great sadness that I write to inform you that the Picower Foundation has ceased all grant-making, effective immediately, and will close its doors in the coming months." In addition to funding a range of education and other projects, the Picower Foundation focused on Parkinson's disease and diabetes work, including a $1.5 million grant to Jeffrey Flier, a diabetes researcher and the dean of Harvard Medical School in Boston. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge has also been a major recipient of the foundation's money, which helped found MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory there with a $50 million gift and contributed $200,000 a year for graduate fellowships.
"It's just so horrific," says Virginia Lee, director of the Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research at the University of Pennsylvania. Lee was part of a Parkinson's disease consortium that had been funded by the Picower Foundation for about 5 years, and her lab alone received about $3 million over that time; the consortium had recently made plans to expand. Now, she says, "I expect that it will fall apart," leaving each of the half-dozen or so members scrambling to fill the gap.
- Monday, December 22, 2008 - 2:17pm
On Saturday, President-elect Barack Obama confirmed that John Holdren will be his White House science adviser, a pick first reported here on ScienceInsider last week. The Harvard University professor, a physicist with deep knowledge of energy, climate, and nuclear weapons, was one of four people whom Obama introduced as "members of my science and technology team" in a short radio address devoted to science. But unlike the rest of Obama's Cabinet and White House choices, none of the four—Holdren, Harold Varmus, Eric Lander, and Jane Lubchenco—was rolled out in person and made available to the press. To use an analogy from the President-elect's favorite sport of basketball, only Holdren can really be considered a starter.
Two of the "team" members will actually be unpaid advisers. Obama announced that Varmus, president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and former director of the National Institutes of Health, and Lander, founding director of the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, will serve as co-chairs of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). Having two outside co-chairs will be a first for PCAST, which was reconstituted in 1990 by President George H. W. Bush after President Richard Nixon eliminated its predecessor because he didn't care for its advice. The council is staffed by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, which Holdren will direct, and he will also serve as PCAST's third co-chair.
PCAST has had a low profile under President George W. Bush, turning out worthy but rarely notable reports. Its 34 presidentially appointed members and irregular schedule—it averages three meetings a year—have helped make it an unwieldy body for advising the president on scientific issues. Obama acknowledged that fact by declaring that Holdren, Varmus, and Lander "will work toContinue Reading
- Friday, December 19, 2008 - 4:07pm
So far, President-elect Barack Obama's scientific appointments are heavily skewed toward one piece of the vast U.S. scientific enterprise: energy and climate research.
Researchers in those communities were generally thrilled by yesterday's news (expected to be announced tomorrow) that Obama has tapped physicist John Holdren, an international expert on energy and climate issues, to be his science adviser. The reaction was similarly positive to the pending appointment of Jane Lubchenco, a marine biologist at Oregon State University, as administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere. Both have also been major players in global environmental policy.
So have Carol Browner, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator under Bill Clinton, who Obama has named to the new position of environment and energy czar, and physics Nobelist Steven Chu, an energy guru, as secretary of the Department of Energy. Then there's Lubchenco's boss at the Commerce Department, Bill Richardson, a former Secretary of Energy under Clinton and a booster of green technology as governor of New Mexico. And don't forget Lisa Jackson, a career environmental regulator, as head of EPA, and Nancy Sutley to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Granted, some of these positions are explicitly environmental slots. But Chu's expertise is novel for an energy secretary, as is Richardson's for Commerce. Holdren, while continuing the streak of physicist-advisers within the White House, has probably paid more attention to energy issues than any of his predecessors.
Scientists aren't complaining about the embarrassment of riches, especially after the way the Bush Administration handled climate science. But for anybody outside the energy and climate realms, the transition news has been sparse. That could soon change, however: Obama is rumored to be close to naming a new director of the National Institutes ofContinue Reading
- Friday, December 19, 2008 - 2:40pm
In the last 2 years Google and its nonprofit spinoff have launched a variety of science projects in areas ranging from astronomy education to lunar exploration to making electric car batteries work better. But the economic downturn hitting Silicon Valley has forced the company to scale back plans to offer data archiving services for scientists in fields including astronomy and biomedicine, Wired Science reports:
Once nicknamed Palimpsests, but more recently going by the staid name, Google Research Datasets, the service was going to offer scientists a way to store the massive amounts of data generated in an increasing number of fields. About 30 datasets — mostly tests — had already been uploaded to the site.
The dream appears to have fallen prey to belt-tightening at Silicon Valley's most innovative company.
"As you know, Google is a company that promotes experimentation with innovative new products and services. At the same time, we have to carefully balance that with ensuring that our resources are used in the most effective possible way to bring maximum value to our users," wrote Robert Tansley of Google on behalf of the Google Research Datasets team to its internal testers.
"It has been a difficult decision, but we have decided not to continue work on Google Research Datasets, but to instead focus our efforts on other activities such as Google Scholar, our Research Programs, and publishing papers about research here at Google," he wrote.Continue Reading
- Thursday, December 18, 2008 - 12:38pm
Strong indications are that President-elect Barack Obama has picked physicist John Holdren to be the president's science adviser.
A top adviser to the Obama campaign and international expert on energy and climate, Holdren would bolster Obama's team in those areas. Both are crowded portfolios. Obama has already created a new position to coordinate energy issues in the White House staffed by well-connected Carol Browner, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and nominated a Nobel-prize winning physicist, Steve Chu, to head the Department of Energy. That could complicate how the Office of Science and Technology Policy, which Holdren will run, will manage energy and environmental policy. "OSTP will have to be redefined in relation to these other centers of formulating policy," says current White House science adviser Jack Marburger.
Holdren had been planning to attend a staff meeting this morning with colleagues at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, where he heads the technology and science program. But instead, he flew today to Chicago to meet with the transition team and prepare for the announcement; initial plans are to release the official news of the appointment on a weekly radio program that Obama records and will be broadcast on Saturday. The transition office declined to comment.
Holdren is well known for his work on energy, climate change, and nuclear proliferation. Trained in fluid dynamics and plasma physics, Holdren branched out into policy early in his career. He has led the Woods Hole Research Center for the past 3 years and served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (which publishes ScienceInsider)Continue Reading
- Thursday, December 18, 2008 - 12:15pm
The National Research Council has just issued another report calling for substantive changes in how the Environmental Protection Agency conducts risk assessments of hazardous chemicals.
Earlier this month, an NRC panel recommended policy changes to minimize the odds of political interference in risk assessments. According to the new report, the agency should simultaneously consider risks for all chemicals that have a similar effect.
The approach is spelled out in detail for phthalates, chemicals found in baby bottles and other plastic objects, but should be applied broadly, the report urges. Considering cumulative exposure in this way would increase the estimated risk of chemicals. How the agency will use this new approach to regulate chemicals under existing law is unclear. Stay tuned for details.Continue ReadingPosted In:
- Wednesday, December 17, 2008 - 7:14pm
She sends regrets, from orbit
Image via Wikipedia
Astronaut Sandra Magnus won't be joining her six fellow crewmates in the presidential inauguration parade in which they've been invited to march next month. But she's got good reason: She's busy doing experiments in areas ranging from low-gravity materials science work and human physiology, 350 kilometers up in space. She was dropped off on the International Space Station last month by the space shuttle Endeavor during a repairs-and-renovation mission. "But I'm sure she'll be doing it in spirit," says NASA spokesperson Bob Jacobs. Magnus will be in orbit until February.
Joining the astronauts on the Earthwalk will be a conceptual model of a lunar rover and astronaut and engineer Gregory Chamitoff, whom Magnus replaced on the space station. This is not the first time NASA has marched in an inaugural parade, but it's the first in recent memory to include astronauts, Jacobs says. And a lunar rover hasn't been rolled out for a parade since Richard Nixon's second inauguration in 1973.Continue Reading
- Wednesday, December 17, 2008 - 6:55pm
President-elect Barack Obama continued last week's theme of energy independence—think Steve Chu. Today's announcement of his choices to lead the departments of the Interior and Agriculture focus instead on resources in the ground—oil, gas, and corn-based ethanol. Headed to Interior, Senator Ken Salazar (D–CO) has worked to promote fossil-fuel exploration, though he's respected by mainstream environmental groups for trying to balance that with environmental safeguards. Like Obama, both Salazar and Tom Vilsack, who will head USDA, are proponents of biofuels. But The New York Times's editorialists put science at the top of the agenda for Interior today, highlighting controversial decisions on endangered species during the Bush Administration:
Mr. Salazar’s most urgent task will be to remove the influence of politics and ideology from decisions that are best left to science.Continue Reading
- Wednesday, December 17, 2008 - 10:42am
Health care provider Kaiser Permanente has finally landed the money it needed to fulfill plans for a massive DNA biobank. It has just announced receiving an $8.6 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that should allow the company to put together 500,000 DNA samples, along with health and environmental information about their donors. The intent is to ferret out the causes of and develop personalized treatments for common conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
The expanded biobank will be among the largest and will join several in Europe and one in Canada. It beats to the punch the National Children's Study, which has undergone delay after delay in enrolling 100,000 U.S. children.
The biobank will be run by Catherine Schaefer, director of Kaiser Permanente's Research Program on Genes, Environment and Health, and Neil Risch, a professor of human genetics at the University of California, San Francisco. The repository already contains 200,000 DNA samples and hopes to meet the 500,000 mark by 2012 now that funding is in place.Continue Reading
- Tuesday, December 16, 2008 - 5:33pm
The science education community is adding its voice to the chorus of praise accompanying President-elect Barack Obama's selection of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education. As CEO of Chicago Public Schools for the past 7 years, Duncan has pushed to narrow the achievement gap in math and science between poor, minority students and the rest of the student population as part of a broader program of reform. Along the way, he's made quite an impression on scientists working to improve the quality of what are called STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math—fields.
"He's a good guy, and he's been a breath of fresh air," says physics Nobelist Leon Lederman, a leader in STEM education in Illinois and around the country. "Of course, I wouldn't be so excited about his chances of being a good education secretary if the big boss wasn't also interested in improving STEM education."
Two years ago, Duncan wowed a commission, co-chaired by Lederman, that was asked by the oversight body of the National Science Foundation to examine STEM. Duncan described a host of changes, from streamlining the math curriculum to sending teachers back to school for additional training. That's no easy task for what was once one of the country's worst-performing school districts, although he admits that the district still has a long way to go.
Duncan has also brought in outside science groups to lend a hand. Next month, one such group, the Illinois Math and Science Academy (IMSA), will open its first field office at a school on the city's South Side. Staff at the academy, a residential high school for top students from around the state, will give students hands-on, inquiry-based instruction at the same time their teachers are learning how to incorporate such techniques into their daily lessons. "We canContinue Reading
- Tuesday, December 16, 2008 - 3:03pm
The Science Careers Blog has a nice summary of what we know so far about the impact of the Bernard Madoff scandal on scientific institutions and philanthropies that donate to scientific research. Many organizations invested in Madoff's hedge fund, which prosecutors allege was a $50 billion scam. The blog reads:
Yeshiva University in New York, home to the Albert Einstein School of Medicine, has apparently taken a significant hit. … Sources [say] that the school has lost at least $100 million from its endowment. …
Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa, Israel, invested in Madoff's securities, according to the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, which estimates its losses at about NIS 25 million ($6.5 million). Victims of Madoff's apparent fraud include foundations headed by household names such as Nobel laureate Elie Weisel, Senator Frank Lautenberg, and film director Steven Spielberg, as well as many smaller family foundations and institutions that serve Jewish communities in North America, Europe, and Israel. Madoff managed most of the investment income of Spielberg's Wunderkinder Foundation, which donated some $3.3 million for medical research to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. …
The Madoff scandal has further shaken an already nervous environment for philanthropies. John Ruskay, executive vice president and CEO of the UJA-Federation of New York [said], "Already in the context of a very challenging economic environment this will present another significant difficulty. We don’t know yet the extent of the wreckage."Continue Reading
- Monday, December 15, 2008 - 5:17pm
Archaeologists around the world are condemning the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology for laying off 18 researchers, in particular one of the world's leading archaeobotanists, Naomi Miller, who has been in the field for 30 years. News of the planned layoffs, announced late last month, has ricocheted through the global archaeology community, with help from several academics who have notified more than 1000 of their colleagues.
Miller's "departure from the field will have serious ramifications for many on-going archaeological projects throughout" the Near East, where she studies plant remains to better understand agricultural economies, wrote Melinda Zeder, director of the archaeobiology program at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., in a letter sent last weekend to Richard Hodges, the museum's director. Hodges was traveling and not available to speak with ScienceInsider, but spokesperson Pam Kosty said that "it's obviously difficult for everybody at the museum, these layoffs," and "we're doing what we can to try to save people." Like many other museums and nonprofits, the University of Pennsylvania Museum has been hard-hit by a sinking endowment and a difficult fundraising environment.
In an interview, Zeder, who has collaborated with Miller, sympathized with the museum's plight but argued that while the museum has presented the cuts as a solution to a short-term budget shortfall, "it seems to me counterintuitive to take measures that have a permanent impact on just the thing you're trying to save."
"There's quite an active campaign" to protest the loss of Miller, which will be effective at the end of May, Zeder says. "We're just stunned."
The director of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology tells ScienceInsider this morning that the layoffs had been mislabeled and that many of those affected would be able toContinue ReadingPosted In:
- Monday, December 15, 2008 - 4:52pm
A new Institute of Medicine report released today by a prominent group of scientists and former public officials on a global health committee has a message for President-Elect Barack Obama: Give us some of that change you've promised.
The committee, co-chaired by Harold Varmus, head of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and Thomas Pickering, retired Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, urges Obama to make "a major speech early in his tenure" that declares that the United States sees global health as "an essential component of U.S. foreign policy." In the eyes of the committee, a more substantial investment in global health will yield diplomatic, economic, and security returns. Specifically, they call on the administration to double its commitment from $7.5 billion to $15 billion by 2012. They suggest that $13 billion should go toward health-related Millennium Development Goals, and another $2 billion toward noncommunicable diseases and injury.
Although the committee commended the United States for making "dramatic increases" in global health during the past decade, it noted that the U.S. "does not come close" to the spending on development aid made by most other rich countries. Denmark, one of the most generous countries, spends $1.07 per day per person, while U.S. public and private contributions only amount to 35¢, for example. In terms of gross national income, the U.S. spends 0.16%, while several Scandinavian countries contribute more than 0.8% (see graph). "Overall as a percentage we're still battling with Greece at the bottom of the pile," Varmus, who also is on Obama's transition team, told ScienceInsider. "We ought to get the level up."
But is it realistic to call for a doubling of funding during the currentContinue Reading
- Monday, December 15, 2008 - 11:36am
Last week, the annual Nobel Prize award ceremony took place in Stockholm, but not everyone was celebrating. A brouhaha erupted when a Swedish government anticorruption official told the media he had concerns about a pharmaceutical company's ties to the Nobel Prize awarded this year to Germany's Harald zur Hausen for his discovery of the link between human papilloma virus (HPV) and cervical cancer. (Zur Hausen's Nobel lecture and those of the other winners can be viewed here.) The British-Swedish company AstraZeneca receives patent royalties from HPV vaccines, and in November, AstraZeneca launched a collaboration with Nobel Web, the Nobel Foundation's Web site, and Nobel Media, a subsidiary company, to produce documentaries and sponsor lectures that increase interest in the prize. The Swedish media also reported that a member of AstraZeneca's board, Bo Angelin, sits on the Nobel Assembly that awarded zur Hausen the prize. According to Forbes magazine, Angelin has received $42,000 in compensation for sitting on the company's board.
The anticorruption official who raised the potential conflict-of-interest issues reportedly said he may launch an investigation. Yet no evidence has come to light that AstraZeneca or Angelin had any special influence on the prize going to zur Hausen, and colleagues widely felt he was deserving of the honor. AstraZeneca's collaboration with Nobel Web and Nobel Media also came a month after the announcement of zur Hausen's prize.
Conflict of interest is a real problem that deserves serious scrutiny. But unless something more substantial surfaces about AstraZeneca or Angelin's role in this award, there's no need to put an asterisk next to zur Hausen's name.
The media flap may have had one result: According to Swedish news reports, the head of the Nobel Committee, which recommends potential prizewinners to the assembly, said the committeeContinue Reading
- Friday, December 12, 2008 - 4:36pm
A collection of U.S. research universities is making the case for science to be included in legislation aimed at reviving the moribund economy.
In a letter today to President-elect Barack Obama, the 62-member Association of American Universities proposes $2.7 billion in immediate spending on academic buildings, scientific equipment, and young researchers. AAU joins a long line of interest groups hoping to tap into an economic stimulus package topping $500 billion in emergency spending that will be taken up next month by Congress and the incoming administration. Several higher education groups are also making a pitch to make college more affordable, arguing that a better-trained workforce will help the country climb out of the recession sooner.
AAU's proposals mostly involve huge increases to existing programs at the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy. They are long-shots at best. But the letter also serves to remind politicians that science is important to the nation's economy, an argument that they hope will pay off next year as Congress completes work on the 2009 budget and then turns to President-elect Obama's request for 2010.
Letter follows after the jump.
December 12, 2008
President-elect Barack Obama
451 6th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20004
Dear President-elect Obama:
As your transition team works with Congress to develop an economic stimulus package, the Association of American Universities offers for your consideration six recommendations that we believe would help college students and universities weather the economic downturn and boost the nation’s economic recovery.
The AAU recommendations include two major proposals on student access and academic infrastructure that will be discussed in greater detail in a forthcoming letter from the higher education associations, including AAU. Our four other recommendations focusContinue Reading
- Friday, December 12, 2008 - 3:37pm
California regulators yesterday laid out a plan to cut the state's greenhouse gas emissions by 15% over the next 12 years. That blueprint is the most ambitious greenhouse gas–reduction plan in the United States and could serve as a model for the incoming Obama Administration. The move is designed to combat the effects of the state's fast-growing population, which is expected to cause by 2020 a spike in greenhouse emissions by 30% over 1990 levels. Among the plan's hallmarks: producing at least one-third of all electricity from renewables, the most of any state.Continue ReadingPosted In:
- Friday, December 12, 2008 - 2:18pm
Austrian scientists are in a cold sweat after learning that they could face a 90% budget cut. That bomb was buried within a draft budget document released 2 weeks ago, just days after a major electoral win by the country's conservative Austrian People's Party. Austrian scientists had been promised a 5-year budget of €2.35 billion—that is, back in the warm and lazy summer days when the liberal party was in power and global financial markets were riding high. The number now suggested is just €350 million. "Scientists are upset and alarmed," says a spokesperson at the Austrian Council for Research and Technology Development who requested anonymity. "But the real numbers will come in January." If the cut turns out to be true, he predicts that scientists will take to the streets. However, he says, such a budget would be so disastrous for Austrian science that he can't believe the cut is a serious proposal. "I think it was just a clerical error."Continue Reading
- Friday, December 12, 2008 - 12:21pm
… gets full and mostly positive coverage today in the Washington Post's take on Energy nominee Steve Chu and their look at Carol Browner, Lisa Jackson, and Nancy Sutley, his respective picks for Climate Czar, Environmental Protection Agency Director, and Head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The Wall Street Journal, however, is not a fan.
More on how EPA science could be affected by the picks on ScienceInsider soon.Continue Reading
- Thursday, December 11, 2008 - 4:47pm
A 64-year-old biologist who's been teaching in the University of California system for 30 years is refusing to undergo sexual harassment training and has been made something of a cause célèbre.
Alexander McPherson, a protein crystallographer at the University of California, Irvine, for the past 11 years, decided to dig his heels in last month and refused to attend a 2-hour indoctrination session mandated by state law.
McPherson's story first got widespread publicity in November. McPherson later said in an editorial that the training was "a disgraceful sham" and that "as far as I can tell from my colleagues, it is worthless, a childish piece of theater."
UC Irvine has responded by writing his funding sources, including NIH, to notify them that McPherson is no longer allowed to supervise people on his grants. According to the latest article, published today in The Scientist, McPherson will be stripped of his teaching assistants come January. McPherson has been posting responses to his plight—most of them supportive.Continue ReadingPosted In:
- Thursday, December 11, 2008 - 12:50pm
Steve Chu could be a groundbreaking energy secretary for the energy research efforts of President-elect Barack Obama's Administration in several ways. It's not just that Chu will be the first life-long scientist— and a Nobel prize-winning physicist at that—to run a department which spends more than $15 billion a year on physical science research, including weapons work. (Previous energy secretaries have usually been political allies of the president, which Chu isn't; a Naval Admiral and a power industry official have previously held the post.) But his selection, and new clues from Obama's transition team, could signal some big changes in the way that the United States conducts science to tackle the energy challenge.
First there's the big picture for the Department of Energy, a sprawling, $23 billion per year agency that manages twenty national laboratories and roughly a dozen nuclear waste cleanup projects. DOE spends roughly $9 billion to maintain the U.S. nuclear arsenal, roughly $10 billion on the waste sites, about only $4 billion on applied energy research, and close to $5 billion on basic physical science. Congress has historically preferred that lopsided balance. But recent fights between appropriators on Capitol Hill and a veto-threat-wielding White House over the budget (such as this skirmish) have prevented the agency from steadily doubling that basic research component—something both sides want to do. Money is tight, but Obama won't be threatening a veto over spending bills and moreover, he has promised to double the budget. So that, along with the appointment of a Nobel prize-winning physicist to run DOE, means the agency will probably do more and more science, including applied research as well as fundamental physics. Chu was one of the authors of a highly influential report from the U.S. National Academies on theContinue Reading