Here's a rundown of some of the stories we've been following on Science's policy blog, ScienceInsider:ScienceInsider explores the political prospects for passing climate legislation next year, and the factors that might restrict Barack Obama's ability to deliver on his pledge. The package features a graphic that shows the difficult arithmetic facing cap-and-trade supporters seeking to get 60 votes, as well as interviews and profiles of key senators. See the full package.
Large parts of the U.K. physics community are dissatisfied by a major new funding cuts announced 16 December by the Science and Technology Facilities Council. Nuclear physics was hit with a 52% cut, while astronomers will have to withdraw support from a number of international projects in 2012.
Irish scientists who want to work with human embryonic stem cells got a bit of a boost from Ireland's Supreme Court 15 December, which ruled that human embryos outside the womb are not "unborn," and therefore are not protected under the country's constitution.
The White House unveiled its overall approach for improving ocean planning. On 14 December, the Ocean Policy Task Force sketched out how nine new regional organizations would create master plans for federal waters by drawing on a massive database of scientific information. Better coordinated and more comprehensive plans would improve ocean health while making regulation more efficient.
Harvard University has announced that it will temporarily halt construction on a $1 billion life sciences complex in Allston, a few miles away from the main Cambridge campus. Crews are currently working on underground floors of the building, and once they reach ground level, probably in March, work will cease. It is unclear when construction will continue.
Biomedical research leaders often complain that the U.S. system of funding research on specific projects stifles risk-taking and creativity. A better model, they say, would be to give researchers long-term awards with no strings attached. Now some Massachusetts Institute of Technology economists say they have rigorously tested this idea for the first time and found that scientists with open-ended funding are indeed more productive and creative.