ScienceScope

Science  04 Dec 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5395, pp. 1793
  1. New Faces on Funding Panel

    Washington wonks are weighing how a leadership shuffle on Congress's powerful House Appropriations Committee will influence R&D budgets.

    The ascension of former Chair Bob Livingston (R-CA) to Speaker of the House prompted a spate of seat shifting on the committee, which approves all federal spending. Florida Republican Bill Young inherited the top spot, while James Walsh (R-NY) steps in as head of the subcommittee that sets spending for the National Science Foundation, EPA, and NASA.

    Although Livingston and Walsh haven't been outspoken supporters of research spending, both are well versed in science politics, congressional aides say. Predicts one: “There will be a significant change is style but not substance. These are pragmatic leaders the science community can work with.”

  2. Wildlife Scientists Left Out in the Cold

    The buckshot is flying over a proposal to strip some scientists of their vote in determining which of Canada's species are endangered.

    Late last month, as part of a new national conservation policy, provincial wildlife ministers proposed elevating the 25-member Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, which identifies species in need of legal protection, from an advisory to a stronger decision-making panel. As part of the makeover, they want to reduce the number of voting members, which would deprive six scientists of their balloting rights. They also want to replace three other researchers nominated by conservation groups with government appointees. Government officials say the changes are needed to streamline operations.

    Conservationists charge that the move will reduce the panel's diversity and politicize deliberations. But there are signs that the ministers may reconsider their plans prior to producing a final draft in March. “It's not over till it's over,” says Steve Curtis of Environment Canada.

  3. Forecast: Fog Ahead on Job Front

    A decade after lambasting the National Science Foundation (NSF) for botching a study of the science job market, Congress has asked the agency to once again take on the politically risky task of predicting how many high-tech workers the United States will need over the next decade.

    The request is part of an ongoing debate over the impact of a new law designed to boost the number of foreign workers filling high-tech jobs. But social scientists warn that predicting labor markets is a tricky business. “It's extremely difficult, if not impossible, to project demand,” says Jeanne Griffith, head of an NSF division that tracks demographic trends.

    Nonetheless, such projections can spark a political firestorm, as NSF learned after a 1987 study, led by Peter House, warned of a coming “shortfall” of several hundred thousand scientists. After the forecast proved false, lawmakers questioned the agency's reputation for dispassionate analysis (Science, 14 February 1992, p. 788). NSF overcame that stain on its reputation, however, and “there is no truth to the rumor that [House] is being brought back to head the [new] study,” says one NSF wag.

  4. Stealth Plan to Do Away With Peer Review

    Australian academics are upset about an internal government proposal to replace the Australian Research Council's peer-review system with block grants divvied up by individual universities.

    The proposal, developed by the education ministry and first reported last month in The Australian newspaper, calls for moving away from peer review and recommends that graduate scholarships go directly to students rather than to universities. It also suggests using new performance measures to decide how to allocate research funds.

    Alarmed academics, however, warn that abandoning peer review would undermine quality control and put smaller institutions at a disadvantage in the funding hunt. “These damaging and ill-considered ideas threaten the standard and standing of basic research in Australia,” says Peter Cullen, president of the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies. The proposal is expected to be made public in the next few weeks.

Log in to view full text

Via your Institution

Log in through your institution

Log in through your institution