ScienceScope

Science  19 Feb 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5405, pp. 1093
  1. Everglades Summit

    A trio of prominent ecologists will serenade Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt in Washington, D.C. next week with concerns about a controversial $8 billion plan to restore Florida's Everglades ecosystem. The 22 February gathering in Washington was arranged after six scientists—including Stuart Pimm of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Peter Raven of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, and Gordon Orians of the University of Washington, Seattle—wrote Babbitt last month, complaining of the plan's “deep, systematic” scientific failings. They called for a review by an independent body such as the National Academy of Sciences.

    That would take too long, say Interior officials, who hope to submit a blueprint to Congress later this year. Instead, officials have suggested a faster, internal study that examines the concerns, which have made headlines in Florida. The letter “obviously touched a raw nerve,” says Pimm. Now, he and his colleagues are waiting to see how the department responds to such external stimuli.

  2. Healthy Ties

    Canada wants to create a “virtual” Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Unveiled this week as part of the government's 1999–2000 budget proposal, the institutes are expected to replace the Medical Research Council (MRC) as Canada's primary mechanism for funding biomedical research at academic centers.

    The new structure—conceived by MRC President Henry Friesen as part of a bid to increase federal support for health research (Science, 8 May 1998, p. 821)–will also involve an electronic network linking scientists in particular fields. But the research will continue to be carried out at universities around the country, and the new institutes are not expected to have their own labs.

    Details of the plan will be worked out over the next year. One unknown is funding. Proponents want $325 million a year on top of the MRC's current budget of $163 million, but it remains to be seen whether Parliament will be so generous.

  3. Crops Chief Moves On

    After just 18 months on the job, Shawki Barghouti (below) has resigned as head of the struggling International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Patancheru, India. The Jordanian agronomist says he has successfully steered the institute in “a new direction” and that it is time to move on.

    Founded in 1972, ICRISAT is part of a global network of 16 centers aimed at improving agriculture in the developing world (Science, 2 January 1998, p. 26). Barghouti says he eliminated his institute's $5 million deficit by cutting spending by 20% and by coaxing donors to add $3 million to a $25 million budget. “Not a single research program was hacked in my tenure,” Barghouti claims. But not everybody is convinced that ICRISAT is out of the woods. Yeshwant Nene, an ex-deputy director-general of the institute, fears the current “peaceful” period could end with yet another changing of the guard. Barghouti plans to leave on 1 September.

  4. Accelerated Recycling

    A dismantled Dutch linear accelerator will find new life in Russia. At the end of last year, particle physicists shut down the 20-year-old Medium Energy Accelerator and the 7-year-old Amsterdam Pulse Stretcher in response to the government's decision to cut back on high-energy physics. Now, the Netherlands' only linear accelerator—a 180-meter-long pipe that fires electrons into a 68-meter-diameter storage ring—will be recycled into a synchrotron radiation source at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia.

    Though the Dutch machine is free, the Russian institute must raise millions of dollars for reassembly, a 4-year project. “Fortunately we have a building which just fits,” says Dubna chief engineer Igor Meshkov.

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