ScienceScope

Science  07 May 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5416, pp. 885
  1. AIDS Windfall

    Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and wife Melinda have made the largest single philanthropic donation ever for AIDS research. This week, the couple announced that they will contribute $25 million over the next 5 years to the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI). The New York-based group will use the bulk of the money to set up three new international AIDS vaccine development teams and fund two existing groups working on vaccines for Kenya and South Africa. The gift will also support applied research, advocacy, and clinical trials. The landmark gift—which will double IAVI's budget to nearly $50 million—“will allow us to significantly accelerate the scientific effort,” says president Seth Berkley.

    The private group's war chest is still dwarfed by the $200 million vaccine program run by the National Institutes of Health. But the iconoclastic IAVI hopes to approach the problem from a novel angle, serving as a crucible to mix academics from both wealthy and poor countries and industry members with innovative ideas.

  2. Dollars and Sense

    University officials will get the chance later this month to tell the White House what they think of its new draft report that attempts to clarify the sometimes strained partnership between government and academia. Although the report is filled with such paeans to research “as an investment … guided by peer review,” the real issue for universities is likely to be money. In particular, academic officials want the government to spring for a larger share of the overhead to support federally funded research on campus. “I would hope that there will be a major push for additional resources,” says Nils Hasselmo, president of the Association of American Universities, who nonetheless sees the report as a vote of confidence in university-based research.

    President Clinton unveiled the report (whitehouse.gov/WH/EOP/OSTP/html/rand/contents.htm) last week at a belated ceremony to honor the 1998 National Medal of Science and Technology winners. The report is even more tardy: A 1996 presidential directive set a target date of 30 April 1997; now the Administration hopes for a final report by year's end. A 25 May hearing is the first of three scheduled by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

  3. Educational Payoff

    For years, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has been pushing research-intensive universities to place more emphasis on teaching in a drive to raise scientific literacy. Now, NSF director Rita Colwell wants to back this philosophy with some cold cash, by boosting the salaries of faculty members who are superstars in the classroom as well as in the lab. “The idea is to significantly reward those who teach intro courses as well as those recognized as exemplary teachers,” says Colwell, who has broached the subject with professional societies and, last week, with Congress at a hearing on improving precollege science and math instruction.

    Several schools already fatten faculty paychecks to reward teaching prowess. But Colwell says a similar NSF program could have a bigger payoff: By improving the quality of instruction given to nonscience undergrads, some of whom go on to become tomorrow's policy-makers, it could build public support for science. She's hoping to put something together later this year.

  4. Land No!

    A new report from marine researchers has some practical advice for ship captains seeking to prevent exotic stowaways hidden in ballast tanks from invading U.S. waters: Flush those critters into the briny deep. The study, mandated by Congress and prepared by a government-appointed task force, tackles a growing ecological threat: introduced species that displace native organisms. In the United States, for instance, experts believe the Asian zebra mussel (above) slipped into the Great Lakes decades ago in ballast tanks. It has since caused billions of dollars in damage by clogging pipes, disrupting fisheries, and driving out native shellfish.

    To prevent similar invasions, U.S. officials now ask captains to exchange their ballast waters in midocean, where they are unlikely to pick up organisms that can survive in harbor waters. But in case they don't, the report concludes that ships can safely flush their ballast tanks almost anywhere more than 200 kilometers offshore. Now it's up to captains to follow the advice.

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