Down to the Summit
Marine scientists are cruising toward their goal of building an observatory at the tip of a massive underwater volcano. More than two dozen researchers this week boarded a University of Washington research vessel bound for the Axial volcano, 400 kilometers off the Oregon coast. Once there, they hope to complete the second phase of the year-old U.S.-Canadian observatory project, which plans to assemble a suite of instruments focused on the geology and biology of the Juan de Fuca Ridge, where microbes and other sea life thrive around sea-floor vents of superheated water.
Last year, researchers installed the first instruments—including water chemistry and earthquake monitors—at the New Millennium Observatory (NeMO), which sits more than 1000 meters above the sea floor and 1400 meters under the surface. On this year's cruise they plan to drill rock cores and deploy new equipment at the observatory, which has no firm completion date.
Hopes for neat science are high, as NeMO rests on “the most volcanically active site” in the region, says oceanographer Stephen Hammond of the Marine Environmental Laboratory in Newport, Oregon. To follow the action, check out newport.pmel.noaa.gov/nemo.
Germany's biggest basic research funder says the country's genome studies are lagging behind and need a big cash infusion to catch up to the United States, France, and the U.K. In a report last week, the DFG argued that the government should spend an additional $570 million over the next 5 years to put German genome research on the world map.
The report suggests that about 40% of the new funds go to studying genes identified in the human genome project, the genomes of model organisms such as the fruit fly, and ethical and legal issues. Plant and microbe studies would split another 40%, with the rest to be spent on bioinformatics, overhead, and other categories. The DFG also made a pitch for a new national committee to coordinate Germany's genome efforts.
Such ideas are likely to get a serious hearing from research minister Edelgard Bulmahn, who wants more genome research. Last month, she said her ministry will ask Parliament to double funding for Germany's part of the Human Genome Project, to about $45 million a year by 2002.
Caught in the Crossfire
Two Indian telescopes under construction in the Himalayas are the first scientific casualties in the latest battle with Pakistan over the disputed Kashmir region.
A $10 million, 2-meter optical and infrared telescope and another smaller instrument were scheduled to see first light in October at the world's highest site (4440 meters) for optical astronomy. But those plans are on hold due to fighting that erupted last month in the Kargil sector of the Himalayan state of Jammu and Kashmir. Intense shelling by Pakistani forces has blocked shipments of critical components to the remote observatory near Hanle—where the crisp, clear skies are great for astronomy.
It's not clear when peace might return. In the meantime, the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), which is building the telescopes, is preparing to reduce delays by airlifting equipment to the site. If all goes well, says IIA director Ramanath Cowsik, “there can be first light in early 2000.”
By Any Other Name
National Institutes of Health (NIH) director Harold Varmus is already taking plenty of flak from editors for a proposal to launch a government-backed online publishing venture (see p. 1887). Now comes another blow: Varmus's name for his brainchild, “E-Biomed,” is already taken.
Last week, Mary Ann Liebert Inc. a medical publisher in Larchmont, New York, issued a press release saying that in April it applied for an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) from the Library of Congress for a journal called e-biomed, which it plans to launch next year. The company has also tied up “www.e-biomed.com” and “.net” for Web sites.
That in itself doesn't mean NIH is prohibited from using E-Biomed, as an ISSN does not lock up exclusive rights to a title, according to the Library of Congress. It may not matter anyway: One editor who recently met with Varmus told Science that the NIH chief seems to be leaning toward broadening the journal to other life sciences, such as plant biology—so a different name might make sense.