ScienceScope

Science  11 Feb 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5455, pp. 945
  1. Entrepreneurs Wanted

    Japan's Ministry of Education (Monbusho) hopes that new legislation can achieve what its lobbying could not—spur technology transfer by allowing national university professors to serve as officials of private corporations.

    Last year Monbusho officials thought they had government-wide support to exempt professors from the National Civil Service Law, which prevents civil servants from simultaneously holding private sector positions. But the National Personnel Agency refused to allow economist Iwao Nakatani of Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo to accept a seat on the Sony Corp. board of directors (Science, 18 June, p. 1905). Nakatani resigned his professorship to join Sony's board, then went back to the university as a part-time lecturer, a position not subject to the regulations. The incident led Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi to set up an intragovernmental study group, which drafted a reform proposal that was presented to legislators this week. “This time, we really have the backing of the entire government,” says a Monbusho official.

    Molecular biologist Shiro Kanegasaki, who had to retire last year from the University of Tokyo before starting the Effector Cell Institute, sees the proposed law as a boon to entrepreneurs. “A lot of younger bioscience and medical researchers would be quite happy to have a role” in the private sector, he says.

  2. Strength in Numbers

    In a leap ahead for Dutch science, the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research has decided to buy a new national supercomputer that will be more powerful than any other in Europe. The $14 million machine, a Scalable Node-1 from hardware producer SGI, has over 1000 parallel processors and is able to perform a trillion calculations per second. That's almost 100 times faster than Holland's current top number cruncher.

    Some 120 research groups will use the new machine—due to be up and running in November—to model everything from bone growth to the birth of galaxies. Chemist Evert Jan Baerends of Amsterdam's Free University, who uses supercomputers to model interactions between molecules, says the new machine will be “a big step upward.”

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