Science  18 Feb 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5456, pp. 1181

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  1. Next-Generation Genomics

    Worried that the upcoming human genome sequence “won't be very useful” by itself, Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), wants to start a new network of interdisciplinary centers that will take the next step in genome studies. Later this month, Collins hopes his Advisory Council will approve plans to solicit proposals for new Centers of Excellence in Genomics.

    Over the next 3 years, Collins wants to jump-start about a dozen of the new centers. Each could have an annual budget of up to $4 million, he says, enough to combine training and research in hot areas, such as DNA chips. “Many centers have raw talent but no mechanism for pulling it together,” he says, adding that the effort could become “a large part of [NHGRI's] portfolio.”

    The potential cash infusion could come at a good time for the many universities—from Caltech to Harvard—that are spending heavily on new genomics operations. “There are clear benefits to getting multiple investigators together,” says Robert Waterston, who heads sequencing efforts at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

  2. Still Connected

    Luther Williams, who last summer was replaced as head of the education directorate at the National Science Foundation (NSF) (Science, 13 August 1999, p. 997), is still on the agency's payroll despite taking a job across the street with Tulane University's Payson Center for International Development and Technology Transfer. Williams is one of 119 science administrators at NSF employed under the 1970 Intergovernmental Personnel Act, which allows the government to pay above-scale salaries to attract scarce talent. But most of NSF's so-called IPAs have been recruited temporarily into the agency from universities or industry. Williams, in contrast, is one of just nine officials who have been “lent out” to another institution.

    NSF deputy director Joseph Bordogna, himself a former longtime IPA, says that Williams is working on issues relating to his 10-year NSF tenure, including education reform and increasing minority participation in science. Williams declined to comment on his duties at the center, a pet project of Tulane's president emeritus, Eamon Kelly, currently head of the National Science Board.

  3. Do It Again

    Expanding overcrowded labs and replacing aging equipment are likely to top the list of priorities in Japan's next 5-year science plan. This month a subgroup of the Council for Science and Technology, the nation's highest science advisory body, is finishing up reports on the nation's research needs, in anticipation of a formal request from the prime minister for a detailed plan covering the 5-year period beginning in April 2001.

    Lab overcrowding has become “a big problem” as science funding has boomed, says Hiroo Imura, a former president of Kyoto University. Imura chairs the policy committee, whose panels also highlighted the need to attract more non-Japanese researchers and award more competitive grants.

    The previous plan, Japan's first, included an ambitious 17 trillion yen ($162 billion) spending goal that the government achieved through a combination of regular and supplemental budgets. A sluggish economy may preclude repeating that sharp increase, says Hiroyuki Yoshikawa, a former University of Tokyo president and council member. But political support for science is so strong, he believes, that “even if the economy worsens, [budgets] won't decrease.”

  4. Quantum Leap

    The U.S. military plans to spend $15 million to nurture the fledgling field of quantum teleportation, which seeks to harness the bizarre behavior of atomic particles to process information at breathtaking speeds (Science, 23 October 1998, p. 637). The technique allows scientists to transfer a quantum-mechanical property, such as spin or polarization, from one particle—a photon or an atom, for instance—to another, even if the two are separated by millions of kilometers.

    Three academic teams—based at the California Institute of Technology, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of California, Los Angeles—will each get about $1 million a year over the next 5 years from a coalition of defense funders to work on different aspects of quantum communication. The Caltech team, for instance, will work on error correction methods, while MIT and UCLA will tackle optical fiber and memory problems.

    The teams “fit very nicely together,” says physicist Henry Everitt, who heads the effort for the Army Research Organization.