Science  21 Jul 2000:
Vol. 289, Issue 5478, pp. 371

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  1. Defining Distress

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is asking for help in developing a better system to document the pain and distress experienced by lab animals. In a 10 July Federal Register notice, USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) notes that many critics consider the current system “outdated and inadequate.” Among the flaws: no definition of “distress” and no scale to measure the intensity or duration of pain. APHIS is asking concerned outsiders to study pain classification systems used elsewhere and suggest how to modify existing rules. “Change is coming,” a USDA official predicts. Comments, however painful or distressing, are due by 8 September.

  2. Boom Times

    U.K. scientists can look forward to 3 years of prosperity. A government-wide spending plan announced on 18 July gives the Office of Science and Technology a budget boost averaging 7% per year for the years 2001–04. In addition to increases for grad student stipends and stemming lab decay (Science, 14 July, p. 226), the plan calls for spending more than $100 million to commercialize university research. The various research councils are now vying for their shares of the spending, which will be decided in the next few months.

  3. Environmental Royalty

    A proposal to create a science czar at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is winning support from Congress and even the agency itself. Last month, a National Academy of Sciences panel recommended creating the position to bolster EPA's use of science (Science, 16 June, p. 1943). Now, Congress and the Administration seem to be listening.

    At a House subcommittee hearing last week, Representative Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) announced that he's drafting legislation to create the deputy-level science position and institute other recommendations, such as one to set a 6-year term for the head of EPA's Office of Research and Development. Says Ehlers: “Scientists need more clout.” In the Senate, George Voinovich (R-OH) has told EPA chief Carol Browner that he foresees similar legislation. And EPA deputy administrator Michael McCabe wrote Congress that the agency likes the report, too. “Perhaps most significantly, we agree” with creating the deputy science position, he wrote. But don't look for anything to happen quickly because of a packed congressional calendar and the need to navigate any bill through several committees.

  4. Czech Rebound

    After enduring a decade of bleak postcommunist science budgets, Czech scientists are celebrating a bigger budget and a new program. The government this year gave science a 20% boost to $300 million, fulfilling an earlier promise to raise R&D's piece of the budget pie from 0.5% of GDP in 1999 to 0.6% in 2000 toward a goal of 0.7% by 2002. Besides fulfilling the country's contributions to the European Framework 5 research program, the extra money will endow a new 5-year program to strengthen research groups within top institutes. Starting this month, 33 competitively chosen centers studying everything from humanities to genetics will get grants for equipment, overhead, and salaries for postdocs and young scientists. Each center will receive, on average, $3 million for 5 years. And to bolster university-based science, each must recruit an academic partner. “We're trying to improve the quality of research,” says Josef Syka, vice chair of the government's Research and Development Council.

  5. Double Trouble

    Thirteen senators have so far thrown their weight behind an effort to double the National Science Foundation's (NSF's) budget to $8 billion by 2006. In a 12 July letter to Senate leaders Trent Lott (R-LA) and Tom Daschle (D-SD), the lawmakers touted investments in R&D and education as “the building blocks of the new economy” and noted that Congress has already put the budget of the National Institutes of Health on a doubling path. “It is now time to launch a parallel effort” for NSF, concluded Senators Kit Bond (R-MO) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), the letter's lead authors and senior members of the appropriations subcommittee that funds NSF.

    Science lobbyists say the letter should revive a bid to double the NSF budget, currently bogged down in politics (Science, 7 July, p. 31). “It signals that the idea is being taken seriously,” adds a Senate appropriations aide. But he notes that House lawmakers have already severely trimmed the Administration's $675 million requested increase for 2001, a major step toward doubling. The question now, he says, is whether the Senate “can muster the votes to turn things around.”