Science  15 Sep 2000:
Vol. 289, Issue 5486, pp. 1853
  1. At Long Last

    The research community's long push to raise science's profile at the State Department appears to have paid off. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is set to appoint retired high-tech executive Norman Neureiter, 68, as the department's science adviser as early as this week, sources told Science as it went to press.

    Two years ago, a National Academy of Sciences panel told Albright that the State Department needed to do more to involve technical talent in U.S. diplomacy (Science, 3 March, p. 1580). Officials agreed to create the position of science adviser, but the job search faltered over the past year.

    Neither Neureiter nor State Department officials would confirm the choice. But Washington insiders say he is a good fit, with experience as a program officer for the National Science Foundation, a foreign service science attaché, and an executive at Texas Instruments. Since retiring 2 years ago, he has worked as a Dallas-based consultant and pro bono adviser to an array of groups involved in science, education, and foreign policy.

  2. Gender Gap

    Energy Secretary Bill Richardson has thrown in the towel on his search for a female director of Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, clearing the way for this week's appointment of nuclear physicist Hermann Grunder. But he's stepping up efforts to attract more women into science and senior DOE management jobs.

    Last week at DOE headquarters, Richardson staged a gala “Women in Science” forum to tout the department's progress in the past 2 years and to announce several initiatives to keep the ball rolling. Surrounded by female senior R&D managers from around the country, Richardson noted that 80% of the department's $17.4 billion budget is “managed by women,” including new Office of Science chief Mildred Dresselhaus. (DOE's top four slots, however, are held by men—Richardson, deputy director T. J. Glauthier, and undersecretaries Ernie Moniz and John Gordon.)

    He also touted efforts to diversify leadership at DOE's labs. “We got the first one,” he said, referring to Lura Powell's appointment earlier this year as head of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington state, “and I still think it's critically important to have more women as lab directors. But we couldn't make it happen” at Argonne. Grunder, the longtime director of the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, Virginia, assumes his new post on 1 November.

  3. Tennessee Tune-Up

    Democrats and Republicans are waging a pitched battle this fall over the Volunteer State, but they agree on one thing: sprucing up the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

    Energy Secretary Bill Richardson visited the lab this week and pledged $125 million over the next 5 years to upgrade Oak Ridge's aging facilities. The state will kick in about $26 million, and contractor Battelle, which took over the job of running the lab in April, will contribute some $50 million. DOE will also transfer federal land to the state and to Battelle for new facilities, including a mouse genomics facility, a biological sciences lab, and modern space for computer and neutron sciences.

    Oak Ridge director Bill Madia is ecstatic: “This modernization plan represents the largest construction effort [at Oak Ridge] since the Manhattan Project in 1943.”

  4. No Confidence Vote

    The world's largest laser project has hit a snag in Congress. Senators last week approved an amendment to the Department of Energy's (DOE's) 2001 budget bill that would block an extra $95 million the troubled National Ignition Facility (NIF) says it needs to stay on track. The measure, introduced by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), also asks the National Academy of Sciences to review the need for the $3.8 billion project, being built at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

    NIF is designed to allow scientists to study the behavior of nuclear weapons without actual testing and to conduct cutting-edge fusion energy research. But DOE officials revealed last year that the project is way behind schedule and over budget (Science, 18 August, p. 1126), prompting Harkin and other critics to call for downsizing or canceling it. The project has become “a massive public boondoggle” that will siphon money from other DOE science projects, Harkin said. NIF backers hope to win back the extra funds when Senate and House negotiators meet later this month to finish work on the spending bill.