Science  20 Oct 2000:
Vol. 290, Issue 5491, pp. 421

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  1. Making Amends

    Following through on a promise made earlier this year, the U.K. government has handed out grants totaling $36 million to scientists who lost the contest for a valuable facility. Last March, the government announced that the $880 million Diamond synchrotron, which will produce x-rays for studying materials, will be built at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in central England near Oxford and not at the Daresbury Laboratory in the northwest (Science, 17 March, p. 1899). As compensation, the government promised new science funds for the northwest.

    This week, a panel awarded the first nine grants, choosing from 52 proposed projects. The winners include a $3.6 million genomics center, a $3 million virtual engineering effort, and a $10 million imaging institute. The panel recommended further study of two other big-ticket items, including a $120 million advanced light source at Daresbury and a $25 million biopharmaceutical facility.

    Some scientists think the funding is inadequate. Physicist John Dainton of Liverpool University, a member of the grants panel, said that the “compensation is just a drop in the ocean compared with the loss of a synchrotron.”

  2. Dedicated to History

    The leaders of Germany's top basic research organizations gathered in Berlin this week to dedicate a monument to the victims of Nazi-era brain research, just days after a historical commission released a preliminary report on biomedical science abuses during the Hitler era.

    The new monument to “the victims of Nazi euthanasia crimes” marks the site—now on the campus of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine—where scientists at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Brain Research experimented on brains taken from Nazi victims, including the mentally disabled. At the ceremony, Max Planck president Hubert Markl said his commission's new report makes it clear that “directors, scientists, and lab assistants of several biomedical Kaiser Wilhelm institutes placed themselves in the service of a criminal regime.” Max Planck succeeded the Wilhelm institutes.

    Markl joined Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker, head of the DFG granting agency, and Detlev Ganten, head of the Max Delbrück Center and the association of German research centers, in calling for a full accounting of Nazi-era abuses. Winnacker said a new DFG panel (Science, 2 June, p. 1576) plans to share information with the Max Planck commission's ongoing inquiry.

  3. Mercury Bound?

    European space scientists have suffered from flat budgets and modest plans in recent years. But that may be about to change. Science managers meeting in Paris last week approved an ambitious long-term plan by the European Space Agency (ESA) for five new space voyages (Science, 22 September, p. 2019).


    The most dramatic proposal is for a half-billion-dollar mission to Mercury called Bepi-Colombo (above). It would be launched in 2009, the same year a smaller NASA-funded craft is scheduled to reach the planet. Another satellite would study the sun, while a third—also a half-billion-dollar project—would map the galaxy starting in 2012. Together with NASA, ESA also wants to launch a gravitational wave observatory and a follow-on to the Hubble Space Telescope.

    The 13 October approval came from the agency's science program committee. Sergio Volante, ESA's astronomy missions coordinator, says the agency hopes to convince government ministers at a meeting slated for late 2001 to sign off on a budget increase to start work in earnest.

  4. Courting Openness

    Federal officials are facing two lawsuits challenging their handling of controversial science issues. The Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, last week sued the Department of Energy (DOE), charging that a panel examining a troubled laser project had violated a federal law requiring openness and peer review. The group has asked a judge to bar DOE officials from using the panel's upbeat report on the National Ignition Facility, a $4 billion laser being built at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, to win continued funding from Congress. The panel was riven by conflicts of interest, the group says.

    A few days earlier, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and several members of Congress sued President Clinton and science adviser Neal Lane to block the release of a congressionally mandated report on how climate change may affect the lives of U.S. taxpayers (Science, 23 June, p. 2113). CEI seeks a “scarlet ‘J’ of junk science stamp [on the report] until [it's] brought into compliance,” says CEI attorney Chris Horner. Government officials said both groups' charges were unfounded.