ScienceScope

Science  27 Oct 2000:
Vol. 290, Issue 5492, pp. 685
  1. Matchmaking

    A trio of leading Canadian science groups want to create a new “National Academies of Canada” that will provide expert advice to the government. Earlier this month, the heads of The Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Academy of Engineering, and the Canadian Academy of Medicine (being established by the Canadian Institute of Academic Medicine) asked the government to spend $2 million a year to found the new body. That's less than other nations spend to obtain similar advice, says Royal Society president William Leiss.

    But few politicians besides science czar Gilbert Normand have endorsed the idea. The lack of enthusiasm may stem from a consultant's 1994 conclusion that the Royal Society had failed a government-sponsored, $5 million, 5-year test to see if it could reposition itself as some form of national academy. Still, if the proposal matures, the new academy could fit snugly into the Interacademy Council, an international body being established “to do studies for the U.N., World Bank, and similar clients,” says U.S. National Academy of Sciences president Bruce Alberts.

  2. Great Apes Cash In

    Conservationists are jubilant over a new federal effort to protect great apes. After hearing how logging and illegal hunting are pushing several species to the brink of extinction, the Senate last week unanimously passed the Great Ape Conservation Act. The measure, already approved by the House and a sure bet for President Clinton to sign, authorizes the government to spend up to $5 million a year over the next 5 years to protect wild chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, gibbons, and bonobos.

    Ape programs might not get any cash this year, however, as Congress has already finished work on the 2001 spending bill that covers the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which will administer the fund, says Christine Wolf of the Fund for Animals in Silver Spring, Maryland. And although the bill allows the government to spend up to $5 million per year on apes, supporters will have to lobby hard to convince Congress to appropriate the full amount. Similar funds for elephant, rhino, and tiger protection routinely get no more than $1 million a year. But chimpanzee expert William McGrew of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, isn't disappointed. Even $1 million, he says, could make a big difference to ape conservation in key African and Southeast Asian countries.

  3. The Verdict Is In

    In a first-of-its-kind case, a Japanese court has ordered a university to pay for the “academic harassment” of a female faculty member. Kumiko Ogoshi, a research associate in the department of public health at Nara Medical University, claimed that her supervising professor, who has not been identified, tried to get her to quit by spraying discarded chemicals in her office, packing up her office while she was away, and withholding research funds. Ogoshi and others say such treatment helps to explain why only 7% of all full professors at Japan's universities are women.

    The compensation, awarded earlier this month by Osaka District Court, amounts to just $5000. And the court sidestepped Ogoshi's bid to make her boss personally liable for his behavior by saying that, as a public employee, he is protected from such suits. Still, the decision was “gratifying,” Ogoshi says.

    The university has appealed the ruling, saying that “the professor's actions were the result of the plaintiff's work performance and were legal and appropriate.”

  4. Secure Area

    Energy Secretary Bill Richardson has asked a think tank led by John Hamre, a former deputy defense secretary, to study how the Department of Energy (DOE) can maintain security without jeopardizing science (Science, 6 October, p. 22). Ironically, last week's announcement came just days after Congress voted—over DOE's objections—to require more agency employees to take polygraph tests, which researchers say have hurt morale.

    The report, due out next year from the Washington-based Center for Science and International Studies, is intended to show “how to make science and security compatible,” says Maureen McCarthy of DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration. But skeptics wonder if the study will change the minds of congressional leaders dissatisfied with DOE's security efforts. “This is after the fact,” opined policy analyst Al Teich of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (which publishes Science).

    This year's defense authorization bill, for instance, would extend lie detector tests—currently required for about 1200 staffers at DOE labs—to up to 5000 more agency employees who handle sensitive information. It would also bar the Energy Secretary from exempting researchers from testing, even at the risk of degrading the science.