ScienceScope

Science  08 Dec 2000:
Vol. 290, Issue 5498, pp. 1869
  1. Gifted

    Santa Claus has paid an early visit to 28 top university labs across the United Kingdom. The U.K. government, in concert with the Wellcome Trust charity, earlier this week announced it would distribute $180 million for projects across the sciences. Specific grants are still being negotiated, but the presents include a Center for Post-Genomic Virology at University College London; 900-megahertz NMR facilities at the universities of Birmingham and Oxford; a lab for studying cancer-causing viruses at Imperial College; and a Center for Fundamental Physics at the University of Durham.

  2. Parting Present

    Retiring Representative John Porter (R-IL), a major player in boosting the budget of the National Institutes of Health over the last few years, will donate his unused campaign funds to biomedical science. Porter announced this week that he will give about $325,000 to Northwestern University Medical School in Evanston, Illinois, as part of a $2 million campaign to create a professorship bearing his name. Porter is a graduate of the school, which is a first-time beneficiary of leftover campaign cash, says Northwestern president Henry Bienen.

  3. Defense Posture

    Congress still hasn't finished work on spending bills for the 2001 budget year, which began 1 October. But researchers are raring to go on the 2002 budget. For instance, the 40-member Coalition for National Security Research is calling on the White House and Congress to boost the Pentagon's science and technology budget by $900 million, to $10 billion. “A dynamic, merit-based military research enterprise” is essential to both universities and national security, the academic group argues in a statement released last month.

    That message is echoed in a recently surfaced report by a Defense Science Board task force. It calls for a 30% boost over 3 years in basic research at universities, even if it means diverting funds from applied work. The panel, chaired by Walter Morrow of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory, says that a hike in the current $1 billion budget is “judged necessary to counter the increasingly short-term focus of industrial R&D.” The first reaction will come in the new president's proposed budget to Congress, due out in February.

  4. Looking for Alternatives

    British scientists should beef up their research on alternative medicine, according to a report issued last week by the House of Lords' Science and Technology Committee. Noting a dearth of high-quality research in alternative medicine, the committee urged the National Health Service and the Medical Research Council to develop a few “centres of excellence,” following the path taken by the U.S. government's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The report added that the work should ultimately be guided by a clearinghouse that is partly funded by the government.

    In a separate report, the Foundation for Integrated Medicine, an advocacy group headed by Prince Charles, offered to fill that role. It outlined a 5-year, $7 million plan to jump-start new research, support existing studies at medical schools, and fund 5-year fellowships to train medical students in research methods for alternative medicine. Right now, the field is “not particularly respectable as a research career,” notes the foundation's Tricia Darnell. Increasing funding would make it “more mainstream,” she says.

    The foundation hopes for backing from the U.K. Department of Health but admits the agency has been “lukewarm” to the idea. Meanwhile, the foundation welcomes feedback (http://www.fimed.org/) and is waiting for a government response to the House of Lords' report.

  5. Apple II

    Last January, some observers dubbed neuroscientist Gerald Fischbach “director-to-be” of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), after Harold Varmus quit the post for a prestigious job in New York City. But by spring, the White House had decided that election-year politics would sink the planned promotion of Fischbach, who had run the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke for 2 years.

    Now, Fischbach is also headed to the Big Apple. Columbia University last week appointed him to its top medical post. As vice president for health and medical sciences, he will command an $815 million budget and be dean of the faculties of health and medicine. His wife, Ruth Fischbach, is leaving a biomedical ethics position at NIH to become a professor of bioethics in psychiatry at nearby Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center.

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