Science  22 Dec 2000:
Vol. 290, Issue 5500, pp. 2229

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  1. Doing Well by Doing Good?

    National Science Foundation (NSF) director Rita Colwell is gearing up for a big increase in public outreach that she hopes will also benefit the agency's bottom line. An advisory panel headed by PR honcho Frank Mankiewicz last week called for at least doubling the agency's $2.5 million public affairs budget as part of a major campaign to inform the public about the scientific underpinnings of today's economy. “NSF needs to be the place that the scientific media calls” on any breaking science story, Mankiewicz told the National Science Board, NSF's overseer. Such one-stop shopping would not only improve public understanding of science but also raise NSF's profile, said several panelists, who asserted that other agencies—in particular NASA—do a much better job of publicizing discoveries they have funded.

    Board members embraced the panel's message, as did Colwell. “If I understand you correctly,” said John White, chancellor of the University of Arkansas, “a $15 million increase in the agency's PR budget could give us a chance to increase NSF's budget by $15 billion … a pretty good rate of return.” One sour note: For all its visibility, NASA's budget has stalled in recent years, while NSF's has grown steadily.

  2. Voicing Support

    A troop of arms-control experts is planning to ride to the aid of the Department of Energy's embattled national laboratories. The new U.S. Committee for the National Laboratories, announced this week, hopes to help the labs restore their reputation as guardians of national security in the wake of a string of espionage and mismanagement scandals.

    “The labs have been subject to a lot of attacks, and not enough people are coming to their defense,” says national security consultant Bill Courtney of DynMeridian in Alexandria, Virginia, one of the organizers of the committee. In contrast, he notes, flocks of outside supporters rally to the Pentagon's side in times of need.

    Courtney says the nonprofit group—led for the time being by attorney and former government arms-control expert Thomas Graham—has been blessed by lab officials and expects to raise funds from corporations, foundations, and individual members. Among its first tasks, he says, will be “to acquaint people with some of the good things the labs are doing.”

  3. Going Home

    After 2 years at the helm of U.S. science policy, White House science adviser Neal Lane, 62, will head back to academe when the Clinton Administration ends next month. The physicist said last week that he will return to Rice University in Houston, Texas, as its first ever professor without portfolio, able to teach in any department. Lane was Rice's provost in 1993 when recruited to head the National Science Foundation. He moved to the White House in 1998, where he cemented a reputation as a genial politico who preferred to work outside the spotlight.

  4. Top Quark

    After more than two rudderless years, France's National Institute of Nuclear and Particle Physics (IN2P3) finally has a new captain. On 15 December, the French government named Jean-Jacques Aubert, the institute's scientific director, as head. The IN2P3 had been without a chief since October 1998, when former chief Claude Detraz went to the CERN physics center near Geneva.

    Aubert, a physicist from Marseilles, came to national attention 2 years ago when he wrote a report for former research minister Claude Allègre proposing that the IN2P3 merge with the French Atomic Energy Commission's institute for nuclear and particle physics, called DAPNIA (Science, 23 April 1999, p. 569). But this controversial idea—which many physicists feared would make the IN2P3 subservient to the commission's research priorities—now appears dead in the water, sources tell Science. In fact, some researchers doubt that Aubert's appointment will make much of a difference at all to the chronically underfunded IN2P3. Says one physicist, who asked to remain anonymous: “It just means business as usual.”

  5. Genome Gift

    A record-breaking grant aims to put Indiana University (IU) on the genomics map. The Lilly Endowment of Indianapolis last week announced a $105 million gift to jump-start the Indiana Genomics Initiative, which will focus on genomics, bioinformatics, and bioethics. The grant—the largest ever given by the charity and the richest ever won by IU—will help the school add 75 investigators over the next 3 years. The cash will help “attract a stellar array of intellectual talent,”predicts Lilly president N. Clay Robbins.