ScienceScope

Science  23 Mar 2001:
Vol. 291, Issue 5512, pp. 2291
  1. Role Reversal

    Maybe science is bipartisan after all. Last week the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Science Committee made an unexpected departure from politics as usual on a front-page environmental issue.

    During a hearing on climate change science, panel chair Representative Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) took fellow Republican George W. Bush to task for a “misguided and unjustified” decision to drop a campaign promise to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. “I wish the Administration would have waited to hear from experts” before reversing course, Boehlert said.

    But the president's reversal won support from an equally surprising source, Democrat Representative Ralph Hall. A Texan with close ties to the Bush family, Hall said he was skeptical of the global warming threat and pleased that Bush had “clarified his position.”

    What to make of the exchange? Joked one House aide, “[The panel] is either boldly independent—or just confused.”

  2. Energetic Defense

    California legislators have pulled a new and heavily publicized state research initiative off the chopping block after pleas from the governor and university scientists.

    Last week a state budget panel restored $75 million that Governor Gray Davis (D) has requested for the three California Institutes for Science and Innovation, 2 days after removing the money to bolster an emergency fund to deal with the energy crisis. The new institutes (Science, 15 December 2000, p. 2052), which involve scientists at seven University of California (UC) campuses, cover biotechnology and quantitative biomedical research, nanosystems, and information technology and telecommunications. But legislators failed to restore a $33 million request from the governor to create a fourth institute that would apply information technology to critical societal problems.

    “We hope that they will continue to fund this investment,” says UC administrator Susanne Huttner, noting that the money must still survive votes later this spring. With the return this week of rolling blackouts, however, it's not clear whether legislators will continue to see the light.

  3. Bright Idea

    CREDIT: M. BALTER

    The French government may be rethinking plans to privatize a new materials research center after protests shut down two related devices for nearly a week. The scientists are unhappy with plans to operate as a private nonprofit the $172 million SOLEIL synchrotron (Science, 15 September 2000, p. 1859), which was also the subject of protests last year (above). The structure makes it easier for other nations to participate, but French scientists worry that it will make it harder for them to win jobs at government research centers. To make their point, nearly 100 scientists last week pulled the plugs on two machines, known as SUPER-ACCO and DCI. They also petitioned CNRS, France's basic research agency, to make SOLEIL a “mixed research unit” that can employ public- sector scientists.

    The CNRS appears to be warming to the idea, says protester Pierre Lebasque of LURE, an x-ray lab in Saclay. One compromise would create a public research unit alongside a private management group, he says. Officials have time to mull: SOLEIL won't open until 2005.

  4. No Comment

    In a rare public dispute, the National Science Board last week thwarted an attempt by its chair, Eamon Kelly, to chide the Bush Administration for neglecting the physical sciences in its 2002 budget proposal (Science, 9 March, p. 1882).

    It wasn't the content that bothered the board, a presidentially appointed body that oversees the National Science Foundation (NSF). “It's a good statement, and inoffensive,” said M.R.C. Greenwood, chancellor of the University of California, Santa Cruz, about a position paper that many board members saw for the first time at the meeting. But Greenwood and others argued that it would be better to wait at least until details of Bush's budget are released in early April. And some thought the less said, the better. “How often do we want to make such statements?” wondered Cornell University administrator Robert Richardson.

    Kelly implored the board “to add one more voice to the chorus” calling for larger budgets for NSF and other agencies. But Greenwood counseled that “voices raised on our behalf are more effective.” In the end, the board deferred action until its May meeting.

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