ScienceScope

Science  30 Mar 2001:
Vol. 291, Issue 5513, pp. 2529
  1. Leakey Ousted

    Kenya President Daniel arap Moi this week sacked prominent paleontologist and politician Richard Leakey from his posts as head of the nation's civil service and an anticorruption team. Moi had appointed Leakey—a leader of the opposition and one of his staunchest critics—to the posts 20 months ago in a bid to stabilize his regime, which is under increasing pressure from foreign aid donors and in-country critics advocating greater democracy.

    Leakey's tenure was marked by controversy over his management style and efforts to reform Kenya's bloated bureaucracy. His ouster, says a source close to the researcher, came as no surprise.

  2. Westward Go!

    Germany's premier basic research organization, the Max Planck Society, is looking west again after a decade focused on building institutes in former East Germany. The society's governing board last week approved plans to build its 79th institute, for vascular biology, in cooperation with the University of Münster.

    The new institute, which will focus on the molecular and developmental biology of the circulatory system, will be led by Belgian angiogenesis researcher Peter Carmeliet and German biochemist Dietmar Vestweber. Münster rector Jürgen Schmidt predicts the initiative “will give the university a big boost.”

  3. A Stretch

    Japan aims to dramatically boost public spending on science—if its economy recovers. This week the Cabinet was expected to endorse a plan to spend $195 billion over the next 5 years on R&D. If achieved, the outlay would raise government science spending to 1% of Japan's gross domestic product (GDP)—and put the nation near the top of global rankings based on the portion of GDP spent on R&D by private and public sources combined.

    But reaching that goal rests on “a big assumption,” says Hiroshi Tamada of the Council for Science and Technology Policy, a top advisory body. Japan's GDP would have to grow by 3.5% over the plan's span—a rate not seen since 1990.

    Meanwhile, Japan's legislature last week approved nearly $27 billion in science spending for the 2001 budget that begins 1 April. The 0.5% increase falls below the amount needed to meet the new target. Officials are still looking for items that might boost the bottom line for science.

  4. Courting a Consortium

    A former pharmaceutical executive is trying to shake up the proteomics world. Alan Williamson, a retired Merck & Co. official, is pushing an ambitious plan to have companies solve the structures and functions of 200 human proteins a year—then give away what they learn.

    It might sound implausible. But the project has already won a pledge of support from The Wellcome Trust, a British charity. Williamson also claims that “nine or 10” firms are thinking of contributing $3 million each to the consortium, which he hopes will begin work this year. He hopes to seal these commitments with a business plan in the next few weeks.

    Williamson has pulled off a similar coup in the past. He was instrumental in launching the SNP Consortium, which has made public more than 850,000 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), the genetic variations that may be used to study diseases (Science, 16 April 1999, p. 406). The new proteomics group, he argues, could play a similar role in jump-starting drug development by sharing basic knowledge.

  5. You've Got Mail

    President George W. Bush and Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson received yet another letter this week urging them to allow the federal government to fund research on embryonic stem cells (Science, 1 September 2000, p. 1442). Antiabortion groups and some lawmakers are opposing the plan, because it involves extracting cells from embryos. But 112 university presidents have now joined 95 members of Congress and 80 Nobel laureates in urging the Administration not to backtrack.

    Meanwhile, eight groups—including the American Society of Cell Biology, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International, and Harvard University—have hired some lobbying muscle to fight for stem cells. Vicki Hart, a consultant and aide to former Senator Bob Dole, will help the new Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research make its case.

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