Science  04 May 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5518, pp. 825

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  1. More Is Better

    Marine scientists say federal officials are being too cautious when it comes to planning the future of the aging U.S. oceanographic fleet.

    The government's Ocean Research Advisory Panel last week reviewed a draft plan that recommends that the United States aim for a smaller but more capable fleet of large research vessels over the next 2 decades. The U.S. currently operates 16 vessels longer than 40 meters. A discussion paper drafted by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other agencies suggests that researchers could get by with as few as 10 new ships in light of funding constraints and the rise of buoy- and satellite-based data collection systems.

    But the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS), which represents ship users, says planners should recommend a “prudently larger” fleet. In a 30 March letter to NSF, UNOLS chair Robert Knox of Moss Landing Marine Laboratories in California urged fleet planners to be “realists but not defeatists. … If ever there was a time to make strong cases for … basic oceanographic research, it is now.”

    NSF's Mike Reeve says officials hope to have a revision within a couple of months “that will reflect a workable agreement.”

  2. Resigned

    Harvard University astronomer Margaret Geller ended a 4-year tenure battle this week by submitting her resignation. Geller will remain employed by the Smithsonian at the joint Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but she plans to stop teaching at Harvard after 1 July.

    A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Geller was offered a Harvard chair but not tenure in 1997, an unprecedented arrangement (Science, 12 November1999, p. 1277). She held out for tenure or a salary guarantee, suspecting sex discrimination as the reason for the unusual offer. University officials rejected her request, however, saying that they would be forced to make the same deal with other Smithsonian employees.

  3. Life-and-Death Decisions

    Heads may soon roll at Paris's Pasteur Institute, a topflight research center that has produced eight Nobel laureates in the past century. Over the next few months, director-general Philippe Kourilsky and the Pasteur's scientific council will decide whether to ax several research units that failed to pass muster in a recent evaluation.

    When Kourilsky took the helm in January 2000, he promised to subject the institute's 39 research units to much tougher scientific scrutiny and to limit the terms of their directors (Science, 28 January 2000, p. 567). In February, the scientific council put 22 of the units under the microscope: Fourteen passed with flying colors, and several others were renewed pending changes in their research priorities. But four units received a thumbs down. Although Pasteur officials decline to name the failing labs, Kourilsky told Science that “there will be some closures.”

  4. Chimp Reprieve

    Europe's only chimpanzee research facility will be closed. Dutch officials last week said they will follow an expert panel's recommendation to end chimp research at the Biomedical Primate Research Center (BPRC) in Rijswijk.

    Animal-welfare groups have criticized the facility for its cramped cages and obsolete facilities. And the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences panel—led by cancer researcher Anton Berns of the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam—found that few academic researchers were using it. In 1999, for instance, just seven of the center's 100 chimps were involved in experiments. The panel said that the animals should be retired to zoos or sanctuaries, and that researchers needing chimps could look to the United States for subjects.

    Dutch officials say research on the BPRC's 1000 rhesus monkeys will continue and have not yet set a timetable for ending the few ongoing chimp experiments.