Science  10 Aug 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5532, pp. 1027

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  1. Women Wave

    Two years after admitting that its female researchers lacked administrative power, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's top management is taking on a different look. This week the renowned Whitehead Institute announced that molecular biologist Susan Lindquist of the University of Chicago will take over as director when Gerald Fink steps down in October.


    Lindquist, a member of the National Academy of Sciences who is known for her work in heat shock proteins and fruit flies, joins a growing coterie of women in senior administrative positions at MIT. In the past year alone, the institution has promoted or plans to promote women as associate chiefs of the cancer center, electrical engineering, and computer science; associate head of chemical engineering; director of the nuclear science lab; and associate provost. “This is an astounding amount of progress in a single year in terms of diversity in the leadership—particularly of science and engineering,” says MIT biologist Nancy Hopkins, a key player in the 1999 report that focused on inequities among tenured women faculty members.

  2. Stationary Target?

    In Washington, when things get tough, the tough assemble a blue-ribbon panel—ideally with Nobel Prize winners. That's what NASA hopes will smooth over White House and congressional concerns about the direction of the agency's financially troubled space station effort.

    NASA and the White House sparred for months over the scope and membership of the panel, which was finally announced last week. Among the members are two Nobel laureates: physiologist Richard Roberts of New England Biolabs in Beverly, Massachusetts, and Robert Richardson, research vice provost at Cornell University. The 19-member team—the latest of a half-dozen to review the program over the past 15 years—will report by 1 November on how to fix management problems and a nearly $5 billion overrun.

    According to sources close to the panel, NASA hopes the chair, retired aerospace executive Thomas Young, will bless the agency's current plans, while the White House trusts that the vice chair, Admiral Thomas Betterton, will press for more radical ways to control the spiraling costs.

  3. Up in Arms

    Two federal legislators want to help bail out U.S. researchers sinking under new rules that restrict their use of foreign graduate students to help design and build science satellites.

    Scientists have been complaining in vain about the regulations, which require researchers to get State Department licensing in some cases. They were put in place last year following a congressional outcry over satellite technology transfers to countries like China (Science, 24 March 2000, p. 2138). So far, the scientific fallout has won little attention from politicians.

    But last month two House members urged President George W. Bush to exempt scientific satellites from the regulations and remove “the cloud of confusion and uncertainty that currently overhangs our nation's space science.” The 20 July letter from Representatives Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and Ralph Hall (D-TX)—respectively the chair and ranking minority member of the House Science Committee—cites a government decision 15 years ago that kept such satellites off the so-called munitions list.

    Administration officials, however, say that the highly charged debate over technology controls will make that plea a hard sell.

  4. Well-Oiled Academy

    The African Academy of Sciences (AAS) kicked off its $20 million endowment drive last week with a $5 million gift from Nigeria. The donation, three times the academy's annual budget, is the latest sign that science is riding high in the oil-rich nation. President Olusegun Obasanjo also recently established a science council to advise him on issues such as bridging the digital divide and improving the country's biotech industry.

    The AAS gift will help fund peer-reviewed scientific grants across all of Africa. “We think this is quite visionary,” says AAS president Mohamed Hassan, who hails from Sudan. Founded in 1985 and headquartered in Nairobi, the AAS has 112 fellows from more than 24 countries.