Science  13 Sep 2002:
Vol. 297, Issue 5588, pp. 1787

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  1. Insel to Head NIMH

    A psychiatrist and neurobiologist who began his career at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has been tapped as its next director. As Science went to press, National Institutes of Health director Elias Zerhouni was expected to appoint Thomas Insel (below), now at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, to the post.

    Insel, 50, spent 15 years at NIMH before leaving to head Emory's Yerkes primate center in 1994. Originally a clinician, he later moved to the lab, studying the neurobiology of attachment. In 1999, he became head of a new National Science Foundation-funded center for behavioral neuroscience (Science, 26 July, p. 506).


    Insel says one of his top priorities will be to use genomics results to improve patient care, a goal his new boss shares. But Insel did not ask Zerhouni to let him keep his lab; it was a “tough decision,” he says, but NIMH “really deserves a full-time director.”

    Insel “brings to the table exactly what the institute needs in terms of expertise,” says Harvard provost Steven Hyman, who stepped down as NIMH director in December 2001. Colleagues describe Insel as a warm and likable manager, if more low-key than some institute directors. He expects to formally take the reins in mid-November.

  2. Ready to Rumble

    French scientists are gearing up to fight projected cuts in the nation's research budget. Three researcher unions were expected to hold a war council this week to oppose the cuts, which—according to government documents leaked to the daily Le Monde—might take a 1.3% slice out of the $9 billion civilian R&D budget and ax 50 research posts. A final decision is expected at a 25 September meeting of the Council of Ministers.

    The proposed cuts are smaller than the initially rumored 7.6% reduction (Science, 16 August, p. 1112). But many scientists say that any cut would break a campaign promise by President Jacques Chirac to boost R&D spending to 3% of gross domestic product by 2010, from its current level of 2.2%. “They say we are lagging behind, and then the first thing they do is cut the budget,” says Jacques Fossey, secretary-general of the National Union of Scientific Researchers (SNCS). Government spending needs to rise by 5% to 7% annually to keep Chirac's promise, says SNCS.