Science  15 Nov 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5597, pp. 1315

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  1. Venus Rising

    Europe's mission to Venus is back on track. The European Space Agency (ESA) last week gave Venus Express the go-ahead for a 2005 launch after managers swallowed an $8.5 million shortfall in Italy's contribution.

    Last May, budget and scheduling problems prompted David Southwood, ESA's director of science, to cancel the $160 million probe of the veiled planet's atmosphere, magnetic field, and geology. But officials resurrected it a month later after an outcry from scientists—and despite doubts that the Italian Space Agency could meet its financial commitment (Science, 19 July, p. 317).


    ESA has now decided to cover the deficit, leaving Italy to chip in spare parts for instruments it has built. The deal smoothes the way for Venus Express to become the sole space mission to Earth's neighboring planet until 2009, when Japan plans to launch its Planet C probe.

  2. At the Speed of IT

    The National Academies are sometimes accused of being so slow that their reports are out-of-date by the time they appear. Last week, the authors of a new study on information technology (IT) admitted that, in their case, the critics are right. The admission served to make their point about how universities must do a better job of keeping up with the rapid pace of IT changes and to launch an effort to foster discussions about ways to do so.

    “This report is probably the least important thing we're doing,” confesses James Duderstadt, chair of an effort begun nearly 3 years ago to assess how high-speed computing and communications are changing academia, from teaching introductory courses to managing the books. The report, IT and the Future of the Research University, was launched at the height of the economic boom, when IT prophets were forecasting the demise of traditional learning.

    Although that hasn't happened, the report warns institutions that “procrastination and inaction are dangerous courses” of action. Instead, says Duderstadt, president emeritus of the University of Michigan, the academies' Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable will begin “an ongoing dialogue” to help universities “protect their capacity to produce the talent and knowledge this nation needs.”.

  3. Finally Wellcome

    The United Kingdom's premier genomics lab is set to grow. After 5 years of intense negotiations, local authorities have approved a plan by the Wellcome Trust to add 27,000 square meters of academic and commercial space to its Genome Campus in Hinxton, near Cambridge. The trust's initial plan for a larger expansion was rejected in 1997.

    The Genome Campus is already home to the Sanger Institute, a prominent player in the Human Genome Project. Next week, workers will break ground on an additional 10,000 square meters of labs, along with mouse and computing facilities. Future additions will include an Innovation Centre for start-up companies and additional space for firms growing as a result of progress in related fields. The project is expected to be finished by 2007, at a cost of $150 million.

  4. All Together Now

    Look for the Bush Administration to kick off a math and science education initiative next month with a high-profile gathering at the Smithsonian Institution.

    The initiative, part of the “No Child Left Behind” presidential campaign, is intended to meld the myriad federal and private-sector efforts aimed at improving student achievement, teacher preparation, and community involvement in math and science at the elementary and secondary school levels. “We're going to start off with what we know works in math because, frankly, we know so little about how children learn science,” says Susan Sclafani, counselor to Education Secretary Rodney Paige.

    Sclafani's office will spearhead the effort, which she hopes will attract professional societies and high-tech companies as well as other federal agencies funding research on teaching and learning. If so, the initiative has a ways to go. “It's news to me,” says one federal official about next month's get-together, echoing the comments of an executive at one association long involved in the subject. “But it sounds like a good idea.”.