ScienceScope

Science  29 Nov 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5599, pp. 1697
  1. Educational Overhaul?

    Social scientists are protesting what they say is a Bush Administration move to bury research reports that run counter to its policies. More than a dozen professional societies have written to Education Secretary Rod Paige, demanding that his department consult with researchers before deleting information from its Web site.

    The department's site (http://www.ed.gov/) houses more than 50,000 files, including databases widely used by social scientists, such as the National Center for Educational Statistics. In September, the department said it planned to delete up to 13,000 pages as part of an overhaul. A leaked internal memo directed officials to delete pages not “consistent with the Administration's philosophy,” unless they were needed for legal, historical, or nonpolitical reasons.

    CREDIT: http://www.ed.gov/

    “This is public information, and it shouldn't be removed at the whim of political appointees,” says spokesperson Patrice McDermott of the American Library Association in Washington, D.C., one of the protesting groups. But department spokesperson Dan Langan says not to worry: “At the end of the day, the information will still be available in a Web-based format.”

  2. Space Thrust

    The U.S. government lacks “a space imperative” and needs an “audacious vision” for its space program, concludes a 12-member team led by former House Science Committee chair Robert Walker (R-PA). The blue-ribbon panel was formed last year at the request of the White House to look at the overall aerospace sector. But its actual findings, released last week (http://www.aerospacecommission.gov/), are anything but audacious.

    The report stops well short of proposing any dramatic new mission for NASA, such as a human visit to Mars or a base on the moon. Instead, the panel suggests a more mundane path, such as fixing up NASA's deteriorating facilities, accomplishing full monitoring of Earth by 2010, and encouraging more cooperation between the space agency and the Department of Defense in developing new propulsion and power technologies. Mundane, perhaps, but more politically salable: The White House and Congress have so far received the report with praise.

  3. To the Rescue

    French archaeologists are once again vowing to defend laws requiring digs prior to construction projects. Jean-Paul Demoule, president of INRAP, France's institute of “rescue archaeology,” called on the group's 1500 members to go on strike this week to protest changes proposed by Parliament.

    In 1997, the archaeologists took to the streets to successfully campaign for stricter enforcement of rescue archaeology laws and better funding from developers (Science, 7 February 1997, p. 746). Under the current rules, which require builders to negotiate dig payments on a case-by-case basis, archaeologists conducted about 4000 surveys this year. But lawmakers in the National Assembly and the Senate have recently added amendments to two bills that would loosen the requirements. If passed, Demoule says, the changes “would create chaos … and throw a number of specialists out of work.”

    The Chirac administration opposes the amendments, saying it wants to complete a planned review next year before proposing any changes. Parliament must act on the matter by year's end.

  4. Pulling Rank

    The National Science Board is about to tell scientists competing for big new research facilities exactly where they stand. Responding to an order from Congress, the oversight body for the National Science Foundation (NSF) agreed last week to assign a numerical ranking to each big project that it wants to fund. That's a big change from its previous policy of neutrality, which generated a growing backlog of projects deemed worthy of support and uncertainty about which ones the board preferred (Science, 14 September 2001, p. 1972).

    “The new list will rank projects at the same time they are approved by the board,” says Anita Jones, head of the board panel that drew up the new policy. “And that list will be public.” Jones says the board also hopes to keep the list of approved projects as short as possible—“just a bit more than we think we can afford to do at any one time.”

    The board reforms are consistent with a bill Congress passed this month (H.R. 4664) reauthorizing NSF programs. It strengthens the board's ability to manage big projects with the goals of lowering costs, improving efficiency, and making the process more transparent.

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