Science  16 May 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5622, pp. 1065
  1. Blakemore Picked to Run MRC

    LONDON—The U.K. government earlier this week tapped a topflight neuroscientist to take up the reins of its main public funder of biomedical research, the Medical Research Council (MRC). Colin Blakemore, director of MRC's Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Oxford, will replace current chief George Radda on 1 October.

    Blakemore is well known for his public defense of animal research, which has made him the target of kidnapping threats and bomb scares from animal activists. And a fighting spirit may come in handy during his 4-year MRC stint. Last March, the council was the subject of an excoriating report from the U.K.'s House of Commons that accused the $700 million body of making capricious funding decisions and consulting inadequately with the research community over plans for Biobank. The project hopes to be a huge data repository on the genetics and lifestyle of the British population (Science, 28 March, p. 1958). “The onus will be on Colin to fully restore the MRC's reputation,” says a senior scientist at Cancer Research UK, a charity.

  2. Judge Sinks Salmon Plan

    PORTLAND—A federal judge in Oregon has rejected a U.S. government plan to help Columbia Basin salmon stocks recover from decades of overfishing and habitat destruction. The decision may reopen a debate over whether to breach dams that have contributed to the salmon's decline.

    District Court Judge James Redden ruled on 7 May that the recovery plan proposed in 2000 by the National Marine Fisheries Service (now NOAA Fisheries) relied too heavily on voluntary fish habitat improvements. The 1993 rejection of a similar plan led government officials to consider removing four dams on the lower Snake River before deciding that voluntary measures would be enough to bring back 12 protected fish populations. The ruling is a setback for the Bush Administration, which had hoped to end the controversy (Science, 4 August 2000, p. 716).

    Bill Sedivy, executive director of Idaho Rivers United, one of 13 groups that brought the suit, says the government's recovery strategy “was a bit like trying to treat cancer with aspirin.”

  3. MIT Out of Media Lab Asia

    NEW DELHI—A 2-year-old collaboration between the Indian government and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has collapsed. Both partners confirmed earlier this month that disagreements over management, money, and staffing scuttled Media Lab Asia, which aimed to deliver cutting-edge technologies to India's rural poor.

    Indian Communications Minister Arun Shourie told Science that “MIT was shown the door in March” after the government concluded that the project wasn't attracting needed private funds and that the Cambridge, Massachusetts, school wasn't fully collaborating. MIT officials dispute that assessment, but project founder Nicholas Negroponte says, “It became clear that a management partnership was not possible.” Indian officials, meanwhile, say that much of the lab's work—which they backed with a $12 million grant and involves about 70 researchers—will continue.

  4. Global Health Brainstorm

    Got a novel scientific idea for conquering disease in the developing world? Now's your chance to be heard. Grand Challenges in Global Health, launched this year by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is seeking ideas for a $200 million pot of research money.

    The initiative, which also involves the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Foundation for the NIH, wants help in identifying 10 to 15 “grand challenges,” or ways to knock down barriers to improving health (Science, 31 January, p. 641). The panel hopes to avoid obvious concepts, such as developing a malaria vaccine, in favor of those that are “especially underinvested,” says former NIH Director Harold Varmus, who chairs the effort's scientific board. Ideas are due by 15 June (

  5. Swiss Science Budget Boosted

    BERN—In a surprise move, the Swiss Parliament's upper house last week voted to boost government science spending by 6% annually over the next 3 years, for an overall total of $13 billion. Cabinet ministers had recommended a 4% annual increase.

    Researchers are “very happy” with the vote, says Ingrid Kissling-Näf, secretary-general of the Swiss Academy of Sciences. But she calls the raise “the bare minimum” needed to keep Swiss science competitive. It falls short of a 10% annual increase urged by the Swiss Science and Technology Council (Science, 7 June 2002, p. 1781). The next hurdle comes in June, when Parliament's lower house will vote on the science budget.

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