ScienceScope

Science  19 Sep 2003:
Vol. 301, Issue 5640, pp. 1645
  1. Schizophrenia in the Fast Lane

    The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is launching a $6-million-a-year initiative to crack the riddle of schizophrenia. After many years in the doldrums, “the pace of discovery has stepped up almost exponentially,” said NIMH Director Thomas Insel, who announced the effort last week at a meeting of the agency's advisory council. With a half-dozen promising genes to explore, a test for susceptibility to schizophrenia as well as “hundreds of new drug targets” are within reach, he says.

    NIMH psychiatrist Daniel Weinberger will head the initiative, which includes hiring seven senior investigators.

  2. British Biologists Unite

    LONDON—Researchers have launched the United Kingdom's first umbrella organization for biologists. The new London-based Biosciences Federation includes more than 20 societies and nearly 65,000 scientists, from ecologists to psychopharmacologists.

    The new body, which is similar to the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in the United States, will initially focus on education and thorny political issues such as animal testing and European Union regulation. “Biologists wanted better representation, and government bodies wanted to hear from one voice,” says the University of Manchester's Nancy Rothwell, treasurer of the federation.

  3. Moore Money for Giant Telescope Project

    A new grant is boosting hopes for a giant $700 million ground-based telescope. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation of San Francisco will soon announce a $17.5 million gift to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) to help develop a 30-meter telescope, proponents say. The observatory would have nine times more light-gathering power than current instruments.

    The 30-meter telescope is backed by Caltech, the University of California, the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, and the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy. Planners hope for first light by 2012, assuming they can raise the $80 million needed for planning and the remaining construction funds.

  4. Bid to Boost NIH Budget Fails in Senate

    Biomedical research advocates in the U.S. Senate last week lost a bid to add $1.5 billion to the National Institutes of Health's (NIH's) 2004 budget.

    Earlier this year, a Senate spending panel approved a 3.7% increase for NIH to $28 billion. But Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) argued for a 9.2%, $2.5 billion boost in 2004 to maintain progress. The amendment garnered 52 votes but fell eight short of what was needed to pass it as an “emergency” measure. The Senate will now negotiate a final NIH number with the House, which has backed a 2.5% increase.

    NIH officials, meanwhile, say they can maintain a 7% increase in research funding for 2004 by shifting funds from infrastructure accounts. The crunch will come in 2005, analysts say, when the White House may request just a 2% budget increase for the agency. That could mean a sharp drop in the number of new and competing grants.

  5. EPA Research Facing Cuts After Senate Vote

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is bracing for budget cuts in its in-house and extramural science programs. Last week a Senate spending panel cut $60 million from EPA's 2004 request—more than 10% of the amount in its major research division.

    Overall, the panel would leave EPA's science and technology budget at about its current level of $716 million rather than at the $731 million requested by the White House. But increased spending on homeland security will leave less money for ongoing projects. Spending on new initiatives, such as programs in computational toxicology and childhood cancer, may have to be cut by 65%, says Paul Gilman, EPA's R&D chief.

    The cuts would “slash at the core capability of EPA to do good science,” says Linda Greer of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group. The budget crunch could worsen when the Senate negotiates final budget numbers with the House, because both bodies have proposed millions of dollars in special projects not requested by the agency.

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