Science  24 Oct 2003:
Vol. 302, Issue 5645, pp. 545

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  1. Project Rank Rankles Japanese Nobelist

    TOKYO—Japan's highest science advisory panel has angered one of the country's Nobel laureates by assigning low priority to a project he's backing.

    Masatoshi Koshiba, who shared the physics prize last year for his work on neutrinos, last week blasted the prime minister's Council for Science and Technology Policy for giving a proposed neutrino experiment the lowest of four possible grades. Given the current budget squeeze, the council's scoring could mean the delay, if not death, of the project.

    The ranking is the council's second attempt to review major projects across all disciplines. It awarded top ratings to 32 of 198 proposed projects, including genome research and fusion power initiatives. Although the 15-member council formed several subcommittees this year to augment its expertise, Koshiba says that the absence of particle physicists led to the “mistaken” impression that the proposed experiment, which would use a proton accelerator being built in Tokai, would repeat existing work. A council spokesperson says that the exercise isn't meant to penalize any project but rather to prod researchers to sharpen their arguments for upcoming negotiations with the Ministry of Finance on the 2004 budget.

  2. Next Step Is an Orbiting Lab

    BEIJING—China, the newest member of the human space exploration club, hopes to launch an orbiting space laboratory within 5 years. That's the word from space officials basking in last week's successful Shenzhen 5 mission that sped taikonaut Yang Liwei 14 times around Earth.

    “Our next step is to build a lab which can operate for a long period in space with short-term manual work from time to time,” says Wang Yongzhi, chief designer of the country's manned space program. The 5-year timetable includes successful tests of rendezvous and docking technology carried out by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CAST) as well as additional manned flights.

    Zhang Qingwei, general manager of CAST, says the planned space lab and other structures will accelerate China's lunar probe program and also serve as a platform for deep-space exploration. Although China would welcome input from other countries, says one official, such cooperation may not happen because “those who have the most advanced technologies in the field are never open to [sharing with] us.”

  3. Germany Aids Sub Salvage

    Germany this week announced that it will give Russia nearly $350 million over the next 6 years to secure scores of nuclear reactors salvaged from scrapped submarines. Experts say that 57 salvaged reactor blocks are already floating in storage buoys on Sayda Bay, a former fishing port near Murmansk (Science, 12 September, p. 1460). Another 80 could arrive over the next decade. The new funds will be used to build six land-based facilities to house the reactors during their 70-year “cooling off” period.

  4. NRC: Cooperate on Klamath

    PORTLAND, OREGON—Farmers in the Klamath Irrigation Project on the Oregon-California border have long complained that federal efforts to save the river's endangered fish have focused too narrowly on withholding irrigation water in hopes it would benefit the fish (Science, 4 April, p. 36). A report released this week by the National Academy of Sciences agrees. “Recovery of endangered suckers and threatened coho salmon … cannot be achieved by actions that are exclusively or primarily focused on” the irrigation project, the report says.

    The report calls on farmers to shoulder part of the load, however, saying that they must join ranchers and fish advocates in a broad effort to restore the ecosystem. Among its recommendations are removing an irrigation dam that blocks spawning suckers, restoring lost wetlands, and temporarily shutting a hatchery that turns out millions of salmon fry that compete with wild kin. Says Peter Moyle, a committee member and ecologist at the University of California, Davis: “There is something for everyone to dislike.”

  5. NATO Asked to Silence Sonar

    OXFORD, U.K.—Conservationists and members of the European Parliament this week called on the 19-nation North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to halt the use of sonar that might threaten marine life. The plea follows a U.S. court victory by critics seeking to restrict the use of similar submarine-hunting sonar by the U.S. Navy (Science, 5 September, p. 1305).

    Marine advocates want military forces to restrict the use of low-frequency active sonars and other detection devices in European waters until researchers can examine their impacts. In the last few years, military sonars have been implicated in whale strandings, including a mass beaching 3 years ago off the Canary Islands. A NATO spokesperson says it is “seriously” considering the request.