ScienceScope

Science  30 Jan 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5658, pp. 605
  1. Cambridge Abandons Primate Center Despite Approval

    LONDON—The University of Cambridge has abandoned its plan to build a controversial primate research center barely 2 months after winning special government approval (Science, 28 November 2003, p. 1485). The university announced this week that it will not forge ahead with the $50 million lab, citing escalating costs. Animal-rights activists are rejoicing, but their celebration may be short-lived: The U.K. government is dusting off an alternative plan to site the center at a military outfit such as Porton Down.

  2. German Universities to Compete for Crown

    BERLIN—Apparently inspired by a hit TV show, the German government is launching a contest to crown a handful of rivals to Harvard and Oxford. The ruling Social Democratic Party has unveiled a plan to give up to five universities an extra $300 million over 5 years to boost them to world-class status (Science, 9 January, p. 155). This week, science minister Edelgard Bulmahn outlined the rules for the contest, which she has dubbed “Brain up! Germany seeks its top universities.” The title echoes a hit TV contest, Germany Seeks a Superstar. This summer, contestants must submit entries to an international jury, which will set a timetable for announcing the winners. Funding is supposed to begin in 2006. It's not yet clear if the contest will be televised.

  3. A Plan for Growth in Canada

    Alan Bernstein, president of the fast-growing Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), is hoping an ambitious new strategic plan will keep the cash flowing for biomedical scientists. Over the last 3 years, CIHR's budget more than doubled to $478 million. But with the agency now facing a 5% cut to existing grants, Bernstein last week unveiled a blueprint for regaining momentum. It calls for spending an additional $292 million a year on basic research, along with a raft of initiatives aimed at everything from promoting commercialization of discoveries to improving training.

    The government would be foolish to curb CIHR's growth just as Canadian researchers are spreading their wings, Bernstein says. “We've learned how to walk and get into all kinds of mischief,” he says. “And we're now ready to go to school.” No word yet on whether the government agrees.

  4. Pentagon Biodefense Program Critiqued

    The Pentagon needs to shape up its biodefense research program within 3 years or ship it out to a civilian agency, concludes a new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM). The report, released last week, recommends that the Department of Defense (DOD) create a new organization to lead the fragmented and so far largely fruitless effort to develop new vaccines and drugs for soldiers (Science, 19 October 2001, p. 498).

    The congressionally mandated report—Giving Full Measure to Countermeasures—urges the Pentagon to unite $322 million in existing biodefense and infectious-disease programs under a single new agency that would report to a top DOD official, and to provide up to $300 million in new funds over the next 5 years to establish a “vibrant extramural program” that would fund research in academia and industry. If such changes aren't forthcoming, DOD should transfer its programs to the National Institutes of Health, the panel says. The report raises “legitimate concerns,” says a senior DOD official. But it's not clear if the military is ready to swallow IOM's potent prescription.

  5. 2004 Budget Done; Warning Sounded on 2005

    Congress last week approved the final seven spending bills for the 2004 fiscal year, which began 1 October. Overall, the 13 bills that direct federal spending contain nearly $127 billion for research, an increase of nearly $10 billion from last year, according to an analysis by AAAS, publisher of Science. Over 90% of the increase, however, goes to just three agencies: the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). For a full accounting, see www.aaas.org/spp/rd.

    Meanwhile, biomedical science advocates are wringing their hands over President George W. Bush's proposed 2005 budget for NIH, due out next week and rumored to contain a 2.5% boost, to $28.7 billion. That funding level would drop the number of new NIH grants by 584 from a projected 2004 total of 10,509, according to the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), and it would result in the lowest success rate since 1996. To avoid that crunch, FASEB hopes Congress will give NIH a 10% increase, to $30.6 billion.

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