ScienceScope

Science  11 Jun 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5677, pp. 1579

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  1. Funding for Germany's Elite

    BERLIN—The German government has promised to spend $2.3 billion over the next 6 years to both create a German Ivy League and broadly strengthen academic research. Fearing that they might lose out, state governments balked at an earlier plan by Science and Education Minister Edelgard Bulmahn to develop a handful of elite universities (Science, 30 January, p. 605). So on 7 June, Bulmahn announced a compromise: Ten elite universities will each get $30 million a year for 5 years, and up to 40 graduate schools and 30 centers of excellence will share a $215 million annual pot. The first five universities will be named early next year. A state-federal commission still has to approve the plan, however, and opposition politicians say funding is inadequate.

    Meanwhile, a language watchdog group has nominated Bulmahn's slogan for the contest, “Brain up!” (the original is in English), as the worst abuse of the German language for 2004.

  2. NOAA Consolidation Urged

    A government advisory panel seeks reaction to its plan to shake up the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) research programs. In a final report released 26 May, the NOAA panel calls on the agency to appoint a high- ranking science “czar” and consolidate five labs in Boulder, Colorado (www.sab.noaa.gov/Reports/Reports.html). The report responds to congressional concerns that NOAA's $350 million Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research is inefficient (Science, 16 January, p. 297). Comments are due by 25 June.

  3. Sudden Oak Death Sequenced

    Plant scientists are getting their first look at the genome of the organism that causes sudden oak death. Researchers this week unveiled the sequence of Phytophthora ramorum, a funguslike killer that is spreading across North America (Science, 26 March, p. 1959). The $4 million effort, which also included the soybean pathogen Phytophthora sojae, was carried out by the Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek, California, and the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) in Blacksburg. One payoff will be better ways to track the pathogen, predicts VBI's Brett Tyler. The sequence will also help reveal whether the two mating types of P. ramorum are sexually active in North America, says Matteo Garbelotto of the University of California, Berkeley. That could make P. ramorum even more virulent.

  4. What's in a Name?

    The Senate last week voted to ease rules on cleaning up high-level nuclear waste, allowing remnants to remain in aging tanks rather than being removed for disposal. But critics say the measure, part of a $447 billion defense authorization bill, is illegal.

    Opponents failed, by a vote of 48 to 48, to remove language that would reclassify high-level waste in South Carolina as low-level waste. They hope to force a second vote, however, before both chambers complete work on the legislation. Meanwhile, officials in Idaho and Washington worry that the move could undermine cleanups in their states. And Karen Wayland of the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C., says the measure violates a 1982 law by creating uneven rules. “Somebody will challenge it immediately,” she predicts.

  5. CNRS President Dies

    PARIS—The president of France's major basic research agency, CNRS, died last week after a yearlong battle with cancer. Earth scientist Gérard Mégie, 58, was a leading authority on Earth's ozone layer and had been head of CNRS since November 2000.

  6. U.K. Faces Math Challenge

    Mathematical research in the U.K. is doing just fine, concludes an international panel. But lurking problems could add up to future trouble. Fewer math undergraduates, narrow Ph.D. training, dwindling funding, and poor career paths will all make it hard to recruit enough academics to maintain the U.K.'s international position, the panel says in a report released last week.

    The 13-member group, led by Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, director of France's Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques, was asked to take the field's temperature by Britain's three mathematical societies and its main math research funder, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. It concluded that the U.K. is a world leader in several areas, including geometry, topology, and number theory, as well as applied disciplines such as fluid mechanics. But the future may not be so bright. “Math is often viewed as a low-cost field—people only need a pencil and paper,” says panel member Margaret Wright of the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University. “This is completely false. If not enough is put into equipment and resources, things will start to fall apart.”