ScienceScope

Science  05 Nov 2004:
Vol. 306, Issue 5698, pp. 955
  1. Harvard Engineering Growth

    Engineering is one discipline likely to get a boost under a planned Harvard University hiring boom. The Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus intends to expand its faculty dramatically during the next decade, says William Kirby, dean of the faculty of arts and sciences. The push stems from a report earlier this year urging the university to improve its faculty-to-student ratio (Science, 7 May, p. 810).

    Engineering and applied sciences could grow from around 60 to 100 professors; life, physical, and social sciences also could win increases in a hiring plan that administrators hope to have in place by early next year.

  2. Parliament's Blast on Beagle 2

    A committee of U.K. parliamentarians has blasted the British government and the European Space Agency (ESA) for funding decisions that it says contributed to last year's loss of the Beagle 2 Mars lander (Science, 27 August, p. 1227). Beagle 2's budget plan was an amateurish “gentleman's agreement” that “may have increased the risks of an already risky project,” the lawmakers say.

    Six years ago, ESA selected Beagle 2 to be funded from national coffers. After a consortium failed to raise the needed $52 million, ESA and the U.K. government bailed it out. But the U.K.'s failure “to provide an adequate guarantee of support early” and ESA's lack of “sufficiently close monitoring” probably doomed the lander, the lawmakers concluded. However, David Southwood, ESA's head of science, insists it was not up to ESA to fund the project: “If you want to get the maximum benefit for your scientists and engineers, you have to make sure they have adequate funding.”

  3. Arctic Warming Accelerating

    A new review concludes that the Arctic is warming nearly twice as fast as the rest of the world. The mercury could rise 4 to 7C by 2100, says the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, due to be released at a 9 November science symposium in Iceland.

    The polar region is warming “at rates we had not anticipated even 5 years ago,” says Robert Corell, a senior fellow of the American Meteorological Society, who led the 4-year exercise involving eight nations. The consequences are apparent in melting glaciers and sea ice and thawing permafrost, the 139-page report notes. Arctic governments are expected to offer recommendations on 24 November, and a detailed analysis is due from the same group in January.

  4. European Parliament Urges Sonar Moratorium

    The European Parliament (EP) is asking its 25 member nations to place a moratorium on the use of high-intensity naval sonars implicated in the mass deaths of whales. Last week's nonbinding resolution cites “increasing scientific and public concerns” about ocean noise impacts on cetaceans and calls for an in-depth study of the issue.

    Over the last decade, researchers have linked several strandings to sonar, but they are still uncertain of exactly how the sound pulses harm cetaceans (Science, 24 October 2003, p. 547). The moratorium and study are a needed step toward clarifying the science and “searching for clean technologies,” says marine mammalogist Antonio Fernández of the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands. But the resolution may have little impact unless it is adopted by the European Commission and the Council of Ministers, which will consider the measure next year.

  5. Ethics Panel OKs Face Transplants

    Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio may be on their way to performing the world's first human face transplant. The clinic's ethics review board last month approved the controversial experimental procedure for patients suffering from severe facial disfigurement due to disease or burns.

    Ethics bodies in France and the United Kingdom have recently rejected proposals for similar transplants due to concerns about tissue rejection, with some experts predicting a 50% failure rate. But Maria Siemionow, the clinic's director of plastic surgery research, believes the transplants could improve on current skin-grafting techniques, which can leave significant scarring and allow little or no facial expression, she told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The procedure would likely involve removing skin and fat deposits from cadaver donors, but the patient isn't likely to look like the donor after surgery because the underlying muscles and bones are what shape the face.

    The first change of face may not come anytime soon: Clinic doctors caution that it may take months to find appropriate donors and patients.

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