ScienceScope

Science  25 Feb 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5713, pp. 1181
  1. A Budget Bouillabaisse

    Several U.S. science agencies will have new congressional budget bosses this year after the House of Representatives last week rearranged its spending panels in hopes of streamlining operations. If the Senate doesn't follow suit, however, the misalignment could result in a more chaotic 2006 budget cycle.

    Compressing the current 13 House spending panels into 10 throws the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA into a polyglot subcommittee, chaired by Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA), that already oversees two Commerce Department science agencies: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The Environmental Protection Agency joins a panel that includes the Interior Department's U.S. Geological Survey. The National Institutes of Health is unaffected by the reshuffling.

    Senator Christopher Bond (R-MO) could lose his gavel if the Senate follows suit. And last week, at a hearing on NSF's budget, he warned scientists that “basic research will suffer” under a catch-all spending bill, the likely product of a Congress without parallel spending panels.

  2. Fiscal Woes Dog Gamma Ray Satellite

    Budgets are more dangerous than gamma ray bursts are, at least for the Gamma Ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) project.

    GLAST, a $685 million satellite sponsored by NASA, the Department of Energy, and a number of foreign partners, is intended to pick up traces of gamma ray bursts and other violent astrophysical phenomena. But it's running perhaps $25 million over budget because of problems in building and developing 16 detectors at the heart of the telescope—devices that measure the direction and energy of incoming gamma rays.

    A NASA review will decide whether to proceed as planned or eliminate some of the 16 detectors. The latter choice would save only a small percentage of the satellite's bill and have a serious scientific cost, notes Naval Research Laboratory astrophysicist Charles Dermer. “You may lose new classes of [gamma ray] sources as a consequence,” he says. “It's not a good payoff.”

  3. Huge HIV Vaccine Gift From Gates

    The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation once again has put its money where its mouth is, with a $360 million investment in AIDS vaccine research.

    The money, so far the largest single contribution to the field, supports the goals of the HIV/AIDS Global Vaccine Enterprise, an international alliance that the Gates Foundation helped organize. The new funds will go to research centers or consortia that are trying to improve tests to assess the immune responses triggered by vaccines or design vaccines that stimulate either antibodies or cell-mediated immunity. Letters of inquiry are due by 1 April. The size and number of awards will depend upon the quality and scope of the proposals.

  4. Will Stem Cell Research Restrictions Be Lifted?

    Emboldened by what they say is overwhelming public support, federal legislators from both parties have introduced a bill in the House to allow federal funding for research on stem cell lines derived after August 2001 from leftover zygotes in fertility clinics. In an apparent bid to placate opponents, the legislation would not sanction government funding to derive the lines.

    Although a similar push stalled last year, Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO) says the House bill (H.R. 810) already has 190 co-sponsors, and she promises “to use every legislative [means] to bring it up.” An identical Senate version is expected shortly.

    In other news, on 18 February, the United Nations' legal committee approved a nonbinding resolution urging states to ban all forms of human cloning.

  5. Pasteur Move Not Needed, Mediator Says

    PARIS—A British mediator has sided with French scientists fighting a relocation plan by the Pasteur Institute in Paris. The institute sought to move part of its lab to the suburbs while Pasteur's aging downtown campus is being renovated (Science, 21 January, p. 333).

    John Skehel, director of the Medical Research Council's National Institute for Medical Research in London, told department directors last week that a phased renovation would make the relocation unnecessary.

    The mediator's report is a setback for embattled Pasteur director Philippe Kourilsky, who was unavailable for comment. “There's a feeling on campus he might step down,” says Pasteur virologist Simon Wain-Hobson.

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