ScienceScope

Science  28 Apr 2006:
Vol. 312, Issue 5773, pp. 511
  1. Linear Collider Gains Friends

    1. Adrian Cho

    What do an economist, a biologist, and a science policy expert have in common? As members of a recent National Research Council (NRC) committee on particle physics, they all think the United States should spend between $300 million and $500 million total over the next 5 years laying the groundwork for the proposed International Linear Collider (ILC) with the goal of hosting the multibillion-dollar machine. Five years ago, U.S. particle physicists designated the ILC as their future priority, and this week the NRC panel, drawn from various fields, endorsed that vision in a report requested by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Science Foundation.

    “Not only is the science very exciting, but also if you think in terms of strengthening the physical sciences, then particle physics is an important part of that,” says committee chair Harold Shapiro, an economist at Princeton University. Melvyn Shochet, a physicist at the University of Chicago and chair of DOE's High Energy Physics Advisory Panel, says, “I think this report will have legs in Washington more than a report written by particle physicists.”

  2. Changes in Los Alamos Pensions Trigger Suit

    1. Eli Kintisch

    Three unions representing nearly 500 of the roughly 9500 employees of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico have asked a California state judge to order the weapons lab's new managers to change the pension plan before it goes into effect this summer. The current situation “endangers national security” by pushing out experienced scientists, say the unions.

    On 1 June, the new management team, which includes Bechtel and the University of California (UC), will institute a new retirement system that does not include a cash payout and could even force retirees to abandon their UC plans for an as-yet-unannounced retirement fund. UC “threatened and coerced” scientists to accept the changes by tying them to continued employment, according to the suit, which was filed last week.

    Arthur Krantz, an attorney for the unions, said the goal is to force UC, which now manages the lab, to make changes in the pension plan before a 15 May deadline for employees to choose among several benefit plans. Last month, DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration said the new benefits were “substantially equivalent,” and a lab spokesperson called them fair.

  3. NYU Gift Kicks Up More Dust

    1. Michael Balter

    A prominent Harvard archaeologist is rallying support for working with unprovenanced artifacts, following a controversy surrounding the recent $200 million gift to New York University (NYU) from the Leon Levy Foundation (Science, 31 March, p. 1846). Lawrence Stager, whose excavations at Ashkelon, Israel, are funded by the foundation, argues in a “Statement of Concern” that “unprovenanced” artifacts should be the legitimate object of study. More than 100 archaeologists and historians have signed the statement (www.bibarch.org/bswbOOunprovenanced.html).

    The 11-point statement criticizes the policies of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) and other organizations that prohibit the first publication of unprovenanced antiquities in their journals as well as presentations of such objects at their meetings. “The antiquities market is often the means by which [unprovenanced objects] are rescued,” the statement says, citing the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Gospel of Judas as examples.

    AIA President Jane Waldbaum says the statement mischaracterizes the organization's policies. “At no time was any attempt made to … prevent the scholarly discussion of archaeological objects,” Waldbaum writes on the association's Web site. The goal is to avoid promoting artifacts with questionable provenance.

  4. Scripps Florida Deal in Jeopardy

    1. Robert F. Service

    It's down to the wire again for Scripps Florida, the East Coast offshoot of the La Jolla, California-based research behemoth. A 2 May deadline looms to resolve an impasse with Palm Beach County officials over the opening of a Scripps branch in Jupiter. At issue: jobs. Scripps officials hope to create 545 jobs in return for $369 million from Florida and about $200 million from the county. County officials say the institute should be liable if it fails to produce the promised number of jobs or leaves before the 30-year deal is up.

    This week, County Commissioner Burt Aaronson offered Scripps a compromise: Take out a $100 million bond, and the county will knock 15 years off the deal. But Scripps officials balked at the expense, saying the bond would require collateral and cost about $23 million in premiums. “We've said all along [the deal] can't put any of our assets in La Jolla at risk,” says Scripps spokesperson Keith McKeown.

    But don't count the deal out just yet. Scripps officials badly want to open a new Florida facility next year. And that would be hard to pull off at another site if the current deal falls through.