Science  09 Jun 2006:
Vol. 312, Issue 5779, pp. 1453

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  1. Polar Satellites Pared

    1. Eli Kintisch

    The U.S. Department of Defense has dropped a number of climate sensors from a satellite program as part of a restructuring of the National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) (Science, 2 June, p. 1296). Along with scaling the program back from six satellites to two, with an optional two more, the Pentagon stripped sensors that measure solar and Earth electromagnetic radiation—useful for detecting long-term heat trends—and an aerosol detector to better understand how clouds affect climate. “The community was depending on NPOESS for the continuity of a number of data sets,” says Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama, Huntsville. “A lot of scientists will be disappointed.”

    In a 5 June letter to lawmakers, Pentagon officials say that the instruments eliminated could fly “if the sensors are provided from outside the program.” It also says the cuts will save $2 billion on the overall program, which has been billions over budget and years late. Although the instruments “are not [relatively] expensive,” says Berrien Moore of the University of New Hampshire, Durham, NASA's depleted budget may make that impossible. Congress will signal its response in pending agency budgets for next year.

  2. Harvard OKs Research Cloning

    1. Constance Holden

    Harvard University researchers have been given the go-ahead to use cloning to create disease-specific lines of human embryonic stem cells. At a 6 June press conference, scientists described plans to use somatic cell nuclear transfer—also referred to as research cloning—to study diabetes and blood and neurodegenerative diseases.

    No fewer than five institutions and eight Institutional Review Boards approved the proposals. Private funding will support the work, which cannot be paid for with federal dollars. Researchers plan to use excess eggs from fertility clinics as well as fresh eggs from unpaid so-called compassionate donors.

    Douglas Melton and Kevin Eggan of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute plan to create stem cell lines that will enable them to study diabetes in a dish. Eggan also plans to use the technique to study neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. George Daley of Children's Hospital Boston is aiming for customized cell lines using skin biopsies from patients with sickle cell anemia and other blood diseases.

  3. Senate Probes CDC Shuffle

    1. Jocelyn Kaiser

    A U.S. Senate panel wants to know whether a reorganization at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, is driving senior scientists away. Senate Finance Committee Chair Charles Grassley (R-IA) is concerned that “morale problems” are damaging CDC's “scientific capabilities,” says a spokesperson.

    The concerns stem from a reorganization begun by CDC Director Julie Gerberding a year after she took office 4 years ago. CDC scientists have complained publicly about the reorganization, saying they've been shut out of management decisions and that many senior scientists have voted with their feet.

    CDC spokesperson Tom Skinner acknowledges that “some employees aren't happy” but asserts that “CDC has never been in a better position to meet public health emergencies head-on.”

  4. Australia Weighs Nuclear Power

    1. Elizabeth Finkel

    SYDNEY—After following a nonnuclear policy for 20 years, Australia is set to reopen debate on expanding its nuclear power industry. Major issues to be explored are the expansion of the uranium industry and construction of nuclear power stations. A panel of experts will report its findings to Prime Minister John Howard in early 2007.

    Some experts argue that the country could profit from a uranium enrichment and disposal industry. But others, noting that most Australian states oppose new power plant construction, say other energy sources should be explored.

  5. Brain Transplant for Bonn Center

    1. Gretchen Vogel

    BERLIN—The Center for Advanced European Studies and Research (CAESAR), founded in Bonn in 1999, will soon join the Max Planck Society (MPG) as a new institute dedicated to neuroscience. The decision, announced last week, means that most of the center's 140 researchers will be let go.

    A harsh critique from Germany's Science Council in 2004 found that CAESAR wasn't living up to expectations as a high-tech incubator, leading its governing council to seek advice from MPG. The society's surprising answer was that CAESAR should become its 79th institute, dropping current research in medical imaging, advanced materials, and bioelectronics in favor of neuroscience (Science, 7 April, p. 34).

    MPG has said it would like to hire three director-level scientists and employ a total of 30 scientists.