Science  21 Jul 2006:
Vol. 313, Issue 5785, pp. 283

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  1. Harvard Reloaded

    1. Andrew Lawler

    Science and engineering schools at Harvard University are too autonomous to cope with the interdisciplinary fervor sweeping areas such as biomedical research. That's the conclusion of a 97-page draft report by a 24-member committee of Harvard University faculty led by a molecular biologist, physicist, and chemist.

    The committee, created in January by former President Lawrence Summers at the behest of senior scientists, recommends a central coordinating body to promote collaboration and respond more quickly to emerging research issues. The organization would have the authority to allocate research space and recruit and promote faculty. Those may be fighting words for Harvard's department chairs, who are notoriously protective of their turf. But one Harvard official insists that “this is not pie-in-the-sky stuff.” Interim President Derek Bok and Harvard's governing board have already seen the preliminary results and are open to the committee's ideas, he adds. They will get a final report in December.

  2. House Wants U.S. Shore Survey

    1. Eli Kintisch

    In a move that surprised and pleased climate scientists, the House of Representatives has approved a $1 million National Academy of Sciences (NAS) study of how U.S. coastal areas would be affected by a rise in sea levels due to global warming. It's the first legislation of its kind by the Republican-controlled House, which has traditionally discounted the risks of climate change.

    The $1 million study, passed 29 June after Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) introduced it, was an amendment tucked in a $62 billion spending bill. Over the last decade, world seas have risen roughly 3 mm per year; the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted in 2001 that seas could rise between 9 and 88 cm over the next century. Although a few regional and coastal studies, some federally funded, have laid out scenarios including increased storm surge and lost beaches, researchers complain that the message to coastal citizens from the government has been muddled, despite a Bush Administration report on the mid-Atlantic coast due out next year.

    “Pallone should already have something like [the NAS study] on his desk,” says Rick Piltz, a former program manager at the U.S. Climate Change Science Program who now runs an advocacy organization called Climate Science Watch. The spending bill that includes the study still faces months of legislative negotiations, but observers don't expect that politicking to affect plans for the study.

  3. Biodiversity Experts Unite

    1. Eli Kintisch

    Scientists from 13 nations want to carry out a new global assessment initiative to help warn policymakers of the world's coming “biodiversity crisis.” In a statement published this week in Nature, the scientists say the assessment is needed because “biodiversity is still consistently undervalued” by governments and current efforts are insufficient. The group envisions a body with the authoritative voice of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; the Convention on Biological Diversity and other current efforts, it says, are not sufficiently interdisciplinary. “The biodiversity science community has to create a way to get organized,” says World Bank Chief Scientist Robert Watson. The French government recently funded a series of consultations to sketch out organizational plans.

  4. To the Shores of Tripoli

    1. Richard Stone

    Last week, the U.S. government put a down payment on its plans to build scientific ties with Libya. At a meeting in Tripoli, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a $1 million grant for Libya to strengthen pandemic flu preparedness, disease surveillance, and lab capacity. The high-level Tripoli discussions also explored potential collaborations in areas such as water, education, health, and the environment. Given Libya's oil wealth, “money is not the issue,” says delegate William Colglazier, executive officer of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Both sides also pledged to improve passage for scientists and students traveling between the two countries.

  5. Mano a Nano

    1. Robert F. Service

    U.S. federal agencies should better coordinate and increase funds to investigate health and environmental effects of nano-sized particles, according to a report released this week by Andrew Maynard, chief scientist for the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies in Washington, D.C. The report called for more than tripling the $30 million a year the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative currently spends on work the report labels as “generally relevant” to nano risk research. The report also says those efforts are not well synchronized; risk research is “all over the place,” says DuPont toxicologist David Warheit.