Science  05 Jan 2007:
Vol. 315, Issue 5808, pp. 27

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  1. Japanese Budget Sags

    Japan's spending on research is poised to drop for the third year in a row. The debt-plagued government has budgeted $29.5 billion, down 1.8%, for science spending in the fiscal year beginning 1 April. Losers include RIKEN's Radioactive Isotope Beam Factory, whose $23 million amounts to a 28% dip and about half of what had been requested for the just-completed exotic isotope accelerator. Parliament is expected to make minor changes before signing off soon.

    Not all the research news is grim for scientists. Funding for competitively reviewed grants will grow 1.4% to $4 billion. In addition, a supplemental budget provides money primarily to strengthen the earthquake resistance of scientific facilities. Kiyoshi Kurokawa, science adviser to the prime minister, notes that combining the two budgets results in a net 2.3% rise in science-related spending over last year. But critics contend the supplemental budget simply steers money into the politically powerful construction sector.

  2. Rovers Reloaded

    A New Year's resolution shared by NASA's Spirit and Opportunity: Think more for myself. The pair of weary Mars explorers have received a software upgrade to allow them to recognize dust devils and clouds and select only relevant sections of the images to transmit to Earth, freeing up communication time and manual labor for scientists. Other new features include better obstacle avoidance software. The rovers' missions are entering their fourth year.

  3. Exhibiting Restraint

    Plans to build a new government-funded science and technology museum in Ottawa have been undercut by Canada's top treasury official. The Canada Science and Technology collection is currently dispersed among three buildings, including a former bakery. The long hoped-for building would bring the 36,000-item collection, which includes Canadian-made satellites, antique scientific and medical instruments, and nanotechnology exhibits, under one roof along with curators, researchers, and cataloguers. Museum officials cut back their proposal last year from $600 million to $400 million. But even the smaller figure is too much for Treasury Board of Canada president John Baird, who cited more important taxpayer needs in an interview with the Ottawa Citizen newspaper last week. A newly appointed museum chair will now reevaluate the situation.