Science  23 Mar 2007:
Vol. 315, Issue 5819, pp. 1649

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  1. Itching for a Space Fight

    1. Andrew Lawler

    The battle between the White House and congressional Democrats over NASA's budget dominated two hearings last week. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who chairs NASA's funding panel, told NASA Administrator Michael Griffin that “there is simply too much pressure on NASA's budget.” Her proposed solution—adding $1 billion to the agency's $17.3 billion 2008 request—would reprise a bipartisan effort that failed last year.

    Earlier the same day, House Science and Technology Committee Chair Representative Bart Gordon (D-TN) warned Griffin that “NASA is headed for a train wreck.” Both lawmakers fear that science will be robbed to pay for rising space station, shuttle, and exploration costs. The White House is likely to oppose a bigger budget.

  2. Bignami Back in Orbit

    1. Francesco De Pretis

    TURIN, ITALY—Giovanni Bignami has returned to the Italian space agency, this time as its director. The space scientist was scientific director from 1997 to 2002, resigning after Italy decided to save $20 million by backing off its commitment to build a radar instrument for a NASA spacecraft going to Mars.

    Bignami says he accepted the job, offered last week, because he “strongly believes” Italy is committed to relaunching its space research program. Bignami currently chairs the space science advisory, committee for the European Space Agency. “His high international profile will help Italian space science,” says Marcello Onofri of the University of Rome, La Sapienza.

  3. Reflowing the Oceans

    1. Richard A. Kerr

    The ocean science community is reuniting two of its organizations in hopes that one voice will speak louder to Congress and the White House. The Consortium for Ocean Research and Education (CORE)—a 13-year-old advocate for ocean research, education, and policy—and the 31-member Joint Oceanographic Institutions (JOI)—manager of large-scale research programs such as ocean drilling—had separated in 2000 at a time of expanding support for ocean research. But now, many of those projects are being squeezed by soaring oil prices.

    The merged organization will provide “a united voice for the community,” says JOI board chair Marcia McNutt of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in Moss Landing, California. Steven Bohlen now runs JOI, and retired Admiral Richard West heads up CORE.

  4. New Strategy to Fight AIDS

    1. Robert Koenig

    PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA—A new government plan aims to cut South Africa's HIV infection rate in half and to quadruple the number of infected persons receiving antiretroviral (ARV) therapy by 2011. The 5-year strategy, presented at a conference last week, sets targets to meet the commitments made by South Africa's vice president in December (Science, 1 December 2006, p. 1378). The government will ask Parliament for nearly $2 billion, about 40% of which would pay for ARV medications, and wants business donors to match that sum. Francois Venter, head of the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society, estimates that “more than a million” South Africans would be on ARVs in 5 years if the plan is fully implemented.

    About 5.5 million South Africans are infected by HIV, and roughly 230,000 now receive ARV therapy. Robin Wood, co-director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre in Cape Town, calls the plan “a great advance.” Although the goal may be difficult to reach, he says, “it's better to set targets too high than to have no targets.”

  5. Purdue Welcomes Mann Institute

    1. Constance Holden

    Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, has clinched a deal to join what the Alfred Mann Foundation hopes will be a billion-dollar-plus network to shepherd university biomedical inventions to the market.

    Alfred Mann institutes are designed to be governed by a board equally split between the university and the California-based Mann Foundation. Some universities have balked at the proposed arrangement, fearing a loss of control over their intellectual property. Last year, two North Carolina universities turned thumbs down on a Mann endowment (Science, 26 May 2006, p. 1127), although Mark Crowell, technology transfer official at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, says the door is still open to negotiations.

    One provision gives priority to Indiana companies in licensing or purchasing technologies developed at the institute. Purdue President Martin Jischke won't discuss other details of the agreement, announced 16 March, but says everyone's very happy with it. Mann intends to finance at least 10 more institutes. A prototype was set up in 1998 at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and a second was created last October at Technion University in Israel.