ScienceScope

Science  06 Apr 2007:
Vol. 316, Issue 5821, pp. 33
  1. Going Against the Flow

    1. Jeffrey Mervis

    Notwithstanding the laws of gravity, construction money this year at the National Science Foundation (NSF) is flowing from the bottom of the ocean to the top of a 5-km mountain. NSF has shifted $15 million from the budgets of its fledgling oceans and ecological observatories networks to the Atacama Large Millimeter Array in the Chilean Andes, in tune with ALMA's rising costs and the agency's continued tinkering with the two networks.

    The changes have touched a nerve in NSF's oversight body, the National Science Board. Speaking up at last week's board meeting, several members said that the long time between approval and the start of a project has left them feeling out of the loop. “We're just asking NSF to explain how things have changed and whether the science still justifies that level of support,” says Mark Abbott of Oregon State University in Corvallis, noting that NSF now plans to spend $20 million less during the first 2 years of the ocean observatories initiative than when the board gave it the green light in 2002, for example, whereas ALMA is costing $125 million more than originally planned. The board has asked NSF Director Arden Bement for more frequent updates on the $240-million-a-year account and better estimates of the lifetime costs of operating each facility.

  2. Pathology Institute Gets Lifeline

    1. Constance Holden

    Congressional supporters of the U.S. Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP), which the Defense Department is planning to “de-establish,” are making a last-ditch attempt to salvage its functions. Last week, the Senate voted to delay the move until after the department has responded to a pending report on the impact of AFIP's closing. Last month, the House voted to prevent the use of federal funds for the planned closing of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where AFIP resides, in its version of the bill, which funds military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    “This gives AFIP some breathing room,” says a Senate staffer about legislation that President George W. Bush has promised to veto because of the inclusion of nonmilitary items. Pathology groups oppose the dispersal of AFIP's functions, particularly the possible mothballing of its renowned tissue repository (Science, 20 May 2005, p. 1101), and Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) is also hoping to slow the current outflow of talent. Advocates want to move the repository to the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in nearby Bethesda, Maryland.

  3. Russian Academy Fights Plan

    1. Bryon MacWilliams

    MOSCOW—The Russian government appears to be backing away from its bid to strip the autonomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) after members of the centuries-old institution rejected plans last week to change how its money is spent and properties are used. The Ministry of Education and Science suggested last month that RAS alter its charter to create a supervisory council that would have the final word in managing the academy's 450 research institutes. Composed of three academicians, three government officials, two legislators, and a Kremlin representative, such a council would relegate scientists largely to research.

    But in a rare act of defiance, RAS's general assembly voted almost unanimously to reject the council proposal. The plan “goes against the spirit of science and the traditions of science,” says Yuri Osipov, academy president. The ministry appears willing to drop the idea if further negotiations yield a version of the charter acceptable to the cabinet, which must approve the document. “I do not believe that we must strongly insist upon [the council],” said Andrei Fursenko, education and science minister.

  4. India Court Halts Quota Rise

    1. Pallava Bagla

    NEW DELHI—The Indian Supreme Court has blocked a plan to more than double the number of university slots reserved for disadvantaged students, saying that the government is relying on outdated statistics. The plan, adopted by Parliament, triggered protests last year by students from privileged castes, who worried that it would hinder their entry into some of the country's most elite institutions.

    To overcome the evils of the caste system, which relegates several groups to menial jobs and subjects them to overt discrimination, India has long had an affirmative action plan that guarantees those groups 22.5% of public-sector jobs and slots at many universities. The new law would boost that figure to 49.5%. But last week, the court said the government was basing its argument on data collected as far back as 1931 and demanded fresher facts.

    Pavagada Venkata Indiresan, former director of the Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai, called the ruling “a defeat for cynical politicians who tried to replace an essential service by unwarranted draconian regulation.” The government is weighing its options before a final verdict is issued in August.

Log in to view full text

Via your Institution

Log in through your institution

Log in through your institution