ScienceScope

Science  13 Apr 2007:
Vol. 316, Issue 5822, pp. 185
  1. Controversial NYU Institute Gets Director

    After a yearlong search, officials at New York University (NYU) are hoping renowned classicist Roger Bagnall, appointed last week to head the new Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, will put the controversial institute on firm ground. The institute was created a year ago with $200 million from the Leon Levy Foundation, which drew criticism because the late Leon Levy owned antiquities that some experts claimed had been looted or illicitly traded (Science, 31 March 2006, p. 1846). “Archaeologists here and elsewhere will certainly be watching closely over the months ahead,” says NYU anthropologist Randall White, who opposed the Levy arrangement.

  2. Beijing Betting on the Basics

    China is pouring yuan into its Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), which funds most of the country's investigator-initiated basic research. It announced last month that NSFC will receive $556 million this year, a 20% increase over its 2006 budget. NSFC President Chen Yiyu told Science that the foundation will continue to emphasize individually directed projects, about one-third of which will be in the life sciences. The number of larger grants in life and earth sciences—funded at levels higher than $200,000 for 4 years, as opposed to most projects, which receive less than $30,000 for 3 years—will go up by 30% to 40%. Tian Xiao-Li, a geneticist who last year left the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio to join Beijing University, calls the funding increase “a very good thing” that will attract more researchers back to China.

  3. Making Science Très Sexy

    PARIS—France urgently needs to take measures to recruit more young people into research careers, according to the country's new High Council for Science and Technology (HCST). To explain why enrollment in science studies has dropped some 10% in 10 years, HCST cites in a report reasons including uninspiring teaching at the high school level and the public's negative perception of science. It proposes media promotion of science, better-trained science teachers, immigration reforms, and special attention for girls. The 20-member HCST, chaired by Serge Feneuille, a former director of the National Centre for Scientific Research (Science, 17 November, p. 1059), was called into existence last year by a research reform law.

  4. Congress Probing Enviro Institute

    A deadline looms next week for David Schwartz to respond to congressional questions about his office's spending and his other activities as director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). Henry Waxman (D-CA), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and committee member Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) wrote in a 30 March letter that Kucinich is following up a January inquiry regarding Schwartz's controversial efforts to revamp NIEHS's journal Environmental Health Perspectives. Last year, Schwartz scrapped a proposal to privatize the journal, but critics still question his plans to cut costs.

    But now, spurred by what it calls new information from “multiple sources,” the committee also wants documents on Schwartz's activities as director, including his office's budget and any consulting or travel he's done for outside organizations under the National Institutes of Health's strict new ethics rules. A committee spokesperson declined to discuss the new information it had received on Schwartz, and an NIEHS spokesperson says it is “putting [its] responses together.”

  5. Judge Takes Ax to Forest Plan Changes

    Federal agencies misrepresented and buried the views of dissenting scientists when they decided to make logging easier in the Pacific Northwest, a U.S. district judge ruled last week. In his decision, Judge Ricardo Martinez tossed out the agencies' changes to the Northwest Forest Plan, which puts tight constraints on old-growth logging (Science, 29 July 2005, p. 688).

    In 2003, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and other agencies proposed to amend the way that watersheds are evaluated before logging projects are approved. A number of eminent scientists noted their concern that the amendment would “remove or weaken several key conservation provisions for aquatic species.” Martinez ruled that these concerns were not prominently mentioned in the draft Environmental Impact Statement, as required by law, and were misrepresented in a summary of comments. The agencies were “trying to spin what was going on,” says Patti Goldman, an attorney with Earthjustice. The agencies now have until late June to decide whether they will appeal the ruling.