ScienceScope

Science  25 May 2007:
Vol. 316, Issue 5828, pp. 1111
  1. Big Money for Little Stuff

    With nanomaterials already a part of 500 commercial products, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must make sure the particles are safe. That's the conclusion of a report released this week by former EPA assistant administrator J. Clarence Davies, now advising the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. Davies urges Congress to allocate $50 million more a year for research on the health and environmental impacts of nanotech and revise the Toxic Substances Control Act. He also suggests a joint government-industry nanoscience research institute and that EPA launch its proposed voluntary program to collect nanomaterials information from companies.

    “EPA needs to seriously consider the constructive and thoughtful changes that Davies puts forward in his report,” says former EPA Administrator William Ruckelshaus.

  2. Steep Learning Curve

    The new French cabinet will feature a full minister for research and higher education, a boost from the previous junior minister status. That indicates the growing political importance of French science, researchers say, but the woman to head the new position is a career politician who's virtually unknown among scientists.

    CREDIT: BENOIT TESSIER/REUTERS

    Valérie Pécresse (above), 39, is a National Assembly member for Yvelines, a suburban department near Paris. She was an adviser to former president Jacques Chirac and a spokesperson for the Union for a Popular Movement, the party of newly elected president Nicolas Sarkozy; in January, she published a book entitled Being a Woman in Politics … It's Not That Easy! Those may be prophetic words, some say, as Pécresse will be charged with a reform of the university system that is expected to trigger protests (Science, 11 May, p. 819).

    Immunologist Alain Trautmann, former spokesperson of the movement Sauvons la Recherche, says the scientific community had hoped for someone with more experience in science or science policy but adds that Pécresse will get the benefit of the doubt.

  3. Red Coral in the Red

    CREDIT: IMAGE COURTESY OF AMY BACO-TAYLOR/HURL/NOAA

    The United States has proposed international controls on the little-known trade of red coral, a deep-water species found in the Pacific and the Mediterranean. The U.S. wants it listed as threatened at next month's meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in The Hague, The Netherlands. This would force importers and exporters of 27 species of Corallium to seek CITES approval for each transaction, “allowing us to learn more about the trade,” says Lance Morgan of the Marine Conservation Biology Institute in Glen Ellen, California. The listing would also bring more focus on destructive bottom-trawling methods historically used to gather this coral prized by jewelers, he adds. Stephen Cairns, a coral taxonomist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., says red coral is “more valuable and depleted than any others,” such as the already listed black coral and hard coral.

  4. A Northern Vision

    Although short on specifics, Canada's latest S&T strategy suggests where the new Conservative government is headed. Unveiled by Prime Minister Stephen Harper last week, the 110-page road map vows to focus government-funded research in four broad areas: environment, natural resources and energy, health, and information technologies. It emphasizes a move to policies “more conducive to private-sector investment in R&D and commercialization,” although it rules out new tax credits, already among the most generous in the world.

    The corporate emphasis disturbs Canadian Association of University Teachers Executive Director James Turk. “That's not how good research gets done, and that's not how research which has commercial benefits gets done,” he says. But Michael Julius of the University of Toronto Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center says the report “provides a policy framework, and we've not had one.” Julius, a research administrator, will chair a committee established by the advocacy group Research Canada to study the strategy, although the government has not formally asked for input on how to implement the plan.