Newsmakers

Science  01 Jun 2007:
Vol. 316, Issue 5829, pp. 1263
  1. MOVERS

    CREDIT: SFAF

    SEEING THROUGH HYPE. Educational psychologist Robert Slavin has been chosen to lead a new center for education research at the University of York in the United Kingdom. The Institute for Effective Education (IEE) is being funded with 22 million from the Bowland Charitable Trust. Slavin will continue to direct the Center for Research and Reform in Education (CRRE) at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

    Slavin's message to educators is to pay attention to what works, not necessarily to what is popular or well marketed. For too long, education has been ruled by faddism, says Slavin, who also runs the nonprofit Success for All Foundation that offers curricula that has first been evaluated in research institutions. He hopes that IEE can also increase evidence-based learning in schools by using proven methods to boost literacy, language, science, and numeracy.

    Two CRRE professors, Nancy Madden and Bette Chambers, will join Slavin at IEE, dividing their time between the new institute and their current base.

  2. FOLLOW-UP

    A MUST-NOT READ. An Indian court has struck down a state-imposed ban on a book by a U.S. religious studies scholar that offended Hindu nationalists and triggered riots 3 years ago. But the publisher of Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India has no plans to sell the book in India.

    The book, by James Laine, a professor at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, tells the story of Shivaji, a 17th century Hindu king who built an empire in western India amid Muslim domination of much of the subcontinent. Right-wing Hindu groups slammed the book for questioning Shivaji's lineage, and the Maharashtra government banned it in 2004 and threatened to arrest Laine if he ever returned to the state (Science, 30 January 2004, p. 623). The ban was moot, however, as the book's publisher, Oxford University Press, had already withdrawn it from stores.

    In April, India's Supreme Court ruled that the charges brought against Laine were baseless, and the Bombay High Court instructed the state government to lift the ban. But Hindu extremists have warned bookstore owners not to carry the title.

  3. ON CAMPUS

    CREDIT: TULANE UNIVERSITY

    BLOWN AWAY. Tulane University mechanical engineering chair Monte Mehrabadi spent last week house hunting in southern California in preparation for becoming chair of the mechanical engineering department at San Diego State University. It's an involuntary move: Mehrabadi's 113-year-old department is dissolving this month as part of the New Orleans university's plan for restructuring after Hurricane Katrina. It's heart-wrenching, he says. Although he's landed on his feet, two of the department's 12 faculty members are still looking for work.

    A new 67-page report from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) takes five New Orleans universities to task for their response to the August 2005 disaster. It says Tulane, which cut more than 200 positions overall, failed to give financial or academic reasons for abolishing the mechanical engineering department. AAUP also says the universities paid little heed to tenure and dismissed staff without offering clear explanations. Although Tulane offered many 12 months' severance pay, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center laid off 61 full-time medical faculty members, about 9 of the total, without pay and with virtually no notice, the report says.

    Tulane has called the report seriously flawed and tainted by advocacy. Louisiana's higher education commissioner responded that the usual standards barely apply to such a catastrophe.

  4. THREE Q'S

    SOURCE: MICHAEL FERNANDEZ

    Molecular biologist Michael Fernandez has worked himself out of a job. This spring, the Pew Charitable Trust declared victory and shut down its 6-year-old Initiative on Food and Biotechnology that he directed. The program provided objective information on genetically modified plants and animals and focused attention on the U.S. regulatory system.

    Q: Who won the debate over agbiotech?

    I'm not sure I want to talk about winners and losers. Public opinion hasn't changed very much over these 6 years. A relatively small proportion of U.S. consumers are opposed, and the vast majority are somewhere in the middle. We've had big increases in the acreage planted, [and] farmers clearly see a benefit to insect- and herbicide-resistant crops.

    Q: How good is our regulatory system?

    It's a mixed bag. For products with incremental changes, the system works pretty well. When you start to get into products that don't fit neatly into a category, like plant-made pharmaceuticals, there are questions about whether the system is adequate.

    Q: What's coming down the pike?

    [Bioengineered] animals are something that we will have to deal with, including moral and ethical issues. The U.S. will have to figure out how to deal with imports of products that we've never seen before. It's in our best interest to have a regulatory system that is flexible enough and has the tools to assess the risks so that we can all get the benefits.

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