Science  13 Jul 2007:
Vol. 317, Issue 5835, pp. 177

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    WEARY.When Alan Bernstein (above) agreed to lead the newly minted Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) in 2000, he vowed to spend as much as 30% of the agency's budget—6 times erstwhile spending levels—on research targeting population, health services, and other national needs. Bernstein has since accomplished that goal, but he's so worn out from battling community opposition to the shift that he plans to resign 3 years before the end of his second term.

    The new emphasis was fine in the early years, he says, when CIHR was receiving double-digit increases and there was enough money for other grant competitions. But in the last 3 years, the budget has grown much more slowly, causing the community to complain about how CIHR was divvying up its money. As a result, the agency recently created a committee—made up primarily of directors of CIHR's 13 research institutes—to decide how to split the pie.

    Still, Bernstein, 60, says he'll be leaving in October on a high note. “Getting the CIHR going in the right direction, I think that's done,” he says.


    SMOKELESS CITY. Civil engineer Russel Jones has been tapped to lead the latest effort aimed at bolstering Arab science. The Masdar project is a green city and alternative energy center to be built in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The $5 billion, 6-square-kilometer, zero-emission township will include The Masdar Institute, to be focused on graduate education and research on alternative energy, such as solar power and biofuels. Last week, Jones, who will serve as the institute's president, made offers to 11 scientists from around the world. Until the institute is built—by 2009—the researchers will be housed at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology in Cambridge, under a 5-year, $35 million agreement with the school.

    Jones, who helped create the undergraduate Hashemite University in Zarqa, Jordan, in 1996, says he was energized by oil-drenched Abu Dhabi's plans to diversify its energy investments. The institute expects to forge links with some of the 1500 energy firms the UAE hopes to attract to the new city.



    NO STRANGER TO SCIENCE. Ian Pearson may be a businessman turned politician, but he's been given the job of shaping British research policy in Gordon Brown's new government. The new science honcho is one of five ministers in the newly created Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) (Science, 6 July, p. 28).

    A Labour Party politician since 1994, he most recently served as minister for climate change and environment in Tony Blair's Cabinet, helping to introduce the Climate Change Bill that is currently working its way through Parliament. “Despite not being a natural environmentalist during his time at the environment ministry, the government began to take the issue of climate change much more seriously,” says Martyn Williams, climate change campaigner for Friends of the Earth in London.

    Members of Brown's Administration have said they're committed to continuing the healthy increases to the science budget that occurred during Blair's Administration. Pearson (below) faces the problems of poor science teaching in high schools and a declining number of science students at university (Science, 18 May, p. 965). “You don't have to be a scientist to be science minister, but he will need a broad knowledge of schools and business,” says Peter Cotgreave of the U.K.'s Campaign for Science and Engineering.


    GRUBER PRIZES. A Japanese neuroscientist and a U.S. genomicist each have won $500,000 from the Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation. Shigetada Nakanishi, head of the Osaka Bioscience Institute, receives the neuroscience award for identifying new genes and proteins that play a role in brain function, as well as pinpointing neuronal receptors involved in the biochemical processes underlying learning, memory, and vision. Maynard Olson, a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, wins the genetics prize for pioneering a technique for cloning and storing large chunks of DNA, which helped pave the way for the human genome project.

  5. THREE Q'S


    After 11 years as head of the National Science Teachers Association, Gerry Wheeler says, “it's time to let someone else have all the fun.” Wheeler will retire from the 55,000-strong organization in August 2008.

    Q: What are the keys to improving U.S. science education? Science, scale, and standards. We need to help teachers improve their content knowledge. And with 2 million science teachers in the classroom, we need to work on a bigger scale. We also need to streamline the standards that specify what children should learn.

    Q: Has the No Child Left Behind Act been a help or a hindrance to science teachers? It's changed the landscape in a good way, I think, by putting the spotlight on accountability. But we need to make sure that science doesn't get lost in the emphasis on testing student achievement in reading and math.

    Q: What's standing in the way of change? Business leaders get it, and politicians get it. But parents don't get it. I was part of the Sputnik generation, when there was a huge push for kids to learn more science. That's no longer the case.