ScienceScope

Science  13 Jul 2007:
Vol. 317, Issue 5835, pp. 181
  1. Winds of Change

    1. Eli Kintisch
    CREDIT: NOAA

    The head of the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, has been placed on leave after a rebellion by fellow forecasters and staff. William Proenza (above), a longtime National Weather Service official and forecaster, has publicly complained about the center's budget since becoming director 7 months ago. One gripe was that its parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), hadn't prepared to replace the aging QuikSCAT, a NASA satellite. Proenza had warned that its loss could worsen 3-day hurricane track forecasts by 16%.

    But prominent center staff questioned the satellite's importance. And, in an unusually public letter last week, 23 of 50 center staff called for Proenza's removal, lamenting the “unfortunate public debate” over the center's forecasting ability. In May, NOAA chief Conrad Lautenbacher called Proenza's bluntness “one reason why we love him,” but in a letter this week to center staff, he said there was “anxiety and disruption” at the center and that Proenza was leaving. Officials, who aren't saying why the move was made, have put center deputy Edward Rappaport in charge.

  2. Space Probes Add Side Trips

    1. Govert Schilling

    NASA is sending two decorated veterans out to collect more scientific data. After already having traveled 3.2 billion kilometers to pick up 1 microgram of dust from comet Wild 2 and having dropped it back to Earth for analysis, NASA's Stardust spacecraft will be visiting comet Tempel 1 in 2011. NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft fired a massive copper projectile at the comet on 4 July 2005, and researchers want Stardust to image the resulting impact crater to learn about the structure and porosity of the comet's nucleus. “A revisit is always a good idea,” says Gerhard Schwehm, head of solar system science at the European Space Agency, although he warns that “Stardust's hardware was designed for a different purpose.”

    Meanwhile, Deep Impact also has been given a new assignment. It plans to fly past comet Boethin on 5 December 2008 after looking for transiting planets around other stars. NASA science chief Alan Stern says the new missions get “more from our budget.”

  3. Stem Cell Debate Reignites

    1. Gretchen Vogel

    The Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City, Missouri, has again delayed expansion plans because of opposition to research with human embryonic stem cells. Last fall, Missouri voters narrowly approved a measure to prevent the state legislature from prohibiting human ES cell work. But the thin margin of victory has prompted some opponents to try to overturn the measure in 2008. A proposed resolution in the legislature failed earlier this year, but Donn Rubin of the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures says he expects more attempts. “Missourians deserve the opportunity to vote to ban all human cloning,” the Missourians Against Human Cloning said in a statement. Stowers says that the continuing controversy has scared off top recruits and put plans to double the institute's size on hold for now.

  4. Two Cheers for EIT

    1. Martin Enserink

    A key European Parliament committee gave its qualified blessing this week to the European Institute of Technology (EIT) proposed by the European Commission (EC). The EIT has met with little enthusiasm from scientists and industry (Science, 20 October 2006, p. 399), but some politicians are fans. Last month, relevant European ministers approved the idea, and now the parliament's Industry, Research and Energy panel has endorsed it, too. But the committee rejected the EC's plan to take the E.U.'s €308 million contribution to the EIT's €2.4 billion budget from existing innovation funds, calling also for an EIT pilot phase. The European Parliament will debate the plan in September.

  5. Hot Times, Tough Sledding

    1. Richard A. Kerr

    A report released last week by the U.S. climate science program paints a murky but grim picture of the effort needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Three independently developed models of how that might be done came up with costs that varied by a factor of 8 and ranged to “substantial” levels, even with some optimistic assumptions. “Technically,” stabilizing atmospheric greenhouse gases “is not impossible,” concluded report author James Edmonds of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Similar work summarized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggested that tackling the problem “is affordable,” says economist William Pizer, of Washington, D.C.-based Resources for the Future, who said this report's “central tendencies” were “closer to the truth.”