Science  05 Oct 2007:
Vol. 318, Issue 5847, pp. 31

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  1. Boycott: Blocked

    The British University and College Union (UCU) last week dropped efforts to boycott exchanges with Israeli researchers, terminating debate on the issue after lawyers advised that UCU risked violating British antidiscrimination laws. Conceived as a protest of Israeli policies toward Palestinians, the current proposal was circulated in May, following two similar attempts in Britain in 2005 and 2006. Opponents of the idea included the British and Israeli governments, scientists, and AAAS, the publisher of Science.

    “We are really happy,” says chemist Yoram Cohen of Tel Aviv University in Israel, adding that collaborations have continued despite the talk of barriers. He adds, “Some of the biggest criticisms of Israeli policy come from Israeli academia.”

  2. Budget: Boosted

    The acting chief of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) assured Congress last week that he will partly reverse $11.1 million in funding cuts made by his controversial predecessor, David Schwartz. Acting director Samuel Wilson said at a House hearing that he will restore cuts, including $966,000 slashed from the $3.1 million budget of the institute's journal, Environmental Health Perspectives. Schwartz, who has come under fire for ethics issues and for shifting NIEHS's focus from disease prevention to clinical research, is on temporary leave as director as he awaits a high-level review of the institute's management.

  3. Regulation: Required?

    At an international meeting in Washington, D.C., last week, the Bush Administration emphasized voluntary measures to tackle climate change—a hands-off approach that has been widely used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to deal with environmental problems. But clear examples of success are rare, according to a report released last week by the EPA's inspector general. The report finds that EPA lacks a system for determining whether its 54 voluntary programs—which cover everything from reducing air pollution to creating safer detergents—are improving the environment. EPA associate administrator Brian Mannix agreed that stronger management is needed but noted that White House officials already review voluntary programs. That's not good enough oversight, says William Pizer of Resources for the Future, calling the inspector general's report “damning criticism.”

  4. In the Navy

    The University of Hawaii (UH) is moving ahead with plans to build a Navy-affiliated research laboratory near one the system's 10 campuses. Approval by the university's Board of Regents last week followed more than 4 years of controversy over the Applied Research Laboratory (ARL), which is expected to bring in as much as $10 million per year for 3 to 5 years in research funds from the Navy and other agencies, including NASA and the National Institutes of Health. The ARL will be the fifth such University Affiliated Research Center; other hosts include sites at Johns Hopkins and Pennsylvania State universities.

    But finalizing the Hawaii deal amidst opposition by community, student, and faculty groups wasn't easy; in 2005, anti-ARL protestors took over the university president's office for 6 days. Pressure from opponents led the university to specify in the contract that no classified research would occur during the first 3 years of operation. UH vice president for research James Gaines says the lab will raise the school's profile. Critics, however, accuse UH of disregarding what UH, Manoa, plant scientist Hector Valenzuela calls “general overwhelming opposition.” The center, he says, “is against what the university is all about.”

  5. Leszek is More

    Leszek Borysiewicz is the new chief executive of Britain's Medical Research Council (MRC). Borysiewicz, an immunologist who helped develop vaccines against cervical cancer, was most recently deputy rector at Imperial College London. He takes over as MRC is attempting to respond to a government report last year that called for more emphasis on research with clinical and commercial applications. But Borysiewicz says that does not mean shortchanging basic research. “We're not going to improve our translational science without keeping the basic research strong,” he says.

    Meanwhile, he will oversee the controversial relocation of the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) from the London suburb of Mill Hill into the city. NIMR researchers fought the original plans, saying the proposed site was too small (Science, 18 February 2005, p. 1028). But now MRC has joined forces with the Well-come Trust/Cancer Research U.K. and University College London to bid for a site near the British Library that would eventually house 1500 scientists. The government, which is selling the property, should announce a decision on the sale in the coming weeks.