Science  26 Oct 2007:
Vol. 318, Issue 5850, pp. 549

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  1. Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

    Physicists developing an engineering design for the proposed multibillion-dollar International Linear Collider (ILC) are getting ahead of themselves, Raymond Orbach, undersecretary for science at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), warned this week. Speaking at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, Orbach said physicists must follow the department's protocol that requires a large project to pass five critical decision milestones. The ILC has not passed the first, which allows researchers to proceed from basic R&D to design, Orbach said. Previously, DOE officials had been “completely open” to a less formal approach, says Caltech's Barry Barish, who leads the design team. What counts as “engineering design” remains to be determined, he says.

  2. Degrees of Magnitude in Russia

    Russia has joined a Europe-wide effort to create a two-step progression in higher education that will shorten training for most students and save the government money. Last week's vote by the Russian parliament, in line with the 1999 Bologna process on higher education reform, creates a 4-year bachelor's degree and a 2-year master's degree that would replace the current 5-year degree that most students now receive. The change would go into effect in September 2009, although universities may implement it earlier.

    Opponents complained that the law fails to spell out the new curriculum for the higher degree and restricts doctorate-seekers to those already holding a master's degree. But supporters said the changes address the country's labor needs by allowing students to graduate sooner and make the Russian degrees more compatible with those from the rest of Europe.

  3. Cell Research Fused

    Chinese and Australian scientists are combining their stem cell expertise in a new partnership. The $1 million Australia-China Centre for Excellence in Stem Cells, announced this week, will forge a link between Peking University Stem Cell Research Center and Monash University Immunology and Stem Cell Laboratories. The new center's initial push will be using adult mesenchymal stem cells to treat cancer and diseases of the lung and liver, says Richard Boyd, director of the Monash lab. “Combining stem cell biology and immunology will push the field forward,” adds Peking lab chief Li Lingsong.

  4. The Million-Dollar Genome

    Beijing Genomics Institute's (BGI's) Shenzhen branch made a splash this month with the announcement that it had sequenced the first complete genome of a Chinese individual, the third personal genome sequenced this year, after those of J. Craig Venter and James Watson. Now the new kid on the genome block is offering its service to any Chinese who can plop down $1.3 million.

    BGI Shenzhen, also known as Shenzhen Huada, was incorporated last April as a nonprofit research organization funded primarily by local governments. The institute plans to sequence 99 more Chinese genomes as part of a 100-person project to map DNA polymorphisms in the Chinese population. To help finance the endeavor, Shenzhen Huada is offering wealthy Chinese the opportunity to have their own genome completely sequenced and analyzed. Forty percent of the income will go to a foundation to support Shenzhen Huada's health-related genomic research, including a plan to sequence 10,000 genomes of the dominant Han and ethnic minority Chinese as well as other East Asians, says BGI Director Yang Huanming. Another project sequencing the panda genome is already under way.

  5. Updates

    • The ITER Organization—which aims to show that nuclear fusion is a viable power source—came into being this week, 2 decades after the idea was proposed. The European Union and six member nations have ratified the necessary agreement and will now begin building a €5 billion reactor in Cadarache, France.

    • Last week, six universities joined the ranks of the German elite. Government officials announced the winners of a second round of funding designed to boost a few top universities to world-class status (Science, 20 October 2006, p. 400). Winners this time were the RWTH Aachen University, Freie Universität Berlin, the University of Freiburg, the University of Göttingen, the University of Heidelberg, and the University of Konstanz. They join last year's three winners in receiving an extra €3 million a year in federal funding for the next 5 years.

    • Hundreds of French researchers gathered last week at the headquarters of the National Centre for Scientific Research to protest the government's alleged plans to turn the $4.3 billion institute into a funding agency. The government will announce its plans for CNRS later this year.