ScienceScope

Science  14 Dec 2007:
Vol. 318, Issue 5857, pp. 1707
  1. Stretching NSF Dollars

    1. Jeffrey Mervis

    Three years after abolishing requirements that National Science Foundation (NSF) grantees share the cost of funded research, the foundation's National Science Board is taking a second look. Congress asked for a review after hearing that the policy was discouraging companies from participating in certain programs in which an industry role was essential. Lawmakers also worried that NSF might be leaving good money on the table.

    Legislation passed this summer restores a 30% cost-sharing requirement for NSF's Major Research Instrumentation Program, and the review “will tell us if the new across-the-board policy is the right way to go,” says an aide to the House Science and Technology Committee, which requested the study. Last week, a board task force explored the perennially thorny issue, and it plans to give Congress a draft report in February.

  2. 2007 Brings Near-Record Heat

    1. Eli Kintisch

    With data through November, NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) has determined that 2007 will likely be Earth's second-warmest year on record. The strongest warming signal occurred in the Arctic, where temperatures were more than 3°C above the 1951–1980 mean. And the planet's global mean temperature was 0.6°C above the average, despite this year's low solar radiance and strong La Niña phenomena, which both tend to lower Earth's temperature. “Given that both of these natural effects were in their cool phases in 2007, it makes the unusual warmth this year all the more notable,” says an analysis GISS provided Science. The six warmest years in Goddard's 128-year record occurred in the past decade, with 2005 leading the list.

  3. Shuttle Shuffle

    1. Andrew Lawler

    Eager European scientists must wait until the new year for astronauts to attach the Columbus research module to the international space station. NASA postponed last week's planned launch of the space shuttle carrying the European Space Agency laboratory after fuel sensors on the external tank failed twice in a row. Agency officials may need to roll the Atlantis orbiter back for repairs. The earliest new launch date is 2 January. The delay is not expected to affect NASA's ability to put the first piece of the Japanese Kibo module into orbit in February. A short delay is no big deal for European and Japanese scientists, who have been waiting since 2004.

  4. CIRM in Turmoil

    1. Constance Holden

    The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) is having a rough holiday season. California's Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating a conflict-of-interest complaint against board member John Reed, president of the Burnham Institute for Medical Research in San Diego, and the state controller plans to audit CIRM. The commission is examining a letter Reed wrote to CIRM—on the advice of its board chair, Robert Klein—to appeal its rejection of a Burnham research application. CIRM policies ban board members from “us[ing] their official position to influence a decision regarding a grant.”

    In addition, the institute last week eliminated 10 applications from four universities because they had been signed by deans who serve on CIRM's governing board. “This is unfortunate,” says stem cell researcher Renee Reijo Pera of Stanford University in Palo Alto. Those applications “were from some of our best young scientists in the state.” Klein said in a press release that board members will be given more legal guidance on the institute's procedures. CIRM spokesperson Ellen Rose says the institute may hold a second competition to give the failed applicants another chance. “CIRM is not a private foundation and cannot be run as if it were,” says John Simpson of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, the organization that complained to the state commission.

  5. Cornell's Collider Lives

    1. Adrian Cho

    After cranking out data for nearly 3 decades, Cornell University's storied Cornell Electron Storage Ring (CESR) collider in Ithaca, New York, will stop smashing particles in March. But the machine won't come to a crashing halt. Last week, the National Science Foundation announced that it will become a test bed for the proposed 30-kilometer-long, multibillion-dollar International Linear Collider. ILC, which will fire beams of electrons and positrons at each other, will need circular accelerators called damping rings to cool and compress the beams. CESR is “the closest thing we have to a damping ring right now,” says Cornell's Maury Tigner.

    Started up in 1979, CESR paced the world in the study of particles called B mesons. Since 2003, it has refined measurements of more familiar D mesons. It's the last remaining particle physics machine at a university and the only one of three U.S. colliders with a new mission lined up. And even as CESR joins the push for ILC, cash-strapped officials in the United Kingdom have announced that they may pull out of the project.

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