Newsmakers

Science  04 Jan 2008:
Vol. 319, Issue 5859, pp. 17
  1. THE COUNTDOWN

    CREDITS (LEFT TO RIGHT): SCIENCE; MARTY KATZ; RICK KOZAK; CDC; AP; DOE

    U.S. science policy could take a new turn after the fall elections. What are the chances that these six top science officials (pictured left to right) will be around in the next Administration? Here are our best guesses.

    • Presidential science adviser John Marburger: The longest-serving science adviser in history and the only one who's held that job for George W. Bush says he has no plans to leave before January 2009—0%.

    • NIH Director Elias Zerhouni: He's nearing the 5-year mark in an open-ended term that has required him to administer restrictions on embryonic stem cell research that he opposes. NIH insiders say he “plays his cards close to the chest”—20%.

    • NSF Director Arden Bement: His 6-year stint runs until November 2010. And although he admits that a new president “could make things untenable,” Bement says “as long as I'm doing a good job and having fun, I hope to complete my term”—50%.

    • CDC Director Julie Gerberding: The infectious-disease expert began an open term as chief of a sleepy agency in 2002, instituting changes that sped the exit of many senior scientists. More recently, her forecast of climate-warming health consequences, softened by White House censors, drew fire—5%.

    • NASA Administrator Michael Griffin: His promise to deliver a new rocket while keeping the rest of the agency healthy is meeting with increased skepticism within the Administration and Congress. Appointed nearly 3 years ago, observers expect him to stay until early 2009—20%.

    • DOE science chief Ray Orbach: The longest-serving Bush science official after Marburger has enjoyed his nearly 6 years in Washington, D.C., long enough to wish for a reprieve from the normal political turnover. Insiders say he's working as though he has only a year left to finish his job—10%.

  2. PEOPLE TO WATCH IN 2008

    CREDIT: CHRIS GOODFELLOW/GLADSTONE INST.

    The Japanese government is hoping that Kyoto University's Shinya Yamanaka can keep the country in the forefront of stem cell research, building on his recent success in turning human skin cells into cells that behave like embryonic stem cells without the controversial use of embryos. The Ministry of Education is mulling building a center to help Yamanaka and others expand their work; there are no details yet on funding and staffing.

  3. PEOPLE TO WATCH IN 2008

    CREDIT: CSIR

    The first biologist to lead India's Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) will be in the spotlight next year as he attempts to raise the profile of the $465 million, 38-lab network. Samir Brahmachari, who was appointed director general of the agency in November, spent the last decade transforming one of CSIR's less remarkable facilities into a leading research center for genome analysis. He is expected to play a role in guiding the government's recently announced plan for a 5-year, $1.6 billion investment in biotechnology research and training. CSIR's broad portfolio includes everything from aerospace engineering to oceanography. “The goal will be research for public good and strategic national needs,” he says. “We've got lots of challenges—energy, transport, infectious diseases.”

  4. PEOPLE TO WATCH IN 2008

    CREDIT: LANDOV

    It's likely to be a key year for genetically modified (GM) crops in Europe—and for Greek politician Stavros Dimas, European commissioner for the environment. So far, only one GM crop—an insect-resistant maize variety—can be grown commercially, but several more are awaiting approval. In November, Dimas said he opposes two candidates, both maize strains equipped with a Bt gene to ward off insects. That puts him at odds with his own food safety agency and several pro-GM fellow commissioners. A formal decision on the two crops is expected sometime this year.

  5. PEOPLE TO WATCH IN 2008

    CREDIT: LANDOV

    Over fierce student protests, France's higher education and research minister, Valérie Pécresse, last year pushed through a bill giving universities more freedom to handle their own affairs. But Pécresse says that much more is needed to make French science and education internationally competitive: She wants to lower the dropout rate among college students, reduce paperwork for researchers, increase project-based funding, and redefine the role of mammoth state-run labs like the National Centre for Scientific Research. Her reformist stance mirrors the approach taken by her boss, President Nicolas Sarkozy.

  6. PEOPLE TO WATCH IN 2008

    CREDIT: JENS SCHLÜTER/HALLE/SAALE

    Volker ter Meulen will lead the Leopoldina as the 350-year-old organization takes on a new job as Germany's National Academy of Sciences. Ter Meulen, a virologist at the University of Würzburg, may need a bit of extra diplomacy as the Leopoldina fills its new role, which breaks with Germany's tradition of regional academies. He hopes to raise the scientific community's visibility in ongoing political debates on immigration, genetically modified crops, climate change, and energy.

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