Science  18 Jan 2008:
Vol. 319, Issue 5861, pp. 269

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  1. Cheer Up, Physicists

    1. Eli Kintisch

    The Bush Administration plans to ask Congress for another double-digit increase next year for the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Office of Science. Budget documents obtained by Science indicate that the president, as part of a 2009 budget to be unveiled next month, will propose boosting the office's current $4 billion budget to at least $4.7 billion. (The 2008 request for $4.4 billion was ultimately trimmed back at the last minute by Congress.) Raymond Orbach, DOE undersecretary for science, would not confirm the final 2009 number but said in an interview last week ( that it “will be a wonderful budget request.” The documents show initial agreement on a $118 million increase for high-energy physics over the 2008 level as of November.

    Orbach also told Science that DOE wants to stay involved in the $6 billion ITER fusion project despite last month's decision by Congress to wipe out its planned $150 million contribution for 2008. DOE told its partners it would defer its payment this year and keep a small staff working on the project at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Earlier this month, DOE shuttered the Intense Pulsed Neutron Source, a 26-year-old user facility at Argonne National Laboratory that is considered a predecessor to the new Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

  2. New Vaccine Strategy

    1. Pallava Bagla

    NEW DELHI—In a new approach to vaccine development, a U.S. university will dispatch faculty members to India to help run a new vaccine research center with Indian partners. Until now, U.S. researchers have spent only a few months at a time in India, says Altaf A. Lal, a malaria researcher with the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi. Emory University's School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, will spend $3 million over 3 years to hire three faculty members for the Emory Vaccine Center, a joint venture with the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) in New Delhi.

    Tops on the center's list is developing a DNA vaccine against clade C of the HIV virus, developed by a team led by Emory University's Rama Rao Amara, a researcher running U.S. phase I clinical trials on a related virus. ICGEB Director Virander Singh Chauhan says the new center does not intend to use Indians as unwitting guinea pigs for new vaccines—an allegation that has dogged some of the more recent Indo-U.S. vaccine trials in India.

  3. JPL Workers Win in Court

    1. Yudhijit Bhattacharjee

    Scientists and engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have won a temporary reprieve from a new rule mandating extensive background checks of all government employees and contractors. Last week, a federal judge in Los Angeles abided by an order from an appellate court and allowed the 28 employees to continue working at the Pasadena, California, facility without giving the government permission to investigate their personal histories. NASA officials said the new checks, which went into effect this fall, are needed to improve lab security. But the appellate court said that the employees, who sued NASA and JPL in August, were facing “a stark choice: either violation of their constitutional rights or loss of their jobs.” The case will now go to trial. “We were subjected to a lot of pressure from JPL, and we are glad to have survived,” says planetary scientist Robert Nelson, one of the plaintiffs.

  4. Korean Science Shakeup Looms

    1. Mark Russell

    SEOUL—South Korea's research community is worried that former construction magnate Lee Myung-bak could bulldoze the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) when he takes over as president on 25 February. As part of his pro-business, small-government agenda, Lee has pledged to eliminate four of 18 ministries, with final details to come. Speculation is rampant that the science ministry's education components—including management of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)—will be handed to the Education Ministry, while the rest of MOST is folded into other ministries. Merging MOST with the Ministry of Education may only weaken it, KAIST president Suh Nam-pyo wrote in a statement last week.

  5. Soiled: Nanotech's Reputation

    1. Erik Stokstad

    Nanotech experts agree that the health risks of nanotechnology need more study, but the British Soil Association, which sets standards for organic farming, isn't waiting for the data. This week the group launched a preemptive “ban” announcing that it would not allow engineered nanoparticles smaller than 200 nanometers in the products that it certifies as organic. “Companies are going to face greater pressure to clarify risks and benefits,” says David Rejeski, who directs the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.