Science  22 Feb 2008:
Vol. 319, Issue 5866, pp. 1025

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  1. Candidates Invited to Debate

    1. Eli Kintisch

    The first-ever U.S. presidential science debate will take place 18 April in Philadelphia—if any of the four major candidates still in the race agree to come. The organizers, which include Nobelists, university presidents, the U.S. National Academies, and AAAS (the publisher of Science), hope the event ( will highlight the role that science plays in a range of national policy issues, from health care and energy independence to education and climate change. The campaigns have yet to respond to the invitations, which went out last week, but Barack Obama is giving it “serious consideration” says an adviser.

  2. Kernel of Truth

    1. Elizabeth Pennisi

    Corn growers are about to have their decade-long dream of a deciphered maize genome come true. Just in time for the 50th annual Maize Genetics meeting in Washington, D.C., next week, Richard Wilson of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and his colleagues have pieced together a rough draft of corn's 2.3 billion bases, almost a year ahead of schedule. Corn jump-started the National Science Foundation's (NSF's) Plant Genome Initiative, abetted by Senator Christopher “Kit” Bond (R-MO), who formerly chaired the panel that oversees NSF's budget. Already, researchers are experimenting with using the genome to improve crop yields and harness corn's potential as a biofuel, says conference organizer Thomas Brutnell of Cornell University.

  3. Censorship Rules Slow to Come

    1. Jeffrey Mervis

    In the wake of several cases of apparent scientific censorship by U.S. government officials, Congress last summer ordered President George W. Bush to adopt government-wide rules ensuring that federal scientists are free to disseminate their research results without “suppression or distortion.” Last week, presidential science adviser John Marburger said at a hearing of the House Science and Technology Committee that a draft document will soon be circulated among the relevant agencies. There will be no opportunity for public comment, Marburger acknowledged under questioning. The White House is running late—the policy was supposed to be in place by 9 February. “Better late than never” was the reaction of committee chairman, Representative Bart Gordon (D-TN). “This has never been a priority for them.”

  4. Ocean Carbon Scheme Sunk

    1. Eli Kintisch

    Citing financial woes, a U.S. firm that wanted to sell carbon credits for ocean iron fertilization has said it will “indefinitely postpone” its efforts.

    Last month, Planktos, a company based in Foster City, California, began an Atlantic cruise with its Weatherbird II vessel to study using iron to catalyze the growth of plankton. Planktos hoped such algal blooms would take in carbon dioxide and fall to the deep ocean, sequestering the carbon for centuries (Science, 30 November 2007, p. 1368). But some prominent scientists questioned whether Planktos could properly monitor the experiment, and Greenpeace and a number of ocean groups concerned about ecological side effects petitioned international bodies to shut down the group. Planktos kept secret details of the cruise, citing violent threats to its ship. Last week, company officials said “a highly effective disinformation campaign … has caused the company to encounter serious difficulty in raising the capital needed.” “On top of the very legitimate scientific and technological concerns, the added secrecy didn't help their case at all,” says marine biologist David Santillo of Greenpeace.

  5. No Plans for British Astronauts

    1. Daniel Clery

    LONDON, U.K.—Britain will not be getting its own space agency or training astronauts any time soon, the government said last week. Its new civil space strategy for 2008–2012 explains that more study is needed before committing to the huge expense of sending people into space.

    Various U.K. agencies already spend roughly $430 million per year on projects coordinated by the British National Space Centre (BNSC). Last year, the Royal Society and others urged the government to transform BNSC into a space agency with a budget to fund space missions (Science, 27 April 2007, p. 531), arguing that such a step would give it a higher profile and more clout in international collaborations. The new strategy has no boost in funds for new scientific missions and promises only that BNSC will review its own structure. Science minister Ian Pearson says that now is not a good time politically to pitch for a space agency. A BNSC review of exploration, including human space flight, is due out within a year.

    The strategy “is strong on its vision, … yet there are few signs of the action required to deliver,” says Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and president of the Royal Society.