Newsmakers

Science  29 Feb 2008:
Vol. 319, Issue 5867, pp. 1167
  1. TWO CULTURES

    CREDIT: KEITH SCHWAB/CORNELL AND MICHAEL ROUKES/CALTECH

    NANOREALISM. Most artists labor for a lifetime without seeing their work hang in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. But Keith Schwab (above), a physicist at Cornell University, has made it into MoMA without trying with an image in a current exhibition, “Design and the Elastic Mind.”

    The exhibition grew out of a series of salons starting in late 2006 for artists, designers, and scientists organized by Paola Antonelli, a senior curator at MoMA, and Adam Bly, founder of Seed magazine. Antonelli says she was struck by the aesthetic combination of form and function in a micrograph of a clover-shaped nanodevice that Schwab presented at one of the gatherings.

    Schwab, who with Michael Roukes of the California Institute of Technology used the device to probe the quantum limit of heat flow, isn't taking his moment at the top of the art world too seriously. “It's not like the artists are sitting there thinking, ‘This is the best nanodevice I've ever seen!’” he says. The exhibit runs through 12 May.

  2. PIONEERS

    BRIDGING THE GAP. Growing up in Washington state, Erin Fletcher frequently crossed the infamous Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which was rebuilt after a wind-induced collapse that occurred in 1940. Watching a film clip of the disaster inspired her to become a civil engineer. Now she designs highway sound barriers and bridges for a company.

    Fletcher is one of a dozen female engineers featured on engineeryourlife.org, a new Web site hosted by the U.S. National Academy of Engineering. Its goal is to interest more college-bound girls in becoming engineers and to narrow the gender imbalance—roughly 4 to 1 in favor of men—in undergraduate enrollments. “The site shows that engineers are real people, that we have a good time in our jobs,” Fletcher says. “We're doing important work, but we're not goofy and dorky and weird.”

  3. NONPROFIT WORLD

    MONOPOLIZING MALARIA. Arata Kochi, the outspoken and at times undiplomatic head of the malaria program at the World Health Organization (WHO), is getting worried about the increasing clout of the biggest philanthropy in the world.

    In a November 2007 memo to WHO Director-General Margaret Chan that was recently leaked to The New York Times, Kochi complains that the $39 billion Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is effectively locking up malaria scientists in a “cartel” that stifles dissenting views. Moreover, the foundation is usurping WHO's policy-setting role, Kochi warns. The memo was recently circulated to other department heads at WHO, the newspaper reported.

    Others too, are grumbling about the foundation's growing influence. Its new plan to eradicate malaria (Science, 7 December 2007, p. 1544) is “worrisome” because it preempted the authority of the World Health Assembly (comprised of WHO member countries), says an official at another global health organization who asked not to be identified.

    CREDIT: AP

    But some Gates grantees disagree. Entomologist Willem Takken of Wageningen University in the Netherlands says Kochi's memo seems to be born out of “frustration” that a more action-oriented player with much deeper pockets has arrived on the scene.

  4. THREE Q'S

    CREDIT: COURTESY OF NSFC

    BEIJING—The budget of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) has doubled to $617 million in the past 5 years under the presidency of biologist Chen Yiyu. Last month, Chen was appointed to a second 5-year term at the agency, which funds research that has been peerreviewed by outside scientists. NSFC's budget is expected to climb to $747 million this year.

    Q: Is there enough good research in China to justify such large increases?

    Overall, the level of science is still low. Last year, we received approximately 73,800 proposals and approved 14,700. But even among the approved projects, relatively few are of high quality. My priority is not to improve the success rate but to spend more on the best projects.

    Q: NSFC recently set up joint funds with Sinopec, China's main oil company, and Baosteel. This is a radical departure from the old model.

    So is our peer-review evaluation system, and that's our biggest success! Until about 5 years ago in China, we did not appreciate the connection between basic research and industrial development. Now we do, but industry thinks all the intellectual property should belong to them. We are negotiating with the companies now.

    Q: China has recently been plagued by misconduct cases. How vigilant is NSFC?

    We will openly criticize those who misbehave, and we send staff to investigate misconduct allegations. On one hand, we try to crack down on misconduct. But on the other hand, we try to create a healthy atmosphere for good science.

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