ScienceScope

Science  04 Apr 2008:
Vol. 320, Issue 5872, pp. 33
  1. Chimp Center Proposed

    1. Elsa Youngsteadt

    A Louisiana-based foundation wants to build a facility to house as many as 250 great apes in a setting that would be part tourist attraction, part sanctuary, and part research center.

    The National Chimpanzee Observatory and Great Ape Zoological Gardens would “allow chimps to seamlessly participate in behavioral and cognitive research and have a naturalistic outdoor environment,” says psychologist Daniel Povinelli of the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, who directs the foundation behind the concept. He says the 120-hectare center, near Lafayette, Louisiana, would help maintain genetic viability in the captive chimpanzee population despite a U.S. moratorium on breeding chimps for research.

    Supporters have asked the Louisiana legislature for a $10 million down payment on a $256 million investment, hoping that admissions and concessions will cover operating costs. “There's the potential for this to have enormous benefit to chimpanzees,” says primatologist Rob Shumaker of the Great Ape Trust of Iowa in Des Moines.

  2. Second Chance for Your Euros

    1. Martin Enserink

    PARIS—Young researchers in four European countries who miss out on the first Starting Grants from the European Research Council (ERC) may get a second chance. In a move that expands ERC's clout, France, Italy, Switzerland, and Spain have announced plans to make special funding available for those who meet ERC's criteria but end up missing the cut.

    Out of more than 9000 proposals in biomedicine, physics, engineering, and social sciences, ERC has selected 430 as worthy of funding; but although its €290 million budget for this round may yet increase somewhat, it will suffice for only the best 300 or so. (The first contracts will be signed soon.) Recently, however, Italy's Ministry of University and Research promised €30 million to support Italian researchers likely to lose out, and France's national research agency, CNRS, will pony up €10 million for its nation's scientists. The Swiss National Science Foundation has similar plans. The Spanish science and education ministry will offer 25 candidates a 1- or 2-year “bridge fund” to set up shop while they reapply to ERC or secure funding elsewhere.

    The country-level support is “an early acknowledgment of the intrinsic quality of the ERC's peer-review evaluation mechanisms,” ERC President Fotis Kafatos said in a statement.

  3. After the Nobel

    1. Eli Kintisch

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has demonstrated the tremendous value in exhaustive studies on the state of climate science. But after delivering its fourth such assessment last year and then picking up a Nobel Prize for its 2 decades of labor, some scientists are thinking that more frequent, shorter special reports on how to fix the problem might better serve policymakers. “Do we need to say we are now really, really, really certain that human influence is changing climate? No, the questions have changed. So should IPCC,” says Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

    Next week, the panel will meet in Budapest, Hungary, to take up that issue and other matters, including how to spend its $876,000 Nobel windfall. One idea is student scholarships.

  4. Popping the Question

    1. Jeffrey Mervis

    The National Science Foundation (NSF) is on the verge of adding a question to the U.S. census that will help it paint a clearer picture of the technological skills of the U.S. workforce. Pending White House approval this spring, the U.S. Census Bureau will ask college graduates responding to its American Community Survey about their major field of study. The annual 70-question survey provides data on income, housing, and other matters needed to run various mandated government programs.

    Residents are currently asked only about their highest level of education attained, giving NSF no clue to their scientific savvy.

  5. Radiation Risks Neglected

    1. Andrew Lawler

    NASA needs to pay more attention to radiation risks facing astronauts on extended missions to the moon and Mars, warns a U.S. National Academies panel. The report urges NASA to beef up its space radiation research program, in which grants have dropped by half in the past 2 years to $15 million. NASA is building a new launcher capable of taking astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit, the panel notes, without knowing how much shielding is necessary to protect astronauts from potentially deadly cosmic rays and solar particles, which can cause short-term damage and long-term injury. The report calls for NASA to work with other agencies, such as the Department of Defense or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, to better understand space-radiation hazards.

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