Science  11 Apr 2008:
Vol. 320, Issue 5873, pp. 161

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  1. Three Q's


    As head of Quebec's provincial medical research council, neuroscientist Alain Beaudet lamented the dearth of collaborative programs between Canada's federal and provincial governments. On 1 July, he moves to the other side of the table as the new president of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), which administer $733 million per year in research grants.

    Q: Do you agree with your predecessor, Alan Bernstein, that the CIHR budget can't keep up with the demands created by Canada's expanding scientific infrastructure?

    He was absolutely right. … Take the federal government's decision to increase the number of fellowships. I think it's great. But what organizations will give them out? How many students are there that are worthy of receiving fellowships? What are the needs? Putting our resources and our expertise together to work in a concerted fashion is very, very important.

    Q: Do CIHR partnership programs need to change?

    When CIHR partners, [the agency's attitude has been] … we organize everything and you guys [the provincial partners] come in and part with your money. … I'd like to see provinces come up with a health problem specific to that province and [then have] CIHR help to tackle that problem.

    Q: The recent CIHR restructuring took financial decision-making away from the governing council and handed it to a committee made of directors of the agency's 13 institutes. In such a situation, is it possible for a president to effect change?

    It's clear that we have to bring the individual institutes into the fray. They've got boards that are full of very bright people. Let's use these people more. … [But] let me first get acquainted with the beast and then I'll tell you how to tame it.


    A STAR'S HOMECOMING. Japan's only Nobel Prize-winning biologist is returning home after 46 years. Neuroscientist Susumu Tonegawa, who was caught up in a hiring controversy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) 2 years ago, will begin working part-time next April at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute outside Tokyo.

    Tonegawa, 68, resigned his position as director of MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory in late 2006 after an MIT panel found serious flaws in MIT's neuroscience effort. Some MIT colleagues had accused Tonegawa of blocking the appointment of a promising young researcher to another neuroscience institute on campus because she was a woman. The report was critical of his role in the matter, but no disciplinary action was taken.


    Tonegawa did not return phone calls, but news reports said that as director of the institute, he hopes to entice non-Japanese to Japan to help lead brain research projects. MIT officials said he would nevertheless continue to retain his professorship and lab at MIT.



    REACHING OUT. The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco has hired David Mindell to revitalize its $6 million research program. Mindell, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, will take up a newly created post as dean of science and research collections at the 155-year-old academy, which this fall moves into a new eco-friendly building in Golden Gate Park. “Our hope is to become one of the preeminent research museums in the world,” says Mindell, who starts the new job in July. He wants to expand research in comparative genomics, strengthen ties with local university researchers, and do more public outreach—especially about evolution.


    “In fact, some manuscripts include no plain explanation of why the work is of interest. Author responses to negative referee reports sometimes contain narratives reminiscent of short stories (perhaps by Kafka, with particular emphasis on description of conflict).”

    —Reinhardt Schuhmann, managing editor of Physical Review Letters, in a 13 March editorial urging authors to write more clearly.


    FOR AFRICA. Brian Greenwood, a professor of tropical medicine, and Miriam Were, a public health expert, will share an inaugural $1 million award from the Japanese government for their efforts to fight diseases in Africa.

    Greenwood, a faculty member at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the U.K., took up malaria research after recognizing the devastating effects of the disease, particularly on children. He has studied the disease's genetic factors and its clinical effects.

    Were, born in Kenya and trained at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, has been an educator and administrator working on public hygiene and AIDS through community health systems. She is now chair of Kenya's National AIDS Control Council and the African Medical and Research Foundation.

    The prize honors Hideyo Noguchi, who died of yellow fever 80 years ago in Africa while seeking a vaccine for the disease. It will be awarded every 5 years.