ScienceScope

Science  11 Jul 2008:
Vol. 321, Issue 5886, pp. 187
  1. Dutch Limit Iranian Access

    1. Martin Enserink

    Iranian-born scientists and students are upset by new Dutch regulations, announced last week, that ban them from nine fields of study and five research facilities where they might have access to nuclear technology. The Dutch government says the rules are an implementation of U.N. Security Council resolution 1737, which seeks to limit Iran's access to nuclear technology (Science, 1 February, p. 556).

    But the new rules are the strictest of any country and are unfairly singling out one group, critics say. “This stigmatizes the next generation of Iranian scientists,” says Nasser Kalantar of the Nuclear Physics Accelerator Institute in Groningen, the Netherlands, who says he plans to investigate whether the measure is constitutional. Peyman Jafari of the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam hopes the Dutch parliament will intervene. The Netherlands is particularly sensitive to the issue because Abdul Qadeer Khan, the so-called father of Pakistan's nuclear program, passed on highly classified material to Pakistan while working at a Dutch uranium-enrichment plant in the 1970s.

  2. Yellow Light for British Science

    1. Daniel Clery

    After months of hearing from anxious astronomers and physicists, the United Kingdom's Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) has detailed its plans to spend $3.9 billion over the next 3 years. Despite new investments in projects that include the proposed Extremely Large Telescope and the FAIR nuclear center in Germany, many researchers are angry that STFC will still reduce university research grants and ax support to fields such as gamma-ray astronomy and ground-based solar-terrestrial physics.

    Because of commitments it inherited when formed last year from two U.K. funding bodies, STFC was short of cash and announced a swath of cuts (Science, 21 December 2007, p. 1851). Researchers were up in arms and parliamentarians joined the chorus of criticism, prompting the council to embark on a 3-month consultation.

    In STFC's updated plans, some cuts have evaporated, such as those to the Gemini telescopes in Hawaii and Chile, and a financial lifeline has been thrown to the iconic Jodrell Bank telescope near Manchester, although partners will be needed to achieve full funding. But cuts remain. “The U.K. should be playing a leading role instead of hanging on to the coattails of others,” says nuclear physicist William Gelletly of the University of Surrey.

  3. Academic Hackers in Court

    1. Martin Enserink

    A Dutch court is set to decide whether academic researchers can reveal how they cracked one of the most widely used security cards in the world. Chip producer NXP of the Netherlands has sued to prevent computer scientists from Radboud University in Nijmegen from discussing the topic at an October symposium in Spain. As part of a program to identify security weaknesses, the researchers announced in March that they had figured out how to “clone” MIFARE Classic, a chip used in hundreds of millions of building security and transit cards. Bart Jacobs, who led the work, says that academic freedom is at stake; NXP is “trying to kill the messenger,” he says. A company spokesperson declined to comment. A verdict is expected before 14 July, the deadline to submit final papers for the Málaga meeting.

  4. Postdocs Unionize

    1. Yudhijit Bhattacharjee

    The 5000-odd postdocs at the University of California (UC) may be on the verge of forming the biggest postdoc union in the United States. More than 3000 UC postdocs have signed cards to be represented by the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), according to Matthew O'Connor, a bioengineering postdoc at UC Berkeley who helped collect the signatures. “Many of us realized that [popular] postdoctoral associations are great for professional networking and career development but are not as well equipped to deal with issues like wages and benefits,” says O'Connor. Previous attempts to unionize have failed to gain state certification (Science, 10 November 2006, p. 909). If the postdocs clear that hurdle, the next step is collective bargaining with UC officials.

  5. CNRS Reforms Adopted

    1. Martin Enserink

    PARIS—A controversial plan to create a series of new institutes within France's National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) was approved by the center's board on 1 July. Scientist labor unions gave up their resistance after last-minute concessions from the French government, including dropping the idea to give some of the new institutes a privileged “national” status. The plan is a general outline, however; Jean-Luc Mazet of union SNCS-FSU predicts that “the battle will resume” when details are hammered out in a contract between CNRS and the government this fall.

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