Science  10 Oct 2008:
Vol. 322, Issue 5899, pp. 177

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  1. Change at the Top

    The United Kingdom has brought the fight against global warming to the highest level of government. In a cabinet reshuffle last week, Prime Minister Gordon Brown chipped off parts of two existing departments to create a new Ministry for Energy and Climate Change. “I'm very much in favor,” says David King, former U.K. government science adviser now at the University of Oxford.

    The U.K. has struggled to pin down a domestic policy that both reduces carbon emissions and ensures energy security at a low cost. But with the business ministry in charge of energy and the environment department handling climate change, policy was often pulled in different directions. King says the new ministry should improve cohesion, but he hopes the new bureaucracy won't slow the progress of legislation. Ed Miliband, a former minister in the Cabinet Office and younger brother of the U.K.'s foreign secretary, will lead the new ministry.

  2. Show Me the Rubles

    Last week, Russia's science ministry debuted a new scheme to evaluate 2500 Russian research institutes and guide funding decisions, but some scientists say it's a mistake. Following a new policy of making science effectively contribute to Russia's economic development, the scheme includes criteria such as the number of articles published by the staff, their citation impact factor, the number of international contracts, and even the gender proportion of the staff. Alexander Naumov, co-deputy director of the ministry department for scientific, technical, and innovation policy, says the assessments “will be taken into account by federal executive bodies [and] state science academies” when setting budget and planning priorities.

    Russia's research funding system may need restructuring, say critics, but the new method is the wrong answer. “I tried to evaluate, according to this method, the organizations that I know,” says Andrey Finkelstein, director of the Institute of Applied Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. “One of the biggest astronomical organizations in the country appeared to be in the last place, while a very insignificant one turned out to be the most advanced one.” After public comment, the ministry plans to amend and adopt the new scheme by November.

  3. Reviewing Peer Review

    In a 2-year experiment it hopes to extend to other disciplines, the Italian Ministry of Research and Health last week announced the creation of a Science Committee that will implement a new peer-reviewed funding system for biomedical research. The move comes in response to Italian scientists' demands for more transparent funding decisions uninfluenced by politics or favoritism. The panel will choose independent referees to evaluate grant and project proposals, and those referees' judgments will then be considered annually by an international expert panel. The U.S. National Institutes of Health will help set up the program. Gilberto Corbellini, a professor of the history of medicine at the University of Rome, La Sapienza, says the reforms are needed, but “a law to prevent the conflict of interests” is required to prevent politicians from nominating members of the Science Committee.

  4. Target Acquired: Lung Cancer

    The U.S. Army is figuring out how to spend $20 million that Congress has given the Department of Defense (DOD) for peer-reviewed research on lung cancer. In a 2009 budget bill passed in late September, lawmakers added lung cancer to a list of cancers that DOD must study. The Lung Cancer Alliance (LCA), which helped push for the earmark, hopes the bill's emphasis on “early curable lung cancer” will support a search for biomarkers and standards for computed tomography (CT) lung scans to detect small tumors. These tests increase costs for follow-up procedures; it's not clear that the scans reduce mortality (Science, 2 May, p. 600). But LCA President Laurie Fenton Ambrose says that many patients are already getting lung CT scans and that standards are urgently needed.

  5. Report: U.K. Physics Physically Fit

    Despite concerns that gripped British physicists last year, the U.K. physics enterprise is healthy, says a report published by the country's research councils last week. The review, by chemical engineer Bill Wakeham of the University of Southampton, found that U.K. physics had high international standing with a citation impact second in the world. But it recommended strengthening the pipeline of researchers through school and university, training more physicists as teachers, and coaxing more women and minorities into physics.