ScienceScope

Science  07 Nov 2008:
Vol. 322, Issue 5903, pp. 837
  1. Call to Resume Nutrition Program

    PARIS—After months of quiet diplomacy, Médécins Sans Frontières (MSF) has issued a public call to President Tandja Mamadou of Niger to let the humanitarian organization resume its nutrition programs in the country. The suspension by the Nigerien government “endangers the lives of thousands of children,” MSF said in a statement last week. The French section of MSF operated a massive program in Niger's central region of Maradi, where malnourished children were given new, peanut-based products said to have revolutionized malnutrition treatment (Science, 3 October, p. 36). But the Nigerien government ended the program in mid-July, accusing MSF of breaking rules for nongovernmental organizations and insufficient coordination with the national health care system. Negotiations have been fruitless.

    The suspension has also interrupted research into the efficacy of the peanut pastes and a large-scale study of infectious diseases in malnourished children for which subjects were recruited from an MSF hospital. Scientists are hoping they can resume the latter study by recruiting patients from a local hospital instead, says MSF's Philippe Guérin.

  2. Stalking Killers in Africa

    BEIJING—Virus hunters in West Africa are banding together to better cope with emerging threats and old foes. At the International Consortium on Anti-Virals (ICAV) meeting here this week, researchers from Nigeria, Ghana, and other countries in the region agreed to establish a West African Viral Surveillance Network. “This is a neglected area of the world,” says ICAV co-founder Jeremy Carver, a molecular biologist and professor emeritus at the University of Toronto in Canada.

    Organizers have not decided on goals for fundraising, which has just begun, so the focus for now is on forging connections. “Scientists in the region weren't talking with each other,” says ICAV Africa director Oyekanmi Nashiru of the National Biotechnology Development Agency in Abuja, Nigeria. There is plenty to share. Nigeria has virology expertise but poor infrastructure, Nashiru says, whereas nearby Ghana has topnotch labs at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research at the University of Ghana in Legon. Key quarry include bird flu, HIV, and polio, which has yet to be eradicated from West Africa. When it comes to emerging viruses, says Noguchi Institute molecular biologist James Brandful, “now we'll be better prepared.”

  3. A Graduate Appetizer

    The National Academies' eagerly awaited assessment of U.S. doctoral programs won't be released for another few months. But for the university administrators, faculty members, and graduate students whose lives are influenced by this mammoth undertaking, a description of what's new since the 1995 edition should be available in a few weeks. One wrinkle will be multiple ratings: In addition to a score from peers on overall quality, each of the 5000-plus programs at 212 universities will be ranked according to dimensions such as faculty productivity, diversity, and student outcomes. “They include factors the schools can influence and those that they can't really control,” says study director Charlotte Kuh of the National Research Council.

  4. Backing Up Hubble

    The good news for NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is that controllers last week finally got a balky backup system to take over the job of sending images to Earth after the main system malfunctioned. The bad news is that managers have tacked on several months to the scheduled launch of a mission intended, among other things, to replace the faulty data system and avoid dependence on the backup. In a 31 October press conference, NASA officials said that preparing a replacement data system for launch and installation by astronauts will delay the repair mission, Hubble's last upgrade, until at least May 2009.

  5. A Basic Change for Korea

    South Korea's academic researchers are smiling in anticipation of next year's budget. The Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology is seeking a 9.5% rise in its 2009 budget to $3.2 billion. “Korea has concentrated on applied science until now, but governmental policy is changing to increase support for basic research” to produce fundamental breakthroughs for technological development, explains Hang Sik Park, director of the ministry's Science and Technology Policy Planning Bureau. He says the proportion of governmental funding going to fundamental research could rise to roughly 28% of the total, up from about 25.6% this year. Other areas in line for big funding boosts include international collaborations, rising 75% to $34 million, and green technologies, with a 92% increase to $53 million. Other ministries have not yet announced their R&D requests, but the budget will go before the national assembly in December.

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