Newsmakers

Science  27 Feb 2009:
Vol. 323, Issue 5918, pp. 1153
  1. AWARDS

    CREDITS: AP PHOTO/GAIL BURTON

    MAZEL TOV. When a Nobel Prize was awarded last year for the discovery of HIV, pioneering AIDS researcher Robert Gallo and many of his colleagues were stunned that he was not included in the honors. But this month, he received a consolation prize: a $1 million award from the Israel-based Dan David Foundation for his contributions to future global public health.

    Gallo, head of the Institute of Human Virology in Baltimore, Maryland, received the news while watching a friend play gin rummy at a country club in Florida. “Mazel Tov! Mazel Tov!” said the gin rummy players, mostly elderly Jews. “We give it, and you got it!”

    Actually, industrial photographer and entrepreneur Dan David, not the state of Israel, is behind the prize, which this year also went to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair for his present efforts to broker peace in the Middle East and physicists Paolo de Bernardis, Andrew Lange, and Paul Richards for past achievements in understanding the history of the universe. The prize mandates that winners donate $100,000 to graduates in the winner's field. Gallo says a scientific colleague who has had trouble winning grants and a foundation will also share his new wealth. “All's well that ends well—if this is the end,” says the 71-year-old Gallo.

  2. HONORS

    CREDITS: R.R. JONES/HUBBLE DEEP FIELD TEAM NASA

    Sandra Faber, an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has won the $250,000 Bower Award and Prize from the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for a lifetime's work in understanding the structure and evolution of the universe. Faber is credited with developing the first comprehensive model of how the universe formed and was among the earliest researchers to include cold dark matter in galactic models. Her research also helped lay the foundation for the now widely accepted notion that most galaxies have a supermassive black hole at their center. Last week, the Franklin Institute also announced the winners of the 2009 Benjamin Franklin medals: George Whitesides (Chemistry); J. Frederick Grassle (Earth and Environmental Science); Richard Robbins (Engineering); Ruzena Bajcsy (Computer and Cognitive Science); Lotfi Zadeh (Electrical Engineering); and Stephen Benkovic (Life Science). T. Boone Pickens won the Bower Award for Business Leadership. More about the awardees at http://www.fi.edu/.

  3. IN THE COURTS

    TERROR TACTICS. A British animal-rights activist, Mel Broughton, has been convicted of conspiracy to commit arson and sentenced to 10 years in connection with attempts to block the building of an animal research laboratory at the University of Oxford. The 13 February ruling is the second major action this year against animal-rights extremists in the United Kingdom. In January, seven people were convicted of conspiracy to blackmail firms linked to the animal-testing company Huntingdon Life Sciences and sentenced to a total of 50 years in prison.

    Oxford Crown Court found Broughton to be responsible for bombs—bottles of fuel with fuses made of sparklers—that damaged a Queen's College sports pavilion in November 2006. Similar devices planted under a temporary building at Templeton College in February 2007 failed to go off.

    Simon Festing, head of the campaign group Understanding Animal Research, says that the convictions of more than 30 people in the past few years have “almost brought extremism to a standstill.” Festing believes the groups haven't been able to recruit new members. “It would be like a go-straight-to-jail card,” he says.

  4. THREE Q'S

    Azam Khan Swati became Pakistan's new Minister of Science and Technology last month. A U.S.-trained lawyer who built a chain of convenience stores before returning to Pakistan in 2003, Swati belongs to the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Assembly of Islamic Clergy) party, which draws its support from a Taliban stronghold along the northwest border with Afghanistan.

    CREDITS: PAKISTAN MINISTRY OF INFORMATION

    Q: What's the biggest problem facing research in Pakistan?

    Science and technology in Pakistan, other than in the Higher Education Commission [and] in health, has been completely neglected. The missing piece that I have seen is this: There are no private-public partnerships. … We are not strengthening the industrial capacity of the country.

    Q: What needs to be changed?

    Our science and technology at the present time only consists of whatever you can see in the library, seminars, and articles. But the practical application or the execution of such a valuable asset has been completely missing.

    Look at waterlogging [of soil, which can hurt agriculture]. … [Our research] is confined only to models. … Why have we not taken that model, given it to those feudal lords who own thousands of acres of land, and help[ed] them wake up so we can make a practical difference? We have good engineers, good technicians— we have a good, skilled resource—and we need to see why it is not working efficiently as compared to India or China.

    Q: Is more money the solution?

    We do not need research [that does not help] create something useful for this country. … So we are not going to spend on research that has already been conducted [elsewhere]; we can borrow from those countries.

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