News this Week

Science  08 Mar 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6124, pp. 1130
  1. Around the World

    1 - Okuma, Japan
    WHO: Fukushima Caused Minimal Cancer Risk
    2 - Washington, D.C.
    A Budget Race Without a Finish Line
    3 - Zurich, Switzerland
    Secure Test Site for GM Crops
    4 - New Delhi
    A Flat Science Budget for 2013
    5 - Lower Saxony, Germany
    Genetic Engineering School Project Cut Off
    6 - United Kingdom
    Ranking Countries' Health

    Okuma, Japan

    WHO: Fukushima Caused Minimal Cancer Risk

    Inspectors at a Fukushima reactor building in May 2012.

    CREDIT: THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN VIA AP IMAGES

    The World Health Organization (WHO) on 28 February released a report saying that the Fukushima nuclear disaster will cause no observable increases in cancer rates among residents of other countries and a very minimal increased risk of cancer among residents in the vicinity of the power plant. Workers who battled problems at the plant do face higher risks for some cancers. The WHO team estimated the increased lifetime risk of leukemia, thyroid cancer, and female breast cancer based on earlier estimates of radiation exposure in different locations around the power plant, which experienced multiple meltdowns and explosions in the aftermath of the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

    Greenpeace condemned the report, stating that it "shamelessly downplays the impact of early radioactive releases from the Fukushima disaster on people inside the 20 km evacuation zone who were not able to leave the area quickly." But Kazuo Sakai, a radiation biologist at Japan's National Institute of Radiological Sciences, believes that the risks are overestimated, noting that the dose estimates used were based on preliminary data; actual measurements have shown the dose levels to be lower. http://scim.ag/WHOcan

    Washington, D.C.

    A Budget Race Without a Finish Line

    The sequester has begun. But when and where will it end?

    U.S. government agencies are still trying to figure out how to apply the $85 billion in mandatory budget cuts that went into effect on 1 March. And Congress could soften the blow later this month when it takes up emergency legislation to extend a temporary spending measure for the remaining 7 months of the current fiscal year.

    The sequester, part of a 10-year, $1.2 trillion deficit reduction package agreed to in August 2011, wasn't supposed to happen because its across-the-board mechanism was thought to be too onerous. But now that never is here, domestic science agencies are calculating how to save 5% through some combination of reducing the number of new grants, shrinking existing grants, lowering administrative costs, and downsizing ongoing programs. See some scientists' reactions to the "sciquester" on page 1133, and stay tuned.

    Zurich, Switzerland

    Secure Test Site for GM Crops

    CREDIT: ROLAND FISCHER/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

    The Swiss government will create a permanently protected area on federal land for experiments with genetically modified (GM) crops, which is intended to reduce the risk of vandalized fields as well as security costs. In a paper published on 28 February in Trends in Biotechnology, scientists from the Agroscope Reckenholz-Tänikon research station and the University of Zurich detailed the plan, which was approved by the Swiss Parliament and officially announced on 7 February. The Swiss Federal Council approved spending €600,000 annually from 2014 to 2017 to create a protected field site of approximately 3 hectares at the Reckenholz research station, 10 kilometers north of Zurich. Researchers will initially use it to test GM wheat with resistance to powdery mildew, a fungal disease.

    In 2008, masked activists threatened researchers at another experimental site near Reckenholz and destroyed about one-third of the plants there. In 2009, researchers used grant funds to install surveillance cameras, build a double fence with barbed wire and motion sensors, and hire security guards. The study estimates that Swiss researchers running recent GM trials spent 78% of their research funds on security.

    http://scim.ag/SwissGM

    New Delhi

    A Flat Science Budget for 2013

    Indian scientists face belt-tightening: On 28 February, the government sent to Parliament for approval a $12 billion budget for science and technology in 2013, ending several years of substantial increases for S&T. The flat budget, which reflects the government's desire to reduce an almost $85 billion deficit, will equate to spending reductions with inflation running at about 5%.

    Among the few highlights in the budget proposal is a new, $50 million fund for projects aiming to lift people out of poverty. The National Innovation Council will manage the new fund; the kinds of projects it will support have not been revealed. But the fund's size will surely limit its impact, says physicist and Indian National Science Academy President Krishan Lal. "While the intent is correct, for a country of 1.2 billion people, this is only a drop in the ocean."

    Meanwhile, major planned initiatives will go ahead, including India's maiden mission to Mars and the launch of the country's first military satellite. Grants to individual researchers are likely to bear the brunt of cuts necessary to offset big science spending. Parliament must pass the budget before the start of the next fiscal year on 1 April.

    http://scim.ag/Indbud

    Lower Saxony, Germany

    Genetic Engineering School Project Cut Off

    One of the largest states in Germany is closing school laboratories as part of a strategy to "keep Lower Saxony free of genetic engineering." The new regional government of Social Democrats and Greens announced that it would end support of the HannoverGEN initiative, a project that installed and equipped four school laboratories in the state, allowing pupils to perform experiments in genetic engineering such as isolating DNA from tomatoes. The project, which started in 2008, was seen as a success by the previous government, which planned to expand it to 100 schools.

    However, Greenpeace and other NGOs claimed that the learning materials gave a biased view of the debate about genetic engineering. The new government adopted that view and resolved in its coalition agreement to end the project. Hans-Jörg Jacobsen, a plant geneticist at the University of Hannover and one of the initiators of the project, said that termination was a mistake because the project "allowed pupils to make up their own minds based on knowledge." Students in the program have also protested the decision, and the project's coordinators and the schools' principals have started an online petition requesting that the state's prime minister visit a lab before deciding its future.

    United Kingdom

    Ranking Countries' Health

    The United Kingdom hasn't kept up with its European neighbors in health over the past 2 decades. In a paper published online by The Lancet on 4 March, Christopher Murray of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, Seattle, and more than a dozen U.K. public health experts report that although life expectancy increased by 4.2 years between 1990 and 2010, disability due to being overweight or obese has increased dramatically.

    The overall health numbers place the United Kingdom below average when compared with the original 15 members of the European Union, Australia, Canada, Norway, and the United States. The Lancet paper comes at the same time that IHME published online analyses for 187 countries of its vast collection of data on disease burden and mortality due to 291 diseases (Science, 14 December 2012, p. 1414). Public health experts—and the general public—can sift through the findings at www.healthmetricsandevaluation.org.

  2. Random Sample

    Beautiful Cells

    CREDIT: COURTESY OF INDIANA UNIVERSITY

    The winners are in—and they're colorful. On 27 February, GE Healthcare Life Sciences announced the winners of its 2012 Cell Imaging Competition, chosen by public vote with more than 15,000 votes cast. Cell biologist and cancer researcher Jane Stout of Indiana University (IU), Bloomington, took the award in the High- and Super-Resolution Microscopy category for this image of metaphase epithelial cells (microtubules are in red, kinetochores in green, and DNA in blue). Research scientist Anushree Balachandran of Genea Limited, based in Sydney, Australia, won the High-Content Analysis category, while cell biologist Markus Posch of the University of Dundee in the United Kingdom was the regional winner in Microscopy.

    Stout's image was taken with the university's DeltaVision OMX imaging system—nicknamed the "OMG" microscope by IU researchers. The image will also light up New York City's Times Square this April when it appears on the famed electronic billboard known as the big screen.

    Doc Comic

    CREDIT: FROM "MISSED IT," WRITTEN BY MICHAEL J. GREEN, AND ILLUSTRATED BY RAY RIECK, PUBLISHED IN ANN INTERN MED 2013; 158(5);357–361 (WWW.ANNALS.ORG). REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION BY THE AMERICAN COLLEGE OF PHYSICIANS © 2013. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

    Niche markets abound in the world of comic books: Whether you're interested in golden-age superheroes, 20th century history, or zombies, there's a comic for you. Now, there's "Missed It"—a new comic created by a clinician for clinicians.

    There's a cultural hunger for medical storytelling, as the success of TV shows like House and Grey's Anatomy can attest, says bioethicist and professor of medicine Michael J. Green at the Pennsylvania State College of Medicine in Hershey. But "Missed It" goes a step further, depicting real-life tales from the emergency room, as written by Green and illustrated by artist Ray Rieck.

    The first installment of the comic, which appears in the 5 March issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, follows a young doctor as he works his way through a medical puzzle. (How often the comic strip will run is still to be decided.) Green says he based the story on a personal experience with a seemingly routine case of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease—a lung disease that inhibits breathing—which he encountered during his medical residency in the 1990s.

    "I have long felt that comics are an ideal way to tell stories that have an emotional impact," Green says. "Doctors are accustomed to telling and listening to stories, and I thought the time was ripe to try new ways to tell these stories."

    Evolving Landscapes Through Artists' Eyes

    CREDIT: REE NANCARROW, DENALI PARK, AK; (PHOTO) ERIC NANCARROW

    Bright orange flames burn through the spruce trees, leaving behind a forest of curling gray smoke and blackened trunks. These are artist Ree Nancarrow's impressions of Alaska's Denali National Park, stitched into a quilt as part of an unusual collaboration between creative artists and scientists.

    Denali Park is home to the Bonanza Creek Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site, one of 26 National Science Foundation (NSF) study areas chronicling change in the flora, fauna, and environment over decades. Bonanza Creek is also one of 11 LTERs that has invited artists to reflect on these changing landscapes in oils, watercolors, fiber art, photographs, essays, poems, and other media.

    "We are, in a way, collecting humanities data," says Fred Swanson, a retired U.S. Forest Service scientist who worked at an Oregon LTER, HJ Andrews Experimental Forest, and now coordinates its Long-Term Ecological Reflections program.

    Some of the works are on display at NSF's headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. Photographs from Baltimore chronicle plants that thrive in the city; paintings from Konza Prairie in Kansas capture the heat and drama of wildfires; a poem describes a stare-down with a spotted owl. In one installation, rows of plastic cups each cradle a live mangrove sprout that will eventually be used to restore mangrove forests in Florida.

    The exhibit is not open to the public, but Swanson hopes one day to display the works of the 39 artists where anyone can enjoy them. Meanwhile, you can see some of them online at ecologicalreflections.com.

    ScienceLIVE

    Join us on Thursday, 14 March, at 3 p.m. EDT for a live chat with experts on how arts education affects the brain. http://scim.ag/science-live

    They Said It

    ScienceNOW asked readers to share how the U.S. sequester might affect their research and careers. For more comments, visit http://scim.ag/sciquester—and keep us posted with #sciquester.

    I'm a young scientist who applied for 2 post-doctoral fellowships...with new grants being cut, my future iscompromised #sciquester

    —@Frank_Leibfarth

    #sciquester is a science career killer at a time when the government is calling for more scientists

    —@sciencegeist

    Biology research dont take well to "stops and starts", cell cultures and longitudinal studies need continuous care & assessment. #sciquester

    —@mksin149

  3. Newsmakers

    Moniz Tapped for DOE, McCarthy for EPA

    Moniz

    CREDIT: MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

    This week President Barack Obama tapped an academic scientist with a long Washington resume to lead the Department of Energy (DOE) and a data-hungry policy wonk who's already in town to run the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

    Physicist Ernest Moniz, head of a high-profile energy think tank at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, served as DOE's undersecretary and a senior White House science aide under President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, and is a member of Obama's science advisory council. His wild, wavy locks prompted The Washington Post's gossip column to suggest he'd have "the most iconoclastic hair in Cabinet history." He would replace Steven Chu at DOE if confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

    McCarthy

    CREDIT: EPA

    Gina McCarthy, an air pollution specialist who is already a senior EPA official, worked for Mitt Romney, Obama's Republican opponent in the 2012 election, when he was governor of Massachusetts. She is known for a tough approach to crafting data-driven regulations—and for quips delivered in a thick New England accent. She would replace Lisa Jackson if confirmed.

    Heart Researcher Wins Developmental Bio Prize

    Olson

    CREDIT: BRIAN COATS/UT SOUTHWESTERN

    Insights into the mysteries of the heart have earned Eric Olson the 2013 March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology. He will receive the $250,000 prize in Washington, D.C., in May.

    Olson studies the genetic signals that control heart development at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. He and his colleagues have shown that newborn mouse hearts can regenerate to a surprising degree in the first week after birth (Science, 25 February 2011, p. 1078). They have also found a suite of proteins and microRNAs that promote regeneration in older mouse hearts.

    Outside the lab, Olson plays guitar and harmonica in a rock band called the Transactivators. One of their songs, "Mamas, Don't Let Your Stem Cells Grow Up to Be Cowboys," was inspired by a supporter of his work: Olson holds the Annie and Willie Nelson Professorship in Stem Cell Research.

  4. A Sea Change for U.S. Oceanography

    1. Eli Kintisch

    Marine scientists are confronting declining budgets and a shrinking research fleet as torrents of data from new technologies remake their field.

    Robot overboard.

    Gliders offer scientists like Kipp Shearman a nearly permanent presence at sea.

    CREDIT: TRISTAN PEERY, OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

    Since 1996, oceanographer Kipp Shearman has relied on a duo known around the lab as Bob and Jane to measure chlorophyll and other environmental parameters in the ocean off the Oregon coast. Roaming the sea for 3 to 5 weeks at a time, the pair never complains and comes up for air just every 6 hours. They're 2-meter-long automated submersibles called gliders, and the reams of data they've collected have allowed Shearman's team at Oregon State University, Corvallis, to make novel insights into changing marine ecosystems.

    The gliders are cheaper than sending scientists out in ships to make measurements, Shearman says, and they can remain at sea nearly indefinitely. He named the machines after some senior colleagues, and, "We kid them that we're replacing them with robots."

    There's a glimmer of truth to that notion. Two cultural shifts are simultaneously shaking the foundations of oceanography in the United States—and fueling a debate about the future direction of a fast-changing field. Fewer scientists are going to sea as a result of a shrinking science fleet, flat budgets, and skyrocketing costs. At the same time, oceanographers are using a growing array of high-tech devices—such as satellites, gliders, and vast networks of sensors tethered to the sea floor—to remotely collect more data than ever before without getting wet.

    The trends are helping to transform oceanography "from small science to big science," says technologist James Bellingham of Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) in Moss Landing, California. That shift, in turn, is affecting how researchers study an increasingly urgent set of problems, including overfishing, ocean warming, and acidifying seas. It is also altering the culture of oceanography, including how scientists share data and how young oceanographers are trained.

    The churning is prompting contradictory emotions, however. The decline of the U.S. science fleet is "a catastrophe that's happening in slow motion," warns Bruce Appelgate, who heads ship and marine operations at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California. But "we've entered a new era in oceanography, and it's for the best," declares oceanographer Sydney Levitus of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Silver Spring, Maryland.

    A waning fleet

    A symbol of the changes remaking marine science floats alongside the dock at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts. In its glory days, the research vessel Atlantis boasted adventures that kept it at sea for 10 months a year. Last year, it was out of port for only 8 months. Idle, the 84-meter-long vessel has the vacant feel of an abandoned steel office building, albeit a floating one. Labs and workshops sit empty; just a few crew members and students were busy during a recent visit. "We've had our thumb out looking for work," says Captain A. D. Colburn. He was "grateful" that Canadian scientists hired the ship for a monthlong mapping mission this past summer. But fewer U.S. researchers are using Atlantis as a result of funding issues and because its equipment is undergoing recertification tests to deploy its celebrated partner craft, the piloted submersible Alvin. So Colburn is confronting "a lot of face time with my computer," he says glumly, echoing a common refrain these days among oceanographers.

    The dormancy is a product of decades-long policy shifts. During the Cold War, the U.S. Navy was the main benefactor of the nation's marine scientists, whose studies on ocean mixing and sound scattering served military needs such as for undersea warfare. As the Navy has steadily reduced its support for academic oceanography, researchers have pieced together support from up to nine federal agencies; NOAA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Navy are now the main funders. The fraction of federal research funding devoted to ocean sciences plummeted as the Cold War wound down, from roughly 7% in the 1970s to 3.5% in the 2000s, analysts estimate.

    While budgets have stagnated, the U.S. science fleet has shrunk and the price tag for expeditions has skyrocketed. Academic oceanographers rely largely on government-built vessels operated by the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS), a consortium of 62 universities and government laboratories. In 2001, UNOLs boasted 28 ships; now there are 19, and fleet officials project that there will be 13 in 2025, barring new federal commitments. Meanwhile, operating costs for the five largest UNOLS ships, which can support dozens of scientists for months at a time, have doubled in the last decade to roughly $36,000 per day. Daily costs for smaller ships have increased by 50%, to about $8000 per day. Such increases—along with hefty investments in new technologies—are reshuffling marine science budgets: This year, for the first time, NSF's Division of Ocean Sciences, a major UNOLS funder, expects to spend more of its $352 million budget on ships and infrastructure than on support for research grants.

    Landlocked?

    Fewer ships and less money mean getting to sea is increasingly challenging for university researchers.

    CREDITS: UNOLS

    One result is that, in a bid to pinch pennies, funding agencies have been urging scientists to use smaller, less expensive ships for their work when possible. That can create problems, researchers say. As part of a 2005 geological study of Hawaiian volcanoes, for instance, geologists deployed 35 seafloor seismometers using one of the larger UNOLS vessels, the 85-meter-long Melville operated by Scripps. When they returned the following year to retrieve them, NSF stipulated that the researchers use the smaller and less-costly Ka'imikai-o-Kanaloa, operated by the University of Hawaii, which lacks the Melville's heft and ability to maneuver laterally. The downsizing contributed to two mishaps in rough seas, says Scripps geophysicist Gabi Laske, the cruise leader. In one, a 200-kg seismometer smashed against the side of the vessel as the crew tried to haul it on deck, causing minor damage to a sensor. "It's extremely unlikely this would have happened with a larger ship," Laske says. "It's these little things that make science in the ocean more dangerous and more difficult."

    The combination of fewer ships, increasing costs, and stagnating budgets is also creating a worrying feedback loop. Researchers interested in going to sea say they are having a harder time getting their proposals funded—and NSF has in the past suggested that requests that don't include costly ship time might have a better chance of winning approval. Discouraged, some researchers have simply stopped trying to do science aboard ships. "The last thing we want to do is spend a lot of time working on a proposal that is not going to be successful," says biological oceanographer Dennis McGillicuddy of WHOI.

    In 2011, a UNOLS survey of 355 oceanographers found that 62% had at some point been "reluctant" to ask for at-sea funding, citing a "perception of low award rate for proposals with ship time." Ironically, that reluctance could further hasten the decline of the fleet, because it reduces demand and funding for the vessels. Indeed, officials say the demand for ship time is declining.

    Many UNOLS vessels, some of which are 40 years old, are also showing their age or suffering from underfunded maintenance programs. Last year, three of the fleet's four large vessels operating from Pacific ports had serious technical problems. The 84-meter-long Thomas G. Thompson, for instance, was sidelined for half a year with a busted main thruster, a calamity that was "very disruptive" for several major cruises, says official Douglas Russell of the University of Washington (UW), Seattle, which manages the ship. (Some blame availability of parts, not the maintenance schedule, for the problem.) And in early 2012, the U.S. Coast Guard had to rescue the Kilo Moana, a 57-meter-long vessel operated by the University of Hawaii, after corrosion punched a 6-centimeter hole in its hull. "Not only are we losing ships, but the condition of the ships is such that they're breaking down," says Peter Wiebe, an oceanographer at WHOI and former UNOLS chair.

    The prospects for major improvements are relatively bleak. A 2001 UNOLS plan called for building 10 new ships by 2020 for a fleet size of 16. The proposed additions included seven large ones, to "maintain fleet capacity" (Science, 21 January 2005, p. 338). So far, however, replacements have come more slowly than envisioned and just three new ones have appeared, including two large ships with less range than the vessels they replaced. Three are getting tested or are under construction, and three others are on the drawing board but unfunded. If those three fail to materialize, vessel retirements would shrink the fleet to 13 vessels in 2025. A smaller fleet will be "increasingly unable to meet science user demands," concluded a 2009 UNOLS report. "[M]ulti-ship operations" would be more difficult to schedule, it warns, as would "expeditions in remote areas."

    Wired sea floor.

    A panoply of sensors and robots will provide fully powered, real-time data through the Ocean Observatories Initiative.

    CREDIT: OOI REGIONAL SCALE NODES PROGRAM AND THE CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL VISUALIZATION, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON

    Even stabilizing the fleet at 13 vessels could become a stretch given current U.S. budget problems. This past June, NSF and Navy officials recommended that UNOLS retire some smaller ships sooner than planned in order to create savings that "would be used to bolster the schedules of the remaining vessels." That framework troubles researchers who primarily work in coastal and nearshore waters, where the smaller ships are an advantage. The plan will create "a big gap" in the fleet, McGillicuddy says.

    The downsizing doesn't necessarily mean disaster, says Rodey Batiza, an official with NSF's ocean research branch. Modern ships feature more capable laboratory spaces than their predecessors and can deploy robotic payloads that can roam widely, enabling vessels to collect "1000 times more data in a day than they did a decade ago," Batiza says. But many oceanographers are not persuaded. "The ocean is undersampled now, and it was undersampled when we had 28 ships," McGillicuddy says. "The new tools don't obviate the need for research vessels."

    The bottom line, believes former UNOLS Chair Bruce Corliss, dean of the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island (URI), Narragansett Bay, is that "we have a significant crisis for the UNOLS fleet."

    The marine tech revolution

    The fleet's woes are all the more striking in contrast to the dazzling new data-gathering tools that oceanographers now deploy. Walk the deck of a research vessel built in the 1970s, and you'll find shiny new submersibles, buoys, and other devices sporting the latest in batteries, communications, and cameras, often built by graduate students half as old as the ships. These are the tools of a technological revolution in oceanography that began some 3 decades ago, with the 1978 launch of SEASAT, the first civilian oceanographic satellite. During just 3 months in orbit, NASA estimates SEASAT collected as much data—including sea surface temperatures, wind speeds, and ice conditions—as had been acquired by all ships during the previous century.

    Now, automated devices are gathering even more data from more places, including far below the top centimeter of seawater that satellites can probe. Since 2004, for example, the global Argo program, comprised of 3500 drifting devices packed with electronics, has extensively profiled the oceans to a depth of 2000 meters (Science, 27 April 2012, p. 405). Costing roughly $10,000 each, the floats measure temperature, pressure, and salinity as they rise and sink over a 10-day cycle, reporting data continually by satellite. The floats collect some 120,000 profiles each year, dwarfing the 15,000 or so that ships collected just a few decades ago. Researchers slicing and dicing Argo data have already produced more than 1100 scientific publications, including papers with new insights into the ocean's heat content and major currents.

    Physical and chemical oceanographers have benefited most, but biologists are eager to catch up. "We have physics envy," says biological oceanographer David Karl of the University of Hawaii, Manoa. He is just one researcher hoping to benefit from the next generation of Argo floats, which will include sensors able to monitor biological activity, such as the rate of marine photosynthesis.

    Other cutting-edge automated instruments are essentially floating laboratories. The Lexus of these devices is called the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP), developed by MBARI. About the size of a large trash can, the ESP usually hangs roughly 20 meters below the ocean surface off a moored buoy. Inside, a robot draws in water samples, extracts RNA from them, and uses a microarray to detect certain microorganisms' genes. MBARI recently commercialized the machine and researchers hope to use it to monitor fisheries, sewage pollution, and harmful algal blooms. The ESP is "really the only show in town" when it comes to high-tech remote biological oceanography, Karl says.

    The ESP costs roughly $175,000, but its more affordable robotic brethren "democratize" the ability to do studies once within the reach of only larger laboratories, says MBARI's Bellingham. For example, submersible gliders like Oregon State's Bob and Jane can cost $125,000 to $150,000 each, making them "something that under a normal research grant you can buy," he says.

    Falling technology prices are also spurring innovation. One barrier to developing new marine science gear has been the cost of the cruises needed to test it at sea. But many gliders, robotic submersibles, and floats now can be tested off small vessels near shore. At URI, marine engineer Chris Roman and colleagues are using that approach to develop a new device on a relatively small budget of $1 million. The tubular float snaps one high-resolution photo of the ocean floor every second as it drifts in shallow waters, where floats like Argo can't operate. "We approached it as: 'What could we do with a very simple instrument?'" Roman says. If it works, the floating photographer could make the weekly chore of catching and counting fish in nearby Narragansett Bay far less arduous for graduate students.

    The marine technology renaissance isn't just about tinkerers building single instruments; it is also enabling researchers to envision and install vast instrument networks that are linked to land by kilometers of fiber optic cable. The wired ocean includes a new Japanese 20-site seismology network, a 12-site network that will ultimately dot European seas, and a U.S. network that connects several coastal sensor arrays. The most ambitious project is the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI), an international, Internet-connected network featuring 804 physical, chemical, and biological sensors in six separate arrays from Greenland to southern Chile (Science, 16 November 2007, p. 1056). Whereas battery-powered seafloor sensors can conk out, sensors on the OOI network, now under construction, will get a steady supply of power from land. With an estimated cost of $770 million, scientists predict that OOI, which is scheduled to go live in the deep ocean next year, will give them immediate access to data, a rare treat. In the process they'll get a front-row seat to ephemeral or fast-moving seafloor phenomena, such as undersea methane burps, that can be hard to capture during relatively brief research cruises.

    These new systems will produce unprecedented torrents of data. And like space and genome scientists before them, oceanographers now face the challenge of efficiently storing, using, and sharing their largess. One difficult task will be learning how best to combine and properly label incompatible data sets, says URI oceanographer Peter Cornillon. Another will be making sure all the data get used; it's becoming increasingly common that some data go unanalyzed after a cruise or project—a notion that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

    New day.

    Three-thousand-five-hundred Argo floats provide unprecedented daily ocean data.

    CREDIT: ADAM Ü/PICASA/NOAA

    The arrival of big oceanography is engendering a new commitment to sharing data. Traditionally, scientists jealously guarded their data for 2 years after collection, giving them time to publish, says John Gould of the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, U.K. Some geochemical data collected on cruises during the 1990s "didn't see the light of day for 10 years," he notes. Now, raw satellite, Argo, and glider data are available nearly instantly online, and sharing is becoming the norm.

    A new process

    Such changes are helping reshape and enhance a variety of oceanographic projects, which generally fall into two broad categories. One is "process" studies, which examine specific phenomena through experiments that can last days, weeks, or perhaps a month. The other includes monitoring or survey efforts that gather data over a long period in different places, or annually at the same spot, in order to track changing conditions.

    Process experiments highlight the growing capabilities of modern ships, which can host big, multidisciplinary teams working in clean, roomy labs equipped with devices, such as DNA sequencers or mass spectrometers, that were previously available only on land. They also emphasize the evolving role of the research vessel as a mother ship for an array of mobile technologies. In 2011, for example, a 50-scientist team used a pair of big ships to help launch a study called LatMix that used a phalanx of tools to study surface stirring—a fundamental ocean process poorly described by computer models. Working in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, the researchers released tracking dyes, robotic submersibles, and floats, and even called in an airplane to help keep a close eye on moving water masses. The "impressive" project set a recent scientific meeting abuzz, says Rebecca Walsh Dell, a postdoctoral researcher at Scripps.

    Similarly, MBARI researchers have deployed ships, robot submersibles, and ESP, their floating gene analyzer, in multifaceted efforts to study California's Monterey Bay. In one 2009 campaign, the scientists used real-time data from an ESP to guide the submersibles to interesting sampling locations. Combining the data revealed in new and startling spatial detail how zooplankton flock to otherwise invisible boundaries between warm and cold water masses.

    Autonomous or remotely controlled assets are also allowing researchers to collect data in rough seas or remote areas that can be too dangerous for ships. When Superstorm Sandy hit the New Jersey coast last year, for example, Rutgers University researchers were able to deploy a glider that offered a unique look at how the storm scrambled near-shore sediments and water layers (Science, 9 November 2012, p. 728).

    Biological oceanographers are also hoping to chart new territory, for example by building devices that can track individual organisms. Measuring biological activity has often meant sampling creatures as they waft by one particular spot in the ocean. Advanced sensors and software, however, could enable a submersible to follow visual, chemical, or biological cues. "Smarts on board—that's the nirvana we'd like to move towards," says Oregon State's Mark Abbott.

    The closest thing so far is a torpedo-shaped robot called Tethys which combines aspects of a propeller-driven submersible and a buoyancy-driven glider. It can wait for weeks in areas of interest before racing to a specific site—and it travels four times faster than previous gliders. One of its designers, MBARI's Bellingham, hopes that similar tools will one day travel alone to an algae bloom during its initial stages of development and then monitor its growth and decline, which generally takes a month.

    A watchful eye

    The growing mix of technologies is also reenergizing the once relatively obscure world of long-term monitoring studies, enabling what Hawaii's Karl calls a shift from the "snapshot view of the ocean to the full-length movie perspective."

    As recently as the 1990s, "environmental monitoring" was seen as anathema to funders interested in big experiments focused on specific questions, Karl says, and "something you would never put in a proposal, especially to NSF." But now, analyzing how ocean ecosystems influence and react to climate change, pollution, and overfishing have become important to researchers and policymakers alike. And that means developing baseline information on the ocean's "normal" conditions—such as water chemistry and seasonal fluxes in plankton—and then keeping an eye on how things change.

    Human-crewed ships will continue to be essential for some survey projects, such as a global effort to understand climate variability called CLIVAR, because only they can perform complex measurements at sea, such as genetic and chemical isotope analyses. But automated devices, such as the Argo float network, are also demonstrating the value of monitoring for monitoring's sake. In part, that's because the floats go places that ships often don't, with the network covering every ice-free region of the open ocean. "The Southern Hemisphere has been so poorly observed almost anything we find will be new," says NOAA oceanographer Levitus, a member of the Argo science team.

    And Argo is extending into new frontiers, as polar scientists begin to deploy new rugged floats below sea ice. Argo is also helping eliminate a seasonal bias in oceanographic data, created by the tendency of researchers to avoid cold weather cruises. "A main finding has been that the ocean is more variable than we thought," Levitus says. Charting those changes and fluctuations is helping researchers do weather, climate, and fisheries "forecasting much better than we have ever done in the past," he adds.

    Evolving technology is underscoring the power of sustained monitoring in other ways. In the late 1980s, researchers established sites near Bermuda and Hawaii, dubbed BATS and HOT, where ships and moored instruments take monthly readings. The sites have played a key role in helping scientists determine the fluctuating physical, chemical, and biological patterns that make up the ocean's baseline. But even monthly readings may not be enough to detect certain phenomena, researchers say. In 2011, for example, UW's Matthew Alford published new findings that suggest the breaking of seafloor waves happen more rarely than expected. Key to that finding were readings from a moored profiler he deployed on a cable at the HOT site that sampled the whole water column each hour for more than 2 years. "Most of the time, monthly readings taken from ships will completely miss the phenomenon" he says. Other researchers say the success of BATS and HOT suggest that it would be worth setting up new monitoring sites in areas important to global climate, such as the Arctic or northern mid-Atlantic.

    Extrasensory.

    The Environmental Sample Processor (above), a floating genetics laboratory, can track the occurrence of marine microbes (right).

    CREDITS: MBARI; (INSET) ADAPTED FROM OTTESEN ET AL., PNAS 110 (5 FEBRUARY)

    Seafloor scientists are hoping to literally see fireworks with some of their new monitoring tools. Researchers have never witnessed an undersea volcanic eruption from beginning to end, notes oceanographer John Delaney of UW Seattle, one of OOI's leaders. But the payoff could be so great that researchers have built one section of the groundbreaking sensor network on the Axial Seamount, an active underwater volcano about 500 kilometers west of the Washington state coast that erupts every 10 to 15 years. "Next time it erupts we can be there," Delaney says. He's got his fingers crossed that the sensor array, which includes video, chemical, and seismic equipment, can survive the harsh environment.

    Biologists are also eager to examine the exotic bacteria that the volcano spews with an underwater mass spectrometer and DNA sequencer. "By the time we [usually] get there, they've diluted or wafted away," Delaney says. Now, researchers can relax on shore in comfort, knowing OOI is always watching.

    A sea of tradeoffs

    These high-tech tools are also bringing some contentious issues to the surface: The relatively high cost of systems like OOI is forcing U.S. oceanographers to confront difficult choices over how to spend limited funds. The unfolding debate sometimes pits building bigger ships against smaller ones, or ships against unmanned robotic craft—or mobile robots against static sensor networks. Deciding which tradeoffs to make will be "very, very important," UW's Delaney says. Researchers might "go to sea less," for instance, "but the data flow from these new systems is around the clock, 365 24/7, for decades."

    Others are challenging the ship-centric mindset that dominates planning in marine science. At URI, for instance, Cornillon has weighed in on a campus debate about what sort of vehicle should eventually replace the university's 38-year-old research ship, Endeavor, which it operates for NSF. He's not against obtaining a new vessel, but says his colleagues should focus on "very quickly" evolving oceanography technologies. "The development of these will be as or more important to an institution such as URI than having its own ship," Cornillon says. He and his colleagues have envisioned a scenario for 2030 in which phalanxes of airborne drones and submersibles conduct a tightly choreographed analysis of sea-air interactions, with a ship's role undefined. Colleagues applaud such creativity, but questioning the need for a big vessel has made Cornillon "not terribly popular with many," he admits.

    There's also disagreement about the value of large seafloor observatories like OOI. Floats, gliders, and robotic submersibles are well-suited for tough economic times, advocates say, because of their relatively low prices and flexibility. In contrast, OOI will require expensive ship time for maintaining the network, which could command as much as 16% of the NSF Division of Ocean Science's budget beginning in 2015. The project "really is a huge tax on everything," Alford says. "Are there other places that we haven't seen that we could be studying instead?" asks WHOI engineer Dana Yoerger. "There's a whole world to explore."

    To help set priorities, the U.S. government's main ocean research advisory panel is working on a report, due next year, that will review fleet needs. At NSF, ocean science chief David Conover wants scientists to go even further. He'd like the field's diverse constituencies to write a consensus "decadal survey" with numbered priorities for projects, as scientists in astronomy and other facilities-intensive fields have done. "It's not just about how you slice the pie, it's about making the case to grow the pie," he says.

    That's certainly a case researchers feel has been poorly made in Washington. "Studying the oceans should be funded comparable to research in outer space," says UW's Delaney. But with a depressing budget outlook and the oceanographic community at odds over its future path, that's "a dialogue nobody has the guts to be having."

  5. The New Generation of Sea Scientist

    1. Eli Kintisch

    Time at sea is no longer a mandatory part of oceanographic education.

    Core curriculum.

    Time at sea is no longer a mandatory part of oceanographic education.

    CREDIT: 2012 SCRIPPS INSTITUTION OF OCEANOGRAPHY/UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO

    Veteran oceanographer Margaret Leinen fondly remembers the regular stream of lengthy ocean cruises that she and her fellow students enjoyed during their training in the 1970s—and the outsized demand for their labor. Senior scientists asked: "How many times can we get students to go to sea before they rebel?" recalls Leinen, director of Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Fort Pierce, Florida.

    Now, however, "seafaring adventures are a much smaller part of the way we perceive our careers than those who are 15 or 20 years older," says Rebecca Walsh Dell, who recently received a doctorate from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts. Of the five students who joined her Ph.D. program the same year, only one, who focuses on biology, has relied on data collected on ocean cruises for their graduate research, she says. The others have used remote sensing data, modeling studies, or data from the Argo network. "The traditional model—design an experiment, deploy equipment, collect the data, spend 2 years writing the paper—none of us did that." The students eventually made it on a cruise, she says, "but only to see how the sausage gets made."

    That doesn't mean young scientists don't still dream of exploring the high seas. A summer fellowship that trains graduate students to lead research cruises has "more students signing up than we can accommodate," says Bruce Appelgate, who runs the program at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California. "We've got a tremendous interest among students in getting out to sea."

    Overall, about 45% of the approximately 2500 graduate students in U.S. oceanography programs saw time at sea the year before, according to a 2011 survey conducted by the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System. It also found that 75% of U.S. ocean scientists within 4 years of completing their postgraduate training planned to request future ship time. Still, that is less than the 85% of scientists with more than 20 years of experience who said the same. And WHOI oceanographer Peter Wiebe is dismayed that the institute's graduate students routinely turn down invitations to take a berth on an upcoming cruise. "We end up bringing European or Asian students," he says.

    That's a danger sign for some oceanographers. Kipp Shearman of Oregon State University, Corvallis, says that the master's degree students he supervises "get real skilled real fast" at programming gliders and interpreting the data they provide. But that can't replace "the experience of doing ship-based research." John Gould of the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, U.K., worries that data are being "handed on a plate to young scientists on the Web sites, and there might be this tendency [not to question] the numbers." But "turn the clock back 20 years," he says, and "you went out and collected your own data, you applied your own expertise to it, and you had to question whether things [were] what they seemed."

  6. Ahoy, Telepresence

    1. Eli Kintisch

    One way oceanographers are coping with dwindling ship time is by using "telepresence" video technology to connect landlocked scientists with colleagues at sea.

    One way oceanographers are coping with dwindling ship time is by using "telepresence" video technology to connect landlocked scientists with colleagues at sea. Last summer, one such virtual cruise marked the first time the technique was used to help direct an autonomous submersible mission.

    Screen time.

    Scientists on shore wave to colleagues at sea during a telepresence cruise.

    CREDIT: ALEX DECICCIO/INNER SPACE CENTER, URI

    The 3-week expedition explored seafloor seeps near the Blake Ridge, roughly 500 km off the South Carolina shore. The research team was split between a small group of scientists and engineers aboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration vessel Okeanos Explorer, which features a suite of cutting-edge video and data communication tools, and about a dozen scientists and students on shore at the University of Rhode Island, Narragansett Bay. To find seeps, the shipboard team deployed an autonomous robotic submersible called Sentry each evening and retrieved it the following morning.

    Sentry's sonar, image, and sensor data were sent daily via satellite to the scientists in Rhode Island for analysis. The shipboard team, meanwhile, analyzed ship sonar data for clues to possible seep areas. Together, the two groups used the information to identify promising areas for Sentry's daily dive and plan the spacing of its zigzag search pattern. Scientists call the virtual cruise a modest scientific success, noting that it discovered five new seeps in an area previously known to contain only one.

    Equally important, perhaps, was that the effort demonstrated how virtual cruises can enhance training for students, even undergraduates. It's tough for a college student to get a spot on a research cruise, notes one of the students on the shore team, junior Meghan Rose Jones of the University of Miami in Florida. So it "was an opportunity which would have not been otherwise possible," she says. Even if she had gotten a berth, Jones thinks she might have spent many more hours standing watch than analyzing data. Instead, she learned to use two mapping software programs and participate in research decision-making.

    By the end of the cruise, Jones and several graduate students "were the ones discovering what the seafloor was like" and making dive plan suggestions, says lead scientist Cindy Van Dover, director of the Duke University Marine Laboratory in Beaufort, North Carolina. The team expects to get even more out of a 5-day return expedition next year to Blake Ridge. It will feature the Jason tethered submersible, which can collect samples of water, rocks, and sea life.

  7. Profile: Anne Glover

    Europe's Science Superwoman Struggles to Get Off the Ground

    1. Kai Kupferschmidt

    The first chief science adviser for the European Commission's president speaks her mind and some call her "inspiring," but can she influence policy?

    CREDIT: COURTESY OF THE EUROPEAN UNION

    BRUSSELS—On her first day as Scotland's chief science adviser, Anne Glover almost lost her life. It was summer 2006 and on the way to catch an early morning train, the biologist lost control of her car in a bend, spun off the street, and crashed into a stone wall. The front and back of the small car were destroyed, she says. Somehow she emerged with hardly a scratch. Most people would have called it a day. Not Glover. "I arrived late" to work, she says. "But I did show up."

    Now, Glover is the European Union's first chief scientific adviser and her resilience is being tested in other ways. Instead of 5 million Scots, her constituency is 500 million Europeans who are deeply divided on modern technologies and increasingly distrustful of scientists. A 2010 poll found that nearly 60% of Europeans felt scientists could no longer be trusted on controversial issues. And although her E.U. job did not start with a car accident, it has been challenged by the financial crash blighting Europe and by the complexities of her position.

    Glover took office on 1 January 2012 and her duties only start with providing the European Commission's president with expert advice "on any aspect of science, technology and innovation." Her official tasks also include analyzing major policy proposals, liaising with institutions such as the European Union's food safety authority, helping with emergency planning, and giving early warning "on issues that might arise when scientific progress entails either opportunity or threat for the EU." Speaking recently in Sussex, U.K., Glover said that her brief evoked superwoman "flying through the treetops of Brussels."

    European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, the driving force behind the creation of her position, hasn't bestowed superpowers on Glover, however. On the contrary, after years of discussions in Brussels, the science adviser's office became a "casualty" of austerity measures, Glover says. She has no budget of her own and just five staff members—one-half of the size of her team in Scotland.

    Some European science policy analysts wonder if, under those constraints, Glover can wield any influence here in Brussels. "Unless you really anchor the position somehow," says Helga Nowotny, president of the European Research Council, Europe's science adviser "will not become a powerful position comparable to the U.S." And Peter Tindemans, secretary general of the researchers' organization Euroscience, says that although he is happy the job was created, giving it so little support was a mistake.

    Indeed, Glover's influence is hard to discern so far. She has deliberately steered clear of the debate over the size of Horizon 2020; the European Union's primary science program for the next 7 years is slated to receive far less money than many scientists had hoped (Science, 15 February, p. 745). Glover defines her role as one of injecting science into policymaking rather than shaping policy for science. Still, some are waiting for those injections. "She hasn't yet singled out a small number of key issues on which she would like to make a difference," Tindemans says.

    She is fighting for something. With less than 2 years left until Barroso's term expires, Glover is pressing hard to raise the profile of science and evidence in European politics. Among other initiatives, she's pushing for all E.U. members to have their own chief science advisers, and she has convened what she hopes will be a permanent advisory council on science and technology for the commission. She is right to devote much time to this, Tindemans says. "How much power she can effectively wield also depends very much on her establishing solid ties with scientific advisers or persons or bodies with a similar role in member states."

    Glover has already convinced some that a science adviser is important to Europe's future. Robert Madelin, the European Union's director-general for communications networks, content and technology, says that he "cannot imagine a future for Europe where the president of the commission would not want a high-level scientific adviser."

    Rise of the science advisers

    Born in Arbroath, Scotland, Glover, 56, trained as a microbiologist in Edinburgh and Cambridge, U.K., before joining the University of Aberdeen in 1983, where she ultimately became a professor in 2001. Her interest in politics started the same year, after she was appointed as a member of the Natural Environment Research Council, a U.K. body that funds research and training. "I found it really satisfying because you saw you made a difference," Glover says. In 2006, she became the Scottish chief science adviser. A friend had flagged the opening, suggesting it was the "perfect job" for Glover. "I wasn't sure what the job was," she says, "But then I don't think the Scottish government knew what the job was either."

    No one foresaw how much work it would be. The part-time job ate away at the hours she could spend in her Aberdeen lab. But she persisted with her research, which is on stress responses in the worm Caenorhabditis elegans. She has continued that tradition in Brussels, running her lab mostly via Skype. Although it is hard to be productive this way, it's important, she says, to "have credibility as a working scientist."

    On a recent morning here in the Berlaymont building, the European Commission's massive headquarters, Glover, reddish hair piled into a flaming sculpture, glasses perched on top, bubbled with enthusiasm as she talked about astronomy, physics, nanotechnology, and microbiology. She also loves Star Trek (though unlike her assistant Jan Marco Müller, she has no Starfleet uniform at home) and enjoys spotting the International Space Station as a hobby. "There is an app for that. Isn't that amazing?" she says.

    About once a month, Glover takes the elevator up, from her 8th floor office to the 13th floor, to the true nerve center of the European Commission. There, she briefs Barroso on a variety of topics, including supercomputers, space weather, and dengue fever. The minutes that Glover spends on that floor are the currency in which her political power can be measured, and it is hardly enough to choreograph big changes in Brussel's legendary bureaucracy. She attributes her lack of clout to the newness of the position. "You cannot just arrive and expect everyone to be constantly knocking on your door," she says.

    Contrast Glover's access with that of John Holdren, the latest in a long list of éminence grises tapped to advise U.S. presidents. At the annual meeting of AAAS (Science's publisher) in Boston last month, Glover says that Holdren told her that he was in and out of Barack Obama's office up to four times a day in the run-up to important decisions.

    GM debate.

    Science adviser Anne Glover advocates research into genetically modified crops, despite protests such as ones staged by Greenpeace outside the European Commission's headquarters (below) and by members of the European Parliament.

    CREDITS (TOP TO BOTTOM): VINCENT KESSLER/REUTERS/LANDOV; EPA/LANDOV

    Glover's position within the European Union is also unusual in that she reports directly to the president. The commission is a very hierarchical structure, says Müller, who is a veteran of European science politics. "In some ways, Anne is outside of that. She is a freelance artist." That allows her the freedom to operate a bit differently or to say things that other people are afraid to say. "Coming from outside the hierarchy can be an advantage if the holder of the position knows how to use it well. And Anne knows how to use it well," Nowotny says.

    A case in point, in a magazine interview in July, Glover argued that eating genetically modified food was no riskier than eating conventionally farmed food—a stance at odds with the beliefs of many Europeans. She says she wanted to give evidence a voice. "By all means, people can say, for ethical reasons, for philosophical reasons, for economical reasons, for political reasons, I am not keen on that," she says. "But you cannot say it is dangerous, when it isn't."

    The interview sparked a debate in the European Parliament and an official request by one of its members asking whether the commission agreed with Glover's stance. The reply was telling. The chief science adviser, the commission wrote in its answer, "has a purely advisory function and no role in defining Commission policies. Therefore, her views do not necessarily represent the views of the Commission." The tempest over her remarks and the commission's pallid response hasn't cowed Glover. "The way I interpret it, is that I have independence within the commission, which is a rare advantage."

    Science advisers have always sat uneasily at the intersection of politics and science. Those in government "have overriding political considerations and sometimes the science is in the way," says Neal Lane, a public policy expert at Rice University in Houston, Texas, who served as Bill Clinton's science adviser.

    Still, Glover's appointment is a sign of a shift. For decades, only the United States and United Kingdom found a use for science advisers. Surprised by the Soviet launch of Sputnik, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower created the position in 1957. The United Kingdom followed suit in 1964. But in recent years, the concept has gained ground. New Zealand appointed its first chief science adviser in 2009, and the United Nations and Japan are planning similar posts. "Among the reasons for the trend are the number of policy issues that have a technical or scientific aspect to them and the assertion of authority by scientists themselves," says Roger Pielke Jr. of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who has studied the history of science advisers.

    In Glover's office, a picture of the flame nebula, a colorful swirl of gas, dust, and stars in the constellation Orion, evokes how she has been lobbying to strengthen that trend. "This is a very interesting part of the sky, because this is a star nursery," she says, pointing to a few bright dots in the top half. Just like a core of gas and dust attracts more and more matter to form a star, Glover hopes her position will spawn similar jobs in every E.U. member state, beyond the three that currently employ a chief science adviser: the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the Czech Republic.

    Atmospheric control.

    Glover has visited countless labs in Europe, such as this Italian one focused on air pollution monitoring, to establish ties with scientists.

    CREDIT: COURTESY OF THE EUROPEAN UNION

    Glover's discussions with E.U. members appear to have paid off: A network of science advisers could be in place by the end of the year, she says. Having comrades in arms, she acknowledges, would help her and her successors exert greater influence. Last week, the commission announced another step in that direction: the creation of a president's science and technology advisory council. Glover will chair the 15-member group, which includes climate change expert Hans-Joachim Schellnhuber from Germany and Nobel Prize winner Ada Yonath from Israel. It will meet with the E.U. president three to four times a year to offer ideas on how to stimulate societal debates about science.

    Persuading the public

    In a private dining room at an elegant Brussels restaurant, Glover takes on another key duty of her position. "There is a risk in eating food," she says as waiters place a salad in front of each of the 30-odd people in the room, members of an industry lobby group called the European Risk Forum. Some people have food allergies, some plants contain toxins, and sometimes food is ill-prepared, she notes. "But there is a bigger risk in not eating: certain death." Her point is that risk is everywhere, but we manage it through rational decisions. Europeans are too risk-averse, she contends—and it is holding the continent back. "Ask Europeans for their association to the word 'risk' and most would answer 'danger,' " Glover says. "I would say 'reward.' "

    Glover speaks from experience. At the end of the '90s, she co-founded a company called Remedios that used biosensors to identify contaminated land and suggest clean-up technologies. In Europe, the response was measured, she says, as regulators hesitated to embrace something completely new. In the United States, on the other hand, the response was enthusiastic, she says. "In North America there is this race to be first and in Europe we are racing to be second all the time," Glover laments.

    She has pounded that message over and over since becoming science adviser. She says that calling out Europe on its tepid support for innovation is fundamental to her mandate "to enhance public confidence in science and technology." It is a part of her job that she clearly enjoys and is very good at.

    It's vital that science advisers are visible, says Miles Parker, former deputy chief science adviser to the U.K. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Glover's hard work at creating a public persona seems to have succeeded. Nature named her a person to watch in 2013, and a panel of journalists and politicians convened by a BBC radio station recently voted her among the 20 most powerful women in the United Kingdom.

    Despite rising to become the face of science in Europe, Glover says that she has encountered subtle sexism throughout her academic career. That's why she wants to use her newfound prominence to shine a light on women in science. Some E.U. members have a reputation for being better than the United States at letting female scientists juggle family and careers, but Glover believes Europe overall must do more. She argues, for example, that stronger maternal care provisions are needed for E.U. researchers. (Glover herself has no kids.) "Europe is in real danger of falling behind by being utterly careless in retaining their best assets of highly qualified and able women," she says.

    Glover's profile will get another boost later this year, when Europe's Emergency Response Centre opens. Glover will be the center's science spokesperson. The next time European air traffic is disrupted by a volcano, for instance, or a disease emerges on the continent, expect Glover to be in front of the press explaining the science and Europe's response to the crisis.

    Such an on-camera role would be part of Glover's ongoing audition for more time as Europe's top scientist. When Barroso steps down at the end of next year, her future will also be decided. "If we do our job well, the next president will want a chief scientific adviser as well, maybe even the same one," Müller says.

    At the lunch meeting with the risk forum, a young business woman, a little flustered, thanks Glover after her speech. "The way you talk and the energy you have is so …," she pauses, searching for a word, "inspiring." It is an unlikely word to describe a Brussels bureaucrat, but it is one often heard when people describe Glover. She may not have superpowers, but her charisma may be enough to endow the science adviser position with staying power.

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