Science  28 Aug 1998:
Vol. 281, Issue 5381, pp. 1261

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  1. Next Stop, Los Alamos

    New U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Bill Richardson is taking scientific touring seriously. On 11 August, after just one day on the job, Richardson departed Washington on the first of several planned barnstorming tours partly designed to familiarize him with DOE's far-flung, $6 billion research empire, which includes dozens of labs. Early stops will include California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Los Alamos lab in Richardson's home state of New Mexico.

    Richardson said he wants the public to learn more about “the remarkable research” being done by department scientists and wants DOE to become the government's leader in studying climate change. He admits, however, to being “weak in the science and technology area,” and says he will welcome advice from DOE's top science guru, Undersecretary Ernest Moniz, a physicist.

  2. Getting a Grip on Arsenic

    Bangladesh's arsenic pollution problem, which threatens the drinking water of more than 70 million people, will soon have the undivided attention of a new research center. The National Arsenic Mitigation Information Center (NAMIC), to open in Dhaka on 1 October with help from the World Bank and the Swiss government, will spend $1.5 million over 4 years to inform researchers and the public about the problem, which was first detected in 1993 after Bangladesh drilled thousands of deep wells in an effort to tap cleaner water (Science, 11 October 1996, p. 174). NAMIC will also fund scientists working to trace arsenic sources and develop new purification methods, efforts that could be key to a planned $44 million program to blunt the threat. The center, says World Bank hydrogeologist Babar N. Kabir, “is going to be critical for tackling the arsenic epidemic.”

  3. Mars Mapper Gets the Hiccups

    Scientists may have to wait 9 months longer than planned for the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft, currently orbiting the red planet, to begin delivering an uninterrupted map of the surface.

    On 10 August, NASA officials announced that they may need the extra time to fix a potential flaw in a 2-meter-long communications antenna, which was supposed to be deployed in March 1999. But air bubbles in a hydraulic shock absorber could cause the unfolding arm to swing wildly and perhaps break.

    The 9-month delay “would reduce the flow of imagery and science data somewhat,” says NASA's Glenn Cunningham, because Surveyor won't be able to scan the planet's surface and send data home simultaneously. Instead, the spacecraft will store information, then pivot away from Mars to transmit data back to Earth. The pauses will produce gaps in the Mars maps Surveyor is assembling, but NASA officials hope to fill them in after the problem is solved.

  4. Payday in Canada

    Some of Canada's young scientists will soon be sprucing up their labs. On 13 August, the federal government handed out the first 214 checks—totaling $23.4 million—from a long-awaited 5-year, $520 million initiative to improve aging research facilities (Science, 13 February, p. 979). The grants to 26 universities are intended to help launch the careers of more than 400 young researchers.

    While 71% of applicants in this first competition were successful, grant seekers shouldn't expect such high odds in the main funding round this fall, says Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) president Denis Gagnon. Institutions have flooded the CFI with 465 requests totaling $735 million to bring workbenches up to snuff and create new national laboratories, but the foundation will dish out less than $260 million.

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