Science  25 Jul 2003:
Vol. 301, Issue 5632, pp. 447

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  1. WHO Chief Sets Course

    New World Health Organization (WHO) chief Jong-Wook Lee started work this week by announcing several new high-level positions dedicated to the fight against HIV/AIDS and polio as well as an initiative to train young doctors and researchers in developing countries.

    In a 21 July speech in Geneva, Switzerland, Lee said that WHO would have a plan in place by 1 December for providing 3 million HIV-infected people with antiretroviral drugs by the end of 2005. WHO will also sponsor 2-year training stints at WHO facilities for health professionals from developing nations. He named Jack Chow, a former U.S. government AIDS specialist, to lead a new division dedicated to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. WHO veteran David Heymann will direct WHO's effort against polio.

  2. Minority Programs Czar for NSF

    National Science Foundation (NSF) Director Rita Colwell is preparing to name a senior aide who will provide “one-stop shopping” for institutions interested in agency programs aimed at increasing the number of minorities going into science.

    “We need to do a better job of making sure that everyone is working together,” Colwell told the House Science Committee at a hearing this month on programs to help minority-serving institutions (Science, 18 July, p. 286). “That person will be NSF's chief link to the community,” she explained, on everything from helping faculty write more competitive grant proposals to providing access to NSF-supported research facilities. Last year NSF awarded these institutions $138 million, a figure that doesn't include research grants to minority scientists and their students. Colwell hopes to have someone on board by the fall.

  3. Fossil Poachers Beware

    Paleontologists are cheering U.S. Senate passage last week of a bill that would stiffen penalties for the theft of scientifically significant fossils from public lands.

    Convicted fossil thieves typically get just a slap on the wrist: a fine of a few hundred dollars for specimens worth thousands. The bill would hike fines to double the fossil's market value, plus damage to the site. Criminal penalties could include up to 10 years in prison. It would also simplify prosecutions.

    “It's an urgent need; there are a lot of specimens in danger,” says Ted Vlamis of Save America's Fossils for Everyone, a group backing the bill. The future of a companion House version is uncertain.

  4. Researchers Pan German Plan

    BERLIN—A plan to overhaul German science funding has been condemned by leaders of the country's research organizations. On 22 July, the presidents of seven organizations, including the Max Planck Society, the Helmholtz Society of research centers, and the DFG funding organization, issued a joint statement calling on the government to leave the current system in place.

    German science is funded by a complex partnership between the federal and state governments, which must agree each year on research budgets. As part of a government-wide overhaul, the research ministry has proposed a simpler arrangement: The federal government would fund large societies such as Max Planck and Helmholtz, whereas the states would be entirely responsible for universities and the Leibniz Society's smaller institutes.

    Research leaders worry that the shift would undercut their lobbying leverage: Currently, when the federal government proposes cuts, they can appeal to state governments for relief. In addition, leaving university funding entirely up to statessome of which are in dire financial straitswould widen the gap between already underfunded universities and the country's research institutes, says Karl Einhäupl, president of the German Science Council. As Science went to press, the ministry had not responded to the statement.

  5. Judge Orders Revisions to Klamath Water Blueprint

    A federal judge in Oakland, California, last week threw out key provisions of the Bush Administration's water plan for the Klamath River Basin. The basin, which straddles the Oregon-California border and is home to several endangered fish, is the site of chronic water disputes between farmers, environmentalists, and Indian tribes (Science, 4 April, p. 36).

    Last year, the federal Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) released a controversial 10-year plan to divvy up Klamath Basin water. It called on users to devise ways of bolstering stream flows, such as using a “water bank” to pay farmers not to irrigate. But the judge ruled that such measures were “not reasonably certain to occur” and ordered the government to rewrite the plan.

    Fish advocates praised the decision. The plan met “the requirements of neither the law nor sound science,” says Kristen Boyles, an attorney at Earthjustice, a plaintiff. Still, farmers were relieved that the court didn't cancel this year's irrigation deliveries. A due date for the revised plan hasn't been set.