Science  29 Sep 2006:
Vol. 313, Issue 5795, pp. 1883
  1. THREE Q'S


    University of Ottawa historian Chad Gaffield, 55, last week set aside his duties at the helm of Canada's best funded social sciences project—an initiative that makes census data available for research purposes—to become the president of the government's troubled $272 million Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

    Q: The consensus is that SSHRC is in disarray. Your predecessor's strategic planning exercise was botched. There's a raft of vacancies on the governing board and within the agency as staff keep bailing. How will you clean up the mess?

    By completing the team within SSHRC, getting shoulder to shoulder with the research community, and enhancing our contributions—and the perception of them—to Canadian society and the international community.

    Q: SSHRC needs political and private sector allies. Do you have any mechanisms in mind to develop those?

    We are an agency focused on people, and it's in the interests of all businesses, governments, and institutions to enhance human assets. One of the ways for SSHRC to link to the community is through our governance structure, by getting broader representation on the 22-member SSHRC council.

    Q: Why move from eminent historian to whipping boy?

    It's a way to contribute to one of the most pressing and important challenges facing Canadians and the world, which is how individuals and groups can live together for everyone's benefit.


    SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR. Jim Fruchterman applies technology to improve people's lives through the nonprofit Benetech Initiative he founded in 2000. Thanks to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, he hopes to do even more over the next 5 years.


    Last week, the foundation named him one of 25 MacArthur Fellows. The 47-year-old engineer plans to use the $500,000 prize to write a book that “will inspire the technology and science and business communities to see that technology benefits all of humanity, not just the richest 10%.”

    As a student, Fruchterman designed a reading machine for the blind. Current projects at Benetech, based in Palo Alto, California, include a computer database for human-rights activists and an inexpensive land-mine detector. This year's class of fellows also includes Victoria Hale, a San Francisco pharmaceutical chemist and entrepreneur who's developing drugs for neglected diseases, and Lisa Curran, a tropical biologist at Yale working on strategies to fight deforestation. See the complete list at


    INNOVATORS. Thirteen biomedical researchers have been chosen to receive the 2006 Pioneer Awards: $2.5 million, 5-year grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for researchers doing highly innovative science. Four winners this year are women, compared to six of 13 last year and none in the inaugural 2004 class; their absence sparked a protest that led NIH to revamp the awards process (Science, 22 October 2004, p. 595). The list is at


    HEINZ PRIZES. A pioneer of systems biology and a founder of the green chemistry movement have won $250,000 awards from the Heinz Foundation.

    Leroy Hood, founder of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, Washington, is being honored for his role in developing the DNA sequencer used to spell out the human genome and other key biotechnical instruments. And Paul Anastas, who worked at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the 1990s, is being recognized for encouraging companies to adopt environmentally benign chemical processes. The full list of Heinz award winners is at


    COOL IT. Since 2004, David Shearer has enjoyed yearly visits to the Burning Man festival, which draws more than 35,000 revelers, artists, and anarchist tent-dwellers to Nevada's Black Rock Desert in early September. But last year, the epidemiologist-turned-environmental consultant decided to take the event's Leave No Trace principle one step further.


    He calculated the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from the actual burning of the man statue, a yearly highlight. The growth, transport, and burning of the wood in the 38-ton statue, Shearer found, produced 110 tons of equivalent carbon emissions. To offset those emissions, he and a colleague, Jeff Cole, began raising money for renewable-energy projects such as methane capture in Pennsylvania and wind farming in South Dakota. Their site,, has topped its initial goal of $1200.

    Now, Shearer is encouraging participants to purchase similar credits to offset travel to the festival, onsite energy use, and the ubiquitous fire art that pervades the festivities. “I'm trying to rebrand the idea of being cool,” he says.

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