Science  28 Sep 2007:
Vol. 317, Issue 5846, pp. 1845

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  1. Dam Californians

    1. Robert F. Service

    California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has fired the latest shot in the state's perennial battle over water. He's proposed a $9 billion bond measure to increase the state's water supplies by, among other steps, building two new dams in the north of the state and channeling water through or around the Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta. The environmentally sensitive delta is beset by crashing fisheries, pollution, and invasive species (Science, 27 July, p. 442).

    Schwarzenegger says the new water infrastructure is part of a “comprehensive fix.” But opponents say water conservation is a better solution. Science should help sort out the options, says Peter Moyle, a fisheries biologist at the University of California, Davis: “There's a lot we don't understand [about] how these plans will affect fish.”

  2. Pounds for Paws

    1. Elie Dolgin

    Britain's largest medical research charity hopes to help veterinarians keep up with the latest developments with a $22.5 million initiative to recruit them into research. In 2004, the U.K. government provided $43 million to boost the number of scientists trained to tackle challenges such as foot-and-mouth disease. But that program ends in 2009. Last week, the Wellcome Trust made awards to seven U.K. veterinary schools for efforts including summer courses and postdoctoral training. “This is an absolutely vital development,” says Christopher Stokes of the University of Bristol, one of the recipient universities.

  3. White House: Risk-Averse

    1. Erik Stokstad

    After getting slammed by the National Academies' National Research Council (NRC), the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has decided not to issue a controversial directive on risk assessment. The draft bulletin, released in January 2006, contained guidelines and technical standards on issues such as expressing uncertainties in federal risk assessments. But a subsequent NRC report requested by OMB called the approach “fundamentally flawed,” saying, for example, that it would require uncertainty analysis “beyond the current state of the science” (Science, 19 January, p. 316). In reversing the move, OMB has instructed agencies to follow “generally accepted principles for risk analysis” issued by the Clinton Administration. That's “good news for the science community,” says Rick Melberth of the advocacy group OMB Watch in Washington, D.C.

  4. Bank Withdrawal

    1. Jennifer Couzin

    Both U.S. senators from New York—Hillary Clinton (D) and Charles Schumer (D)—are demanding that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) create a gene bank at the University at Albany in New York state. The pair argues that the project was approved but that the VA never followed through. The idea has enormous potential: More than 7 million veterans could donate DNA. But for now it is tangled in controversy. After inking an agreement with the university nearly 4 years ago, the VA began to pursue a gene bank project on its own, upsetting the Albany group, which is led by cancer biologist Paulette McCormick (Science, 29 July 2005, p. 684). Last week Clinton and Schumer took up the case, suggesting in a letter to VA Secretary R. James Nicholson that “the Department may be using the concepts developed by Dr. McCormick to establish a gene bank in another location.” They urged the VA to set up a gene bank at SUNY-Albany.

    Joel Kupersmith, the VA's chief research and development officer, declined to comment on the dispute. But he says that although VA researchers are only collecting specimens for individual projects now, “our plan in the long run” is to assemble a vast store that could be used by outside investigators.

  5. NuSTAR Is Reborn

    1. Andrew Lawler

    NASA resurrected a mission to study black holes last week and now plans to orbit the spacecraft by 2011. The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) will use high-energy x-rays to image the areas around black holes that congregate at the center of galaxies. The space agency killed the idea in 2006 because of funding constraints. But NASA science chief S. Alan Stern said in a statement that he reversed that decision because “we're getting more and more from the science budget we have, and the restart of the highly valued NuSTAR mission is an example of that.” That's music to the ears of the researchers who thought all was lost for a mission originally slated for launch this year. “I'm personally incredibly excited,” says Caltech physicist Fiona Harrison, the principal investigator on the project.

    Not every project got good news last week. Stern also approved a plan to reduce the number and complexity of instruments on the Mars Science Laboratory because of cost overruns. That is raising howls from Mars exploration advocates. The Pasadena, California-based Planetary Society called the move “penny-wise and pound foolish.”

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