ERC’S New Secretary-General on Women in Science and “Fair Trade”

first_imgSpanish economist Andreu Mas-Colell, 65, took over on 1 July as secretary-general of the European Research Council (ERC), a relatively new science funding agency. In that position, he’s the representative of ERC’s Scientific Council, which sets scientific policy at the Executive Agency, the Brussels office that runs the funding body. Mas-Colell, who worked at the University of California, Berkeley, and Harvard University for 23 years, has been a professor at Barcelona’s Universitat Pompeu Fabra since 1995, and was science minister for the region of Catalonia from 2000 until 2003.Mas-Colell arrives at a hectic time for the 3-year-old granting agency. On Wednesday, the Executive Agency reached “administrative autonomy,” a position that puts it at a greater distance from the European Commission. Next week, a blue-ribbon panel will unveil a crucial review of ERC’s structure and procedures. At the end of the month, ERC will issue the third call for its popular Starting Grants. In an interview this week, Mas-Colell stressed that ERC wants to do more help young researchers, especially women. The following questions and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.Q: You had a long academic career in economics. Why the switch to science administration?A.M.-C.: I worked in the United States until I was about 50 years old. You arrive at a point where it makes sense to devote time to the management of science, to try to facilitate the life of younger scientists. For me it was most attractive to do that in Europe. I feel very European, which is why I moved back to Spain. I have been very active in promoting science in Catalonia; the opportunity to do this at the European level is simply irresistible.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Q: Any new organization has growing pains. What have been the problems with ERC so far?A.M.-C.: The ERC has been growing at a dizzying rate, from two or three people to 200, in a few years. We have had to learn a lot along the way, and of course there have been many, many glitches—but I think they have been minor. We are making some adjustments, however. For instance, we’re hoping to introduce a new type of grant, Consolidators Grants, in addition to our Starters Grants and Advanced Grants.Q: What’s the reasoning behind that?A.M.-C.: Starters Grants are available for people up to 10 years after they obtained their Ph.D. But the review panels told us that there’s too much difference between people with, say 3 or 4 years of experience and those with 8 or 9. The latter group is more independent, and they tended to have a better chance of winning. As a result, the early starters didn’t have as much of a chance as they should have. By reserving a portion of the grants for them, we hope to change that.Q: The first two calls have been criticized because the vast majority of the grants went to scientists from northwest Europe and to men. Do you see that as a problem?A.M.-C.: It’s true that the twelve countries who recently joined the European Union had very low success rates. What can we do about it? Let me tell you what we can’t do: change the rules. We are driven by excellence, and that will not change. That said, I think the situation is bound to improve. Countries can use other forms of financing, such as the E.U.’s structural funds, to improve their scientific infrastructure. Spain has done that for over 15 years and Spain is not doing badly in the grants. Eastern Europe has a deep scientific tradition and there’s no reason to believe they are not capable of winning grants.The situation with women is different, and we need improvement. But you have to distinguish two different things: the submission of grants and the selection process. For the 2007 Starters Grants, 30% of the submissions came from women; it’s even a bit lower, 28.8%, in the 2009 round, whose numbers have not yet been announced. For the 2008 Advanced Grants, it was 14%. Those numbers are worrisome, and we will keep campaigning and networking to increase the percentage. As to the selection, 26% of the Starters Grants went to women, and 11.6% of the Advanced Grants.Q: Do you mean to say that there is no bias in the selection process?A.M.-C.: Well, the percentage of grants awarded to women is slightly lower than the percentage of submissions, and we worry about every percent. We’re doing a structural analysis, panel by panel, to make sure there is not any built-in bias in our system. I hope the change in the calls that I mentioned will also help. Perhaps by making more grants available for scientists with 2 to 6 years experience, the playing field will become more even for women. When you get to 8 or 9 years of experience, perhaps men have had more of a chance to build up a track record because they concentrate more on their work. But this is speculation on my part.Q: At a recent meeting, ERC President Fotis Kafatos said that the number of advanced grants would stay roughly the same from now on. Many scientists had hoped it would keep going up.A.M.-C.: Our resources will reach a steady state. From the very beginning, the ERC has regarded the cultivation of young talent as absolutely crucial to the future of European science. For example, if we want to bring back talent that’s currently abroad, it’s easier to do that in an early phase, when they haven’t yet consolidated their careers. But the number of advanced grants won’t go down.Q: You have lived in the United States for more than 25 years, How has that influenced your views on science policy?A.M.-C.: I suppose it has shaped them. First and foremost, I totally subscribe to the ERC’s vision of excellence-based research rather than using other criteria, such as geographic region. I know that will be good for Europe because I have seen that it’s good for the U.S. I also think it’s good to organize this at the European level; the National Science Foundation also operates at the federal level. But we’re still tiny compared to U.S. institutions. We’re about one-fourth the size of NSF, which is one-fifth the size of the National Institutes of Health. We’ll always be smaller than they are, but we need to become bigger than we are now.Q: Europe can become the Massachusetts of the world, you said in the Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia. What did you mean by that?A.M.-C.: Demographic predictions say that in 2050, roughly 4% to 5% of the world population will live in Europe—that’s similar to the percentage of U.S. people living in Massachusetts. And yet Massachusetts is a reference for higher education and research, not just in the U.S. So it’s a legitimate ambition for us to become a central point for research and higher education. The accumulation of talent is going to be central in that. It’s perfectly normal that Europeans develop their careers outside of Europe, but it should be similarly natural that non-Europeans develop their careers here. There has to be a balance, and if possible a surplus.Q: You have also proposed the idea of “fair trade” in attracting talent. Can you explain?A.M.-C.: I was talking about recruiting scientists from the developing world. We should help them develop their careers, for instance by making it easy for them to travel and obtains visas. But the developing world needs its scientists too. We have to make sure that we set up and finance institutes in those countries, set up twinning arrangements with institutes in Europe, and so forth. For them, it should not be like stepping in an elevator and never going back. We have to think of this as creating corridors instead.last_img read more

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Negotiators Agree on Biodiversity Pact in Nagoya

first_imgDelegates from 179 countries meeting at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan, agreed to “take effective and urgent action to halt the loss of biodiversity” to try to ensure the resilience of ecosystems by 2020. They also adopted agreements to generate financing to support these efforts and to share the proceeds of the commercialization of genetic materials with the countries of origin. “It’s a pretty good deal,” says James Leape, director general of the conservation organization WWF. The agreements adopted at the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 10) to the 1992 CBD took years of preparatory work, 2 weeks of negotiations in Nagoya, and a final plenary session that ran past 2 a.m. local time on 30 October. Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) In addition to calling for urgent action on biodiversity loss, the strategic plan sets 20 specific targets to achieve by 2020. Key targets include conserving in protected zones at least 17% of the world’s terrestrial and inland water areas and 10% of coastal and marine areas, halving the rate of loss of all natural habitats, including forests, and preventing the extinction of known threatened species. Other targets call for eliminating subsidies harmful to biodiversity, managing fisheries sustainably, and minimizing anthropogenic pressures on coral reefs. Conservationists had wanted 20% of terrestrial areas to be protected and had hoped protection would be extended to the high seas. But WWF’s Leape calls the adopted targets “a big step forward.” Countries largely missed targets to stem biodiversity loss set for 2010. To avoid another failure, the strategic plan calls for countries to describe to the convention national plans to achieve targets and to report progress. “This will allow for corrective action in a timely way,” says John Fitzgerald, policy director for the Society for Conservation Biology in Washington, D.C. Negotiators also agreed to increase funding to support the efforts of the strategic plan, though specific targets for percentages or amounts are to be worked out by the time of the COP 11 meeting, scheduled for 2012 in New Delhi, India. The third key agreement is a new protocol to ensure that benefits flow back to countries and indigenous peoples who supply genetic resources that are commercialized. Developing countries had wanted the provisions of the access and benefit-sharing protocol to apply retroactively. They had also hoped for the agreement to specifically assign responsibility for tracking the use of genetic materials to patent offices, research universities, scientific journals, and other “checkpoints.” Retroactivity was stripped from the final text, though the agreement now calls for the investigation of a “global multilateral benefit-sharing mechanism” to address cases where plant or animal resources were commercialized prior to the new agreement. And how to enforce compliance will be left up to each country. “It is not the text we would write ourselves, but it is a good compromise,” says Paulino Franco de Carvalho, head of the Brazilian delegation. Among other business, delegates agreed to call for a moratorium on geoengineering schemes and to endorse a request to the United Nations General Assembly to create an Intergovernmental Science-policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services that would produce scientific assessments on biodiversity issues much as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change works on the science of climate change. “We’re quite excited about this, it’s really needed,” says Thomas Elmqvist, an ecologist at Stockholm University and a member of the Swedish delegation.last_img read more

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Japan’s Research Whalers Head Home Early

first_imgTOKYO—Japan officially called an early halt to this year’s research whaling expedition to Antarctic waters, blaming the activist group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society for making it impossible to continue. “From the standpoint of securing the lives of the crew and the safety of property and the ships, halting the investigation is unavoidable,” Michihiko Kano, Japan’s agriculture minister, said at a press briefing here this morning. Shortly thereafter, Sea Shepherd declared it “Victory in the Southern Ocean Day” for whales. Speaking in Tokyo last December, Sea Shepherd’s Scott West said the group’s objective in using speedboats to harass Japan’s whaling ships was to “sink that fleet economically” by making it too costly to accomplish its mission. This is the seventh consecutive year Sea Shepherd has chased Japan’s whalers through the southern oceans and, in terms of reducing the number of whales taken, possibly the most successful. Japanese media reported that the fleet captured only 172 whales, far short of the target of 900. There has been an international moratorium on commercial whaling since 1985, but Japan relies on a clause that allows whales to be taken for research to catch hundreds of minke and smaller numbers of other species each year. After researchers take samples to determine the whale’s age, stomach contents, the amount of heavy metals accumulated in tissue, and other data, the meat is sold with proceeds subsidizing the whaling expeditions. Critics contend the data could be collected through non-lethal means. Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research, which conducts the annual hunts, has documented on its Web page what it calls Sea Shepherd’s “illegal harassment and terrorism” over the past 6 weeks. The International Whaling Commission (IWC), which oversees the commercial whaling moratorium, last year floated a proposal to close the research loophole but allow Japan, Norway, and Iceland to hunt a limited number of whales. But at the annual IWC meeting in Agadir, Morocco, last June, action on the plan was deferred for a year to allow the heated debate to cool down.last_img read more

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Fukushima Radiation Update

first_imgTOKYO—At a press briefing today Keiichi Nakagawa, a radiologist at University of Tokyo Hospital, predicted that the radiation emanating from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant will have a negligible effect on public health. But those working to contain the radiation leaks and quench the fires face an increased risk of cancer, particularly since the government raised the allowable exposure limit yesterday. Nakagawa said that normally nuclear power plant workers in Japan are limited to accumulated radiation doses of 100 millisieverts. But as an emergency measure, the ministry of health on Tuesday raised that to an accumulated 250 millisieverts. Nakagawa says that at that higher level of exposure, the workers will likely face a 1% or more increased risk of cancer. “It’s only a risk, but they are now carrying a heavier risk of cancer,” he said. Radiation levels of 400 millisieverts per hour were recorded within the site on Tuesday. But workers are wearing protective clothing, working in brief shifts and being occasionally pulled off the site to limit accumulated exposure. Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) Nakagawa explained that the situation in the local community is significantly different. Residents have been evacuated from within 20 kilometers of the stricken power plant and those between 20 and 30 kilometers away have been warned to stay indoors. Radiation within the 20- to 30-kilometer belt has been 10 to 20 microsieverts per hour. But indoor levels are likely to be just one-tenth of outdoor levels. At 1 microsievert per hour, it would take 11 years of exposure to get an accumulated dose of 100 millisievert, a level that can cause an increased risk of cancer. “For the general public, definitely there will be no health impact,” he said. And for those as far away as Tokyo, he said that he “wouldn’t be worried” even in the case of a core meltdown. In 1999, Nakagawa was involved in treating two employees of JCO, a nuclear fuel cycle company, whose mishandling of uranium resulted in massive doses of radiation. Both employees eventually died. Nakagawa said that an accumulated dose of 4 sievert kills 50% of those exposed within 60 days. A dose of 1 sievert produces nausea and vomiting. Accumulated exposure of more than 250 millisieverts can cause the loss of white blood cells, and exposure of 100 millisieverts produces an increase in the risk of cancer of about 0.5%.last_img read more

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Sumatra’s Tsunami Research Center Seeks Help

first_img Jacopo Pasotti When a large earthquake struck Indonesia’s Sumatra island on 11 April, people in the city of Banda Aceh immediately began to run away from the coast, fearing that a giant wave could surge from the ocean, destroy houses in the city, and take lives. Rushing away from the coastline, even before a tsunami alarm sounds, is an understandable legacy of the devastating quake-triggered tsunami that struck the same area on 26 December 2004, killing about 240,000 people. But last year, not everyone in the city reacted quickly to the quake, or in the right way, notes Ella Meilianda, a civil engineer at the Syiah Kuala University in Aceh who also works at the Tsunami and Disaster Mitigation Research Center (TDMRC) set up in Banda Aceh after the 2004 disaster. “Early warning systems worked, but the city was not ready to react to an emergency,” she says. “People avoided the new evacuation buildings [three-story quake resistant buildings accessible at any time in case of emergency]. Instead of escaping vertically, they preferred escaping horizontally. They jumped on motorbikes, cars, and got stuck in the labyrinthine roads of Aceh. … Few persons have been trained in dealing with hazards.” That’s why Meilianda and others are concerned about the financial woes now facing TDMRC, which has conducted a variety of research, such as modeling the impacts of tsunamis on Banda Aceh, and developed programs to educate schools and other groups about how to react to earthquakes and the immense waves they can trigger. TDMRC was created out of the same huge $650 million fund, created by the European Union, World Bank, and various countries, that has paid for much of the remarkable reconstruction that occurred in Aceh since 2004. But that so-called Multi Donor Fund will conclude at the end of the year, leaving TDMRC with no budget to continue doing research. Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) Keeping the organization running for the next 5 years would require raising €1 million, according to its director, Muhammad Dirhamsyah. He says the local government still plans to kick in 10% of the center’s roughly €200,000 budget this year—”enough to keep offices running”—and he hopes to get another 20% from national funding. But to keep conducting research and running most of its other programs, TDMRC still needs donations to make up the other 70% of its annual budget. The 2004 Aceh tsunami “is a warning for us to regain knowledge that is important to be passed to the next generation,” Dirhamsyah says. “TDMRC could become the center of excellence of tsunami and disaster mitigation research studies in this sector of the Indian Ocean.” Meilianda points out that Indonesia rests on the meeting point of three tectonic plates, leaving the majority of the coasts vulnerable to tsunamis. “We need to look forward. We live in a risky region: Earthquakes are frequent, tsunamis may still occur,” she says “Now we have tools that in many other disaster-prone regions are in place since decades. For example, we have produced the hazard risk-mapping for the province of Aceh, which includes all elements of risks, not only earthquakes and tsunamis, but also flooding, coastal erosion.” Meilianda now hopes to improve Banda Aceh’s evacuation plans by drawing on geomorphological studies of the coastal area, indigenous knowledge, and archaeological history that might reveal how past tsunamis have affected the region. The center has also been monitoring continental plate movements using GPS and researching socioeconomic aspects of the community recovery process after the tsunami disaster. Such studies were not possible until now, Meilianda says, due to centuries of colonialism and the past 30 years of conflicts and political unrest in the Aceh region. Disaster centers in the world are rare, notes Yasuo Tanaka, past director of the Kobe University’s Research Center for Urban Safety and Security in Japan, which was set up in response to the 1995 earthquake that claimed the lives up 6000 people in the city of Kobe. Yet such centers play a key role in disaster mitigation and prevention studies, he suggests. The Kobe center, for example, develops studies on how to manage, communicate, and assess natural hazards. “Kobe University and Syiah Kuala University in Banda Aceh [to which TDMRC is connected] are both academic institutions which were in the heart of disaster,” Tanaka says. “We have a duty of both contributing to the local society as well as of carrying out research. Other institutions seldom help the reconstruction of local society in a long term.” Tanaka suggests that a key contribution of a local university in or near a disaster area is archiving postdisaster scientific efforts. Also important, he says, is documenting the societal changes that result “so that [the] outside world can see how the disaster affects the society and individuals so differently depending on their social, cultural, and historical backgrounds.” Kobe University has a library for archiving all records of the 1995 Kobe earthquake, for example. Earthquake-related natural “disasters in Italy, Haiti, and Japan have changed and affected their societies, but all differently. Without understanding these differences, we cannot communicate and help each other,” Tanaka says. Meilianda notes that her ancestors in Aceh have retained few records noting past natural disasters, perhaps because any records were destroyed by past tsunamis or by the various wars that have long plagued the region. If TDMRC can be placed on a stable financial future, she hopes that the organization can provide a base line of information to help make future disasters less deadly. Ella Meilianda of Syiah Kuala University and the Tsunami and Disaster Mitigation Research Center last_img read more

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Richard III’s Skeleton Found in Parking Lot

first_imgEnding months of speculation, a team of scientists at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom has concluded “beyond reasonable doubt” that human remains found in a parking lot in the city last year are those of Richard III, who reigned over England from 1483 until his death in 1485. Archaeologist Richard Buckley announced the findings at a press conference in Leicester this morning. The scientists on the panel hugged, and attending journalists whooped and clapped after the announcement. Although local legend had it that the monarch’s bones had been tipped into the river, some scientists were convinced he was still buried at a Franciscan monastery in Leicester. That monastery had been demolished in the 16th century, however, and researchers looking for Richard III found his remains below a modern-day parking lot last summer. Within days of discovering the church’s walls, archaeologists dug up a skeleton in a small grave. A team of scientists then set to work trying to prove whether these were indeed Richard III’s remains. Close examination of the skeleton yielded some clues. It showed the individual was male, in his late 20s to late 30s, and had a feminine build, all of which squared with historical sources, osteoarchaeologist Jo Appleby of the University of Leicester said at the press conference. Richard III died at age 32 at the Battle of Bosworth Field. The battle ended the bloody civil war known as the Wars of the Roses as well as the Plantagenet line of kings, and it established the House of Tudor as the new English dynasty. Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) The fighting left its marks on the body. The skeleton sports 10 wounds, eight on the skull and two on the rest of the body. Two of the wounds were particularly severe, a large hole at the back of the skull where a halberdlike weapon sliced off part of the head and a smaller trauma on the base of the skull caused by a blade that penetrated the skull. “Both of these injuries would have caused almost instant loss of consciousness, and death would have followed quickly afterwards,” Appleby said. Other wounds are probably the result of postmortem mutilation. To identify the skeleton, scientists also extracted DNA from the teeth and a thigh bone and compared it to DNA from two living relatives of the king. The DNA in mitochondria—small, energy-producing structures in a cell—is passed on only from the mother. Michael Ibsen, a furniture maker from Canada, had already been identified as a direct descendant through the maternal line of Anne of York, Richard’s sister. The researchers at the University of Leicester found another descendant from an all-female line who asked to remain anonymous but donated DNA samples as well. A comparison of mitochondrial DNA from the two living relatives with that extracted from the skeleton produced a match, said geneticist Turi King of the University of Leicester at the press conference. “The results of the archaeological and osteological analysis, combined with the genealogical and genetic evidence, make for a strong and compelling case that these are indeed the remains of Richard III,” she said. It’s “a spectacular find and a great bit of research,” battle archaeologist Tony Pollard of the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom tells ScienceNOW. Finding the body of a king killed in battle is unique, he says; Richard III was the last English monarch to die in battle. “We need to forget ideas of heavily choreographed warfare in the middle ages. It was much more brutal than we thought.” The attention that the findings are generating is good for archaeology, he says. “It demonstrates there are still exciting things to learn.” But other scientists criticize the university for presenting short results that have not gone through peer review. Ross Barnett, an expert on ancient DNA at the Centre for GeoGenetics at the Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, says the evidence presented on DNA was not convincing. “There may be more data. There probably is. But what was presented of the DNA work falls far short,” he writes in an e-mail. “I think that sexy research like this is definitely deserving of a press conference, but my preference would have been for this to have occurred in tandem with publication of a peer-reviewed paper so that interested professionals and amateurs alike could instantly check up on what was being reported.” Richard III still labors under a bad reputation, in large part because of his portrayal as a villain in Shakespeare’s play of the same name. But historians have argued that that depiction was Tudor propaganda. The fact that the skeleton showed no signs of the “withered arm” mentioned by Shakespeare is proof to some that much of the story surrounding Richard III’s character is also fiction. Another contentious issue—what should happen with the king’s remains—seems to have been settled, however. Richard III will be reinterred at Leicester Cathedral probably early next year, the mayor of Leicester said.last_img read more

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Updated: Budget agreement boosts U.S. science

first_imgCongress today overwhelmingly passed the 2016 spending bill. The House of Representatives this morning voted 316 to 113, with a majority of Republicans and nearly all Democrats favoring the $1.1 trillion package for all federal agencies. The Senate concurred a few hours later with a vote of 65 to 33. President Barack Obama is expected to sign it into law later today.Early on 16 December, congressional leaders released the text of an omnibus spending bill that will fund all federal agencies for the rest of the 2016 fiscal year. We’ve taken a look at how individual agencies fared under the bill (see bullets below). Science has also compiled a table showing the budgets of key research agencies and programs.2016 spending bill gives NIH $2 billion raise, largest in 12 yearsAt long last, Congress to make R&D tax credit permanent U.S. Congress/OMB Animal advocates hail tougher oversight provisions White-nose bat study funded NASA/JPL-Caltech An ocean underneath Europa’s icy shell is a potential habitat for life. Count the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) among the winners in today’s budget agreement. The bill provides the agency with about $2.72 billion, not including $1.96 billion in anticipated user fees collected from companies applying for FDA review. The number is just shy of the president’s $2.75 billion request, and represents an increase of nearly 5% over 2015 levels. The bump is “pretty darned good in this environment,” says Steven Grossman, deputy executive director of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA.Lawmakers provided support for FDA’s contribution to two major research initiatives laid out in President Obama’s budget request. It would receive $8.7 million to extend its review of antibacterial drugs and oversight of antibiotics in livestock as part of the Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria (CARB) initiative, a national strategy that has prompted Congress to nearly double overall spending on antibiotic resistance across several agencies, to $774 million in 2016.The agency will also receive $2.4 million for its initial contribution to the new government-wide Precision Medicine Initiative aimed at ensuring the accuracy of genetic tests. (Yesterday, the agency launched precisionFDA, a web platform for diagnostics companies, researchers, and healthcare providers to validate genetic tests against reference materials and share their results.)Notably absent is a proposal adopted earlier this year by the U.S. House of Representatives that would have exempted many e-cigarette manufacturers from FDA’s pre-market review process if their products are already on the market before the agency issues its upcoming “final rule” to regulate them. The bill does allocate $1 million for a “contract” between the FDA’s  Center for Tobacco Products and the National Academy of Medicine to conduct a more thorough study of the health effects of e-cigarettes and suggest how federal funds should be spent on future e-cigarette research.In line with the views of most biomedical researchers, lawmakers struck a note of caution about the implications of new gene editing techniques that make heritable changes to human embryos. The bill forbids FDA from using funds in the bill to evaluate—or even “acknowledge the receipt of”—submissions for therapies based on research that modifies embryos. Such research is not currently eligible for NIH funding, and is still years from producing therapies that regulators would have to green light before they could be tested in humans.NASA science budget rises 6.6%Planetary science sees biggest boost with continued support for a Europa missionBy Eric Hand Prospects brighten for Department of Energy research A cow at the U.S. Meat National Research Center in Clay Center, Nebraska. Animal advocates hail tougher oversight provisionsBill clamps down on agricultural research, offers wins for wildlifeBy David GrimmToday’s spending bill covering all U.S. agencies contains some good news for animal advocates. Congress has asked for more oversight of facilities that conduct research on livestock, effectively ended the use of so-called “random source” cats and dogs in biomedical research, and rejected a number of provisions that would have made it harder to protect threatened wildlife.In perhaps its most dramatic step, Congress would withhold more than $57 million from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) if the ARS doesn’t update its animal care policies and ensure it has fully functioning Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees at 50-odd locations across the country. ARS came under fire early this year when The New York Times documented numerous cases of animal suffering and death at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (MARC) in southern Nebraska, where scientists have been trying to create larger and more fecund farm animals. The incidents included newborn pigs being crushed by their mothers, starving lambs, and cows forced to become pregnant with twins and triplets, sometimes resulting in deformed offspring. “Despite having nearly a year to address this matter, the [ARS] has provided a wholly inadequate public response to the allegations of animal mistreatment at MARC and it has been delinquent in providing necessary information and updates to the Committees,” legislators wrote in report language that accompanies the omnibus spending bill.“They were not grappling with the moral issues of using animals in research,” says Wayne Pacelle, the president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, which has pushed for the bill’s language. “They were doing ghoulish experiments that weren’t in the public interest.”The bill also appears to put the final nail in the coffin of using “random source” cats and dogs in biomedical research. These include animals procured from pounds and breeders, a pool that—at least in the past—has been suspected of including stolen and abused pets. In 2012, NIH stopped funding research on random source cats, and it followed with dogs in 2014. But those who sell these animals—known as Class B dealers—could still market them to labs that did not receive federal funding. Now Congress has said that it will not give money to the USDA to issue licenses to these dealers, effectively preventing them from selling any dogs or cats.“We’re happy with the outcome,” says Cathy Liss, president of the Washington, D.C.–based Animal Welfare Institute, which has lobbied for the language. “The system is coming to its end.”On the wildlife front, advocates are thrilled with what they didn’t see in the final spending bill. Earlier language had included provisions that would have delisted gray wolves in Wyoming and the Great Lakes from the Endangered Species Act, says Mary Beth Beetham, the director of legislative affairs at the Washington, D.C.-based Defenders of Wildlife. It also would have hampered protection of other threatened species and blocked tougher restrictions on the ivory trade. None of that language appears in the final bill. Congress is still blocking protections for two species of sage grouse, but overall the bill “is a major victory for wildlife,” Beetham says.The spending bill also repeats language from last year’s bill that denies funding for the inspection of horse slaughter plants. There haven’t been any such U.S. plants for nearly a decade, and the bill will prevent any from being opened, says Laura Bonar, the chief program and policy officer of Animal Protection of New Mexico, which calls such plants inhumane and bad for the environment. “I think it’s great that Congress saw the common sense regarding this issue.”Words are more precious than money for NSFBill sheds restrictive language on research prioritiesBy Jeffrey MervisHouse Republicans have backed off from a controversial attempt to set funding levels for specific disciplines within the National Science Foundation (NSF). They have also agreed to give NSF officials a freer hand in deciding whether a research proposal benefits society.The changes are contained in a budget agreement announced today that would give NSF a 1.6% increase, to $7.46 billion, in the 2016 fiscal year, which runs until 30 September. The added $119 million exceeds budget levels in separate bills that had stalled in the House and Senate. However, it falls well short of the 5.2% boost that President Barack Obama had requested in February for the agency.The original NSF language in the spending agreement, which covers all federal agencies, was crafted by Representative John Culberson (R–TX), chair of the spending panel that oversees the foundation. That version would have made NSF spend 70% of its research dollars on just four of its six research directorates, cutting funding by double digits to the geosciences and the social and behavioral sciences. Culberson and his colleagues, including the chair of the House science committee, Representative Lamar Smith (R–TX), had argued that the physical sciences, computing, biology, and engineering were more worthy of federal funding, an assertion that most scientific groups adamantly opposed. These groups also saw the House language as an unprecedented—and unwise—intrusion into the agency’s grantsmaking process.Today’s budget agreement contains no mention of any research allocation requirements, thus implicitly endorsing the value of all disciplines. “NSF is very pleased with the strong Congressional endorsement contained in the Omnibus Appropriations Act of the Foundation’s policies and priorities that support the Nation’s investment in science and engineering,” the agency said in a statement. “We are especially grateful for the removal of language that would have specified funding by scientific discipline.”Dropping that language puts the geosciences back in the good graces of Congress. But the social and behavioral sciences do receive a slap on the wrists: None of the $99 million in additional research dollars can be allocated to that directorate.A freeze is better than a steep cut, acknowledges Alan Kraut, executive director emeritus of the Association for Psychological Science. But such a “hollow victory” leaves much to be done, he adds. “The task for the year ahead,” Kraut says, “is to continue to demonstrate to those on the Hill what all of us in the community already know, that the nation’s most pressing problems—the violence of terrorism, economic well-being, learning and literacy, international negotiations, ethnic and minority group discrimination—all have at their core a social and behavioral base that simply cannot be addressed without the knowledge from the social and behavioral research that NSF supports.”The new spending measure also drops language that would have tied NSF’s grantsmaking process to a contentious bill that passed the House earlier this year setting out policy guidance for the agency. The America COMPETES Act, a reauthorization of laws passed in 2007 and 2010, contained a “national interest” checklist that every NSF grant had to satisfy. Smith and others said the provision was intended to promote “transparency and accountability.” The new spending bill modifies that language but reminds NSF that its abstracts describing each award must “articulate how the project serves the national interest.”In addition to the research bump, NSF received $14 million more than House and Senate panels had previously approved for educational activities. That’s still far below the administration’s request for a $97 million increase, however. Some of the money will be used to grow a scholarship program for students training in cybersecurity and to support the nation’s historically black colleges. A House provision requiring NSF to spend $30 million on an initiative for institutions with large Hispanic enrollments was dropped; NSF officials say existing programs are already reaching that target population.NSF was also ordered to deliver a report within 180 days of the cost to complete and operate its troubled National Ecological Observatories Network (NEON). Legislators also asked NSF to provide “greater oversight” of NEON and other large new facilities. FDA gets 5% bump and ban on gene editing Lawmakers called for more health research on e-cigarettes. www.vaping360.com The budget for DOE’s science wing includes seed money for several new projects, including a major expansion of the Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. NASA science budget rises 6.6% In other provisions, the bill would give the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), the department’s main competitive grants program, a 7.7% boost to $350 million. That’s less than the $450 million requested by the White House. But farm scientists pushing to boost AFRI’s budget to $700 million by 2018 hope the bump signals better times ahead. Overall, USDA’s Agricultural Research Service gets a roughly 1% boost to $1.144 billion.The massive spending bill also includes several policy and tax provisions. Democrats failed in their attempt to lift a de facto ban on research into gun violence by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But legislators did agree to make permanent and expand the tax credit for new research investments by companies. That move ends decades of uncertainty and political brinksmanship: Since Congress created the credit in 1981, lawmakers have allowed it to lapse six times—most recently last year—and have temporarily extended it 17 times.The House and the Senate must still vote on the bill, with debate expected to last until at least the end of the week. In the meantime, Congress is expected to vote today on another 5-day extension of current spending levels to avoid a government shutdown at midnight.—With reporting by David Malakoff.2016 spending bill gives NIH $2 billion raise, largest in 12 yearsBill also includes 60% bump for Alzheimer’s research By Jocelyn KaiserOne of the biggest winners in the 2016 omnibus spending bill is the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It is slated to receive a $2 billion boost, to $32.1 billion. That 6.6% increase is the largest that NIH has received in 12 years.The increase matches the amount approved by a Senate spending panel in June and doubles what President Obama had requested back in February. It’s “an amazing outcome for NIH,” says Pat White, president of ACT for NIH, a group that lobbies for NIH funding. The bill “ends the downward spiral in funding for lifesaving biomedical research.” NIH has received only slight yearly increases, if any, since 2003, when Congress completed a 5-year doubling of its budget. Adjusted for inflation, its budget has fallen 22%.The bill includes $350 million in new spending for Alzheimer’s disease research, a 60% increase over the 2015 amount and well above the president’s request of $51 million. It contains the $200 million requested by Obama for his Precision Medicine Initiative, $85 million in new funding for the BRAIN Initiative, and a $100-million boost for NIH’s role in a federal initiative on antimicrobial resistance. The National Children’s Study (NCS) follow-on, a revamped version of a study that NIH scrapped last year, receives $165 million, the same amount allocated for the NCS in 2015.The rest of the increase is spread among NIH’s institutes and centers, most of which will receive a boost of roughly 4%.The bill preserves the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), which funds studies to improve health care delivery, but trims its budget 8%, to $334 million. The Senate appropriations committee had voted for a deeper, 35% cut, and the corresponding House spending panel had wanted to eliminate the agency. “We’re pleased that they rejected the House proposal,” says Dave Moore, senior director of the Association of American Medical Colleges, which had pushed to save AHRQ.At long last, Congress to make R&D tax credit permanentMove marks end of decades of uncertaintyBy David MalakoffEnding decades of uncertainty and political brinksmanship, Congress is poised to lock in a tax break for companies investing in research and development. Legislation unveiled today would make the so-called R&D tax credit permanent, and expand the number of companies that will qualify.The bill, which Congress is expected to approve later this week, would end the tax credit’s roller-coaster history: Since it was created in 1981, lawmakers have allowed it to lapse six times—most recently last year—and temporarily extended it 17 times. The uncertainty created by that pattern infuriated many businesses, and industry groups, economists, and research advocates have long pushed Congress to make the credit permanent.That idea won broad, bipartisan backing, but cost was a major obstacle. The credit currently costs the government some $7 billion in tax revenue annually, and analysts estimated that making it permanent would cost $100 billion to $150 billion over 10 years. But some economists argued those costs would be far outweighed by the benefits. One study released last year by three academic economists concluded that making the credit permanent could boost the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) by 0.16% annually, and add between 36,000 and 38,300 jobs each year.Such arguments appear to have finally swayed lawmakers, who included the permanent R&D extension in a much larger bill that extends or retools more than 50 tax provisions.“This announcement is a historic and very promising breakthrough,” said Dorothy Coleman of the National Association of Manufacturers in Washington, D.C., in a statement. “Short of comprehensive tax reform, this is one of the most significant steps Congress has taken in decades to improve our out-of-date tax code for businesses.”Just a year ago, a major effort to pass a tax bill that included a permanent R&D credit ended in chaos and partisan bickering on the floor of the House of Representatives. “This place is dysfunctional,” Representative Jim McDermott (D–WA) said at the time, adding that he was pessimistic about the credit’s future. “Everyone should take note of today, the third of December,” he said then, warning that “next year, right about this time, we will be right back here with the same bill.”He was right about the timing. Only this time, it appears the outcome will be far more to his liking.White-nose bat study fundedGeological Survey gets a small increaseBy David MalakoffThe U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) would get a $17 million increase, or 1.6%, to $1.062 billion.According a report accompanying the bill, the total includes an additional $500,000 to study white-nose syndrome, the fungal disease that has been killing millions of bats. The bill also provides $500,000 to study new and emerging wildlife diseases and adds $1 million to USGS’s $26-million volcano hazards programs, specifically to repair and upgrade systems that focus on monitoring “high-threat” volcanoes.Lawmakers rejected a White House request to build and launch a thermal imaging instrument that would have observed Earth’s surface, and they erased a $2-million cut from USGS’s minerals mapping program that the White House had proposed.FDA gets 5% bump and ban on gene editingBy Kelly Servick It’s the best day for space science in years: NASA’s science budget rises to $5.6 billion in the budget agreement that Congress reached today, a jump of 6.6% from 2015 levels. And as usual, NASA’s planetary science division, a favorite of key congressional appropriators, did best of all, with a 13.4% boost to $1.63 billion. Language in the bill directs the agency not only to apply $175 million to a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, but also that the mission should have a lander component.Casey Dreier, director of advocacy for the Planetary Society in Pasadena, California, says it’s the best budget the division has seen in a decade. “Pleased is an understatement,” he says.Like many federal agencies accustomed to skimpy budget increases, or none at all, NASA did well overall in the budget agreement, rising 7.1% to $19.3 billion. The boost was due to an earlier budget agreement that lifted spending caps across the federal budget, allowing appropriators some wiggle room.The planetary science division was a chief recipient. Part of the love stems from planetary science champions like Representative John Culberson (R-TX), who chairs the spending panel that oversees NASA. He has long been obsessed with getting a mission to Europa, which harbors a salty ocean under an icy shell—perhaps the best habitat for potential life elsewhere in the solar system.NASA formally began a mission earlier this year in the president’s 2016 budget request, after years of reluctance from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. However, the Europa mission is currently being designed as a spacecraft that will pursue a series of flybys. The new appropriations bill tasks the agency with including a lander component, which will add to the cost of the multi-billion-dollar mission. “The lander won’t be free,” says Dreier, who adds that the bill’s directive at least signals the support of Congress. The bill also directs that the mission launch no later than 2022, using the agency’s still-under-development Space Launch System rocket, a heavy lift vehicle that could power the Europa mission to Jupiter in a hurry.Also within planetary science, the bill boosts the budget of the low-cost, competitive Discovery program to $189 million, which is a good sign that the agency will be able to get on to a faster path with its launches. Planetary science division director James Green has said that a good budget would allow NASA to select two of five finalists in the most recent competition.NASA’s Earth science budget will be $1.92 billion, a rise of 8.4% from 2015 levels. “It could be a turning point,” says Lexi Shultz, director of public affairs at the American Geophysical Union (AGU). “It takes us out of the hunker-down mentality.”The Earth science division funding nearly matches the president’s budget request—a sign that the anti-climate science rumblings from House Republicans dissipated in the final reckoning. Last year, language was inserted into the final appropriations for the National Science Foundation (NSF) that limited some of its climate science research. Not only did that language disappear this year for the NSF, but none appeared in NASA’s Earth science division, Shultz says. “Part of the story is language that isn’t there,” she says.Dreier was also pleased to see the boost, since Earth science funding was often targeted as a way for Congress to support rises within planetary science. “We’re not pitting sciences against each other,” he says. “The overall pie is growing.” At an AGU town hall meeting today in San Francisco, NASA earth science division director Mike Freilich told scientists that “we ended up … [in] quite a good place.”One minor point of friction remains: The bill directs NASA to scrap plans for the Thermal-Infrared Free-Flyer, a $180 million mission that the White House proposed in February. It would be a backup, in infrared wavelengths, to the long-running Landsat Earth observation program. Instead, Congress gives NASA $100 million to pursue the development of Landsat-9 as a rough copy of its predecessor, which launched in 2013.In the astrophysics division, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) still dominates: It will receive $620 million in funding towards its 2018 launch, while the rest of the division gets $730 million, a rise of 6.7% over previous years. But there are also the first signs of life for the division, after JWST: Congress is giving NASA $90 million to begin work on the Wide Field Infrared Space Telescope, which will aid in the search to understand dark matter and dark energy.With a new lease on life, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) also continues to be funded, with $85 million for operations. In 2014, the administration tried to cancel the expensive, oft-criticized observatory, which contains a 2-meter telescope in the rear of a converted 747 jet. But Congress rushed to its aid. Bill language also orders NASA to give the mission a free pass from outside scrutiny of its scientific productivity. SOFIA will be excluded from the agency’s 2016 “senior review” of its astrophysics portfolio, because, in the eyes of appropriators, the mission has still not reached full operations.Heliophysics, the smallest of NASA’s four science divisions, is the only one to feel a budget squeeze. Its budget will drop 1.8%, to $650 million.NOAA research rises 4% in new budgetFinal agreement emphasizes commercialization over agency prioritiesBy Carolyn GramlingThe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) stands to receive $5.77 billion, an increase of 6% over current levels. That includes $462 million for the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR), the agency’s main research arm, a 4% increase.Several of the key requests in the White House’s budget were rejected, however. The budget provides only $58 million for climate research instead of the requested $89 million, and $10 million for ocean acidification research rather than the requested jump to $30 million.Lawmakers directed NOAA to set aside $80 million for construction of a new research vessel, just over half of the White House’s request for $147 million, but noted that they anticipate requests for additional funding for outfitting the vessel and developing new sensors in coming years. NOAA was also directed to enter into at least one pilot contract to “assess the potential viability of commercial weather data in its weather modeling and forecasting.” That could nudge NOAA into licensing agreements with companies such as Spire or PlanetiQ, which are deploying constellations of CubeSats that listen for GPS signals skimming through the atmosphere and turn that into valuable atmospheric data.The language also points to an ongoing struggle between NOAA and Congress over the management of fish stocks in the Gulf of Mexico. Legislators embraced a plan to push the state fishery boundaries of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama from three nautical miles offshore out to nine nautical miles (this was already true for Texas and Florida). It would effectively be extending the fishing season for those Gulf states by giving boats access to more territory under state control. The lawmakers also directed Congress to use independent fish stock assessments in addition to NOAA assessments when determining fish quotas.NOAA’s Polar Follow-on mission, intended to fill a pending gap in weather data, received $370 million. The language notes that NOAA’s mission for polar orbiting weather satellites “continues on a tenuous path.” It directs the administration to focus on staying on schedule and within budget for the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) to be launched in 2017.All things considered, the NOAA budget released today is “decently healthy,” says Jeff Watters, director of government relations at the Ocean Conservancy in Washington, D.C. Even some areas that weren’t highly funded – for example, ocean acidification research – still received a slight boost over the previous fiscal year. “It’s not the massive increase that the president requested, but it is a recognition that there’s a long way to go, in terms of what we need to know about this issue.”Lawmakers had also specifically mentioned that the National Ocean Policy (NOP) wouldn’t receive any funds in the FY16 budget – noting that no funds had been requested, either. The NOP was created in 2010 to improve environmental stewardship of U.S. coastal oceans and great lakes; in 2013, the White House announced an “implementation plan” for the policy intended to help translate its goals into specific actions coordinated among agencies. But the fact that it wasn’t included in this year’s budget – or even in the president’s budget – isn’t very surprising, Watters says, given that the same language has been in the last two appropriations bills as well. NOP is an executive order, he notes, not a specific budget line item, and many of the outlined actions in the implementation plan have already been completed. As a result, the remaining actions may simply not have been a priority in the current fiscal climate.“The more important thing to look at is NOAA’s overall funding level,” Watters says. Compared with earlier years, the budget isn’t flat, and it’s not reduced – and that means that its small gains add up to a general win. “It’s a reflection that people recognized that the science that NOAA does is crucially important across a range of issues.”  Nati Harnik/AP images Agreement reverses proposed cut in DOD basic researchAgreement puts Census Bureau back on track for planning 2020 headcountThese stories appear following this summary of the legislation.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)The National Institutes of Health (NIH) leads the way among U.S. science agencies getting increases in the final 2016 spending bill released today.NIH is the winner in absolute dollars. It gets a bump of $2 billion, or 6.6%, from its current budget of $30.1 billion. Spending on science programs at NASA would grow by 6.6%, to $5.6 billion, and rise by 5.6% in the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Science, to $5.35 billion. The National Science Foundation would receive an additional $119 million, or 1.6%, to $7.46 billion, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy would get a 6% boost, to $291 million.“It’s fantastic news. We’re beyond excited,” says Jennifer Zeitzer of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in Bethesda, Maryland. United for Medical Research, a Washington, D.C.–based lobbying group, says “this meaningful increase for NIH makes real progress toward catching up from the past decade of underfunding and keeping up with scientific advancements and public health needs.”With the exception of NIH, these final numbers are higher than what was contained in spending bills for individual agencies passed by panels in the House of Representatives and the Senate earlier this year. The increases were made possible by a late-October agreement between Congress and the White House that set overall spending levels for the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years. It added $50 billion this year to the $1.017 trillion spent in 2015, divided equally between civilian and military spending, and $30 billion in 2017. The agreement also negated the threat of a government shutdown this fall from conservatives unhappy with any increase in federal spending.There could be more to the story, however. Congressional leaders have not yet released the report language that accompanies the 2009-page omnibus spending bill. That language contains specific instructions to agencies about how to allocate their dollars. And those instructions could ruffle some feathers.In the meantime, Congress did spell out a few things in the overall bill itself. For example, NASA was given $175 million to continue work on a mission to Jupiter’s Europa moon, a pet project of Representative John Culberson (R–TX), who leads the House spending panel that oversees NASA. And DOE was told not to spend more than $115 million on the U.S. contribution to ITER, the international fusion reactor being built in France, until ITER officials present a new schedule for the troubled project. It also requires DOE to recommend, by May 2016, whether the U.S. should stay in ITER or withdraw. Oak Ridge National Laboratory/FLICKR NOAA research rises 4% in new budget Words are more precious than money for NSF Prospects brighten for Department of Energy researchCongress in rare agreement with White House request for Office of ScienceBy Adrian ChoFor the first time in years, Congress agrees with the White House on spending priorities for the Office of Science at the Department of Energy (DOE). In fact, the new budget agreement gives DOE science $7 million more than was requested by the president in February, bumping its 2016 budget up by 5.5% to $5.347 billion.”Honestly, in this environment, this is a pretty good set of numbers,” says William Madia, vice president at Stanford University for SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, California—one of 10 Office of Science national labs. Paul Alivisatos, director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, says, “Congress has given the nation an important holiday gift.”Energy research has been a perennial point of contention between the Obama administration and Republicans in the House of Representatives. But an October agreement that boosted overall levels for discretionary spending resulted in nearly $2 billion more for appropriators on the energy panels in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. In turn, legislators agreed to funnel more than 10% of it into the Office of Science, rescuing the office from what would otherwise have been flat funding in 2016.The concordance between the requested and finalized budget applies across most of the Office of Science’s six research programs. Advanced scientific computing research, which includes the office’s supercomputing efforts, would see its budget soar 15% to the $621 million requested. Similarly, the basic energy sciences program, which supports chemistry, condensed matter physics, and material sciences and runs DOE’s big x-ray synchrotrons and neutron sources, get a boost of 6.7% to $1.849 billion, as requested.Spending on high-energy physics rises 3.8% to $795 million, $7 million more than requested. Biological and environmental research would grow by 2.9% to $609 million, $3 million shy of the requested amount. Similarly, nuclear physics climbs 3.7% over last year’s budget to $617 million, $8 million less than requested.Congress took issue with only one White House priority, fusion energy sciences. Fusion has been a political football in recent years because of the exploding cost of the U.S. contribution to ITER, the enormous international fusion experiment under construction in Cadarache, France. The White House has proposed paying for the U.S. contribution to the multi-billion-dollar project by cutting the domestic fusion program. Senate appropriators, in particular Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), have tried to pull the U.S. out of ITER. In contrast, appropriators in the House of Representatives have stuck up for both ITER and the domestic program.This year, the fusion story is more nuanced. The new budget contains $438 million for the program, a cut of 6.4% from last year, but 4% more than the White House requested. However, Congress has limited U.S. spending on ITER to $115 million, down from $150 million in 2015. It also requires DOE to report on reforms to ITER management in February and August.Those numbers suggest that support in the House for the beleaguered project is starting to erode, says Michael Lubell, a lobbyist with the American Physical Society in Washington, D.C.: “I think the low number is a shot across the bow that says, ‘You better get your act together in the coming months, or Alexander and Feinstein will get their way and the project will go away.'”The fledging Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, whose mission is to quickly translate the best ideas from basic science into budding technologies, avoided falling victim to any partisan battles this year as well. Its budget is set to rise by 5.8% to $291 million, although that figure is $34 million below the president’s request. And DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program, which does much of DOE’s applied work on clean-energy research, would grow by 8.3% to $2.07 billion. That’s well short of the $2.72 billion requested, but much higher than the $1.95 billion and $1.66 billion specified in the Senate and House markups of the original bills.Although Congress mostly resisted the temptation to tinker with the budget details, it did give some specific projects a boost beyond the requested amount. The Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee will receive $10 million to design a long-sought second end station that would augment the facility’s capabilities and user capacity. And design work on a massive new neutrino experiment to be headquartered at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, will be accelerated by getting $26 million rather than the requested $16 million.Such a boost in new initiatives is sorely needed, observers say, especially after a 4% budget cut in 2013 put the brakes on new facilities. “There’s no question that we’ve lost some ground,” says Thom Mason, director of Oak Ridge. “Hopefully, what you’re seeing is a sign of willingness to invest more in exciting new projects.” Others aren’t as optimistic. “It’s a good budget,” Madia says. “But I don’t see it as a signal for sea change.”Agreement reverses proposed cut in DOD basic researchDepartment-wide research adds 1.4%; DARPA drops by 1%By David MalakoffSpending on basic research within the Department of Defense (DOD) will rise by 1.4%, to $2.31 billion, under the spending bill. At the same time, the budget for the department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) will dip by 1%, to $2.87 billion.The total for DOD basic research, labeled 6.1 in DOD jargon, should cheer research advocates and university groups because it more than reverses a cut of 8.3% proposed by the White House in its 2016 request earlier this year. That cut, which the Association of American Universities had assailed as “inconceivable,” triggered a campaign by university lobbyists to convince legislators of the value of basic research to national security. Senate appropriators heeded the call, and the final total is even $13 million above their mark. (The House of Representatives panel had essentially accepted the administration’s low-ball figure as part of a larger push to hold down federal spending.)The Pentagon is the nation’s major funder of basic research at universities in a number of fields, including computer science, mathematics, and some engineering disciplines. Some of that is funded by DARPA, which is tucked within the defense secretary’s office and independent of the research programs run by the three military services. Its 6.1 research program is barely 10% of the agency’s total, but it has been a key driver of essential technologies in several fields.—With reporting by Jeffrey Mervis.Agreement puts Census Bureau back on track for planning 2020 headcountAgency gets most of what it needs to test cost-saving approaches By Jeffrey MervisThe omnibus spending agreement erases deep cuts made earlier this year to the U.S. Census Bureau that would have crippled planning for the 2020 census. The new funding level gives the agency, part of the Department of Commerce, a much better chance of conducting a less expensive and less burdensome decennial census.In February the Obama administration requested $1.22 billion for the bureau’s periodic census program, which includes the decennial census and a major economic census conducted every 5 years. (The agency’s overall request was for $1.5 billion.) The 45% hike for periodics over the current $840-million level was aimed at ramping up for these cyclical activities.But the whopping increase was an irresistible target for lawmakers looking to constrain federal spending and halt the seemingly inexorable rise in the price tag of each census. (The 2010 enumeration cost $13 billion.) The House of Representatives not only removed all funding for planning the 2020 census, but also dropped its budget below the 2015 level. It also savaged the American Community Survey (ACS), a monthly exercise that surveys 3.5 million housing units each year and that many conservatives view as an invasion of privacy.The Census Bureau had requested $15 million above the $242 million needed to operate the ACS. The increase would let it test ways to ease the burden on census respondents and save money by a greater use of existing government databases, both lawmaker concerns. Instead, the House put a $200-million cap on spending for ACS, a level that would have precluded changes and forced the agency to actually reduce the survey’s sample size.The Senate spending panel was a bit more sympathetic. It gave the periodics account a $22-million bump that still would have left it $361 million below the administration’s request. And it told Census officials to continue using ACS as a “testbed” for planned changes to the 2020 Census that the agency hopes will save $5 billion.The final 2016 spending bill creates a much better path forward for the bureau. It provides $1.1 billion for the periodics program, a 31% increase that will let the agency maintain most of the momentum for the 2020 census. It also removes restrictions on how the bureau can spend that money, instead telling it to invest in “activities that have the greatest potential to reduce cost and risk for the 2020 Census, as well as activities to reduce survey respondent burden.”“It’s the best-case scenario in a tight fiscal environment,” says Terri Ann Lowenthal, a consultant to the Census Project, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group for researchers and others who use Census data. “Census stakeholders are pleased that the Bureau will have the flexibility to [use] its best judgment” in allocating its budget.Agency officials have 45 days to tell Congress how they plan to spend their 2016 budget. Lowenthal thinks the new levels will allow the agency to make progress on its twin goals of saving money and making its censuses more user-friendly.last_img read more

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Mexican scientists feel the Trump effect

first_imgEconomic turmoil could also harm industries that support innovation in Mexico. Many Mexican scientists and engineers work in auto manufacturing, aerospace, and pharmaceuticals. Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on cars assembled in Mexico, which has already prompted Ford to abandon plans for a new factory in San Luis Potosí. If foreign companies that have been hiring Mexicans with advanced degrees stop doing business in the country, “that would be a true disaster,” says Luis Herrera-Estrella, director of LANGEBIO. “It would cause terrible unemployment in Mexico.”Geography made us cousins. This is like breaking up a family.Carlos Gay, National Autonomous University Amid nationwide calls to support Mexican businesses and boycott U.S. firms, Lorenza Haddad sees a glimmer of hope. A Mexican geneticist who studied in the United States, she’s the CEO of Código 46, a new company in Cuernavaca that plans to offer genotyping services for personalized medicine to Mexican clients starting next month. “The way Mexico has been talked about lately, it puts us on the map a lot more than before,” she says.Chilly relations may also change the calculus for promising young Mexican scientists planning to go abroad. Like scientists from countries targeted by Trump’s immigration order, Mexican researchers who normally would come to the United States for graduate training or postdocs say they may find a warmer welcome elsewhere. In 2016 Conacyt awarded 1550 grants to graduate students and researchers studying in the United States, making it the No. 1 destination for Mexican scientists abroad. Santiago Rábade, who is working toward his master’s degree in earth sciences at UNAM, says that many peers are now considering pursuing degrees in the European Union or Japan—“where there is less anti-Mexican sentiment.” Rábade says he still plans to apply to doctoral programs at U.S. universities, but he is uneasy. “I’m making a major life decision. Is the United States really a good place to be for 5 years?” he asks. “It no longer seems like a friendly place.”“Geography made us cousins,” says UNAM climate scientist Carlos Gay. “This is like breaking up a family.”Additional reporting by Jeffrey Mervis. MEXICO CITY—For Andrés Moreno-Estrada, the news was welcome but the timing, terrible. Moreno-Estrada, who hunts for genetic variations linked to disease, recently learned that he had won a 13-million-peso grant from Mexico and the United Kingdom to sequence DNA from blood samples in a public health biobank. But 13 million pesos isn’t what it was before Donald Trump assumed the U.S. presidency. When the population geneticist at the National Laboratory of Genomics for Biodiversity (LANGEBIO) in Irapuato, Mexico, submitted his proposal in November 2015, the exchange rate was 16 pesos to the dollar, and his grant would have been worth $812,500. Now, the rate is 21 pesos to the dollar. “There’s no way I can do what I committed to,” he says, unless he raises more money.The fall of the peso, provoked in part by Trump’s insistence on building a border wall and making Mexico pay for it, is one contributor to the waves of angst sweeping through the Mexican science community. “Every time Trump tweets something about Mexico, the peso takes a hit,” says Daniela Robles-Espinoza, a cancer geneticist who is outfitting a new lab at the International Laboratory for Human Genome Research in Juriquilla, Mexico. As the dollar value of grants shrinks, so does buying power: Mexican scientists purchase most of the research materials and equipment they use from the United States. The peso depreciation also strains Mexican scientists hoping to travel to international conferences or publish in journals that require publication fees.Trump’s harsh stance toward Mexico has made scientists here nervous about the fate of U.S. funding for cross-border collaborations. “The worry is that [Trump] will limit, or perhaps end, some of the academic exchange we have,” either through new regulations or by cutting off money for collaborations, says Jaime Urrutia-Fucugauchi, a geophysicist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) here and president of the Mexican Academy of Sciences. The U.S. National Science Foundation currently supports about 200 projects with Mexican collaborators. Mexico’s National Council for Science Technology (Conacyt) said in a statement that “it is an opportune moment” to expand collaborations with other countries including the European Union and China.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)last_img read more

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Watch this robotic appendage give humans a third arm

first_img In the future, you may be less likely to ask a friend to lend a hand. That’s because you may have a mechanical one attached to your shoulder. Researchers have developed a roughly meter-long robotic arm for use in the workplace. Previous extra limbs have been complex and heavy, but the new one is more practical in several ways. For one, engineers reduced the number of joints from six to three with the use of a “granular jamming gripper.” Instead of a hand or clasp, the gripper is a balloon filled with styrofoam pellets and coffee grounds that conforms to objects and holds them tight when air is suctioned out. What’s more, the arm itself is made with lightweight carbon fiber and aluminum. And the body support resembles an external rib cage with hard and soft components providing both comfort and the ability to sense the arm’s load through pressure on the torso. Funded by Boeing, the arm was developed in part to help airplane assemblers install overhead bins and do other work above their heads, one of the leading causes of workplace strain and injury. The prototype arm, called Aucto, can support more than 20 kilograms, hold tools, and act as a third leg to free a worker’s arms when kneeling and leaning forward, the researcher reported last week at the Robotics: Science and Systems conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Further, once the user positions the arm, it uses force sensors, an algorithm, and motors to keep applying the same pressure to the same spot even as a worker moves around. The entire rig, including body support and battery, weighs 5.5 kilograms, carried mostly on the hips. Add three more arms and you can star in your own comic book as the real-life Doctor Aucto.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) By Matthew HutsonJul. 17, 2017 , 11:00 AM Watch this robotic appendage give humans a third armlast_img read more

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Spongelike crystal could make it easier for natural gas–powered cars to store fuel

first_imgA new methane storage material could speed the adoption of natural gas–powered vehicles. Spongelike crystal could make it easier for natural gas–powered cars to store fuel Immaterial Labs By Robert F. ServiceDec. 11, 2017 , 11:55 AM As an alternative automotive fuel, natural gas, or methane, doesn’t get a lot of attention. Millions of environmentally friendly, natural gas–powered vehicles cruise the world’s roads, but they still account for just a tiny fraction of new autos sold. In part that’s because they require bulky and expensive high-pressure tanks to store enough of the fossil fuel to meet drivers’ demands. Now, researchers have come up with a new material that’s able to store a large volume of methane at low pressure. If they can figure out how to make large quantities of the stuff, the material could spark the development of high-capacity gas tanks and propel wider adoption of natural gas–powered vehicles.Natural gas has some decided benefits as a fuel. Abundant underground in oil-rich geological formations, it typically costs less than gasoline for an equivalent amount of energy. Per mile of travel, methane also produces about one-third less climate-warming carbon dioxide than gasoline and diesel. But natural gas also has a big downside: It’s far less dense than liquid gasoline, so it takes up far more space. One liter of gasoline contains as much energy as 1000 liters of natural gas at ambient temperature and pressure. Fuel suppliers whack that enormous volume down by compressing the gas to about 250 times atmospheric pressure, or 250 bar. But containing the high-pressure gas requires specialized tanks that cost thousands of dollars and still fill up much of the trunk of a car.As an alternative to high-pressure tanks, researchers have created a variety of porous, spongelike crystalline materials that can soak up methane at a modest pressure and then release it when the pressure is reduced. One such family are materials called metal organic frameworks (MOFs), which are made up of metal atoms connected by organic linkers. One of the best such absorbents was a MOF created by researchers in Hong Kong, China, in 1999 and dubbed HKUST-1. It has been shown to store 180 cubic centimeters of gaseous methane per cubic centimeter of absorbent. That’s not bad, but it’s still well short of the target volume-to-volume ratio, or v/v, of 263 set by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), an amount equivalent to compressing natural gas to 250 bar at 25°C.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Now, the DOE target is in sight. Researchers led by David Fairen-Jimenez, a chemist at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, have come up with a simple way to make HKUST-1 more dense and increase its v/v to 259, essentially meeting the DOE target for the first time. “Everything started with a mistake from one of the Ph.D. students in the lab,” Fairen-Jimenez says. The group, he explains, was trying different recipes for converting their HKUST-1, which is normally a powder of tiny crystalline particles, into something called a sol-gel, a continuous network of those particles. Fairen-Jimenez’s student, Tian Tian, suspended a batch of HKUST-1 particles in an ethanol-based solution and put the solution in a centrifuge to drive out most of the solvent. He then planned to put the vials in an oven to dry, but accidentally left one vial under the vacuum hood overnight. That allowed the ethanol to evaporate out slowly, which turned out to be the key. The next morning Tian realized he was left with a highly dense HKUST-1 material. A few further tweaks to the recipe gave them the best methane storage absorbent made to date, the group reports today in Nature Materials.The simple approach is “very clever,” says Omar Yaghi, a chemist and MOF expert at the University of California, Berkeley. The new material can adopt different shapes, he notes, so gas tank manufacturers may be able to use it to replace conventional cylindrical tanks with rectangular ones, which make better use of a car’s limited storage capacity. Still, Yaghi says, researchers have a way to go before the stuff will be ready for the assembly line. “They need to get their [materials] to be a lot larger.”Fairen-Jimenez says his team has already succeeded in scaling up production from single gram quantities to 100 grams. He has also recently formed a company called Immaterial Labs to commercialize the new MOFs. If they succeed it could help give natural gas vehicles some new momentum to zip past their gasoline-powered rivals.last_img read more

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Dopamine may have given humans our social edge over other apes

first_imgMale chimpanzees signal their aggression when they display their big canines, in contrast with humans, who show small canines when they smile. Sergey Uryadnikov/shutterstock.com Humans are the ultimate social animals, with the ability to bond with mates, communicate through language, and make small talk with strangers on a packed bus. (Put chimpanzees in the same situation and most wouldn’t make it off the bus alive.) A new study suggests that the evolution of our unique social intelligence may have initially begun as a simple matter of brain chemistry.Neuroanatomists have been trying for decades to find major differences between the brains of humans and other primates, aside from the obvious brain size. The human brain must have reorganized its chemistry and wiring as early human ancestors began to walk upright, use tools, and develop more complex social networks 6 million to 2 million years ago—well before the brain began to enlarge 1.8 million years ago, according to a hypothesis proposed in the 1960s by physical anthropologist Ralph Holloway of Columbia University. But neurotransmitters aren’t preserved in ancient skulls, so how to spot those changes?One way is to search for key differences in neurochemistry between humans and other primates living today. Mary Ann Raghanti, a biological anthropologist at Kent State University in Ohio, and colleagues got tissue samples from brain banks and zoos of 38 individuals from six species who had died of natural causes: humans, tufted capuchins, pig-tailed macaques, olive baboons, gorillas, and chimpanzees. They sliced sections of basal ganglia—clusters of nerve cells and fibers in a region at the base of the brain known as the striatum, which is a sort of clearinghouse that relays signals from different parts of the brain for movement, learning, and social behavior. They stained these slices with chemicals that react to different types of neurotransmitters, including dopamine, serotonin, and neuropeptide Y—which are associated with sensitivity to social cues and cooperative behavior. Then, they analyzed the slices to measure different levels of neurotransmitters that had been released when the primates were alive.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Compared with other primates, both humans and great apes had elevated levels of serotonin and neuropeptide Y, in the basal ganglia. However, in line with another recent study on gene expression, humans had dramatically more dopamine in their striatum than apes, they report today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Humans also had less acetylcholine, a neurochemical linked to dominant and territorial behavior, than gorillas or chimpanzees. The combination “is a key difference that sets apart humans from all other species,” Raghanti says.Those differences in neurochemistry may have set in motion other evolutionary changes, such as the development of monogamy and language in humans, theorizes Kent State paleoanthropologist Owen Lovejoy, a co-author. He proposes a new “neurochemical hypothesis for the origin of hominids,” in which females mated more with males who were outgoing, but not too aggressive. And males who cooperated well with other males may have been more successful hunters and scavengers. As human ancestors got better at cooperating, they shared the know-how for making tools and eventually developed language—all in a feedback loop fueled by surging levels of dopamine. “Cooperation is addictive,” Raghanti says.Lovejoy thinks these neurochemical changes were already in place more than 4.4 million years ago, when Ardipithecus ramidus, an early member of the human family, lived in Ethiopia. Compared with chimpanzees, which display large canines when they bare their teeth in aggressive displays, A. ramidus males had reduced canines. That meant that when they smiled—like male humans today—they were likely signaling cooperation, Lovejoy says.However, it’s a big leap to prove that higher levels of dopamine changed the evolution of human social behavior. The neurochemistry of the brain is so complex, and dopamine is involved in so many functions that it’s hard to know precisely why natural selection favored higher dopamine levels—or even whether it was a side effect of some other adaptation, says evolutionary geneticist Wolfgang Enard at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in Germany. But he says this painstaking research to quantify differences in neurochemistry among primates is important, especially as researchers study differences in gene expression in the brain. Raghanti agrees and is now writing a grant to study the brain tissue of bonobos. By Ann GibbonsJan. 22, 2018 , 3:10 PM Dopamine may have given humans our social edge over other apeslast_img read more

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Alligators gobble rocks to stay underwater longer

first_img By Jake BuehlerFeb. 1, 2019 , 8:00 AM Alligators gobble rocks to stay underwater longer Alligators dine on many strange delicacies: sharks, kumquats, and stones. Scientists have long thought that, like birds, gators swallow stones to help them digest their tough-to-process meals, or accidentally ingest them in the chaos of consuming a live, thrashing dinner. But a new study supports another use for a belly full of rocks—as a way to boost bottom time on dives.Crocodylians—which include alligators, crocodiles, and caimans—spend most of their time in the water, stalking prey and escaping from predators. Anything they can do to maximize their time below the surface is an advantage, and some experts wondered whether rocks might also serve this purpose.To find out, researchers brought seven young American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) into their lab and measured how long they stayed submerged before and after they voluntarily swallowed a set of small stones. Each alligator took 42 dives—21 before and 21 after their flinty meal. The stones—which were only about 2.5% of the alligators’ body weight—seemed to make a significant difference, increasing dive time by an average of 88% and up to 35 minutes, the team reported last month in Integrative Organismal Biology.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)The researchers think the stones work like a scuba diver’s weight belt, letting alligators and crocs stay deep under the surface even when their lungs are full of air. And the greater the weight, the more air they can take in before they dive deep. Because the current study used juvenile alligators, which have lighter, more cartilaginous tissues, the researchers want to run it again in adults. But for now, it appears that the mystery stones aid these powerful reptiles in doing what they do best: lying in wait, and out of sight.center_img Peter Scoones/Minden Pictures last_img read more

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Mysterious asteroid activity complicates NASA’s sampling attempts

first_img NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin THE WOODLANDS, TEXAS—NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission to sample the asteroid Bennu and return to Earth was always going to be a touch-and-go maneuver. But new revelations about its target—a space rock five times the size of a U.S. football field that orbits close to Earth—are making the mission riskier than ever. Rather than smooth plains of rubble, Bennu’s surface is a jumble of more than 200 large boulders, with scarcely enough gaps for robotic sampling of its surface grit, the spacecraft’s team reported here today at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference and in a series of Nature papers.The $800 million spacecraft began to orbit Bennu at the start of this year, and the asteroid immediately began to spew surprises—literally. On 6 January, the team detected a plume of small particles shooting off the rock; 10 similar events followed over the next month. Rather than a frozen remnant of past cosmic collisions, Bennu is one of a dozen known “active” asteroids. “[This is] one of the biggest surprises of my scientific career,” says Dante Lauretta, the mission’s principal investigator and a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “We are seeing Bennu regularly ejecting material into outer space.”Ground-based observations of Bennu had originally suggested its surface was made of small pebbles incapable of retaining heat. OSIRIS-REx was designed to sample such a smooth environment, and it requires a 50-meter-wide circle free of hazards to approach the surface. No such circle exists, say mission scientists, but there are several smaller boulder-free areas that it could conceivably sample. Given how well the spacecraft has handled its maneuvers so far, “We’re going to try to hit the center of the bull’s-eye,” says Rich Burns, OSIRIS-REx’s project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)OSIRIS-REx has always been a cautious mission. Unlike the speedy Hayabusa2 mission from Japan, which sampled the near-Earth Ryugu asteroid a half-year after its arrival, OSIRIS-REx plans to sample Bennu in July 2020, a year and a half after it started to orbit. That timetable has not changed, Lauretta says. By this summer, researchers hope to have the sampling site selected. And much remains to be discovered about the spinning, top-shaped asteroid, starting with the plumes, which can shoot off penny-size particles at speeds of up to several meters per second.Just after OSIRIS-REx entered orbit around Bennu, the asteroid reached its closest approach to the sun. The other known active asteroids, which are all located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, have similarly spouted particles as they get closer to the sun. It’s possible that the plumes are related to this approach, perhaps driven by water ice sublimating into vapor. But there are a dozen different hypotheses to explore, Lauretta says. “We don’t know the answer right now.”The abundance of impact craters on Bennu’s ridgelike belly suggest the asteroid is up to a billion years old, more ancient than once thought. The craters also imply that Bennu got its toplike shape early in its history, rather than later from sun-driven spinning. And there are signs that material on the asteroid’s poles is creeping toward the equator, suggesting geological activity.Although many of these puzzles intrigue scientists, ultimately the point of the mission is to return the largest amount of asteroid material ever captured to Earth’s surface. That is expected to happen in 2023. But, Lauretta adds, “The challenge got a lot harder when we saw the true nature of Bennu’s surface.” Two merged images from 19 January show Bennu ejecting particles from its surface. By Paul VoosenMar. 19, 2019 , 5:35 PM Mysterious asteroid activity complicates NASA’s sampling attemptslast_img read more

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Yuvraj Singh gets dengue, to miss ODI

first_imgYuvraj Singh is down with dengue and has been ruled out of Monday’s match between India and Sri Lanka in the tri-series at Dambulla. Yuvraj will miss the Monday’s ODI.Yuvraj will not be playing due to a mild attack of dengue fever. Doctors said his condition was not serious but he would be out of action for a few days. Yuvraj hasn’t been put under isolation. He had been seen at the practice session on Saturday. Yuvraj’s absence will hit the Indian team as it’s already struggling with injuries to several of its players.last_img read more

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