ananyo writes: "Europe’s space chiefs are hailing the two-day meeting at which research ministers hammered out Europe’s priorities in space as a success, despite them getting less money than they had hoped. At the 20–21 November meeting in Naples, Italy, the ministers agreed to give the European Space Agency (ESA) €10.1 billion (US$13 billion) over the next several years, somewhat less than the total €12 billion cost of the project proposals considered at the meeting. With flat funding of about €500 million per year for 2013–17, the scientific programme takes a cut in real terms, although it is not yet clear which missions will be affected as a result. But ministers did agree on a way forward for the Ariane program. Germany argued that ESA should continue to develop an upgraded version of the rocket known as Ariane 5 Midlife Evolution (5ME), which can carry payloads 20% heavier than its namesake and could put satellites in higher orbits. But France believed it was better to start building a new Ariane 6 rocket that would be cheaper to launch and therefore more competitive. In the end it was agreed that both projects should be developed over the next couple of years — with funding of about €600 million — and then both will be reviewed in 2014, with the goal that Ariane 5ME will launch in 2017 or 2018. For robotic exploration, meanwhile, there is mixed news. On 19 November, ESA’s ruling council approved the involvement of Russia in the agency’s twin ExoMars missions to measure trace gases in Mars' atmosphere and search for signs of life on the planet's surface, scheduled for launch in 2016 and 2018. The Russian space agency Roscosmos will provide two Proton rockets for the lift-off and so plug some of the funding gap left when NASA pulled out of the mission last year. But just ahead of the Naples meeting, Germany announced that it would abandon plans for a lunar lander because it could not gather enough support from other member states to pay for the €500-million mission."
ananyo writes: "Bucking a trend of cutting science seen elsewhere, the French government has committed to increasing spending on research and development in its draft austerity budget for 2013. France's education and research ministry gets a 2.2% boost under the proposed budget, giving it a budget of just under €23 billion (US$29 billion). Most other ministeries get a cut. The upshot of the cash increase is that 1,000 new university posts will be created, no publicly funded research jobs will be cut and funding for research grants will rise (albeit less than inflation) by 1.2% to €7.86 billion. The move to spend on science during a recession is notable and means that French politicians understand that a sustainable commitment to public spending on science is vital for long-term economic growth. The situation is in stark contrast to that in the US and in the UK, where a recent policy to boost hi-tech industries, unveiled with much fanfare, failed to do much for science. Meanwhile, in Australia, there's alarm over proposals to freeze research grants— a step that could jeopardise 1700 jobs."
ananyo writes: "Science will not play a decisive role in the US election. But for those who care, Nature has taken a look at what voters can expect from the Republicans if they win the election: Romney’s choice of Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate is the latest sign that the Republican party is ready to push for big changes. As chairman of the House of Representatives budget committee in the current Congress, Ryan has crafted a federal spending plan that contrasts sharply with that of President Barack Obama, whose budget requests have largely maintained science and technology funding as an economic investment. If carried out, Ryan’s plan could cut spending on non-defence-related research and development by 5%, or $3.2 billion, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Ryan’s economic plan voices support for “basic research and development”, but would pare back spending in applied research and projects “best left to the private sector”. Science advocates worry that this might include research such as clinical trials sponsored by the National Institutes of Health for therapies from which the drug industry would be unlikely to profit. Even among his Republican colleagues in the House, Ryan stands out in his opposition to environmental regulation. In addition to opposing funding for the listing of plants and animals under the Endangered Species Act and Obama’s push for the development of alternative-energy technologies, Ryan, through his budget plan, takes aim at the Environmental Protection Agency for its measures to regulate carbon emissions."
On Thursday, Romania’s 11-strong National Ethics Council (NEC) rejected the plagiarism charges against Ponta. One day later, a 13-member ethics commission set up by the University of Bucharest — which awarded Ponta his PhD — reaffirmed the charges.
ananyo writes: "From the Nature story: "Hungary’s Medical Research Council (ETT), which advises the government on health policy, has asked public prosecutors to investigate a genetic-diagnostic company that certified that a member of parliament did not have Roma or Jewish heritage. The MP in question is a member of the far-right Jobbik party, which won 17% of the votes in the general election of April 2010. He apparently requested the certificate from the firm Nagy Gén Diagnostic and Research. The company produced the document in September 2010, a few weeks before local elections. Nagy Gén scanned 18 positions in the MP’s genome for variants that it says are characteristic of Roma and Jewish ethnic groups; its report concludes that Roma and Jewish ancestry can be ruled out." The test is of-course nonsense, and notions of 'racial purity' have long been discredited."
ananyo writes: It’s official: nuclear power will have a much smaller role in Japan’s energy future than was once thought. Since the meltdowns and gas explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station in March 2011, all of Japan’s remaining reactors have been shut down for inspections and maintenance.The government offered a glimpse of their future, and that of the country’s nuclear power in general, when it published an outline of four ways to satisfy Japan’s future energy demands. One scenario recommends using a market mechanism to determine the nuclear contribution. Under the other three, nuclear power would supply at most one-quarter of Japan’s energy by 2030 — and in one case, none at all. The scenarios come from a 25-person advisory committee to the industry ministry. The sharp reductions in the nuclear power part of the country's energy mix mean that Japan will struggle to reach the 31% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions that it had planned by 2030.