policy

Israel’s botanical gardens face funding crisis

Israel’s 11 botanical gardens are scrambling to cope with deep cuts in funding from the government’s agricultural ministry. Government spending on the gardens, which host research and education programs and are often associated with universities, is down by more than 50% this year. That’s a reprieve from a 98% cut that the ministry announced last year, but still a major blow for the gardens, which rely heavily on government funds to pay for basic operations.

“There were times this year when we couldn’t afford potting soil, or even printer paper,” says Tal Levanony, curator of Tel Aviv University’ in Israel’s botanical garden. “I’m not sure how the researchers will cope without support.” Read more in Science.

Brexit Vote Will Likely Cause Problems for UK Fishers

Fishers were part of the “Leave” push, but it may not work out as they’d hoped.

The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union in last week’s “Brexit” referendum will have profound effects on how fisheries are managed in both the UK and the EU. For now, it’s unclear exactly what those effects will be. But most experts agree that leaving the EU will be bad for both fishermen and fish stocks.

“It will be complicated and probably quite disastrous,” says Michel Kaiser, a marine conservation ecologist at Bangor University in Wales. Read more in Hakai.

Drugs are going missing, but why?

Dr. Jacalyn Duffin, a hematologist and medical historian at Queen’s University in Kingston, first became aware that certain drugs were sometimes getting hard to find in 2010, when her patient at a cancer clinic wanted to stop chemotherapy because she couldn’t get prochlorperazine, a common anti-nausea drug.

Duffin was shocked. “I just couldn’t believe that it was gone. It is a very old, reliable drug that has been around for a long time and it was the only one that worked for her.”

Duffin started investigating and quickly discovered the problem went far beyond an old anti-nausea drug. Read more in CMAJ.

Canadian researchers do more with less

Growing participation in large international research projects may explain the drop in Canada’s index performance.

Researchers at Canadian institutions are publishing more papers in top journals, but make up a smaller part of the collaborative teams that publish them, according to the latest data from Nature Index.

Between 2012 and 2015, the number of publications in the 68 high-profile journals tracked by the index that featured Canadian institutions rose from 3,211 to 3,319. But the total weighted fractional count (WFC) of the country’s institutions — a metric that measures the proportional contribution to each publication — fell by 2.8%, from 1521.05 to 1478.29. Read more in Nature Index.

Winners and losers emerge in UK funding shake-up

Government’s ‘global challenges’ fund hoovers up extra cash for developing-world problems, cutting grants elsewhere.

Funds dedicated for research on developing-world problems will eat into the core science grants of the United Kingdom’s research councils over the next five years, documents released by the councils show.

After enduring years of flat funding, scientists had celebrated in November as the government committed to increasing science spending, rather than delivering the cut many had feared was imminent.

But although the science budget – which in 2016 will be £4.7 billion (US$7.1 billion) – will rise in line with inflation, some of it will be diverted into government-defined research programmes. The remaining portion – the ‘responsive-mode’ allocation that the research councils hand out on the basis of competitive applications from scientists – will not rise. Read more in Nature.

Calls for more independence for government medical officers

Physicians are calling for Canada’s chief medical officers of health to be given greater independence from provincial governments following the recent firing of New Brunswick’s medical officer, Dr. Eilish Cleary, for reasons that remain unknown.

“The position is too important to allow people to be arbitrarily dismissed,” says Dr. James Talbot, the former chief medical officer of health for Alberta. “We need to be sure they can speak out.” Read more in CMAJ.

A Fishy Plan

Canada’s new government says it’s going to expand the country’s marine protected areas. Scientists worry the government is cutting corners to hit its goal.

Canada has a long way to go in protecting its oceans. The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity wants 10 percent of the world’s marine and coastal environments protected by 2020. So far, Canada has set aside just 1.3 percent.

With Canada’s change in federal government this past October, meeting the UN’s marine protection target has leapt to the top of the priority list for Hunter Tootoo, Canada’s new minister of fisheries and oceans. In his mandate letter for the new minister, Prime Minister Trudeau listed—as his very first line item—the goal of protecting five percent of Canada’s coastal waters by 2017, and the full ten percent by 2020.

That’s good news, says Rodolphe Devillers, a marine geographer at Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland. But he says that, in their enthusiasm, the government seems to be looking to cut corners. Read more in Hakai.

Nurse review paves way for merger of UK research councils

Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, has called for an overarching body to encompass all the UK’s research councils in a long-awaited review released last week.

A review of the UK’s research funding system has recommended tighter integration of the country’s seven discipline-specific research councils under a single, new umbrella organisation that would oversee all government research funding in the country.

Paul Nurse, the president of the Royal Society, published his long-awaited report on Nov 19. He recommends that the councils’ current umbrella body, Research Councils UK, be replaced with one that has direct responsibility for the councils, and a single chief executive who would be the sole point of contact between the councils and the government. The new, more powerful overhead organisation, which he suggests should be called Research UK, “can support the whole system to collectively become more than the sum of its parts”, states Nurse in his report, by strengthening their voice in government, taking responsibility for cross-council strategy, and reducing the administrative burden on each council, allowing them to focus on their own research areas. Read more in The Lancet.

Canada expected to reinstate mandatory census

The new Canadian government seems poised to fulfill a wish of social scientists by bringing back the country’s mandatory long-form census.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was sworn in this morning, and members of his Liberal party expect him to act promptly to meet one of his campaign promises. Such a move would also signal his commitment to reversing many of the policies of the former Conservative government under longtime Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Read more in Science.

A scientist elected to Canada’s Parliament shares his hopes as Trudeau prepares to take power

One scientist will be among the new faces in the 338-member House of Commons: Richard Cannings, a bird biologist, author, and former curator of the vertebrate museum at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Cannings, a member of Canada’s left-of-center New Democratic Party (NDP), will represent British Columbia’s (BC’s) South Okanagan—West Kootenay riding, or district. The NDP now holds the third-largest number of seats in Parliament, behind the Liberals and the Conservatives.

Cannings recently took a break from a Sunday afternoon mayonnaise-making session to talk with ScienceInsider about how he hopes to improve the lot of science and environmental issues during his time in Ottawa. Read more in Science.