California Establishes Science Centers

Three University of California (UC) campuses were chosen yesterday as sites for a new $900 million program designed to keep the state a world leader in research. Each of the three schools will receive $25 million a year for 4 years from the state, with companies and other sources putting up twice that amount.

The money will create California Institutes for Science and Innovation at UC's Los Angeles (UCLA), San Diego (UCSD), and San Francisco (UCSF) campuses. UCLA will team up with UC, Santa Barbara, on a nanosystems institute that will be led by Martha Krebs, former director of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. The Berkeley and Santa Cruz schools will join UCSF in an institute on bioengineering, biotechnology, and quantitative biomedical research headed by David Agard, a UCSF professor of biochemistry and biophysics. The third institute, on telecommunications and information technology, will be a collaboration between UCSD and UC, Irvine, led by UCSD computer science and engineering professor Larry Smarr.

The contestants were encouraged to dream up novel collaborations and projects that will push the boundaries of their fields. Smarr, for instance, foresees a time when sensors embedded in bridges, cars, and even people may transmit information to a computer miles away that can assess problems such as stresses during an earthquake or wear-and-tear on a vehicle's brakes. "Wouldn't it be nice if you got a call on your cell phone that said, 'Hello, we thought you'd like to know that your right front brake will fail in about 100 miles.'"

California Governor Gray Davis hopes the institutes will be "a magnet for the best and brightest of the scientific community." He pushed the idea and the funding through the state legislature (Science, 26 May, p. 1311). "We can't make them come, but we'd like them to know they're welcome." Davis also promised to lobby next year for a fourth center, based at UC, Berkeley, that would apply information technology to critical societal problems such as transportation, education, emergency preparedness, and health care.

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The California Institutes for Science and Innovation

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