U.S. Says Bye-Bye to Mars, UC Says Hello to Furloughs

Here's a rundown of some of the stories we've been following on Science's policy blog, ScienceInsider:

Congressional spending panels last week looked favorably on basic research programs at the Department of Energy (DOE) but were skeptical about innovations proposed for 2010 by the Obama Administration. House and Senate appropriators came very close to the president's $4.94 billion request for the Office of Science. But they showed little enthusiasm for Energy Secretary Steven Chu's plan to fund eight large energy research centers, with the House approving $35 million of the $280 million request and the Senate suggesting a way to spend $44 million.

At a meeting at the U.S. National Academy of Sciences last week, NASA Associate Administrator Edward Weiler warned that the shrinkage of the NASA's planetary budget from $3 billion to $1.5 billion in the past 4 years means that "we no longer have a viable Mars program." Weiler announced an unprecedented agreement with the European Space Agency to conduct a joint program of Mars missions.

The University of California released a plan last week that will shave $184 million from the university's projected $813 million shortfall in state funding over the next 2 years. It calls for furloughs to be scaled according to pay grade --from 11 days, equivalent to a 4% cut, for those making less than $40,000 a year to 26 days, or a 10% cut for those making more than $240,000. Employees funded entirely from nonstate sources would be exempt.

Maria Leptin, the new director of the European Molecular Biology Organization, wants to review how to balance EMBO's reliance on its journals for revenue with the scientific community's desire to make the journals open-access.

Health care workers should be first in line for inoculation when vaccines against the swine flu virus are ready and approved, an expert panel at the World Health Organization concluded in a meeting last week.

For more on these stories and the latest science policy news and analysis, visit ScienceInsider.