Notebook

Lending Nature A hand Car Wash Helps NCAR NASA Creates Astrophysics Network UC Regents Press Ahead on DOE Ties The Boston-based family of mutual funds, Fidelity Investments, has teamed up with the Smithsonian Institution to offer its investors the chance to make charitable contributions to support conservation efforts in Latin American rain forests. The project is based on the "debt-for-nature"

October 29, 1990

  • Lending Nature A hand
  • Car Wash Helps NCAR
  • NASA Creates Astrophysics Network
  • UC Regents Press Ahead on DOE Ties
  • The Boston-based family of mutual funds, Fidelity Investments, has teamed up with the Smithsonian Institution to offer its investors the chance to make charitable contributions to support conservation efforts in Latin American rain forests. The project is based on the "debt-for-nature" swaps pioneered by biologist Thomas Lovejoy, assistant secretary for external affairs at the Smithsonian, in which governments invest in local conservation and research efforts in exchange for the purchase of some amount of their foreign debts. Investors, with their contributions, are in effect "buying" environmental preservation. The financial management firm describes the program in the company's current newsletter. For more information, contact Smithsonian Rainforest Project, c/o Fidelity Investments, Box 650277, Dallas, Texas 75265; (800) 544-6666.

    In these times of tight budgets, government-supported research institutions are apparently willing to take money from almost anybody--including high school students. Last spring, ninth-graders in Verna Silvia's honors biology class at Coventry (Conn.) High School raised $320 at a car wash to give to the organization that they felt was doing the most to understand and reverse the depletion of atmospheric ozone. The lucky recipient was the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo., a $58-million, 100-scientist laboratory supported in large part by the National Science Foundation. "We're grateful for the donation and excited that a high school class would demonstrate such commitment to the environment," says NCAR Director Robert Serafin. Such enthusiasm isn't likely to pave the way to a potential career in science for most of the students, however, according to Silvia. "They have other interests," she says, "like law and the ministry." But speaking of commitment, she says she's still waiting for some type of a formal acknowledgment of the gift from NCAR officials.

    In the last five years there has been a rising number of space scientists who want to study every possible wavelength of a celestial object's emissions, from microwave through visible light to X-rays. The problem is that, while the data exist, there's no systematic way to get at them. Starting next year, however, NASA plans to offer scientists electronic access to all the data from every NASA mission, along with the ability to manipulate the information. "It's an information system for the 21st century," says John Good, Caltech astronomer and project manager for the new Astrophysics Data System. The agency has spent an estimated $4 million to develop ADS, and will spend $3 million annually to operate the system so that researchers can use it at no charge. The system also features advanced processing technology to allow scientists to home in on the data they desire. For more information, contact Good at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. 91125, or call (818) 584-2939.

    Last month the University of California Board of Regents ignored the recommendation of a faculty-sponsored study committee and voted to begin negotiating another set of five-year management contracts between the university and DOE's Livermore, Los Alamos, and Lawrence Berkeley national labs. The regents also ignored this summer's faculty vote in support of the committee's recommendation to sever the long relationship. While many faculty members seem angry at the regents, their feelings haven't been translated into action. "The administration made every attempt to downplay the significance of faculty opinion," says Keith Miller, a Berkeley mathematics professor who has long opposed the UC-lab ties. "The labs seem to be the tail that wags the university dog." So far the only response by the faculty has been a bureaucratic one--to sponsor another committee, this time to monitor the contract negotiations. The current contract expires in 1992.


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