‘Nagpur Congress leaders never acknowledge ground-level workers’

first_imgNagpur: In the recently-concluded Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) elections, the Congress managed a tally of only 29 corporators in the 151-member House. The party couldn’t even capitalise on the anti-incumbency against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which had two back-to-back terms in the civic body. However, two corporators of the party managed to secure a victory in the BJP-dominated wards of the city.All senior leaders of the Congress, including party’s city chief Vikas Thakre, suffered humiliating defeats in the election. However, the Nagpur Youth Congress president, 33-year-old Banty Shelke, who contested in the polls for the first time, managed to win his seat from Ward number 18, where the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) headquarters are based.Mr. Shelke also defeated senior BJP leader Sudhir Raut, who is considered a member of Union Minister Nitin Gadkari’s “kitchen cabinet.” His ward has high profile voters, including Mr. Gadkari and his family, and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.Another Congress corporator, Praffulla Gudadhe Patil, who is known for his in-depth knowledge of local issues, managed to trump Chief Minister Devendra Fandavis in his Assembly constituency and got an entire panel elected for the Congress from Ward number 38. The CM and the BJP had begun their election campaign for the 2017 NMC polls from this ward, but none of the party’s candidates won from there.‘No recognition’Despite their achievements, however, the two leaders said they did not even get a “few words of recognition” from senior leaders of the party and its city unit.Mr. Shelke said except Youth Congress State president Vishwajeet Kadam and Mr. Patil, no one from the party bothered to congratulate him. “One unit in Nagpur Congress is acting as if it’s a part of the BJP and gets salary from the CM.”He added, “The glasses of our leaders’ air-conditioned cars never slide down for ground-level party workers, which is why our party is sinking. I won the election despite every effort of intimidation and attempts to sabotage legal voting procedure. I could do it because of my team of workers. No party leader campaigned for me in my ward, whereas Mr. Gadkari addressed two rallies and 18 house meetings in the ward for the BJP candidate.”Mr. Patil was denied the post of the Leader of Opposition in the NMC after the election. However, both the corporators said they would wait for the party “to get rid of leaders who have lost people’s mandate.”Mr. Shelke added, “Everyone in the party knows that if there is anyone who can revive the Congress in the city, it is Mr. Patil. The voters of Congress are still with the party but they are waiting for it to be led by genuine Congressmen in the city and not the fixers.”last_img read more

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Fund for kin of slain jawans gets ₹2.1 crore

first_imgA modest ₹2.1 crore has been donated by the people to a fund set up a month ago by the Home Ministry to help families of paramilitary personnel who laid down their lives fighting extremists.About ₹60 lakh of the said amount has been received for 25 personnel massacred by Naxals at Sukma in Chhattisgarh on April 24.“Encouraging response to #BharatKeVeer website. Within a month, the portal has received more than ₹2 crore for helping martyrs’ families,” Home Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted.The app and the website ‘BharatKeVeer’ was launched last month by Mr. Singh along with Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar, who mooted the idea. The public can visit the portal and make the contribution to support the families of those jawans who died in the line of duty.“The monetary contributions made on the website go straight into the bank account of martyred soldier’s family,” the Home Minister said.Pool fundingAttending the launch of the app and the website, Mr. Akshay Kumar had lauded the Home Ministry for making his dream come true and providing a platform for everyone to help the next of the kin of slain soldiers financially.“This website has been made exactly in two-and-half months. About three months ago, this idea came in my mind while watching a documentary film on terrorists, which showed how terror leaders financially support the families of the terrorist who carry out terror acts,” Akshay had said at the inauguration.As many as 2.6 crore people have visited the site so far. In the baratkeveer.gov.in or Bharat Ke Veer portal, the general public can make donations online.The main objective of the portal is to enable general public help the families of martyrs by donating money online directly to the individual braveheart’s account or to Bharat Ke Veer corpus.last_img read more

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Haji Ali encroachments: Supreme Court modifies order to save Kinara mosque from demolition

first_imgThe Supreme Court on July 14, 2017 modified its earlier order on encroachments near the Haji Ali shrine in Mumbai and protected the Kinara mosque located near the shrine from demolition. The court also asked the Maharashtra government to decide within a week the plea seeking regularisation of the mosque.A bench comprising Chief Justice J.S. Khehar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud took on record the consent of all parties including the Haji Ali Dargah Trust (HADT) that if the State government rejects the regularisation plea, nobody will oppose the demolition of portions of the mosque which are built on encroached land near the historic shrine. The bench initially suggested that the parties should agree to shifting of the mosque to some other place. It has been alleged that certain parts of the Kinara mosque fall under the encroached area which have been ordered to be cleared by the Bombay High Court. The Supreme Court has also upheld the order. The bench has now fixed the matter after one week. The apex court had earlier given a last opportunity to the Maharashtra government and warned it of serious consequences if squatters from 908 sq. m area near the shrine were not removed in two weeks. It had made it clear that the encroachments have to be removed within two weeks from July 3 from the 908 square metre area earmarked in the Bombay High Court order.The direction to the Mumbai civic body had come as the HADT, which had volunteered to remove the encroachments, had expressed inability in removing the encroachments from an area of about 500 sq. m. The HADT on April 13, 2017 agreed to remove encroachments on its own by May 8, 2017 and was later given some more time to remove the squatters. The trust’s offer to remove and demolish the encroachments had come after the apex court made it clear that only the mosque, located on an area of around 171 sq. m, would remain protected while the rest of the area, measuring 908 sq. m, has to be cleared of squatters. The court had lauded the efforts of the trust in its attempts to remove encroachments.The HADT was constructed in 1431 in the memory of a wealthy Muslim merchant Sayyed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari who gave up all his possessions before making a pilgrimage to Mecca. The High Court had ordered the formation of a joint task force comprising the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai and the Collector to remove the illegal encroachments on the approach road leading to the dargah. The High Court was hearing a petition filed by Sahayak, a socio-legal and educational forum, seeking immediate removal of the encroachments on the approach road to the dargah which is located on the sea. The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai was of the view that the land on the approach road to Haji Ali fell in the collector’s jurisdiction and therefore the collector should remove the encroachments.last_img read more

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Maoist killed in Gadchiroli

first_imgNAGPUR: The Maharashtra police on Monday claimed to have killed Maoist leader Ram Chinna Portet alias Mangaru in a gun battle in Gadchiroli district. The encounter took place in Kampevacha forest on Sunday evening, the Gadchiroli police said.In a separate incident, a team of the District Reserve Guard and the Special Task Force seized a huge cache of Maoist ammunition in the forest near Khunduspara village in Sukma, Chhattisgarh.In another incident, the security forces nabbed Pandaru Kadati and Somalu Potam, two alleged Maoists in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh.last_img read more

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Haryana, Punjab calm; forces still at the ready

first_img Haryana witnessed violent clashes last Friday, after the sect supporters went on the rampage in Panchkula and Sirsa leaving 38 people dead and over 260 injured. The violence was triggered after the Dera chief was convicted by a CBI court in Panchkula.Meanwhile, the district administration in Sirsa, has decided to initiate strict action against those persons who incited the people to disturb peace in the city on Monday.Gurugram Municipal Corporation Commissioner V. Umashankar, who has been deputed in Sirsa on special duty, said a decision on lifting curfew in Sirsa would be taken after the meeting of the Joint Action Committee of all security forces.“The district administration and security forces are making concerted efforts to improve the law and order situation on a priority basis, after which action would be initiated against the anti-social elements,” he said.According to him, no incident of looting was reported from Sirsa city during the violence and the effective action taken by the police and administration led to minimal loss of life and property.“More than 15,000 persons had entered the city with the intention of disturbing peace and instigating riots. However, the security forces prevented a situation which could have been much worse,” he said.Responding to a question about arson at the local milk plant, he said the incident occurred as the unit was situated between two Dera sites. “Vehicles were also damaged,” he added. Khattar government insensitive, says Cong. The calm streets of Sirsa villages The situation in most parts of Haryana and neighbouring Punjab remained largely calm on Monday after a special CBI special court sentenced the Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh to 20 years in jail, even as security forces were on vigil in sensitive areas to maintain law and order.Soon after the court pronounced the sentence against the Dera chief, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar convened an emergency meeting of senior officials to take stock of the situation.Mr. Khattar told presspersons after the meeting that while the situation across the State was calm, all arrangements were in place to deal with any backlash.Also Read  “Law and order will not be allowed to be affected. Effective arrangements have been made to maintain peace in the State following the decision of the court. Strict action will be taken against any person who violates the law,” he said.Mr. Khattar said the Dera chief would have to spend 20 years in jail.“The court has sentenced him to imprisonment of 10 years each in two rape cases, and imposed a fine of ₹15 lakh in each case. The sentences will run consecutively, and not concurrently resulting in imprisonment of 20 years and a fine of ₹30 lakh,” he said, asserting that no person is above the law and everyone should respect the verdict.Appeal for peaceMr. Khattar also appealed to the people, especially Dera followers, to respect the sentence and help maintain peace in the State.Also Readlast_img read more

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Manipur Assembly demands peace agreement disclosure

first_imgAfter a four-hour-long discussion on Thursday, the Manipur Assembly passed a resolution to demand disclosure of the contents of the framework agreement signed between the Union government and the NSCN(I-M).The agreement was signed at the residence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 3, 2015, between the government’s interlocutor, R.N. Ravi, and NSCN leader Thuingaleng Muivah.Opposition leader Okram Ibobi Singh, who was the Chief Minister at the time of singing of the agreement, said that he was not taken into confidence about the pact. He said that no other person knows the details of the agreement.Cutting across party lines, the members of the Assembly felt that while the territorial integrity is kept intact, there may be some clauses which are alarming.The House constituted a four-member committee to prepare a memorandum to be submitted to the Prime Minister. It will demand territorial integrity and disclosure of the contents of the peace agreement.last_img read more

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He lived up to his name: Jawan’s father

first_imgAn eerie calm prevailed at Ganai Mohalla in Chadoora of Budgam on Monday, with the local people reluctant to speak. The silence at the two-storey house of Sharief-ud-Din, who was among the five CRPF jawans killed in the Pulwama terror attack on Sunday, was intermittently broken by the cries of his ageing father.As people consoled him, he repeated the lines: “May I sacrifice my life for your name, reflecting both your humbleness and harmlessness. You were true to your name, Sharief.”“Why did you leave me? What will I do in his world now,” asked the father, unable to come to terms with the loss. The 32-year-old jawan, who had two sisters and three brothers, was close to his father, a farmer. Sharief joined the 185 Battalion of the CRPF in 2006. He was hit by militants’ bullets in the head and the neck.“It was a bolt from the blue,” his brother said.Many people turned up for the funeral on Sunday evening.‘Difficult times’The family ensured that no relative spoke to the media. “These are volatile times for Kashmir. These are difficult times for us, too,” said a relative, on condition of anonymity. He said the family had seen tough times financially in the past decade. “Constable Sharief-ud-Din’s recruitment did help the family to meet their ends,” he said. One of Sharief-ud-Din’s friends said he maintained “a friendly relationship with all and distanced himself from discussing politics to stay safe”.Chadoora has witnessed volatile protests in 2016 and 2017. Three protesters died as people marched to disrupt an operation against militants in March in 2017.Another slain CRPF jawan, Taufail Ahmad, a resident of Rajouri’s Dadasini Bala, was buried on Monday. “The last rites were performed around noon,” CRPF spokesman Rajesh Yadav said.Ahmad’s son Anees told a new agency that action should be taken against Pakistan. “Militancy has not ended. Our jawans are continuing to sacrifice their lives. Please do something,” Mr. Anees was quoted as saying.The bodies of all five personnel were send home. The CRPF said one of them, Kuldip Roy of Tikkar Khatrian at Hamirpur in Himachal Pradesh, had died of a cardiac arrest.last_img read more

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No ‘Padmaavat’ screening in Gujarat, paramilitary called in

first_imgA day ahead of the nationwide release of “Padmaavat” and the bandh call given by the Rajput Karni Sena opposing it, theatre owners in Gujarat today said they would not screen the film following the violence outside three multiplexes in the city yesterday. While the state government said most Rajput groups in Gujarat have agreed not to join the nationwide bandh (general strike) tomorrow, a large number of police personnel along with paramilitary forces have been deployed across the state. As many as 118 people have been arrested so far across the state for damaging public property during protests against the film, said Pramod Kumar, Director General of Police . Over 20,000 policemen as well as paramilitary personnel have been deployed across the state, he said.“During protests, 21 state transport buses were either vandalised or set ablaze. Till now, we have arrested 118 persons and detained another 300,” the DGP told reporters in Gandhinagar. Sixteen companies of paramilitary forces, such as BSF and Rapid Action Force (RAF), have been provided by the Centre.“We were already given four companies of RAF two days back. Now we have 12 more companies of paramilitary forces to maintain law and order. These forces are in addition to nine companies of State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) and around 19,000 Lok Rakshaks and Home Guards,” said Kumar. After the large-scale violence yesterday, the Gujarat Multiplex Owners Association today announced that the film will not be released at any multiplex.“Following yesterday’s violence, all the multiplexes in Gujarat have unanimously decided not to screen the film till the matter is resolved. We have taken the decision for the safety of our customers as well as to save our property,” said the association’s president, Manubhai Patel. The owners of single-screen theatres too have informed the association that they will not screen the film, he said.“Though police have given us security, we do not want to take any chances. What if protesters enter the theatre after buying tickets?” Patel said.“Though each multiplex will incur a loss of around Rs 40 lakh (expected during the average run of a film), we will not screen the film until the issue is resolved,” he said. Gujarat Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama and Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja held a meeting with representatives of various Rajput organisations in Gandhinagar to seek their support in maintaining peace. After the meeting, Chudasama said that Rajput organisations in Gujarat will not be taking part in tomorrow’s bandh. Representatives of Rashtriya Rajput Karni Sena, Mahakal Sena, Gujarat Kshatriya Sabha and Surya Sena were among those who attended the meeting, Chudasama said.“All of them have given assurance that their organisations will not join the Bandh tomorrow. They have realised that since no theatre in Gujarat will screen the film tomorrow, the issue is over here. I thank all these leaders for their efforts in maintaining a peaceful atmosphere,” said Chudasama. Schools, colleges will remain open and public transport will remain functional tomorrow, he said. However, the Rajput Karni Sena, led by Lokendra Singh Kalvi, which has given the call for nation-wide bandh, remained defiant.“We did not attend the meeting with Chudasama… We have not withdrawn the Bandh call…We will observe the bandh in a peaceful manner,” said the Gujarat in-charge of teh Karni Sena, Meghsinh Shekhawat. Protesters opposing the release of the controversial film torched at least 30 motorcycles and damaged several other vehicles parked outside three city malls last night.last_img read more

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Mizoram seeks more security along border

first_imgMizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla has urged Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to beef up security along the border with Myanmar to prevent Rohingya Muslims from entering the Northeastern State, an official statement said on Wednesday.Serious problemsMr. Lal Thanhawla had met Mr. Singh in Delhi on Tuesday and discussed wide-ranging security issues with him, it said. The Chief Minister informed the Home Minister that the State could face serious problems if Rohingya refugees and terrorists from the Rakhine state in Myanmar enter Mizoram. He also expressed concern over the recent clashes between the Myanmar Army and the Arakan militants along the border on the Myanmar side, resulting in the entry of over thousands of refugees to Mizoram, the statement said.Refugees in Mizoram Over 1,600 Myanmarese nationals have taken shelter in south Mizoram’s Lawngtlai district after the Myanmar Army launched a massive crackdown on the Arakan militants since November 25 last, the State government officials had said recently.last_img read more

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Four militants killed in Rajouri district

first_imgFour militants were killed in the Pir Panchal Valley in Rajouri district on Wednesday after they fired at the security forces.“Four militants were killed in a fierce gunfight in the Sunderbani area of Rajouri. This group recently infiltrated from the Line of Control,” Director-General of Police S.P. Vaid said.A police official said the operation was launched on a tip-off. The militants hiding in the bushes fired upon the search party. They then hid at Ravarian Talla village, 1 km from the Sunderbani township. Senior Superintendent of Police, Rajouri, Yougal Manhas said the forces had recovered bags containing ammunition and explosives.The presence of militants forced the authorities in Rajouri to close down schools.Firing in PulwamaA brief exchange of fire was reported between militants and security forces in the Littar of Pulwama, the police said.Governor N.N. Vohra, who visited Srinagar on Wednesday, had extensive discussions with Dineshwar Sharma, Special Representative of the Union government.last_img read more

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Brazen attempt to curb press freedom: Mamata

first_imgWhile Prime Minister Narendra Modi has directed the withdrawal of the press release regarding ‘fake news,’ West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has criticised the move by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to cancel or annul accreditation of the journalists for reporting ‘fake news.’“The PIB [Press Information Bureau] circular on fake news control is a brazen attempt to curb press freedom, a sure sign that the Government has lost its way,” she tweeted.“We demand the immediate withdrawal of such a draconian move. And what about fake news spread by a political party on a regular basis?” Ms. Banerjee asked a little while back.last_img read more

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Three BSF jawans injured in militant attack in Srinagar

first_imgThree BSF personnel were injured on Monday in a suspected militant attack on their vehicle in Pantha chowk area on the outskirts of Srinagar city, police said.Gunmen opened fire on a security force vehicle at the Pantha chowk injuring three jawans, a police official said.He said the injured personnel, belonging to the 163 battalion, have been hospitalised and one of the jawans is in serious condition. Security forces have cordoned off the area and launched a hunt to track down the assailants, he added.last_img read more

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Minimum income gurantee akin to MGNREGA: Rahul Gandhi

first_imgCongress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday reiterated his poll promise that every poor person in India would be guaranteed minimum income akin to the employment guaranteed under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).“We have taken a historic decision. People have been benefited by MGNREGA. But the decision which we are taking now is bigger than the MGNREGA. The Congress party has been working on minimum income for all the poor for five to six months,” said Mr. Gandhi addressing a public meeting at the western Odisha town.“Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he would give ₹17 per day to a farmer’s family. The Congress will guarantee payment of a minimum income to every poor person in India. This income will be directly transferred to their bank accounts,” he said, adding that the minimum income guarantee would be similar to that of the employment guarantee in the MGNREGA.“If Narendra Modi could write off loans amounting to ₹3,50,000 crore of 15 industrialists, the Congress will make sure that the minimum income would be credited into the account of every poor person. We will protect every poor family. If you have the courage, then stop us from doing so, and the whole of India will rise against you,” the Congress president dared the ruling party amidst huge applause.“The time for joke and deceit is over. The time for a minimum income has just begun,” he said.Mr. Gandhi accused both Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “gifting” corruption. If it’s chit-fund scam for Mr. Patnaik, it was Rafale deal for Mr. Modi, Mr. Gandhi alleged. “Money looted from the poor through demonetisation was given to Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi. Anil Ambani was given ₹30,000 crore,” Mr. Gandhi alleged while assuring that when the Congress comes to power, the looted money would be given back to the poor.The Congress president reiterated his poll promises of crop loan waiver and revision of minimum support price (MSP) to ₹2,600 per quintal of paddy to woo voters in western Odisha.Mr. Gandhi assured that the land of the poor and the tribals would not be acquired without consulting them. The land, if acquired, would be returned back to them in the event of non-establishment of factories within five years, he added.“We made it happen. The Chhattisgarh government returned the land which was acquired for the TATA Group’s project to the tribals as no project came up in five years,” he pointed out.Mr. Gandhi also brought up the episode of Dana Majhi, a tribal man who walked 12 km carrying his wife’s body, and accused Mr. Patnaik of keeping mum and not apologising about the incident.Mr. Gandhi also reiterated his support to primitive Dongria Kandh tribals who were protesting against the proposed bauxite extraction from Niyamgiri Hill.In 2008, the Congress president had held a rally in Kalahandi’s Lanjigarh, where the alumina refinery of the Vedanta Group is located. Dongria Kandhs, a primitive tribe, were opposing the proposal of extraction of bauxite from the Niyamgiri Hill for its refinery. He had then said that there was a soldier in Delhi named Rahul Gandhi for the tribals of Kalahandi.Congress workers from western and southern Odisha district attended the public meeting. Later in the day, Mr. Gandhi will address another meeting at Rourkela.Bhakta Charan Das, president of campaign committee of Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee and three-time MP of Kalahandi, is likely to contest from the Kalahandi parliamentary constituency.last_img read more

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Bedlam breaks loose in Bihar Assembly

first_imgBihar Opposition legislators on Monday created an uproar in the State Assembly and outside, demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in the Muzaffarpur shelter abuse case. Amid a continuous din, the Assembly passed the Bill of 10% reservation for the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) of the upper caste.When the House gathered for the day in the morning, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) MLAs were joined by Congress and Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist (CPI-ML) legislators, in demanding Mr. Kumar’s resignation in the wake of a special Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) court in Muzaffarpur forwarding a petition seeking a probe into the role of Mr. Kumar and other officials, for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to “look into”, last week. The petition was filed by an accused in the Muzaffarpur shelter abuse case of 34 minor girls, Ashwani Kumar. He was arrested in November 2018 and sent to jail.“Ever since the Muzaffarpur shelter abuse case was exposed, we have been saying that it would not have happened without patronage from those in the government…the Chief Minister should resign from his post for a fair trial in the case,” demanded RJD MLAs Lalit Yadav and Bhai Birendra. The Congress and Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) legislators, too, joined them. The protesting Opposition lawmakers, joined by RJD leader and former CM Rabri Devi, later staged a sit-in protest at the statue of former CM and veteran socialist leader Karpoori Thakur, installed in the premises of the House.last_img read more

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Cyclone Fani: Naveen Patnaik seeks more kerosene for Odisha

first_imgWith the task of restoring power supply in the worst-hit parts of Odisha taking longer than anticipated, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has asked the Centre to urgently allocate an additional 1,000 kilolitres (KL) of kerosene oil for the State.“Though restoration works are in progress on war footing, but due to the extensive damage caused to the power infrastructure, supply of electricity will take some more time,” Mr. Patnaik wrote in a letter addressed to Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Friday. “Absence of electricity has led to a surge in demand for kerosene oil,” he added.Mr. Patnaik sought immediate allotment of the oil so that the same could be distributed from the month of May.“As a special case, this stock may be provided to the wholesalers by oil companies free-of-cost so that we can distribute it to the affected people without any charge,” he suggested.Earlier, emphasising the need to provide adequate supplies of the fuel, Civil Society Responds to Fani (CSRF), an umbrella grouping of NGOs, said given the widespread disruption to power supply, residents were facing acute hardship as kerosene oil had not been supplied as a part of the relief material.“Cyclone affected people have to pay ₹35 per litre of kerosene from fair price shops and much higher in the black market,” said Manas Ranjan Mishra, a member of the CSRF. “Supply of at least one litre of kerosene, free of cost as relief, in addition to PDS quota should be ensured,” he added.The CSRF urged the State government to expedite restoration work so that people could get relief from scorching heat. It also emphasised the need to ensure comprehensive rehabilitation of the affected people so that they could quickly get back on their feet.Meanwhile, Chief Secretary A. P. Padhi joined the National Crisis Committee meeting held under the chairmanship of Cabinet Secretary P. K. Sinha on Friday. A roadmap has been drawn up to restore electric supply expeditiously.“More gangs have reached Odisha,” officials in the chief secretary’s office said. “Materials have also been moved. Restoration of power has been expedited. As of today around 50% of consumers in Bhubaneswar have got power.” Similarly, there has been substantial improvement in telecommunications connectivity. The Base Transmission Station radiation has increased to 42% in Khurdha, 14% in Puri and 54% in Cuttack districts. It is 39% in Bhubaneswar city and 54% in Cuttack city.last_img read more

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Europe Proposes New Effort on Invasive Species

first_imgThe European Commission today announced a new proposal to deal with invasive species that are causing problems for member nations. Under the regulation, which must be approved by the Parliament and Council, risk assessments and scientific advice would be used to create a list of 50 targeted species. The ban would prevent their importation and sale, and nations would have to look for accidental arrivals. If a banned species is already established, all countries would need to keep it under control or try to eradicate it.Some 12,000 alien organisms have been detected in Europe, and between 10% and 15% are thought to be invasive, causing as much as €12 billion per year of damage to agriculture, infrastructure, and health. (A somewhat dizzying video produced for the commission lays out the extent of the problem with invasive species, including time lapse photography that shows voracious insects gobbling plants.)The European Union already has several laws designed to protect valuable animals and plants from invasive threats. But the plant health law doesn’t prohibit herbivorous invaders, for example, while the animal health law doesn’t offer protection from aliens that might outcompete native animals. “It’s been largely patchwork until now,” says Joe Hennon, spokesman for the comission. “We needed something at E.U. level that would fill the gaps.”Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Unlike the existing laws, the new regulation would provide a broad mandate to identify problematic species. Although the specific hazards that would merit blacklisting a species are not spelled out in the proposal, the regulation is designed to help protect native biodiversity, as well as reduce economic damages and health effects. The initial list of 50 species would be identified by stakeholders and member states. It’s not clear yet if all nations would have to agree on a species. Another question is whether some types of species, such as exotic pets, will be exempted.Although no funding is associated, the regulation could impact national budgets. That’s because it is designed to deal with problems that extend past the borders of individual member states. For example, Germany is fighting an invasive plant called giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), which is native to Asia. Its sap can cause skin burns and blindness. France is not trying to eradicate the weed, so it poses a continual threat of reinvasion of Germany. If hogweed makes the list, France would be required to help fight the species.Experts with BirdLife, an environmental advocacy group, welcomed the proposal but said it should go further. “[T]he proposed cap of 50 [invasive alien] species for action, with a review of that list possible only after 5 years, is a serious shortcoming in the proposal,” Paul Walton said in a statement. Alistair Taylor added that the European Union should add a provision requiring people who deliberately release invaders into the wild to cover the cost of damages.If the legislative process goes smoothly, the commission expects the regulation to come into force in 2016.last_img read more

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Report Claims Industry Influence at European Food Watchdog Persists

first_imgIn 2012, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) adopted a new independence policy to address criticism that it was not managing conflicts of interest adequately. But a report prepared by Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), a group seeking to expose private sector lobbying in Europe, says industry’s influence over the body is still “dismaying.”Experts with conflicts of interest dominate all EFSA panels but one, according to the report, which was released yesterday. In the worst example, 17 of the 20 members of the Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies have a total of 113 conflicts of interest, according to the investigation.A spokesperson for EFSA says that the agency can’t immediately react to individual claims, but that it will review the report and consider its recommendations. He also says EFSA “applies a robust set of internal mechanisms and working processes to safeguard the independence of its scientific work.” Sue Davies, chair of EFSA’s management board, echoed that sentiment in a written statement today. “The Management Board is confident that the policy EFSA has in place to ensure independence in its scientific work is robust,” the statement says.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)The report comes at a sensitive time for EFSA. French food-safety expert Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle, who headed the agency since 2006, stepped down unexpectedly in July to take up a position in the French government; EFSA is looking for a replacement. The agency has also launched a “transparency initiative” and hosted a conference on transparency earlier this month.CEO has taken aim at EFSA before, and Martin Pigeon, a spokesperson for the group, acknowledges that EFSA has improved the way it handles potential conflicts of interest. “They are really taking it very seriously now,” he says. As part of EFSA’s new policy, experts consulted by the agency have to file detailed declarations of interest which are screened on a case-by-case basis. But the forms on which these declarations are made are ill-conceived, CEO says; for instance, they don’t include boxes for common activities such as giving a conference presentation, even though many meetings are industry-sponsored. In 10 instances, EFSA failed to rigorously implement its own rules, the report charges.However, most of the report’s criticism stems from the fact that CEO defines the term “conflict of interest” more broadly than EFSA does. EFSA sees a potential problem only when someone serving on a particular panel has ties to the commercial sector related to that panel—for instance, when a researcher with ties to a feed company sits on the panel on animal feed. But CEO says any interests that fall within EFSA’s remit should be considered; in other words, a scientist with ties to the chocolate industry can’t sit on the animal feed panel either.”When EFSA thinks of conflicts of interest, it thinks about personal corruption, the secret agent narrative,” Pigeon says. “But the problem is more systemic. When you are a toxicologist and you are increasingly paid by industry to design a study the industry way, so it can go through the regulatory process, then it becomes more difficult not to look at studies from an industry viewpoint,” he argues.EFSA is much smaller than its U.S. counterpart, the Food and Drug Administration, so rather than depending on in-house experts, it largely relies on unpaid outside experts. But research policies in many European countries encourage researchers to work with the private sector, making it increasingly harder to find experts who don’t have any conflict of interest at all.One way to solve the problem would be to create a class of independent experts, Pigeon says, for instance through a “European school of independent expertise.” Or the European Union could decide to adopt the U.S. model and allow EFSA to hire more in-house scientists. “Another way would be to have toxicology studies and safety studies done by public or independent labs rather than by the producers themselves,” Pigeon says.As Davies notes in her statement, “these are issues that EFSA cannot resolve on its own, and need to be part of a wider debate.” In the meantime, the CEO report argues that anyone leaving a job in the commercial sector should be barred from becoming a panel member for at least 5 years; now, that “cooling-off period” is 2 years and only applies to panel chairs and vice-chairs. The report also advocates scrapping the current 25% ceiling for how much industry funding is acceptable for EFSA experts and adopting a zero-tolerance policy instead.last_img read more

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Mantis shrimp use ‘nature’s sunblock’ to see UV

first_imgThe colorful little guy pictured above puts the eyes of every other animal to shame. Whereas humans receive color information via three color receptors in our eyes, mantis shrimp (Neogonodactylus oerstedii) have 12. Six of these differentiate five discrete wavelengths of ultraviolet light, researchers report online today in Current Biology. The mantis shrimp’s vision is possible by making use of specially tuned, UV-specific optical filters in its color-detecting cone cells. The optical filters are made of mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs), a substance commonly found in the skin or exoskeleton of marine organisms. Often referred to as nature’s sunscreens, MAAs are usually employed to protect an organism from DNA-damaging UV rays; however, the mantis shrimp has incorporated them into powerful spectral tuning filters. Though the reason for the mantis shrimp’s complex visual perception is poorly understood, one possibility is that the UV detection could help visualize otherwise difficult-to-see prey on coral reefs. Many organisms absorb UV light—these organisms would be easy to spot as black objects in a bright world.last_img read more

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Want a grant? First review someone else’s proposal

first_imgAfter 32 years as a program officer at the National Science Foundation (NSF), George Hazelrigg knows the rules governing peer review, especially the one that says researchers can’t be both an applicant and a reviewer in the same funding competition. Last year, however, he got permission to throw the rules out the window. His experiment, aimed at easing the strain on NSF staff and reviewers produced by a burgeoning number of proposals and declining success rates, not only allowed applicants to serve as reviewers, but it also required them to assess seven competing proposals in exchange for having their own application reviewed.Some scientists might be horrified by such a “pay to play” system. But researchers in the engineering systems community responded enthusiastically, submitting 60% more proposals than usual by the 1 October deadline. A preliminary NSF evaluation concluded that the process, which used mail reviews rather than the in-person panels that are the norm at NSF, not only saved time and money but may also have improved the quality of the proposals and the reviews.NSF is now considering whether to expand use of the offbeat approach, which is based in part on NSF-funded research into better voting and decision-making systems. In the meantime, some astronomers have already jumped on the bandwagon: Faced with a similar reviewing crunch, in January the Gemini Observatory will begin using a similar system to allocate observing time on its Hawaii telescope. “Finding good reviewers willing to spend the time is getting harder and harder,” says Rachel Mason, a Gemini astronomer in Hawaii who is coordinating the experiment, called Fast-Turnaround. “People also thought it would be kinda fun to have the chance to read their competitors’ proposals.”Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)The core problem is familiar to every science administrator. A system that relies upon the willingness of the scientific community to volunteer its time is being stretched to its limits as the number of applications goes up and the chances of success go down. NSF received 49,000 proposals last year, up 53% from 2001. Its budget didn’t keep up, meaning that success rates fell from 31% to 22% over the same period. Those trends have created two, related problems: The cost of peer review, in time and money, is rising at the same time more scientists are complaining about having to spend valuable time reviewing good ideas that have little chance of being funded.Rather than wring his hands, however, Hazelrigg went looking for an alternative that avoided one easy answer, namely, limiting the number of submissions. “I didn’t want to put restrictions on the principal investigators,” he says.Instead, Hazelrigg found inspiration in a 2009 paper in Astronomy & Geophysics, titled “Telescope time without tears: a distributed approach to peer review.” The paper was prompted, says co-author Michael Merrifield, an astronomer at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, by a “bulging file of 113 applications” on his desk for observing time on instruments operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO)—far more than he had the time or inclination to evaluate. The review system, he says, was “groaning at the seams.”So Merrifield teamed up with mathematician Donald Saari of the University of California, Irvine, who has written extensively about voting systems, to suggest what Merrifield acknowledges is a “radical alternative.” The idea, rooted in mathematical game theory, is to alter the rules in ways that bring the competition closer to achieving its goals.In NSF’s case, that meant distributing the evaluation workload more equitably and providing reviewers with a positive incentive to do a good job. The agency calls its approach mechanism design, and it begins by having grant applicants agree to review seven proposals submitted by their competitors. In addition to grading each one, using NSF’s five-point system from excellent to poor, they also ranked their set of proposals from best to worst. Hazelrigg says he chose seven “to discourage scientists from being frivolous” in submitting half-baked proposals, because each submission meant a commitment to doing seven reviews. At the same time, he felt that scientists would balk if he set the bar too high.Hazelrigg, who heads NSF’s Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI) Division, says it took more than a year for the agency to approve the pilot. It was announced in May 2013 in a “Dear Colleague” letter to prospective applicants to a program funding research on sensors and sensing systems. Anyone wanting to submit to the October 2013 competition would have to abide by the rules, the letter said, but those who didn’t like the idea could simply wait until the next deadline, in mid-February.The community’s initial reaction was generally positive, Hazelrigg recalls, but he knew the real test would be the tally of submissions. To his surprise and delight, NSF received 131 applications, some 50 more than the norm for a fall deadline.The decision to participate in the experiment was a no-brainer for Rolf Mueller, a bioengineer at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg. “I understood that I was agreeing to do a bunch of reviews, but that didn’t affect my decision,” he says. “And it was interesting to see some of the other proposals.” (NSF ultimately agreed to give him $360,000 over 3 years to apply aspects of a bat’s biosonar system to improve humanmade radar and sonar systems. Click here to see a video of a 3D reconstruction of a cave in Jinan, China, where Mueller is studying bats.)Another applicant, electrical engineer Arash Takshi of the University of South Florida, Tampa, says the ability to see what his competitors were doing “filled a blind spot for me. Now I know that if I don’t get funded, it’s because of the quality of the other proposals, not something I did wrong.” (His proposal, to develop a more sensitive optical sensor using photosynthetic proteins rather than silicon-based elements, was also funded—his first NSF grant.) Takshi regards the estimated 30 hours he spent doing his required seven reviews as fulfilling part of his duties as an academic researcher.NSF officials say they have a hunch the pilot led to “more comprehensive reviews.” Each proposal received seven reviews rather than the normal three or four, Hazelrigg notes. “And each review had, on average, 40% more words. I’m not saying that more is better, but we found the overall quality to be at least comparable” to reviews by panels, which review about 60% of all applications (see graphic, below). (Only one entrant, he notes, was disqualified, for failing to meet the 6-week deadline for submitting the reviews.)One novel aspect of the pilot was its scoring system. Reviewers whose ranking of the seven proposals closely matched what the six other reviewers thought received bonus points that were applied to their own application. The idea was to reward reviewers for taking the job seriously and dissuade them from unfairly denigrating a competitor’s proposal in hopes of giving themselves a leg up. Using such a tactic would presumably prevent them from receiving a bonus because it would cause their ranking to be out of step with their colleagues.Using applicants as reviewers also saved NSF time and money, Hazelrigg says. It takes a program manager 2 to 3 weeks to assemble an on-site review panel, he estimates, a process that starts with identifying some 400 potential reviewers before winnowing the group down to the typical 16- to 20-member panel. The use of mail reviews also meant that NSF didn’t need to provide travel and per diem expenses to bring those reviewers to NSF headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, to vet a stack of proposals. “Our division runs 200 panels a year,” he says, “so that’s a big cost savings.”As with every merit review system, however, the pilot has some potential downsides. One NSF program manager who asked to remain anonymous worries that the bonus system could discourage innovative ideas that some reviewers might regard as poor bets. “It rewards people for playing it safe,” the program manager says, referring to how applicants might be reluctant to submit a disruptive idea that’s likely to get a mixed reaction from reviewers. “But it’s the outliers who are most likely to come up with the breakthrough.” Hazelrigg plays down that possibility, noting that program managers are not bound by the judgments of reviewers and have the flexibility to recommend a proposal for funding even if it doesn’t receive one of the top scores.The skeptical program manager also worries that mail reviews make it impossible to hold a face-to-face discussion about the quality of both the proposed science and its broader impacts, the two criteria upon which every NSF proposal is judged. “We need that dialogue to explore all aspects of a proposal,” the manager says.Mueller and Takshi, however, believe that personal interaction can also have a downside. “Having an argument is a good thing, but sometimes people who are more assertive can carry the day,” Mueller says.NSF officials are still evaluating whether to expand the CMMI pilot, one of seven experiments the agency ran last year that tinkered with the normal merit review process. One option, to allow virtual reviews, turned out to be a real hit: Some 28% of all NSF panels last year met in cyberspace, a far cry from NSF’s goal of 5%. NSF officials suspect a crackdown on travel costs by the White House contributed to its popularity. Individual NSF programs also tested the impact on the number of applications by switching from two competition cycles per year to one or by accepting proposals at any time rather than setting a deadline. Another pilot offered reviewers the convenience of asynchronous discussions in cyberspace via a moderated message board.The community’s reaction to such ideas will play a major role in whether NSF adopts any of the tweaks. One group of astronomers, however, has already embraced a version of the distributed reviewer concept detailed in the 2009 “tears” paper that also inspired Hazelrigg.ESO did not adopt the scheme suggested by the authors, Merrifield and Saari. But after a senior ESO scientist, Markus Kissler-Patig, become director of the Gemini Observatory, an international consortium that operates twin 8-meter telescopes in Hawaii and Chile, he asked his staff to consider the approach. After much discussion, the observatory decided to use applicants as reviewers to allocate 10% of the viewing time on Hawaii’s Gemini North, starting in January.“We could probably find a group of generous reviewers willing to donate their time,” says Gemini’s Mason. “But the problem is only going to get worse as the workload grows. And if it works, we can expand it to Gemini South.” Without such changes, she predicts, “the existing system is simply going to break down.”last_img read more

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