September 24, 2021

Top stories: Indonesia’s research tensions, a science-light budget, and a new telescope network

Left to right: ULET IFANSASTI/STRINGER/GETTY IMAGES, CAROLINE BREHMAN/CQ-ROLL CALL INC./GETTY IMAGES, International Gemini Observatory/NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory/AURA

Wildfire researcher deported amid growing rift between Indonesian government and scientists

In what some researchers see as a sign of growing tension between the Indonesian government and the scientific community, French landscape ecologist David Gaveau was expelled from the country after living there for 15 years. Gaveau, a research associate with the Center for International Forestry Research, would not comment on the reason for his departure. But some colleagues say it’s no coincidence that it happened the month after the center published a damage estimate from Indonesia’s 2019 wildfires that far exceeded the government’s own numbers.

Trump’s new budget cuts all but a favored few science programs

For the fourth straight year, U.S. President Donald Trump has proposed sizable reductions in federal research spending. It’s no longer news that the president wants deep cuts to the budgets of the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and science programs at the Department of Energy and NASA. And in past years, Congress has rejected similar proposals, even giving some agencies significant boosts. But Trump’s 2021 budget request brings into sharper focus what his administration values across the research landscape—and what it views as unimportant.

Big telescopes join hunt for things that go flash in the night

Last month, gravitational wave detectors picked up ripples in spacetime from a cosmic cataclysm: the possible merger of a black hole with a neutron star, an event never seen before. Telescopes around the world swiveled toward the apparent source—including, for the first time, large telescopes made available by dynamic scheduling software. The new network is now giving astronomers “a whole new way to observe the universe.”

Scientists discover virus with no recognizable genes

Viruses are some of the most mysterious organisms on Earth. They’re among the world’s tiniest lifeforms, and because none can survive and reproduce without a host, some scientists have questioned whether they should even be considered living things. Now, scientists have discovered one that has no easily recognizable genes, making it among the strangest of all known viruses.

Mission impossible? WHO director fights to prevent a pandemic without offending China

When Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus took over as director-general of the World Health Organization in July 2017, he had an ambitious to-do list: warn the world of the health impacts of climate change, help 1 billion people find health coverage, and reform the organization. All that has been overshadowed by a far bigger challenge—combating the deadly coronavirus that is spreading from China around the world at an astonishing speed.

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