28 FEBRUARY 2014 VOL 343 SCIENCE www.sciencemag.org 954
NEWS OF THE WEEK
Washington, D.C. 2
New Website Tracks Forests
In Near-Real Time
Scientists, policymakers, and the pub-
lic have a powerful new tool to study and
monitor forests online. Global Forest Watch,
launched last week by the World Resources
Institute, allows users to access deforestation
alerts updated monthly, locate cur-
rent fires, and track forest loss or
growth anywhere in the world.
Underpinning the interactive
website are two powerful new data
sets based on satellite imaging. The
first, with a geographical resolution
of 500 meters, has already helped
chimp conservationists confirm
deforestation events as they occur.
The second, highlighted in a paper
last fall (Science, 15 November
2013, p. 850), offers an annual snap-
shot of global forests at 30-meter
resolution. “In itself, more transparency
doesn’t lead to stopping deforestation,” says
Steve Schwartzman, of the Environmental
Defense Fund in Washington, D.C., “but this
is a terrific step.” http://scim.ag/_forest
Europe to Launch Hunt
For Earth-Like Planets
The European Space Agency last week
added a new mission to its “Cosmic Vision
2015-2025” program: a search for habitable
planets outside our solar system. Of about
1000 known exoplanets, only a few dozen
are rocky, as opposed to gaseous, and none
of these have conditions that would allow
liquid water on their surfaces. The PLAn-
etary Transits and Oscillations of stars
(PLATO) mission, to launch in 2024, will
try to find more planets that occupy the so-
called habitable zone around sunlike stars
by measuring the dimming of the light from
a star as a planet passes in front of it.
Other space-based observatories have
used this technique to search for exoplanets, but to do so have had to monitor very faint stars. That makes it hard to
determine an exoplanet’s mass, and thereby
decide if it is rocky or gaseous. PLATO will
use 34 small telescopes to widen its field of
view and monitor large numbers of bright,
relatively nearby stars for up to 3 years at a
Crackdown on Southern Chinese
Research Graft Widens
A corruption probe in one of China’s wealth-
iest provinces has so far snared more than
50 scientists and research administrators.
On 14 February, a government website for
Guangdong province revealed that the provincial science bureau’s former deputy director, Wang Kewei, was under investigation for
violating antigraft regulations. The bureau’s
director, Li Xinghua, was removed from his
post and stripped of Communist Party membership last month. And 21 employees of the
science department of Foshan city were also
charged in December with skimming money
from government R&D subsidies intended
for local companies.
Guangdong spent nearly $4 billion on
science and technology in 2012—a dis-
proportionately large share of the roughly
$36 billion in provincial government spending overall. “I think the current national
leadership is very serious about corruption,”
says Cao Cong, an expert on Chinese science
policy at the University of Nottingham in the
United Kingdom. “They really want to crack
AROUND THE WORLD
Scrutinized. Guangzhou, capital
of Guangdong province.
Last week, one of two
research physicists in
the U.S. House of Representatives announced
he won’t run for
reelection this fall.
Representative Rush Holt
(D–NJ), 65, isn’t saying what he’ll do next.
But his passion for science-based policies
still burns brightly.
Q: How has the level of scientific discourse
changed since you first came to Congress
R.H.: It has not gotten better, let’s put it
that way. There are still people who read
popular science articles, and most members of Congress say they value science
and respect scientists. But I don’t see more
scientific thinking—evidence-based, critical thinking.
Q: Why would a scientist want to run
R.H.: We need all kinds, especially people
who can analyze problems and not be bam-
boozled by technical talk. And scientists
bring a skill set that can be useful.
Q: What would it take to regain bipartisan
support for science-related legislation?
R.H.: It will take more people who have an
allegiance to evidence. And what I’m saying is that many [current members] do not.
That’s what would have to change.