Home Research funding Lunar ice, research imbalance and new Minister of Science

Lunar ice, research imbalance and new Minister of Science

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Researchers at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, test a model of VIPER on simulated lunar terrain.Credit: NASA / GRC / Bridget Caswell

Will NASA’s lunar rover find enough ice it is looking for?

NASA plans to land its next lunar rover next to a crater, named Nobile, near the moon’s south pole. But some scientists are wondering if the mission, which is slated to launch in 2023, will effectively find the moon ice it is looking for.

The mission, known as the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER), will be the first to visit the South Pole of the Moon, which has great scientific promise: it receives little sunlight, so it has reserves of ice containing information. on the origin and evolution of the solar system.

The agency acknowledges that VIPER (pictured, a test version on Earth) does not yet have a detailed map of the location of the ice around Nobile. “That’s exactly why we’re going there,” says Anthony Colaprete, Project VIPER scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

But some scientists say VIPER would be better off if NASA first launched another planned spacecraft: a small $ 55 million satellite called the Lunar Trailblazer. Lunar Trailblazer’s mission is to map water on the Moon. Researchers say the VIPER team could use these maps to help the rover effectively prospect for ice during its rapid 100-day mission. It’s a “missed opportunity,” says Clive Neal, a geoscientist at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

Development research conducted primarily by academics from the North

According to an analysis of nearly 25,000 articles, research on economic problems related to developing countries is carried out mainly by people based in the north of the world. The results show that although many studies focus on countries or regions in the south of the world, researchers based there have been grossly under-represented in the literature for decades.

Economists analyzed data on journal articles, citations and conference presentations in the context of development research and development policies. They found that only 16% of the 24,894 articles published in 20 leading development journals between 1990 and 2019 were written by researchers based in the south of the world, compared with 73% written by researchers in the global north and 11% who were collaborations between researchers. north and south (see ‘Under-represented in research’).

“Once you start to quantify it in a systematic way, the severity of the problem really comes home,” says co-author Grieve Chelwa, now an economist at The New School of New York.

In a subset of 15,117 articles that explicitly focused on a country or region in the south of the world, the team found that 62% were written by researchers based in the north of the world. Researchers from the “South” were also under-represented in article citations and among presenters at international development conferences (V. Amarante et al. Appl. Econ. Lett. https://doi.org/gxgq; 2021).

The authors defined ‘southern’ researchers as those working in a university or organization based in any country in Latin America, Asia or Africa, including the Middle East, while the researchers of the “north” were defined as those based anywhere else.

Limited access to research funding and opportunities in some countries, and the migration of researchers from the global south to the global north, may partly explain the north’s dominance in development studies, says Chelwa. But he and other development researchers suspect that the exclusion and exploitation of researchers based in the south of the world could also contribute.

Chelwa adds that in the future he would like to see more “equal partnerships” between researchers from the north and south of the world, and increased representation of academics from the south of the world on journal editorial boards.

Conservative MP George Freeman arrives at the cabinet office in London.

George Freeman, pictured in 2019.Credit: Léon Neal / Getty

UK appoints new science minister

The UK has a new Science Minister – his ninth since 2010, following a cabinet reshuffle under Prime Minister Boris Johnson. George Freeman, a former investor in life science companies, takes the role as the coronavirus pandemic places a renewed emphasis on research.

Freeman has been a Conservative MP since 2010 and previously served as a government adviser on life sciences and Minister of Transport. He succeeds her last post – a junior ministerial post – from Amanda Solloway, who was appointed in early 2020.

His background as a minister and as a biotech venture capitalist makes Freeman a relatively popular choice for some researchers.

The reshuffle comes less than two months before the government’s spending review, as ministers grapple with funding their departments. Scientists will be watching closely to see how Freeman plans to meet the UK’s bold goal of increasing public and private investment in research and development to 2.4% of gross domestic product by 2027.

The country’s relations with Europe are also likely to influence the agenda of the Minister of Science.

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