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No Sex Research Please, We're American

By | December 1, 2003

No Sex Research Please, We're American By Richard Gallagher During a budget debate in the US House of Representatives on July 10, Rep. Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.) proposed an amendment to defund five NIH grants,1 four of which would examine aspects of human sexuality. "Who thinks this stuff up?" Toomey asked. His amendment was barely defeated, 210 to 212. Combined, the threatened studies will receive $1.5 million (US) next year. Specifically, the money will be spent on studying American Indian a

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Vaccination Undermined

By | November 17, 2003

For more than 200 years, vaccines have made an unparalleled contribution to public health. The writer and commentator Samuel Butler (1835-1902) wrote: "Vaccination is the medical sacrament corresponding to baptism." Considering the list of killer diseases that once held terror and are now under control, including polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis, rubella, mumps, tetanus, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), one might expect vaccination to have achieved miracle status, not just sacrame

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Spraffing About Science

By | November 3, 2003

Three recent conversations: 1. While in a bookstore perusing the bicycling magazines at length (with only the vaguest intention to buy), a disheveled man beside me starts making loud pronouncements on the nature of time, triggered by the cover art on a popular science magazine. He catches my eye, and partly out of my British obligation to "good manners" and partly because I'll talk with anyone who has an opinion about science, we engage in a shouted exchange about how time is measured, and j

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Individuality and Medicine

By | October 20, 2003

"The existence in every human being of a vast array of attributes which are potentially measurable (whether by present methods or not), and often uncorrelated mathematically, makes quite tenable the hypothesis that practically every human being is a deviate in some respects." --Roger J. Williams1 We're all subtly, and beautifully, different. A byproduct of this individuality, or deviation as Williams called it, is disease. Now for the first time, there exists a reasonable possibility to mea

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Precious Right, Necessary Responsibilities

By | October 6, 2003

"The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law."1 Even before we get to the lab bench, the complexities of being a researcher are daunting. In this issue of The Scientist, questions of freedom of conscience and personal rights are raised. Other topics recently addressed on our Web site or in p

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Save the Lab from Patriotic Correctness

By | September 22, 2003

As exemplified by the well-publicized cases of Thomas Butler, David Kelly, and Steven J. Hatfill, the fallout from the War on Terror has been particularly hazardous for scientists. Donald A. Henderson, who was inaugural director of the US Office of Public Health Preparedness, which coordinates the national response to public health emergencies, has accused the FBI of losing "all perspective" and of being "out of control" in the Butler and Hatfill investigations.1 The dangers are summed up by

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Taking the Pulse of Scientific Societies

By | September 8, 2003

Scientific societies are an essential part of the research landscape. Almost all of us are members of one or more of them, and we have numerous reasons for joining. When I was a PhD student, I joined the British Society for Immunology, in part for the sense of belonging. I was eager to consider myself an immunologist; getting the badge of membership was a small but pleasurable step. My more pragmatic next-door neighbor, Steve, is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Sci

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Microarrays R Us - for the Moment

By | August 25, 2003

In this issue we take a close look at DNA microarrays, the current amore of biological and biomedical researchers. There's little reason to doubt that the infatuation will continue, at least for awhile. Microarrays are relatively inexpensive, powerful tools for assessing gene expression. On glass or plastic slides, thousands of known DNA sequences are printed, spotted or synthesized. mRNA is isolated from samples, often converted to cDNA and amplified, before hybridization on the slides. The

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Engaging the Rest of Humanity

By | July 28, 2003

"Science... is good for the scientist; whether also for the rest of humanity is arguable." Erwin Chargaff Recently, a headline in the UK newspaper The Sun screamed "Your Mother Was Aborted Baby." The story dealt with the possibility of using aborted fetuses as a new source of donor eggs for couples needing fertility treatment. In the same week, the headline "Test-tube 'Monster' Condemned" ran in several publications, dealing with the creation of chimeric human embryos, part-male and part-f

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Iraqi Science: Who Cares?

By | July 14, 2003

As my intrepid colleague Sam Jaffe reports in this issue (Rebuilding Iraqi Science), Iraqi science is on its knees. Following two-and-a-half decades of a brutal dictatorship, it's been pummeled by sanctions, halted in its tracks by war, and ransacked in the postwar chaos. We probably can add to this list a deep malaise, which appears to be affecting the entire country as it awaits reconstruction. While reading his report, several questions struck me: Just how worthwhile would it be to reconst

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