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The Biosafety Mess

By | January 31, 2005

For 20 years, I was the curator of the world's largest bacteriophage collection: the Felix d'Herelle Reference Center for Bacterial Viruses (HER 607).


Citizen Scholars

By | January 17, 2005

Public research universities face enormous challenges in the 21st century, perhaps none more compelling than the obligation to serve society.


When Hypotheses Dominate

By | December 6, 2004

Scientific experimentation is based on examining falsifiable hypotheses, and not simply using relatively meaningless experiments to prop up thedogma du jour.


Middle-Aged Scientists are Most Potent

By | November 22, 2004

Is science a young person's game?


Downsizing the Status of Science

By | November 8, 2004

Contemporary Western society has a love-hate relationship with scientific knowledge. We pursue it and celebrate it, employing people to gain knowledge of our genetic makeup, market conditions, or the nation's mood. Often we complain that we lack sufficient knowledge to find a cure for AIDS or for minimizing the consequences of global warming. Outwardly we take knowledge very seriously, with expressions like 'knowledge is power.'Yet, society is uncomfortable with the pursuit of knowledge, and oft


Bush-Kerry: More of the Change?

By | October 25, 2004

US Presidential campaigns involving an incumbent usually boil down toa simple choice: the challenger's proposal for change against thesitting president's argument for more of the same. This year's race, however, reverses the terms of reference. George W. Bush, spurred and empowered by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, has precipitated far more dramatic policy changes than could have been predicted from his narrow margin of victory in 2000. Voters this year must consider whether those


Crafting a Consensus on Therapeutic Cloning

By | October 11, 2004

American scientists seem to have forfeited their chance to convince the government to support research into therapeutic cloning as the source of a new generation of rational therapies. It was not always this way. As a young scientist working at Cold Spring Harbor in the early 1970s, my telephoning Paul Berg at Stanford University concerning his work on recombinant DNA and tumor viruses led to the Asilomar conferences, from which the voluntary moratorium on recombinant DNA work emerged, leading t


The Wizard's Warning

By | September 27, 2004

Once upon a time, just over a hundred years ago, a wizard addressed a large gathering of industrial and scientific leaders. Drawing on his 20/20 foresight, he described the powerful discoveries that could enrich the coming century. "Your current language is inadequate," he said. So he conjured visions of energy quantization, relativity theory, atomic and nuclear structure, quantum mechanics, and molecular biology to give some impressions of the sciences that might come. With mounting excitement,


Stop Whispering About Peer Review

By | September 13, 2004

You switch on the evening news to hear a headline report of a small new study claiming unforeseen risks to health. The startling nature of the claims is, as so often happens, in inverse proportion to the study's sample size. The news program has already located a group of concerned parents and an apparently off-hand response from health officials. Over the ensuing days, add into the mix other interested parties, a 'maverick' scientist, vitriolic commentary drawing comparisons with thalidomide, a


Nanotech Needs a Hard Sell, Plus Education

By | August 30, 2004

Startling advances are being made in the emerging field of nanotechnology. For example, Naomi Halas and Jennifer West of Rice University in Houston recently announced that their nanoshells had proven effective at eradicating tumors in lab animals1; researchers at Harvard University reported creating hybrid nanowires that could be linked to conventional silicon circuits2; and government scientists at Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago documented how they had engineered nanoparticles capable o


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