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Publishing Conference Papers

By | June 15, 1987

Publishers and professional scientists enjoy a love-hate relationship over volumes of conference proceedings. Many researchers question whether science is well served by conference papers published as collections in journals or books. Reviewers frequently criticize proceedings books for their high prices and poor physical appearance, for a lack of rigorous editing, or for long publication delays. Some academic publishers must share this skepticism because they rarely produce books arising from m

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Research Tier Plan Splits U.K. Scientists

By | June 15, 1987

LONDON—Nearly one-half of the United Kingdom's university earth scientists will become second-class citizens if a classification of their institutions proposed in a report to the country's University Grants Committee (UGC) is accepted. The report is widely seen as a blueprint for reorganizing research funding throughout the sciences. It calls for a three-tiered university system, with expensive research equipment concentrated in top-level universities and little or no opportunity for resea

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Rewriting the Book on Nucleic Acids

By | June 15, 1987

Every cultured person today has heard of DNA, RNA and protein synthesis. But nucleic acids were not so well-known in 1927, when Albert Dalcq asked me to study the localization of "thymonucleic acid" in ovarian eggs (ovocytes). Biochemistry textbooks merely said that there are two kinds of nucleic acids, "animal" and "vegetal." Thymonucleic acid, a typical animal nucleic acid, had a queer sugar residue, which makes it a DNA. Plant nucleic acids, like zymonucleic acid from yeast, contained a pento

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Rubbia and His Team's Tricks of The Trade

By | June 15, 1987

Nobel Dreams. Gary Taubes. Random House, New York, 1986. 261 pp. $19.95. The days of the solitary scientist sounding out nature with homemade equipment are gone. This is nowhere more true than in particle physics, where the search for smaller and smaller units of matter has progressed from van Leeuwenhoek's microscope to Rutherford's alpha-particle beams to today's city-sized particle accelerators, each costing many hundreds of millions of dollars and gobbling up the resources and reputations of

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School Ranking Inconclusive

By | June 15, 1987

WEST BERLIN—An attempt to compare the academic standings of West German universities has produced a confusing lack of correlation between five different quantitative indicators. Conducted by Ernst Giese from the University of Giessen and funded by the German Research Society (DFG), the survey has been published at a sensitive time for science policy in West Germany. Its results have been welcomed by the country's collective of university presidents, which does not wish science indicators t

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LONDON—The death of defense scientist David Sands in a car crash March 30 was neither a suicide nor a crime, the Basingstoke coroner has ruled. Sands, who worked for Easams, a company owned by Marconi, is one of at least four scientists working in the United Kingdom who have died in puzzling circumstances in the past several months. The ruling was the third time in nine months that local coroners have failed to decide the cause of death in cases involving scientists with military connectio

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Seeking Truth in the Killing Fields

By | June 15, 1987

Forensic anthropologist Clyde Snow has spent his life surrounded by victims of violent death. A career with the Federal Aviation Administration taught him to extract causal messages hidden in the wreckage of a commercial airplane. That knowledge made the 59-year-old Oklahoman an obvious choice when the Argentine government in 1984 contacted the American Association for the Advancement of Science for help in preparing evidence that could bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of some o

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So They Say

June 15, 1987

Verbatim excerpts from the media on the conduct of science. Political Power Play When professors play politics, the bitterness is often inversely proportional to the stakes. That was the case when some scientists recently denied Prof. Samuel Huntington of Harvard membership in the National Academy of Sciences. Actually, Huntington's vocation, properly pursued, makes him unsuited to the academy as it evidently wants to be understood. And his civic virtue would make him uncomfortable in the academ

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Sometimes the Public Is Right

By | June 15, 1987

Scientists have no difficulty in accepting the proposition that they can be wrong. They work in an inherently uncertain enterprise, where mistakes are inevitable and where error ought to be no disgrace. On the other hand, many scientists are uneasy with what is often a closely linked proposition—that lobbyists and campaigners they perceive as being practitioners of "anti-science" can be right. Whether confronted with the supposed hazards of food irradiation or the supposed dietary benefit

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The Military Threat to R&D

By | June 15, 1987

One needn't be opposed to defense spending to decry the disproportionate allocation of federal R&D funds that has gone to the military sector during the Reagan administration. The administration's budget request for fiscal year 1988 would bring to 72 percent the share of federal research dollars earmarked for defense-related programs. But a roughly three-fourths portion for military R&D is historically anomalous: from 1965 to 1980, the federal pie for R&D was divided about equally between defens

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