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June 15, 1987

In her article "NIH Must Meet the Hughes Challenge" (THE SCIENTIST, April 6, 1987, p. 13), Sandra Panem noted the recent Internal Revenue Service ruling that will permit the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to extend funding to an increased number of scientists. Panem expressed fear that the cream of researchers might join Hughes, be tapped to advise Hughes grant-makers, and lose their loyalty to NIH, thus affecting adversely the quality of NIH pro-grams. The challenge to NIH, in her view,

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Neural Net Scientists Take Long View

By | June 15, 1987

PASADENA, CALIF.—A new approach to pattern recognition and similarly difficult problems, called neural-net computing, is stirring increasing interest among computer scientists. Despite recent reports in the media, however, the approach is far from ready for large-scale applications. "There's a lot of hype in the field," declared Yaser AbuMostafa, a researcher at California Institute of Technology. "The problem is how to achieve generalizable learning, to extend a computer's experience to n

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NSF Queries Need for New Facilities

By | June 15, 1987

WASHINGTON—In the midst of a growing chorus lamenting the physical condition of the nation's research facilities, the National Science Foundation has been singing a different—and somewhat dissonant—tune. The battle, not surprisingly, concerns money: in particular, whether the federal government should undertake a multibillion dollar program to upgrade laboratories in hundreds of colleges and universities. A host of educational organizations think it should, and are backing a bi

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Nurturing the Embryo Research Debate

By | June 15, 1987

Human Embryo Research—Yes or No? The CIBA Foundation.Published by Tavistock Publications in association with Methuen, New York, 1987. 232 pp. $39.95 HB. $14.95 PB. The sanctity of human life has been the intellectual province of philosophers and theologians since time immemorial. Rapid strides in medical technology have placed the medical scientists and the specialist physician at the center of controversy, as lawmakers and ethicists scramble to keep up with current events. July 1978 mark

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Physics Should Get Its Act Together

By | June 15, 1987

George Keyworth, the Washington businessman who once served as science adviser to the President, was fond of calling on the scientific community to "get its act together" and start setting priorities. The words have the sound of reason. Surely not all science is equally important and, if scientists don't set the priorities, someone else will. But, of course, as Keyworth must have realized, it's not that simple. It was, for example, possible for nuclear physicists to reach a consensus of sorts th

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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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