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An Inspired Flash in the Fog

By | May 4, 1987

Dans les champs de l'observation le hasard ne favorise que les esprits prepares. —Louis Pasteur During the 1920s, more than 400 small power stations provided Britain's electricity supply. These local generating stations were owned by municipalities, local authorities and private companies, and operated at various voltages and frequencies: 50, 40 and 25 Hz, and direct current. It was recognized that this situation was far from ideal, not to mention uneconomic, as each local station had to p

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Board Decision on Animal Patents Sparks Debate

By | May 4, 1987

WASHINGTON—A U.S. patent board ruling last month significantly boosts the odds for approval of some of the pending applications for patents on genetically engineered animals. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences, while rejecting for other reasons an application for a patent on an oyster, ruled that there is no legal reason why such patent protection should be denied. The decision may lead eventually to the marketing of new breeds of faster-growin

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Cambridge Tests Tech Transfer

By | May 4, 1987

LONDON—All over Europe, politicians and planners are wondering if small, science-based companies can regenerate fading economies hit by the decline in such traditional industries as shipbuilding and steelmaking. In their search for answers, Cambridge, England, has emerged as a living laboratory to test the economic value of such businesses and the process through which academic innovations are transferred to industry. Cambridge, which as little as 10 years ago was known primarily for its c

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Can Peer Review Be Improved?

By | May 4, 1987

The December 15, 1986 issue of The Scientist contained an excerpt from Drummond Rennie's piece on peer review in JAMA (vol. 256, pp. 2391-2392, November 7, 1986), which included the statement "The function of peer review, then, may be to help decide not whether but where papers are published and to improve the quality of those that are accepted." This function is now performed by peer reviewers of scientific journals and granting agencies. Peer review as practiced now, however, poses a serious o

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Chemists Must Explain Their Work Better

By | May 4, 1987

Advertisers long ago learned that they could increase the sales of many products simply by adding the word "natural" to the packaging. But what is natural? To many people, the natural world is a chemical-free world. In his new book Chemicals & Society: A Guide to the New Chemical Age (Cambridge University Press, 1986), Hugh D. Crone of the Materials Research Laboratories in Melbourne, Australia, bemoans the "plethora of chemical fact and fancy with which the public is bombarded," including the t

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D Management Said Key to Progress

By | May 4, 1987

DENVER—Improved management of technology in general, and of R&D in particular, is the key to U.S. progress in the competitive '80s, according to participants in two sessions at the American Chemical Society meeting here last month. And meeting vigorous overseas competition demands effective financial cooperation between government and industry. Of the many actions required to respond to the challenge from abroad, asserted William Norris, chairman emeritus of Control Data Corporation, "non

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DOD Research Grants Face Uncertain Future

By | May 4, 1987

WASHINGTON—A Defense Department program that distributed $124 million last year in contracts to university researchers appears to have been a one-time windfall for academic scientists. Its survival, which is uncertain given the pressure to trim military spending and reduce the federal deficit, could hurt other researchers funded by the Pentagon. The University Research Initiative (URI) was created as a way to provide universities with money for equipment, training and research in areas fel

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Europe Balks At Support For Collider

By | May 4, 1987

WASHINGTON—European scientists testifying before a House committee have thrown cold water on the prospect of international collaboration on the Superconducting Supercollider, a possibility that the Reagan administration has held out as a way to reduce the U.S. cost of the proposed multi-billion dollar project. In three days of hearings last month by the Science, Technology and Space Committee, a stream of witnesses also expressed doubts about the value of recently discovered superconductiv

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Follow the Finnish Lead in Peer Review

By | May 4, 1987

I usually feel happier reviewing a grant application from the U.S. National Science Foundation than one sent by the Science and Engineering Council here in Britain, where I am much more likely to know the applicant personally," a biochemist told me recently. A staunch supporter of peer review, he was nevertheless uncomfortably aware of the distortions, unfairness and even abuses that can flaw this time-honored principle of scholarly intercourse. He even suggested that the contemporary problem of

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Formidable Addition to World Sci-Tech Series

By | May 4, 1987

Science and Technology in the USA. Albert H. Teich and Jill H. Pace, eds. Longman Group, Harlow, 1986. 408 pp. £58. Distributed in the United States and Canada by Gale Research Company, Detroit, MI. $95. Sixteen authorities, ranging from information scientist to intellectual property attorney and from health planner to science policy buff in the Library of Congress, have distilled their expertise into this invaluable resource. Both reference work and textbook, it is a formidable addition to

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