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Pentagon Revives Plans To Create SDI Institute

By | March 9, 1987

WASHINGTON—The Reagan administration is seeking congressional sponsors for a bill that would revive plans to create a federally funded think tank to support research on the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). A move by the Pentagon last year to establish the proposed SDI Institute was blocked on Capitol Hill after questions were raised about the need for the center, its staffing and independence. According to one Senate staff member who requested anonymity, "the SDI Institute is in better

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Reflections of a Biologist

By | March 9, 1987

Off-Beat Biologist: The Autobiography of Alan S. Parkes. Alan S. Parkes. The Galton Foundation, Cambridge, UK, 1985. 444 pp., illus. $30, £20. "Early in 1982, at the age of eighty-one, I set out in my usual spirit of 'have a go' to write a full-scale autobiography." An ebullient readiness to "have a go" at new challenges or opportunities, regardless of his formal or experiential qualifications for the task, typified Sir Alan Parkes' attitude in personal and professional life. This characte

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Science Policy Needs Historians

By | March 9, 1987

Last year, the National Academy of Sciences published an eight-volume report on the current state and future progress of physics in the United States. Even more wonderful than the achievements and prospects reported there, from the standpoint of the interested layman, is the number of apparently equally worthy projects and opportunities for the consumption of federal funds. The authors of Physics Through the 1990s do not order priorities. They endorse all the worthy proposals put forward by the

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Scientific Truth and the Courts

By | March 9, 1987

As a nonscientist, I am not qualified to question The New York Times' editorial conclusion that there is no association between spermicides and birth defects (The Scientist, January 26, 1987. P. 13). But I do question its conclusion that "both law and science seek after truth." Until all those involved in the resolution of problems such as in Wells v. Ortho recognize that law does not necessarily seek truth—except in some very long-range, societal sense not relevant to the short-term needs

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Scientists and Media Madness

By | March 9, 1987

My first two scientific experiences of media madness occurred in the early 1960s when I was a real microbiologist. One day, the new local television station sent along a camera team to see what we were all up to. After a quick glance around the lab, the boss pointed at a fraction collector and asked me to switch it on. "It is on," I replied, explaining that the machine clicked around once very 15 minutes as each test tube collected liquid from the ion exchange column above. "OK, I understand," t

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Shame On You, Mrs.Thatcher

By | March 9, 1987

The Conservative government of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher claims it provides "level funding" in its current support of scientific research. But, with sharply rising cost, level funding really amounts to underfunding, which can only hasten the decline of British science. Although that decline began at least a few years before Mrs. Thatcher assumed leadership in 1979, her government has done nothing of substance to reverse the trend. I say, shame on you, Mrs. Thatcher. Your budget po

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Should Journals Pay Referees?

By | March 9, 1987

Like most scientists, I have had a few bad experiences during the peer review of my manuscripts. My most painful experiences have been with the delays in publication brought on by apparent referee apathy to meeting the three- to four-week deadline of most journals. May I offer a suggestion for abolishing delays due to referee apathy? As others have suggested, paying referees may improve the quality of their reviews. However, I believe that payment should be restricted to those referees who provi

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Six States Lead SSC Contest

By | March 9, 1987

WASHINGTON—Several states began the race to acquire the Superconducting Supercollider (SSC) long before January 30, when the Reagan administration sounded the starting gun by announcing its support for the $4.4 billion project. That early jump may prove decisive. The August deadline for proposals gives an advantage to states that have spent plenty of money deciding where and how to build and operate the collider. Many of those decisions were made at least two years ago, and since then offi

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Slow Response to AIDS Report Disappoints Panel

By | March 9, 1987

WASHINGTON—More than four months after the Institute of Medicine issued its well-publicized report on AIDS, the disease is still outpacing federal efforts to contain and understand it. "Since the report came out, a lot has happened as far as the epidemic spreading, but very little has been done to implement the strongly felt recommendations of the panel," said June Osborn, dean of the University of Michigan School of Public Health and a member of the group that prepared the report. The nec

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So They Say

March 9, 1987

Scientific speculation about the biological basis of human value judgments has not, as many scientists and philosophers now argue, eliminated the philosophical distinction between facts and values. Exploring the social and spiritual implications of their work, biologists have not acted in the disinterested fashion of scientists from another planet, as they so often claim. They have instead been powerfully motivated by an identifiable set of earthly philosophical commitments, social concerns, and

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