Geography of Soviet Science
…Today there are hundreds of educational institutions in the region, three institutes and several consultation bureaux from institutions of higher education in the capital and Leningrad. But their work is impaired by a shortage of scientific staff, the poorly developed material base and scanty provision for publications. Scientists and pedagogues who are as they say "as stubborn as Lomonosov" are working to solve these problems.
Beauty at its Rawest
A notable fact about federal agency research budgets is that most of them came through the first full year of Gramm-Rudman with very few wounds, and the only plausible explanation for that good fortune is the mounting deification of research as indispensable medicine for the economy.
It's been a long time since Congressional clowns have sought publicity by the formerly surefire tactic of ridiculing research titles. Given the expectations that the public has developed for research, that old ploy would today be regarded as blasphemous. The opportunities for science to hit the US Treasury have probably not been so favorable since Sputnik. With just a bit of public relations finesse, science could be in clover in the New Year.
Thatcher Cooks Up a Storm
In Take Nobody's Word For It, the first of a new 10-part series of 30-minute science programmes on BBC 2, the Prime Minister explains the chemistry of cooking.
Are your meringues stodgy? Is your homemade bread too starchy? Why does red cabbage boiled with white vinegar keep its colour? For the answers to these and a sprinkling of other homely questions the Grantham grocer's daughter and Oxford chemistry graduate will don her apron and take to the kitchen at No. 10 Downing Street.
Before the accident, 53 percent of those surveyed said benefits of the space program were higher than its cost. Immediately after the accident, the same people had shifted their attitudes, with 64 percent saying that the benefits were greater than the cost, Miller reported to the National Science Foundation.
An even greater swing took place when the question was money. There was an "amazing swing" in which 57 percent of those inter-viewed just after the accident upgraded their willingness to spend more money to get back on track as compared with what they had said before the accident.
… [Dale Corson], the president emeritus of Cornell University, says such an approach amounts to "shooting ourselves in the foot," because it also cuts off the flow of information to many U.S. engineers. For example, Martin DeVries, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, says limiting information could have a "detrimental effect" on his work because he searches databases to ensure he isn't duplicating other scientist's efforts.—Bob Davis
Mangoes in Midwinter
Sifting Out Garbage
… the few detected cases of fraud are only the extreme. Careless science and manipulated data are probably far more common and science's quality control system may also be letting in a lot of garbage. Poor research, like most fraud, may do little harm but it costs just as much to produce as good science and crowds out young researchers seeking funds to get started. A breakdown of science's quality assurance, as signaled by the Darsee case and other frauds, sounds an alarm worth more attention.
The Victims of Fraud
… it would appear that some of our leading journals have established as policy to accept frankly incomplete manuscripts if they are judged scientifically exciting....
Add a growing public perception that truth encompasses all that is not explicitly false, and the message to young investigators is clear. Give us your half-baked ideas and spare us the boring details. At least 10 percent of what I read today in our leading journals, while certainly not fraudulent, is, however, incomplete, inadequate, and even incompetent.
In this milieu, if scientific fraud is not increasing, it will be. The victims will be all of us.
The committee's diagnosis is right: the most urgent need is to lift the general air of depression that prevails in British research laboratories. It is hard to see how this could be fully accomplished without more money, especially when governments such as that of the United States are spending more on basic research for the sake of keeping up with their competitors. But the more urgent need, in Britain, is for a measure of leadership which, of necessity, can hardly be provided by those who have superintended the calamities of the past few years. If there is to be a council of the kind suggested, it should consist of a new crew, people whose enthusiasm for research has not been diminished by the experiences of the recent past.
The researcher, Peter L. Hagelstein, 32 years old, said in an interview … that he would only do unclassified work on the X-ray laser program at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
"I've gotten all this publicity and a lot of resentment from my colleagues in the scientific community," he said, "But they can see that my scientific reputation is undeserved because I've published so little."
"My own record of published scientific papers is not as strong as it might have been had I not engaged in classified research," he said of the weapons research.
Up, Up and Away
The cost would be much less than deployment of Star Wars, no greater than a major strategic weapons system, and, if shared among two or more nations, still less.
Where Have the Test Tubes Gone?
After a frantic search, I believe that about three sad specimens were found. As a result of my occasional forays they eventually reserved a stock for my use and even found a decaying test tube rack.
When asked to try some experiment, the average chemist's response nowadays is to set up an elaborate apparatus with mechanical stirrer, heating mantle etc. In the time taken to do this, several exploratory experiments can be carried out in test tubes before carrying out a more refined experiment which almost certainly will have a greater chance of success as a result of the preliminary test tube work.
Is test tube chemistry a lost art and, if so, is there any chance of it being resuscitated?
Chalk One Up for Peer Review
No one is comfortable with peer review; no scientist I know has not had a proposal turned down or a paper rejected. But that feeling of discomfort and vulnerability coming from peer review is exactly right. The long term interests of our democracy are best served by keeping special interest politics out of science policy decision-making and strengthening the peer review system. It is the bulwark of our science policy process.
Recognizing French Innovation
Without underestimating the great technological achievements of U.S. companies in telecommunications (as well as those of Japan), it can be said that France has become one of the major innovators in this domain.
Our country should therefore receive increasing recognition for its accomplishments in advanced technology.
Knowledge on the Cheap
"Water, isopropyl myristate, decyl oleate, propylene glycol, stearic acid, squalene wheatgerm oil, polyamino sugar condensate, allantoin, pantheol, glyceryl stearate, glyceryl stearate SE, lanolin oil, polysorbate 60, sorbitan stearate, dimethicone, carbomer 941, tniethanolamine, tocopherol, ascorbyl palmitate, methylparaben propylparaben, bucylparaben, tri sodium EDTA, fragrance."
The answer? A bottle of Miss Dior body lotion. If you've ever wondered why it's so expensive...