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Salute to Sagacity

By Richard Gallagher | December 9, 2002

"Men are only so good as their technical developments allow them to be." --George Orwell, Inside the Whale and Other Essays, 1940 There are numerous awards and prizes for scientific achievement, and rightly so. Today's researchers are heavily dependent on sophisticated laboratory equipment, specialized software, and electronic access to databases. Orwell's maxim has never been so relevant. Yet recognizing excellence in the provision of these services has been remarkably lacking. That omi


Our Own Technological Illiteracy

By Richard Gallagher | November 25, 2002

Serious concerns about the general public's lack of technological know-how were highlighted by a National Academy of Engineering report earlier this year.1 It began: "Although the United States is increasingly defined by and dependent on technology and is adopting new technologies at a breathtaking pace, its citizens are not equipped to make well-considered decisions or to think critically about technology. As a society, we are not even fully aware of or conversant with the technologies we use


One Lumper or Two

By Richard Gallagher | November 11, 2002

Those who make many species are the 'splitters,' and those who make few are the 'lumpers.' --The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, vol. II. Extending the above analogy from taxonomy to biology, "splitters" have had the best of things recently, generating massive amounts of data on genes and their networks, proteins and their pathways, cascades and cassettes. But unifying this torrent of information into a seamless whole now requires "lumpers," integrative scientists. Two types of lumpers


The Heart and Soul of Science

By Richard Gallagher | October 28, 2002

Two items recently perused have, in their own separate ways, set me thinking about a debate that should be taking place, but isn't. No, strike debate, it should be a struggle for the hearts and souls of academic scientists. At issue are the behavioral norms that guide the research community. In the red corner, see the Oct. 9 leader (editorial) in the British newspaper The Guardian. Under the title "Patent Justice," the piece applauds the award of the Nobel Prize to John Sulston, and continues


An Unholy Trinity?

By Richard Gallagher | October 14, 2002

The "big three" journals, Nature, Science, and Cell, undoubtedly have some say in the development and perception of science. But what exactly is their impact? How long-lasting is it? Is it helpful or damaging? The story on page 59 of this issue considers how competition among these journals for high-profile breakthroughs may harm the scientific process, and another on page 76 profiles one of the architects of the current state of affairs. Is it now time, in the best interests of science, to d


The Creative Power of Naming

By Richard Gallagher | September 30, 2002

The ability to name is surely one of the great intellectual leaps of humankind. This is vividly illustrated in an extract of the uplifting poetry of the Kato Indians, an account of genesis: "Woodpeckers were not they say. Then wrens were not they say. Then hummingbirds were not they say. Then otters were not they say. Then jackrabbits, grey squirrels were not they say ... Then clouds were not they say. Fog was not they say. It didn't appear they say. Stars were not they say. It was very dark."


Rhetoric is Nice, but Show 'em the Money

By Richard Gallagher | September 16, 2002

The UK government is currently espousing a passion for science. Prime Minister Tony Blair said recently: "The strength and creativity of our science base is a key national asset as we move into the 21st century." And the minister for science and technology, David Sainsbury, recently remarked: "It (science) can improve the quality of our lives by enabling us to live more healthily, and longer". Exactly so. Demonstrating this new attitude, Blair's government has significantly boosted the United


Questions on Stem Cells

By Richard Gallagher | September 2, 2002

Self-renewal and the capacity to differentiate into a multitude of mature cell types have made stem cells the hottest ticket in biomedicine. But there are questions aplenty, scientific and otherwise. Do we need more stem cell lines? President Bush may believe that the available lines are sufficient, but these are derived fro1m blastocysts produced in fertility clinics. Maximizing the impact of stem cells in medicine calls for new lines derived from specific diseases, like cancers. Must thera


The Scientist on the Web

By Alexander Grimwade | August 19, 2002

We have recently achieved two significant steps in the development of The Scientist on the Web. In the past few weeks, we have launched a new design for our Web site at, and the 16-year online full-text archive of The Scientist back issues has been completed. Our newly designed site is, effectively, the fourth generation of The Scientist presence on the Web. In 1992--almost prehistory in "Internet time"--The Scientist launched an experiment in cooperation with the Nation


Open Access, High Ambitions

By Richard Gallagher | July 22, 2002

Open Access, High Ambitions By Richard Gallagher   Fueled by scientists' resentment at perceived exploitation by established publishers, and driven by new opportunities in information technology, open access publishing burst onto the scene in biomedicine about five years ago. Most readers of The Scientist will be aware of the principal, two-part, argument in its favor, namely that: Maximum dissemination of properly peer-reviewed research is good for authors, good for funders, and, mos


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