February 1987

Volume 1 Issue 6

The Scientist February 1987 Cover




WASHINGTON—The idea of making American industry more competitive through increased support for industrial and academic research and development is becoming a rallying cry for high-powered lobbying efforts here. This winter has seen the birth of two privately funded, independent coalitions that unite members of high-tech industries, universities, trade associations and nonprofit organizations. It has also seen the formation of a 160-member Congressional Caucus on Competitiveness, and the in

AAAS: On the Brink of Gradual Change

WASHINGTON—Next week's annual meeting in Chicago will permit the American Association for the Advancement of Science to carry out its fundamental mission of promoting the public understanding of science. But something of even greater importance to the 139-year-old organization will take place after the meeting, when a successor to Executive Director William Carey will be announced. Carey, 70, is retiring March 31 after serving for a dozen years as head of the oldest, largest and most prest

Backlash Chills Labs In China

The recent political shakeup in China, including the expulsion of several prominent scientists from their university or academy poets, is sending shock waves through the larger scientific community there, according to some Western observers. "What has happened is a serious damper on the scientific and intellectual community in general," said Otto Schnepp, a chemist at the University of Southern California who was science counselor in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing from 1980 to 1982. "How this will

Organic Chemist Appointed French Science Minister

LONDON—An organic chemist with a taste for politics—a talent that promises to be much in demand in the months ahead—has been named the new French minister for science and universities. Jacques Valade, 57, was appointed January 22 to succeed physicist Main Devaquet, who resigned after his proposals to restrict student entry to French universities triggered large-scale and violent protests last fall. The protests appeared also to reflect a deeper unhappiness with the policies of

British Cautious On Space Station Lab

LONDON—Britain may be moving out of step with its European partners over plans to take part in NASA's $12 billion space station. British space officials reported January 22 at an international conference sponsored by the Royal Society that Britain will urge a more cautious approach than that being advocated by the European Space Agency. The 13-member agency this year expects to draw up final plans for Columbus, its contribution to the U.S.-financed space station scheduled to be assembled i

Euromath Project Launched

LONDON—The European Economic Community has begun to address the traditional isolation within mathematics with a project to help scientists from 20 countries retrieve information and hold conferences electronically. The project, called Euromath, has received an $830,000 grant from the European Commission for its first phase. The money will be divided among researchers at centers ranging from the National Institute of Higher Education in Dublin to the Fashinformationszentrum in Karlsruhe, We

Is More News Better?

WASHINGTON—Undaunted by a lack of advertising and the general decline of science magazines, more U.S. newspapers are adding a weekly science section to their pages. But despite the 350 percent increase in the number of such sections in the last two years—from 19 to 66 according to a recent survey from the Scientists' Institute for Public Information—it's not known if the growth has improved the type or quality of coverage. SIPI, a New York-based nonprofit group that works to im

Feuds, Politics Slow African Food Research

LONDON—Agricultural research in Africa is being blocked by political interference, mismanagement and cultural disputes among the Western community of scientists working in the region. The mid-December meeting of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research featured harsh criticism of two of the 13 member centers, according to delegates at the meeting in Washington. In closed-door sessions, the delegates also debated the group's overall research program. The West African Ri

Investors Rediscover High Tech

WASHINGTON—The bull market that helped boost the Dow Jones Industrial Average to its record highs last month has been fueled in part by technology stocks, and some analysts are predicting steady—if spotty—growth for that sector for the rest of the year. "From an economic standpoint, the second quarter [of 1986] was the bottom in terms of GNP, interest rates, computer manufacturing orders and shipments," said John C. Maxwell, senior analyst at Dillon Read & Co. Inc. in New York.

U.S. Controls Hamper Trade With Allies

WASHINGTON—The Japanese buy infrared, optical lasers from the American firm of Spectra-Physics for the cutting, welding and heat treating of various manufactured products. But each time any of its lasers need servicing or spare parts, Spectra-Physics has to navigate the slow and complex U.S. export licensing procedure that was created for another purpose, namely, to ensure that certain types of advanced technology do not pass to the Soviet Union and its allies. Although the San Jose-based

CERN Asks For Advance

GENEVA—A cash crisis has forced CERN (the European Center for Nuclear Research) to ask member countries for an advance on this year's subscription. Although this year's operating budget has not been set (the latest estimate is ($1.2 billion), CERN has suffered from the escalating costs of building a new electron/positron collider (LEP). The facility, scheduled to open in 1989, will study the recently discovered W and Z particles. Germany and France, which together contribute nearly one-hal

Italians Scorn Nuclear Power

ROME—Nuclear power is becoming a major political issue here as the country awaits the formation in April of a new coalition government. Last month a newspaper poll indicated that 72 percent of the public would vote to abandon nuclear power entirely, and a referendum will be needed if the Christian Democrats and their partners in the current government cannot agree on a policy. Shortly after the results were published, the government postponed until later this month a widely publicized nati

Inquiry into CDC Lab Kindles Debate On Best Approach to AIDS Research

ATLANTA—What is the role of basic research in an organization with an applied mission? That issue has surfaced in the recent investigation of the AIDS program at the Centers for Disease Control. A three-member panel from the Institute of Medicine, in a December report, concluded that one of the AIDS laboratory units had suffered from poor scientific management, low morale and productivity, and a lack of clear research goals. The AIDS lab was created in 1983, when knowledge about the diseas


NSF Seeks Biotech Bids

WASHINGTON—The National Science Foundation, aiming to encourage interdisciplinary research and a more efficient use of expensive equipment in areas relating to biotechnology, is channeling up to $8 million this year into the creation of multi-user research facilities. The Foundation plans to fund two types of research centers through its new biological centers program. This year 10 to 15 awards averaging $500,000 each are expected to be made for multi-user instrumentation facilities known

Newsletter To Focus on Its Impact

WASHINGTON—The founding editor of the now-defunct Science 86 is launching a monthly newsletter that will examine the impact on society of advances in science and technology. The eight- to 10-page newsletter, to be called Science Impact, is scheduled to debut in May. Allen Hammond, who will serve as its editor and publisher, is no stranger to new publications. He created the "Research News" section of Science magazine and several years later persuaded its publisher, the American Association

Bilingual Debut in Canada

OTTAWA—The new year also brought Canadians a new science magazine, the only English-language one of its kind for the general public. Science and Technology Dimensions is a "privatized" version of Science Dimensions, a 17-year-old publication of the National Re search Council of Canada. The Council also published a French language version called Dimension Science. A Montreal firm, Science & Technologie Mondex Inc., which published the French-Canadian magazine Science et Technologie, last ye

Science News Sails Along

WASHINGTON—The growing popularity and continued financial health of Science News offers hope to readers saddened by the recent demise of two mass-circulation science magazines sacrificed in an attempt to bail out a third. Published here continuously since 1922 by the nonprofit Science Service, Science News reached its highest circulation level ever in 1986, going from 179,000 subscribers in June to more than 215,000 by the end of December. The magazine does not know how many of its new rea


Contemplating a Science Court:

The past two decades have seen much discussion among legal and science professionals about the competence with which our elected officials decide upon public policy matters that have a scientific or technological dimension. A consensus seems to have formed that the present system of decision making is flawed, that policymakers lack the expertise to weigh complex technical data, and that scientific facts are too often mangled in the political arena, thus rendering rational decisions nearly imposs


Are We Gearing up for Biological Warfare?

Thank you for Seth Shulman's useful article on military funding for research on biological warfare (BW) (The Scientist, December 15, pp. 1, 8). It is highly significant that between 1981 and 1987—the Reagan years—Department of Defense funding for BW has gone up by a factor of five. Let us recall also that in his status as President of the Senate, Vice President George Bush twice broke a tie vote on the production of binary nerve gases, both times in favor of producing them. One of th

Should Biology History Offer Theses?

Overall, I find Gary Freeman's review of the book I edited, Defining Biology, (The Scientist, November 17, 1986) to be a reasonable one that endorses the value of these essays from the 1890s. I do find his claim that "the propounding of a thesis is a disease that is endemic to the history of biology business" quite odd. Is Freeman suggesting that history should give just "one damn thing after another," as it has sometimes been accused of doing? And is this mandate peculiar to history or also to

Humane Society Should Stop Criticizing, Start Funding

The letter by Randall Lockwood and Martin L. Stephens (The Scientist, December 15, 1986, p. 10) implies that behavioral researchers, who have not welcomed the recent mandate to provide for the psychological well-being of captive primates, are simply ignorant of the set of prescriptions that the authors provide. These include a varied environment over which the animals can exert some control, the opportunity to perform all possible species-specific behaviors, and provision of compassionate careta


Journal Editors and Co-authors

I am surprised that New England Journal of Medicine subscribers have heard no more from Benish, Cryar, Lind-Ackerson, Benish, Popp, Hourani, Rutt, Junger, Goldstein, Fibs, Barbas, Rist, Sugar, Cryar and Mellinger. You may remember them as the authors of a famous letter to NEJM in which they announced a tie for the honor of writing the paper in that journal with the greatest number of authors in 1985 (NEJM, vol. 313, 1985, p. 331). The accolade went jointly to Lauristen, Rune, Bytzer, Kelbaek, Je

An Urgent Need to Map Biodiversity

The scientific imagination has been stirred by a call for complete sequencing of the human genome (The Scientist, October 20, 1986, pp. 11-12). The prospect is attractive because it offers an Everest-like goal, the entrainment of new advances in high technology, and the promise of practical applications in medicine. A close parallel exists in the mission envisioned by other biologists to describe and characterize the remainder of life on Earth. Where the genome project will search inwardly to ma

Stewart-Feder (Finally) in Print

The appearance of Walter Stewart and Ned Feder's long-pending paper analyzing John Darsee's fraudulent scientific publications is extremely good news. It should be reassuring, both to scientists and to those who pay their bills. It shows that the system works. The venerable Nature, which published the paper in its January 15 issue, has once again served science well. The publication process was certainly protracted; various versions of the paper have been under consideration there and elsewhere

Our Unknown Martyrs

Behind every famous scientist who died or suffered greatly for his work there stand in serried ranks hundreds of others—the unknown martyrs of science. For them there is no roll of honor, no shrine of remembrance. No sacred flame burns for them in any academy, and if their names were briefly known to colleagues, they were soon forgotten again. This is the gratitude of mankind remembering its unknown soldiers everywhere, but not its scientists. The dramatic accident of the space shuttle Cha


Rep. Brown: A Department of Science and Technology?

As a freshman congressman in 1963, Rep. George E. Brown Jr. (D-Calif.) was an early opponent of U.S. military involvement in Vietnam. Last year, he helped lead a successful congressional drive for a moratorium on testing of experimental anti-satellite weapons and supported a pledge by university physics students and professors to refuse funding from the Strategic Defense Initiative program. Throughout his career on Capitol Hill, in fact, Brown, while representing a district heavily dependent on


Three Cheers for Birdbrains

A former secretary of mine asked me how could I stand writing about birdsong all these years. The answer is simple. Birdsong is a learned skill controlled by a remarkable brain. Try to link the bird's brain to the bird's song and things get very exciting. In 1964 it seemed as if the avian vocal organ, the syrinx, was a good place to start understanding the relation between brain and song. I started with chaffinches. I found that an alarmed chaffinch, which had had the nerves to the syrinx cut, b

Books etc.

More Than Just Marie Curie

Women in Science: Antiquity Through the Nineteenth Century: A Biographical Dictionary and Bibliography. Manlyn Bailey Ogilvie. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1986. 272 pp. $25. Anyone seeking accurate biographical information about women scientists of the past will find this work an indispensable reference tool. This has previously been a very difficult and daunting task for the little available information was often scattered, sketchy, and at times erroneous or inconsistent. Just how much of an

Honesty Is the Best Policy

False Prophets: Fraud and Error in Science and Medicine. Alexander Kohn. Basil Blackwell, New York, 1987. 240 pp., illus. $24.95. It cannot be said that False Prophets created false expectations. The subtitle on the dustjacket is "Fraud and Error in Science and Medicine." The principal jacket illustration is Thomas Wycks' painting of an alchemist in his laboratory amidst a hodgepodge of pots, flasks, books, apparatus and the trappings of arcane inquiry. The back cover carries a photo of a black

Anatomy of an American Museum

Dinosaurs in the Attic: An Excursion into the American Museum of Natural History. Douglas J. Preston. St. Martin's Press, New York, 1986. 244 pp., illus. $18.95. To paraphrase Robert Hutchins, whenever the urge to write an institutional history arises, it is best to let the urge pass. Dinosaurs in the Attic is the exception to the dreary litany of the past which characterizes most institutional histories. Here is a thrilling "Excursion into the American Museum of Natural History." The book is a

Altering the Public Image of Science

Storm Over Biology: Essays on Science, Sentiment, and Public Policy. Bernard D. Davis. Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY, 1986. 324 pp. $22.95. "What is this, a vanity publisher?" This, according to The New York Times, was Stephen Jay Gould's response to the printing of these provocative essays. In contrast, I am grateful that Bernard Davis has seen fit to publish them in book form, as I am with each new collection of Gould's charming essays. The book consists of 44 chapters, all but one reprinted f

Science's Mentoring Process

I well remember the sudden about-face of the science establishment's view of acupuncture—from adamant disbelief to cautious acceptance. What caused the change? It was not new facts about acupuncture, but instead the discovery of the enkephalins, the body's own opiates. Perhaps the needle stimulated their production. Scientists seem to be unimpressed by facts unless they can be connected to the established network of ideas. How then does science progress? And how did the enkephalin discover

Is There Anybody Out There?

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence: Listening for Life in the Cosmos. Thomas R. McDonough. John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1986. 244 pp., illus. $19.95. Is anybody else out there? This profoundly bemusing question is an old one. New to our time is the chance of beginning to ask it meaningfully. The distance between stars is almost unimaginably vast. Travel between them, while not theoretically impossible, appears to be so stupendously difficult, hazardous, time-consuming and energy-expe

New, Updated Guides to European and Medical Research Centers

European Research Centres Longman, Harlow, 6th ed., 1986. 2 vols., 2,453 pp. £240. (Distributed in North America by Gale Research Company, Detroit, MI. $430.) Medical Research Centres Longman, Harlow, 7th ed., 1986. 2 vols., 1,080 pp. £230. (Distributed in North America by Gale Research Company, Detroit, MI. $395.) Time was when anyone trying to trace scientific organizations in countries such as Belgium, Italy or Yugoslavia had to cope with a series of national guides that were incomp


Electronic Lab Notes

A laboratory notebook is one of a scientist's most valuable tools if it is kept up to date, if its entries are complete, detailed and properly authenticated by witnesses, and if it is secure against damage and loss. Electronic notekeeping can be easier and more useful than traditional handwritten records. However, many scientists and lab managers who have relied on traditional paper-based records are concerned about depending on electronically recorded notes. What are the advantages and disadvan

Books etc.

Piltdown Proves a Point

In 1908, a workman digging in a gravel pit in the Sussex hamlet of Piltdown discovered a fragment of a human cranium's parietal bone. He delivered it to Charles Dawson, an amateur geologist and antiquarian, thus setting off one of the most controversial and bizarre episodes in the study of human paleontology. For the next 40 years Eoanthropus clawsoni was a respected member of modern man's family tree, and a representation of this distinguished ancestor stood proudly in the American Museum of Na

So They Say

So They Say

Verbatim excerpts from the media on the conduct of science. Another Japanese Target The Japanese readily concede that they trail the West in biotechnology, the use of engineering techniques to study living organisms. But cross biotech with electronics, and the story is different. In this new, hybrid field, called bioelectronics, Japan boasts of a lead in moving from lab to market. "Japan is ahead, without a doubt," says Isao Karube, biotechnology professor at Tokyo Institute of Technology. A big

So They Say

Keith Stewart Thomson has been elected president of the Academy of Natural Sciences, a 4,000-member society founded in 1812 that sponsors research and educational programs and operates a Natural History Museum in Philadelphia. Thomson, who served as dean of Yale University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences from 1979 to 1986, will join the Academy's staff as president this spring. Thompson has been with Yale since 1970 and has been a professor of biology, a curator of vertebrate zoology and

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