February 1987

Volume 1 Issue 7

The Scientist February 1987 Cover



NIH Cuts Grants To Guard Budget

WASHINGTON—NIH is cutting research grants to scientists by as much as 20 percent to keep in step with a Reagan budget proposal that is given little chance of being adopted this year by Congress. Lobbying organizations for the biomedical community are preparing to sue the government to halt what they claim is a violation of the wishes of Congress and of the appropriate procedure to achieve such spending reductions. The administration, believing Congress was overly generous to NIH, wants to

In Vitro Fight Looms Down Under

PALMERSTON NORTH, N.Z.—A battle is looming over proposed restrictions on research involving in vitro fertilization (IVF) in Australia, a world leader in such studies. The extent of concern among scientists was evident in papers delivered during the annual meeting of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science (ANZAAS), held here in late January. "In the coming months, the federal Australian parliament may well become an epicenter of biomedical shock," said Rus

D Spending

Corporate restructurings are forcing some U.S. companies to curtail R&D spending even as they are being urged to increase such investments to remain competitive. Many companies, saddled by the massive debts often involved in such transactions, are having "to change their business strategy from long-term to shorter-term cash flow, which can't help but have an adverse effect on R&D," said Roland W. Schmitt, senior vice president and chief scientist at General Electric and chairman of NSF's Nationa

SSC Faces Uncertain Future

WASHINGTON—President Reagan's decision to support the construction of a Superconducting Supercollider (SSC) may be the most significant step in its long history. But the January 30 announcement is far from the last word on the subject. A host of unresolved issues remain, from its high price and its uncertain return to its impact on the scientific community in the United States and around the world. Politics is sure to play a major role in choosing the site, including the value of support f

National Academy To Close Issues

WASHINGTON—Financial problems have claimed another victim in the science publishing field. The National Academy of Sciences has decided to fold its quarterly journal, Issues in Science and Technology. "Issues just hasn't been able to attract the audience needed to make it financially successful," said Pepper Leeper, a spokeswoman for the Academy. "It never really broke even," she added, declining to release figures. The 2 ½-year-old journal, aimed at scientists and an informed public,

Union Chief Faults U.K. On Spending

PALMERSTON NORTH, N.Z.—The head of the major trade union representing scientists and technologists in Britain has denounced "the failure of successive British governments, particularly the present Conservative administration, to provide sufficient funds for science and for R&D, or to take a positive lead in drawing up a national strategy for science." Speaking at the ANZAAS Congress here last month, Clive Jenkins, general secretary of the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial

Experts Shape French Bioethics Policy

PARIS—The recent decision by the French government to ban for three years any genetic manipulation of the human embryo within the country's leading research centers follows a recommendation from its own expert committee on bioethical questions. The ability to shape public policy has been a hallmark of the committee since it was formed in 1983. Its report, denouncing a "zeal to procreate" among some segments of society, warned that current advances in genetics could be exploited in eugenics

Firms Battle in Court Over Safety of Vaccine

BOSTON—The company that agreed to market the world's first genetically engineered pseudorabies livestock vaccine has charged the vaccine's developer with "fraudulent misrepresentation" of the vaccine's safety and efficacy. According to a claim filed November 13 in U.S. District Court in Houston, TechAmerica Group Inc. would not have entered into its agreement with Novagene Ltd. "had it known the truth with regard to such statements, representations and omissions" in the data presented on t

Greens Seek Greater Voice

FRANKFURT—The message from last month's national elections is that the environmental Green party can no longer be dismissed as a temporary phenomenon. But it is still too soon to know whether it can translate its electoral gains into an ability to influence government policies on scientific research. Part of that answer lies in whether the Greens join with the Social Democrats (SPD) and succeed in incorporating their views into formal opposition to the ruling coalition of Christian Democra

Museums Offer Hands-On Ways to Teach Science

NEW YORK—A 200-gallon aquarium isn't much to brag about. But the tank, together with workstations, microscopes, displays and a helpful staff, have made quite a splash at the new New York Hall of Science in Queens. The aquarium is one of more than 100 exhibits at the museum, which formally reopened its doors last fall after a five-year, $9 million renovation and a summer-long dress rehearsal. Like the museum itself, the aquarium exhibit is designed to "bring the microscope into the macrosco

Maxine Singer Named President Of Carnegie

WASHINGTON—Maxine Frank Singer, chief of the biochemistry laboratory at NIH's National Cancer Institute, has been named the next president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Singer, a molecular biologist, will succeed James Ebert, who has been president since 1978. Founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1902, the private, nonprofit Institution has an annual budget of $16 million. It supports research in biology, astronomy and the earth sciences by 60 scientists and 120 fellows at five cente

Workshop Promotes Robotics in the Lab

SANTA FE, N.M.—The Department of Energy believes robotics and other automated processes can free molecular biologists from much of the tedious work now performed manually in their laboratories. But responses among the 160 scientists, technicians and research administrators who attended a workshop on the subject here last month suggest the department needs to work on its sales pitch. The three-day meeting was organized by Tony Beugelsdijk, a chemist specializing in laboratory robotics at Lo

Panel Backs New British Reactor

LONDON—Proponents of nuclear power received a boost recently with the recommendation of a government panel to build a pressurized water reactor at Sizewell in Suffolk. The 3,000-page report, written by Sir Frank Layfield, a planning lawyer, is the product of a four-year inquiry into the subject. Rob Campbell, the managing director of Babcock Power, a manufacturer of steam generators, said the report "signals the light at the end of the tunnel" after a decade of anti-nuclear protests. The p


New Congress Prepares Lengthy Science Agenda

WASHINGTON—The 100th Congress has tried to set the tone of political debate in the country by moving quickly on several issues in its first few weeks. Its science panels have been equally quick to assemble their own agenda for the coming months. One group that is certain to vie for the spotlight is a new task force on technology policy that will encompass the effect of current practices on scientific R&D in the United States. The group, expected to be chaired by Rep. Buddy MacKay (D-Fla.),

JPL to Help Oversee Space Station

WASHINGTON—The hiatus in U.S. unmanned planetary missions, caused by the explosion 13 months ago of the Space Shuttle Challenger, has made it possible for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena to take on a new role as manager for a portion of the agency's troubled space station program. The loss of Challenger has delayed for several years planned missions to Venus, Mars, Jupiter and explorations of the sun that will be carried out by the Laboratory, which is operated by the Ca


Opting Out of the Numbers Game

As a long-time student of the scientific journal, I have witnessed incidences of unwarranted co-authorship, repeated publication of the same work, and the practice of "salami science"—the slicing of a single research project into its least publishable units. In large part, such behavior by authors can be ascribed to a growing and long excessive pressure to publish in great quantity. This pressure has also been cited as contributing to recent, notorious cases of scientific fraud. Unfortunat


Balanced Views or Self-Censorship?

It is most disturbing to read the letter by Brian Nordstrom (The Scientist, January 12, 1987, p. 10). He feels his intelligence has been insulted by your treatment of the evolution versus creationism question, and considers your arguments to be one-sided. He apparently thinks he can balance his education by canceling his subscription. That's a bit like the recent case in which parents demanded that their children not read certain books in school, insisting all the while that they only sought to

Mysticism Indeed!

Craig K. Svensson ("A Creationist Responds," The Scientist, January 26, 1987, p. 12) fails to indicate which Bible he believes to be the inerrant, infallible word of God. To believe in the Bible as the literal truth demands that we have found the Bible and that it be read in the language in which God or her agent wrote it, or in an inerrant, infallible translation of same. Mysticism indeed! —S. Roger Kirkpatrick Dept. of Geology, Marietta College Marietta, OH 45750

Eastern, Western Alphabets Reveal Basic Differences

The fascinating excerpt "The ABCs of Abstract Science" from Robert K. Logan's book The Alphabet Effect (The Scientist, January 12, 1987, p. 15) must make readers wonder why China and Japan did not long ago give up their ideographs in favor of a phonetic alphabet or syllabary. The alpha-bet appears to be directly linked to deductive logic, abstract theoretical science and an atomistic conception of the material world. However, this last point, as Joseph Needham keeps on emphasizing, is not enough

From Sex Without Babies To Babies Without Sex

The birth of more than 2,000 babies by extracorporeal fertilization and uterine transfer of cleaving embryos has made human embryos the tools of baby manufacturing. It has led to the opening of in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics in greater numbers and seems to have encouraged more research on human embryos to improve the success rate of IVF procedures. This has resulted in the storage of excess embryos by freeze-thaw techniques and has paved the way for research on embryos as young as 14 days.

What Cost the Supercollider?

For decades, increasingly expensive particle-accelerator projects have been advocated in language almost identical to that now being used to promote the $6 billion superconducting supercoflider (SSC), including promises of "scientific leadership," "spin-offs," of technological and medical "breakthroughs," and so forth. But there is only meager evidence that past promises have been fulfilled and that present promises are any more credible. In a story on the SSC, The New York Times on January 19 s


We Must Be Technologically Competitive

The principal responsibility of the U.S. government, and that of any free nation, is to provide for the economic well being of all of its citizens and for the national security. It seems, however, that the state of our economy and trade relations are treated today as secondary to geopolitics and defense issues in the thinking of the executive branch. The expanding U.S. budget and trade deficits are symptomatic of the real ailment in the United States: the decline of our industrial base and a pen

Say No to a 'Dumb, Dangerous' Program

Nearly 7,000 research scientists at more than 110 physics, computer science, chemistry and other hard science departments at leading universities in the United States have signed a pledge to neither solicit nor accept funding from the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO). This figure includes more than 3,800 senior faculty members and nearly 60 percent of the combined faculties of the top 20 physics departments in the country. Our position against SDI was summarized in a letter circu

SDI Boycott Violates Academic Freedom

The controversy generated by the Strategic Defense Initiative has quite naturally spilled over to university campuses. SDI-sponsored research at universities has become a vehicle for expression of concern about military research at universities generally, as well as about the merits and dangers of the SDI program itself. People question whether either the university qua university or individual faculty members should accept SDI funding. Despite my own deep concern about the goals of SDI, I would

British Research and Star Wars

The morale of the British scientific community is at its lowest level ever, largely because of the low level of research funds. The total British government expenditure on R&D in 1987 is estimated to be 4.6 billion pounds ($6.5 billion), of which 52 percent is earmarked for military R&D and 21 percent for other government departments. Only 1.2 billion pounds ($1.7 billion) is left for nongovernmental researchers. Britons spend 12 times more on alcohol than their government allocates for nongover


Becoming an Expert Witness

The legal system relies heavily on expert testimony on a wide range of subjects. Indeed, the likelihood that a scientist may be called upon to be an expert witness is sufficiently great that all scientists should understand the process. This is especially true in cases of environmental and health and safety suits, where court actions may be critical to the well-being of individuals, the community and society at large. The role of expert witness provides opportunities for public service and profe

Books etc.

'God as the Edge of the Universe'

"In the Beginning … But exactly what in the beginning? The physicist Stephen Hawking, Lucasian Professor at Cambridge University, has devoted much of his career to answering that question. His obsession is the one second between the Big Bang (the postulated birth of the universe) and the beginning of its expansion. A victim of amyotropic lateral sclerosis, an incurable progressive motor neuron disease, Hawking is almost totally immobile and is confined to a wheelchair. He can communicate o



For psychiatrist David A. Hamburg, an early interest in biobehavioral aspects of stress and aggression has broadened to embrace many issues in education, health and public policy. After brief stints at Walter Reed Army Institute of Medical Research and as chief of the adult psychiatry branch at the National Institute of Mental Health, he established the psychiatry department at Stanford University's medical school in 1961. Hamburg left Stan-ford in 1975 to become president of the Institute of Me


'I Wish I'd Made You Angry Earlier'

Fifty years ago, the great un solved problem of biology seemed to be the structure of proteins. Bill Astbury, a physicist and X-ray crystallographer working for the Wool Research Association in Leeds (United Kingdom), discovered that the fibrous protein keratin, found in wool, horn, nails and muscle, gave a common X-ray diffraction pattern consisting of just two reflections, a meridionalone at 5.1 Å and an equatorial one at 9.8 Å. Astbury called this the a-keratin pattern. When these f

Books etc.

A Tour of the Human Mind

Neurophilosophy: Toward a Unified Science of the Mind-Brain. Patricia Smith Churchland. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1986. 800 pp. $27.50. Can there be an object of scientific study as compelling, yet baffling, as the human mind? In Neurophilosophy Patricia Churchland argues that a new paradigm in the study of the human mind is emerging, one that promises rich and often unexpected understanding of the underlying nature of mentality. In this claim she is not alone: great excitement has been gene

Interactions of Elementary Particles

Concepts of Particle Physics. Kurt Gottfried and Victor F. Weisskopf. Oxford University Press, New York, 1986. Volume I: 208 pp., illus. $13.95 PB. Volume H: 432 pp., illus. $45 HB. During the last 15 years, significant theoretical and experimental advances have been made in our understanding of elementary particles and their interactions. An elegant fundamental theory of strong, weak and electromagnetic interactions based on the principles of quantum field theory and local gauge invariance has

Britain's Buoyant Blast Into Space

History of British Space Science. Harrie Massey and MO. Robins. Cambridge University Press, New York, 1986. 420 pp. $89.50. Britain has always had a wealth of scientific talent. The research activities of these able minds have kept the United Kingdom at the forefront of many of the major scientific and technological advances of recent decades. This is particularly true in space science. Historically, World War II played a catalytic role in these research activities. One man, Professor Sir Harri

The Utility of Trial and Error

The Neglect of Experiment. Allan Franklin. Cambridge University Press, New York, 1986. 290 pp., illus. $42.50. A physicist-turned-philosopher, Allan Franklin is interested in experiment. The "neglect" of his title attaches to his new discipline. Philosophers and historians have traditionally taken the nature and role of scientific experiment for granted. Only recently have a few students of science, Franklin among them, seriously begun to examine experimentation. This book collects his essays, a

No Radical Excitement Offered Here

Radical Science Essays. Les Levidow, ed. Humanities Press International, Atlantic Highlands, NJ, 1986. 240 pp. $29.95 HB, $9.95 PB. Science maintains, quite admirably I believe, an ethic of absolute impartiality and objectivity. To what degree this ideal is approachable is another matter, one. often sidestepped by practicing researchers, but of great concern to those observers of science troubled by the political implications of technological innovation and the public impact of sociological or b

Cultural and Religious Reaches of Science

Hanbury Brown is an Australian astronomer whose observatory has shut down. This has given him time to write a book both superficial and boring, filled with platitudes, rhetorical questions, pious hopes, Whig history and annoying inconsistencies. Scientists will profit little from reading it. Neither will it improve non-scientists' appreciation of science's role in our civilization. The first two chapters survey the growth of science since the 17th century and attempt to sketch the leading ideas

So They Say

So They Say

Verbatim excerpts from the media on the conduct of science. Geography of Soviet Science It is not out of place but very urgent these days to recall [Mikhail] Lomonosov's ideas on the close union between science and practice or "the arts" as he used to call it. He wrote: "Science shows arts the way; the arts hasten the origin of science. Both serve the common benefit." Great are the tasks facing Soviet science today. One of them is to extend the geography of science. In this respect, I should lik

So They Say

Frank H.T. Rhodes, president of Cornell University for the past 10 years, was nominated to the National Science Board by President Reagan last month. He will succeed Donald B. Rice of the Rand Corporation on the 24-member policymaking board of the National Science Foundation. Before joining Cornell, Rhodes was a professor of geology and mineralogy at the University of Michigan from 1968 to 1977, serving for three years as dean of the College of Literature, Science and the Arts and later as vice

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