May 1987

Volume 1 Issue 12

The Scientist May 1987 Cover



GAO Calls for Fresh Look at Science Funding

WASHINGTON—The congressional General Accounting Office, in a major overview of U.S. science policy, has urged the Reagan administration to re-examine its priorities and methods for funding research. The GAO report, dated March 25, also questions the bureaucratic mechanisms surrounding the annual federal budget process and the "institutional framework" used by the executive branch to set national science policies. The study was begun as an internal review of the subject, but GAO officials d

Europe Balks At Support For Collider

WASHINGTON—European scientists testifying before a House committee have thrown cold water on the prospect of international collaboration on the Superconducting Supercollider, a possibility that the Reagan administration has held out as a way to reduce the U.S. cost of the proposed multi-billion dollar project. In three days of hearings last month by the Science, Technology and Space Committee, a stream of witnesses also expressed doubts about the value of recently discovered superconductiv

Cambridge Tests Tech Transfer

LONDON—All over Europe, politicians and planners are wondering if small, science-based companies can regenerate fading economies hit by the decline in such traditional industries as shipbuilding and steelmaking. In their search for answers, Cambridge, England, has emerged as a living laboratory to test the economic value of such businesses and the process through which academic innovations are transferred to industry. Cambridge, which as little as 10 years ago was known primarily for its c

Americans Like Chemists

WASHINGTON—Although public attitudes toward the chemical industry have grown more negative during the past six years, more than 80 percent of Americans support the work chemists do and feel they have made important contributions to medicine and society. A survey of 1,448 adults, done last year for the American Chemical Society, found that 51 percent rated chemical companies unfavorably, compared with 41 percent in 1980. Frank Bigger, a spokesman for the ACS, said the change is due in part

DOD Research Grants Face Uncertain Future

WASHINGTON—A Defense Department program that distributed $124 million last year in contracts to university researchers appears to have been a one-time windfall for academic scientists. Its survival, which is uncertain given the pressure to trim military spending and reduce the federal deficit, could hurt other researchers funded by the Pentagon. The University Research Initiative (URI) was created as a way to provide universities with money for equipment, training and research in areas fel

Non-U.S. Engineers Held No Threat

NEW YORK—A preliminary report on the impact of increased enrollment of foreign students in Ph.D. engineering programs in the United States concludes "there is currently little reason to be concerned" about their effect on the ability of such programs to educate students and conduct research. But some engineers say they are disturbed by the trend. The report, which appeared in the April 3 issue of Science, noted that more than half of all engineering doctorates awarded by U.S. institutions

Board Decision on Animal Patents Sparks Debate

WASHINGTON—A U.S. patent board ruling last month significantly boosts the odds for approval of some of the pending applications for patents on genetically engineered animals. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences, while rejecting for other reasons an application for a patent on an oyster, ruled that there is no legal reason why such patent protection should be denied. The decision may lead eventually to the marketing of new breeds of faster-growin

Research Temps Hired at a Premium

WASHINGTON—James Welty is a professor of mechanical engineering at Oregon State University. But for the past 16 months he has been living on the East Coast under a special program that brings academics temporarily into government service. Welty works at the Department of Energy, reviewing grant proposals, setting up engineering meetings, and advising other scientists. He is one of 970 researchers currently on detail to the federal government under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act, whic

Weaker Dollar Squeezes U.S. Libraries

WASHINGTON—A weaker dollar is forcing American research libraries to pay much higher prices this year for books and journals published overseas—if they can afford them at all. As a result, U.S. scientists soon may find it increasingly difficult to keep up with the latest developments in their fields. In the past 18 months the dollar has slipped more than 40 percent against the Japanese yen and several major European currencies. The resulting price increases, on top of those owing to

Level VAT Sought on Books

LONDON—A proposal to make the Value Added Tax (VAT) more uniform throughout the European Economic Community could significantly increase the prices worldwide of British scientific books and Journals. The EEC, which is considering a variety of reforms to boost its revenue and simplify its finances, has singled out the United Kingdom and Ireland because important areas of retail spending here—including books, food and children's clothing—are not subject to VAT. The European Com

Furor on Technical Schools

LONDON—One of Britain's leading retail electronics companies has thrown its weight behind a Thatcher government educational scheme to reverse inner-city decay and increase scientific and technical training in high schools. The plan, which establishes City Technology Colleges (CTC), has generated considerable controversy since its announcement at the Tory party conference last October. The government has admitted that it has not discussed the matter formally with teachers, administrators or

Two Meetings This Summer To Focus on African Science

PARIS—Two meetings this summer of African scientists will attempt to tackle the range of technological problems facing the developing nations of the continent. The First Congress of African Scientists (FCAS) will meet June 27-30 in Brazzaville, Congo. Sponsored by the United Nations Development Program, UNESCO and the Organization for African Unity, the meeting has three aims: to develop a continent-wide program to help the region cope with such problems as desertification, malnutrition a

D Management Said Key to Progress

DENVER—Improved management of technology in general, and of R&D in particular, is the key to U.S. progress in the competitive '80s, according to participants in two sessions at the American Chemical Society meeting here last month. And meeting vigorous overseas competition demands effective financial cooperation between government and industry. Of the many actions required to respond to the challenge from abroad, asserted William Norris, chairman emeritus of Control Data Corporation, "non


NIH's Newest Institute Gearing Up

WASHINGTON—Two and a half years after a presidential veto of the concept, Lawrence Shulman is taking charge as director of the National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). "There's a lot to do," said Shulman about the 12th and newest institute on the NIH campus, carved out of an existing institute after Congress voted in 1985 to override the Reagan veto. "And Congress has told us to do it." Shulman, 67, joined the NIH a decade ago from Johns Hopkins Univers

Physicist's Fast for Peace Stirs His Colleagues

BOSTON—Two hundred and eight days after he began a fast to protest the nuclear arms race, astrophysicist Charles Hyder stood in the rain across the street from the White House to announce his decision to run for president. He admitted his "candidacy" is an attempt to draw attention to his campaign to get the United States and Soviet Union to begin to dismantle their nuclear arsenals. But his willingness to die for his beliefs has posed a dilemma for many scientists active in the disarmame


Scientists Must Learn to Lobby

Mention lobbying to a scientist and until quite recently the typical response was disinterest or discomfort. Active involvement in the political fray over the public funding of research has simply not been within the experience of most scientists. Moreover, the pejorative connotations evoked by terms like "lobby" and "political action committee" only reinforce an innate distaste many hold for overt forms of influencing decision-makers in government. That distaste has been enormously strengthened


Radical Science Isn't Stodgy

In his review of Radical Science Essays (The Scientist, February 23, 1987, p. 22), Laurence A. Marschall acknowledges that scientists often sidestep the issue of how closely they attain their ideal of absolute objectivity. He then expresses disappointment at the "conservative" approach of our book—at its supposed attempt to fit reality into preconceived schemes—at the same time that he praises certain essays as "provocative." Yet those essays he finds provocative ask precisely the so

SDI Threatens More Than Academic Freedom

I take exception to the article by Jack Ruina (The Scientist, February 23, 1987, p. 12), which contends that there should be no organized pressure within universities against accepting SDI research funding. He discusses the political nature of this pressure but neglects to add that there is political pressure from the other side bearing on funding allotments and the funding process. Funds for research do not come out of a vacuum, but are the result of political processes within an administration

Who Will Create the New Contraceptives?

In his article "A New Look at Contraceptives" N.W. Pirie reviews his findings that antihyaluronidases blocked fertility in rabbits. He suggests that it might be time to refocus research on the use of antihyaluron idases as contraceptives. Pirie did his research in this area before the development of the combined oral contraceptive and the intrauterine device. At that time there was great interest in developing methods of family planning. Following the initial progress in the 1950s and 1960s, res

Can Peer Review Be Improved?

The December 15, 1986 issue of The Scientist contained an excerpt from Drummond Rennie's piece on peer review in JAMA (vol. 256, pp. 2391-2392, November 7, 1986), which included the statement "The function of peer review, then, may be to help decide not whether but where papers are published and to improve the quality of those that are accepted." This function is now performed by peer reviewers of scientific journals and granting agencies. Peer review as practiced now, however, poses a serious o

A Co-Author Declines

I enjoyed very much reading the article "Opting Out of the Numbers Game" . I hope that some attention is paid to the sentiments expressed. I spent better than 20 years in academia. I do not mean to pat myself on the back, but I have declined to be co-author on more papers than I have been a co-author. Sometimes I felt I was added as a co-author because I walked through the lab and I was better known internationally than were the primary authors. A number of bitter arguments resulted when I decli


The Lab Route to a Chemistry Degree

In his Up Front article "Promoting Undergraduate Science," Eugene Garfield rightly calls for greater participation in research by undergraduates. He points with favor to the British system in which it is common (certainly in chemistry courses) for students in the final year of their three-year degree programs to spend two terms (about 18 weeks) on a small research project. Frequently, when new British chemistry graduates are asked their opinions of the courses they have taken, their project work

This Is Not About Surrogate Mothers

The tale of the South African grandmother pregnant with her daughter's triplets surfaced in the middle of the Fifth World Congress on In Vitro Fertilization and Embryo Transfer. But it created hardly a ripple among the scientists and clinicians gathered last month in blossom-time Norfolk, Virginia. They included all the big names of IVF as well as many who nurse big-name dreams, and they were intent on taking stock of where they are and where they're going. So intent, in fact, that news from th

Why So Few Women Bioscientists at the Podium?

If visual impact correctly represented the position and participation of women in the biosciences, we could all join the Hallelujah Chorus and say the battle for recognition of women has been won and that further efforts could be laid to rest. Yes, it is true that more women have obtained junior staff appointments and that a few have even obtained senior appointments, more so than would have happened 10 years ago. But can one really say that women are hired in proportion to their numbers and acc

Follow the Finnish Lead in Peer Review

I usually feel happier reviewing a grant application from the U.S. National Science Foundation than one sent by the Science and Engineering Council here in Britain, where I am much more likely to know the applicant personally," a biochemist told me recently. A staunch supporter of peer review, he was nevertheless uncomfortably aware of the distortions, unfairness and even abuses that can flaw this time-honored principle of scholarly intercourse. He even suggested that the contemporary problem of

The Physician as Medical Researcher

Less than a decade ago in this period of flourishing biomedical science, the contribution of physician-scientists to research was progressively declining to the point where the species seemed endangered. Although recent data from the National Institutes of Health suggest a reversal of this trend, the fact that the decline occurred at all has prompted me to think about the singular and perhaps critical role of the physician in research. The very origin of biomedical science owes much to the cont


Mukaibo on Japan's International Cooperation

Takashi Mukaibo, deputy chairman of Japan's Atomic Energy Commission, has long been involved in international science policy. Trained as a chemical engineer, Mukaibo in 1954-58 was the first postwar science attaché at the Japanese Embassy in Washington. He served on the United Nations Advisory Commission on the Application of Science and Technology for Development from 1971 to 1980, and was vice chairman of the Japan National Commission for UNESCO in 1974-76. For the past few years he has b


An Inspired Flash in the Fog

Dans les champs de l'observation le hasard ne favorise que les esprits prepares. —Louis Pasteur During the 1920s, more than 400 small power stations provided Britain's electricity supply. These local generating stations were owned by municipalities, local authorities and private companies, and operated at various voltages and frequencies: 50, 40 and 25 Hz, and direct current. It was recognized that this situation was far from ideal, not to mention uneconomic, as each local station had to p


The Joys of Collecting Rare Science Books

Some scientists are born collectors, others achieve their ambitions and create great collections, and some have great collections thrust on them. It all depends on what they collect. There is a great variety of what scientists can collect—for example, stars for a new catalog, insects or plants, exotic chemicals, reprints, interesting medical cases, statistics or old scientific books. I have collected old scientific books for most of my life, so I shall write about the why, how and what of

Books etc.

A Controversial Christian Guide for Teachers

Editor's Note: Teaching Science in a Climate of Controversy, published last October by the American Scientific Affiliation of Ipswich, Mass., a "fellowship of Christians in the sciences," has been distributed to more than 50,000 high school biology teachers in the United States. According to the organization, the 48-page booklet "represents a broad middle ground respecting both science and religion" and "shows how to untangle legitimate religious questions from scientific questions so that origi

Improper Instrument for Criticizing Science

Science as Politics. Les Levidow, ed. Free Association Books, London, 1986. 180 pp. £5.95. The last 20 years have seen the flowering of literally dozens of different political critiques of science and technology. The majority have had their roots in the late-1960s movement for social responsibility in science. Most have been broadly left of the political center, and most (but not all, as the continuing strength of the environmental movement amply testifies) have had almost no discernible in

Marie Curie and Her Contemporaries

Marie Curie: A Life.Françoise Giroud. Translated by Lydia Davis. Holmes & Meier, New York, 1986. 287 pp. $34.50. This book—an English translation of a version written by Françoise Giroud, a columnist for Le Nouvel Observateur—provides interesting and illuminating insights into the lives and work of Marie Curie, her husband Pierre and their scientific friends and contemporaries. For this reason alone it is to be highly commended. It is of great interest to read between the

The Course of Evolutionary History

Life Pulse: Episodes from the Story of the Fossil Record. Niles Eldredge. Facts on File Publications, New York, 1987. 246 pp. $19.95. Reading Life Pulse has a certain element of déjà vu for me. A decade ago a committee of paleontologists from the National Museum of Natural History began the complete thematic reorganization of our four major paleontology halls. To avoid the traditional "Hall of Fossil Invertebrates," "Hall of..." approach, we developed a comprehensive theme statement

How Geology Miscast Its Most Important People

Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle: Myth and Metaphor in the Discovery of Geological Time. Stephen Jay Gould, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1987. 219 pp. $17.50. Spring comes and spring goes, and comes once again—"Time's Cycle." Each spring is unique, and so is marked—"Time's Arrow." Our experience with time is of cycles and of arrows, yet they interweave and confuse. Neither is right, neither is wrong. We accept them, and we overlook them. Geological time, its enormousness and h

Formidable Addition to World Sci-Tech Series

Science and Technology in the USA. Albert H. Teich and Jill H. Pace, eds. Longman Group, Harlow, 1986. 408 pp. £58. Distributed in the United States and Canada by Gale Research Company, Detroit, MI. $95. Sixteen authorities, ranging from information scientist to intellectual property attorney and from health planner to science policy buff in the Library of Congress, have distilled their expertise into this invaluable resource. Both reference work and textbook, it is a formidable addition to

Chemists Must Explain Their Work Better

Advertisers long ago learned that they could increase the sales of many products simply by adding the word "natural" to the packaging. But what is natural? To many people, the natural world is a chemical-free world. In his new book Chemicals & Society: A Guide to the New Chemical Age (Cambridge University Press, 1986), Hugh D. Crone of the Materials Research Laboratories in Melbourne, Australia, bemoans the "plethora of chemical fact and fancy with which the public is bombarded," including the t

Forthcoming Books

This list of forthcoming books has been compiled from the latest information available from publishers. Dates of publication, prices and numbers of pages are tentative, however, and are subject to change. Biological Science DNA: Protein interactions and Gene Regulation. E. Brad Thompson and John Papaconstantinou, eds. University of Texas Press: May, 296 pp, $32.50. Discusses protein-DNA and protein-RNA interactions involved in the regulation of informational macromolecules in both eukaryotic and

So They Say

So They Say

Verbatlm excerpts from the media on the conduct of science. Keep Politics Out of the Workplace I find the recent infusion of ideological views, and calls for official ACS [American Chemical Society] support of those views, in your letters section to be extremely annoying. Issues such as binary chemical weapons, SDI, and weapons control are of course issues about which citizens should be concerned. But to allow one's personal philosophy to interfere with one's profession is, to me, extremely unp



Robert M. White has been reelected to a second four-year term as president of the National Academy of Engineering. Before being elected president of the 1,300-member academy in 1983, White served as president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, a consortium of 50 universities with research programs in atmospheric sciences and technology. White is a recognized expert in meteorology and oceanography and served as the first administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric A

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