October 1988

Volume 2 Issue 18

The Scientist October 1988 Cover



National Lab Briefs

The Department of Energy has kicked off a closely-watched competition to pick a team to manage the facility that will house the superconducting supercollider. More than 100 representatives of science-related companies and organizations showed up last month for a meeting in Washington to discuss the rules governing the selection of a contractor (two or more companies may submit a joint bid) to operate the new national laboratory that will be created once DOE picks a site for the SSC. Although


Biotechnology's Prospects A Year After The Crash

Right after Black Monday, analysts said venture capital would dry up. This tour-page special report shows the still thriving field finding money in new places but facing increased scrutiny. CAMBRIDGE, MASS.—One year ago this month the stock market suffered its worst decline since 1929. In the wake of Black Monday, pundits prophesied dire consequences—for the economy in general and for corporate and entrepreneurial science and technology in particular. Corporate R&D budgets would

Anthropologist Struggles To Save A Warrior Tribe

The Yanomamö are among the most violent people ever studied, yet Napoleon Chagnon is battling to protect them from the likes of us SANTA BARBARA, CALIF.—When a Yanomamö headman complained to Napoleon Chagnon that a missionary was intimidating the village’s shamans, the feisty anthropologist decided to remove his mantle of scientific detachment and take action. The next time the missionary came rushing into the village center to stop the dancing, Living with a tribe

Space University completes Its First Semester At MIT

Boldly venturing where no dean went before, graduate students open an international college to study the universe The topic was the best design for a manned lunar base, and in the small room at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology the discussion was heated. Building the base in space and landing the completed structure on the moon just won’t work, argued the transportation experts. “We’re talking about a quantum leap in technology here,” warned Bill Unger, a Cana

Can A Single Scientist Scramble The SSC Race?

Peter Carruthers has turned also-ran Arizona into a contender in the final lap of the supercollider marathon WASHINGTON—Seven states remain in the marathon race to be chosen as home of the superconducting supercollider, and each faces the scientific version of Heartbreak Hill this week. The challenge: a one-on-one meeting with Energy Secretary John Herrington during which each state delegation makes its pitch. Although Energy Department officials have been tight-lipped about the like


Government Briefs

That favorite Washington pastime—playing politics—threatens to disrupt the operations of the National Science Board, NSF’s oversight body. The board has a rotating membership appointed by the president. Every other May, eight of its 24 members complete their six-year terms. Replacements are routinely confirmed by the Senate, and the board has hardly missed a beat—except this year and in 1976. In each instance a Democrat- controlled Senate has refused to go along with a


How DOE Decides Who Gets The SSC

WASHlNGTON—In less than six weeks, energy Secretary John Herrington will announce where he plans to build the $5.4 billion Superconducting Supercollider Will the decision be remembered as another flagrant example of pork-barrell science ? Or will the secretary actually manage to avoid politics and make his decision on technical and scientiftc merits. Most observers feel that the Department of Energy must avoid even the appearance of political patronage if it wants its decision to be ac


Entrepreneur Briefs

Entrepreneurial professors might want to set their sights on Texas: Its vigorous technology transfer community is working hard to get Lone Star State innovation to market. The Texas Technology Transfer Association, a grassroots group formed by venture capitalists and university officials earlier this year, was scheduled to hold its first conference in Houston last week. Meanwhile, the Texas A&M technology business development office has been touting its most recent success: a marriage between


NeoRx Snapped The Public Market's Biotech Shut-Out

The question in every one’s mind since Oct. 19, 1987, had been: ‘When would the market support an initial public offering in biotech— as it used to so enthusiastically before Black Monday? In the first nine months of 1987, for instance there had been no less than 16 initial public offerings of biotech firms that had raised a total of $263 million. But as the months dragged by into 1988, not a single offering had been acieved. Then along came NeoRx. The four-year-old Seattle


Industry Briefs

Biotechnology has really hit the big time: big opportunity, big profits, and now—big crime. On August 11, former Amgen research associate John Stephen Wilson was arrested by the FBI in the first biotech “sting” operation. Wilson allegedly offered Genetics Institute, Cambridge, Mass., an explanation of how to manufacture erythropoietin, an anti-anemia drug that is Amgen’s lead product. He has been accused of trying to sell the information—valued at $50 million by


U.S. High Technology Gets A Foreign Accent

A sagging stock market and the lagging dollar have only served to add allure to overseas venture capital Ask any United States biotech executive about the industry’s problems and you’ll probably get a rousing speech on the dangers of offshore competition—especially from Japan. The U.S., you’ll be told, could lose out on biotechnology’s biggest payoffs. But nationalism sometimes bows to financial realism. At least, that was the case back in 1985 when Thousand O


University Briefs

When the next Three Mile Island vents its deadly radioactive gas, when a Chernobyl threatens to melt its superheated core, who are you going to call? The Aged Team! This new group of 00 British scientists—whose average age is over 70—is now ready to tackle all future nuclear disasters. The team is the brainchild of Sir Frederick Warner, 78, visiting professor in the departments of chemistry and law at Essex University, who became alarmed by the number of young people sent into ar


Don't Abolish Tenure; But Make It Conditional

Before the end of this year, the British government will have compelled the country’s universities to curtail the time-honored system of offering tenured employment to their staff (The Scientist, June 27, page 21). The Thatcher administration, whose massive parliamentary majority makes this step inevitable, believes that “jobs for life” can no longer be justified. The universities and many opposition politicians, especially those in the House of Lords, have strongly conteste

Science Literacy Is Futile; Try Science Appreciation

Testifying at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee in November 1957, soon after Sputnik was launched, Edward Teller likened the need for public support of science to that of the arts. “Good drama,” he said, “can develop only in a country where there is a good audience. In a democracy, particularly if the real sovereign, the people, expresses lack of interest in a subject, then that subject cannot flourish.” Later in the hearing, giving his views on educatio


The Abused Foreign Postdoc: A Seamy Side Of Science

Not long ago I received an anonymous letter from a foreign-born scientist who has been working in the United States as a postdoctoral feilow for the past two years. He claims to have worked very hard, night and day, and has, he says, performed to the standards of his fellow postdocs. But his situation was not good. The professor in charge of the lab, he writes, abused his power and was dishonest. He is said to have routinely stolen ideas from the grant proposals of others and directed his g


All Calm in Buffalo

In the Government Briefs section of the May16 issue of The Scientist (page 5), an article entitled "Finding Fault With Buffalo" made reference to "financial tremors" that are supposedly "running through" the NSF-funded National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (NCEER) at the State University of New York, Buffalo. The piece went on to state that the center is "having trouble keeping its part of the agreement" and that "the $25 million, five-year federal grant called for an annual $5

Private Labs' Plight

I found the statistics presented in your article "Where Does Basic Research Money Go?" (June 27, page 21) most interesting. The role played by nonprofit independent research institutes is not fully appreciated in the federal legislative process, in spite of these figures. There are 63 nonprofit independent research institutes in the Association of Independent Research Institutes (AIRI). Very high approval rates by the peer-review system (exceeding 90%) of competitive research project grant ap

Software Lacks Style

Grammar checkers (The Scientist, June 27, 1988, page 25) don't check grammar. Some users may find them useful, but like "idea processors" (outline editors) and "desktop publishing systems" (personal typesetting systems), the name is far more ambitious than the product. Grammar checkers are far from being able to worry about the subtleties of "Time flies like an arrow"; even simple errors like "You knows" or "He has going" or "I want to sheep" (two sheep? to sleep?) are beyond them. They do c

Perils of Peer Review

Your columns have carried considerable discussion of the privileged nature, or otherwise, of peer reviews of funding applications (for example, The Scientist, July 11, page 11). There has always been trouble in this direction—ever since Columbus failed to quote previous work by others in his field and omitted to submit 18 copies. More recently, in 1845, the British engineer J.J. Waterston, with an interest in mathematical physics, wrote a paper on the molecular theory of gases, which a

Too Many White Males

In your June 27 edition, you published over 25 photographs of white males. No women, no blacks, and only one Asian (H.T. Kung). In future, please try to be on your guard against such perpetuations of racism and sexism in science. A cover article lamented the "insufficient interest by students in pursuing careers in science." Active encouragement and modeling of women and minority scientists could eliminate the problem. EVE PATTON 116 W. University Pkwy #315 Baltimore, Md. 21210

Encourage Renegades

I enjoyed reading the articles on "welcoming corrections,"and the Duesberg controversy (The Scientist, July 25). Historically, science and what, at the time, represents mainstream thought has been consistently shown to be less than accurate by future researchers. In condemning "renegade" scientists, we join the ranks of those who backed the "obvious" theories of the earth being flat, matter never being created or destroyed, bleeding being a healthy treatment, and the superiority of certain rac


How I Managed To Explore The 'Magical' Senses Of Bats

[Ed. note: A pioneer in the study of animal behavior and the founder of Rockefeller University’s noted centerfor ethology, Donald Griffin was one of the first scientists to challenge the dogma that animals are mindless automatons, controlled solely by instinct and reflex. “The flexibility and appropriateness of animal behavior suggest both that complex processes occur in their brains, and that these events may have much in common with our own conscious mental experiences,” h

Hot Paper

Hot Papers

The articles listed below—all less than a year old—have received a substantially greater number of citations than others of the same type and vintage. A citation-tracking algorithm of the Institute for Scientific Information has identified these articles. C.J. Allegra, BA. Chabner, C.U. ‘Thazon, D. Ogata-Arakaki, B. Baird, et al., “Trimetrexate for the treatment of pneumocystis carinii pneumonia in patients with the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome,” New Eng


Terrascope Could Shake Up Future Earthquake Science

On October 1, 1987, the Los Angeles region experienced a strong and damaging earthquake of magnitude 6, followed four days later by an aftershock of magnitude 5.5 that caused further damage. The usual fears and uncertainties about earthquakes were heightened by a disturbing lack of sound, scientifically based information about the event in the minutes, hours, and days following the main shock. This lack of information was especially disturbing to seismologists, who realize that the technolo

Opening The Curtain On Eastern Bloc Science

In late September, representatives from NATO-member countries met at the organization’s headquarters in Brussels. The topic of discussion was not the military strength of the Warsaw Pact nations. Neither was it the political strategies to defend Western Europe. Rather, over 100 representatives came together to talk about the state of civil science in the Eastern Bloc. The gathering was a follow-up to another held in September 1986 on nonmilitary science in the Soviet Union, the procee

Articles Alert

The Scientist has asked a group of experts to periodically comment upon recent articles that they have found noteworthy. Their selections, presented here in every Issue, are neither endorsements of content nor the result of systematic searching. Rather, they are personal choices of articles they believe the scientific community as a whole may also find interesting. Reprints of any article. cited here may be ordered through The Genuine Article, 3501 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pa. 19104, o

Articles Alert

The Scientist has asked a group of experts to periodically comment upon recent articles that they have found noteworthy. Their selections, presented here in every Issue, are neither endorsements of content nor the result of systematic searching. Rather, they are personal choices of articles they believe the scientific community as a whole may also find interesting. Reprints of any article. cited here may be ordered through The Genuine Article, 3501 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pa. 19104, o

Articles Alert

The Scientist has asked a group of experts to periodically comment upon recent articles that they have found noteworthy. Their selections, presented here in every Issue, are neither endorsements of content nor the result of systematic searching. Rather, they are personal choices of articles they believe the scientific community as a whole may also find interesting. Reprints of any article. cited here may be ordered through The Genuine Article, 3501 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pa. 19104, o


Articles Alert

The Scientist has asked a group of experts to periodically comment upon recent articles that they have found noteworthy. Their selections, presented here in every Issue, are neither endorsements of content nor the result of systematic searching. Rather, they are personal choices of articles they believe the scientific community as a whole may also find interesting. Reprints of any article. cited here may be ordered through The Genuine Article, 3501 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pa. 19104, o


Fund Aims To See Students Opt For Science Careers

A great perplexity of our time: How do you get more undergraduates to choose careers in science? While some in the science community may wring their hands helplessly in the face of this nettlesome problem, a private foundation in tucson, Ariz., is doing ev- erything it can to resolve it in the near future. Research Corporation, a fund that has been doling out science-support dollars since 1912, has re- cently revamped its grant-making program because it thinks it can help reverse the scie

If Young Scientists Are Best, Then Japan May Have An Edge

If you go along with the theory that the scientific mind functions best when it’s young, the West is head big for trouble—and Japan is in great shape. That’s the conclusion a youthcultist might draw from a recent National Science Foundation comparison of industrial and govern- ment scientists’ age distribution patterns in five countries France, Japan, United Kingdom, United States, and West Germany. When plotted on a curve, Japan’s population of scientists and e


Funding Briefs

The Burroughs Wellcome Fund is considering the addition of a seventh “scholar program” comparable in magnitude to its current six. Each of the existing programs award outstanding researchers $300,000 grants over five years, according to Martha G. Peck, executive director of the fund, which is based in Research Triangle Park, N.C. “Our board is reviewing underfunded areas of basic medical research for new competitive awards,” she says, “and we expect to make an


Foundations Care About Young Scientists, Too

You’re a beginning scientist, and a discouraged one at that. You’ve been filling out one grant proposal after another for your startup lab and you’re getting the feeling that no one, anywhere, is ever going to see the virtue in your grandiose ideas. You’re beginning to suspect that only the well-established scientists—those who’ve been playing the grantsmanship game for years—have a real shot at success in their quest for backing. Well, on the one ha

Science Grants

Below Is a list of notable grants recently awarded In the sciences—large federal grants as well as awards of a different sizes from private foundations. The individual cited with each entry is the project’s principal Investigator. ENVIRONMENT/ RESOURCES: Water sources. Two grants from the Ford Foundation: $300,000 over three years to the University of Colorado for research on improved western water allocation and management, and $500,000 over two years to the Environmental Defens

Peripheral-Sharing Unit Aims To Unravel Output Snarls

One afternoon the vice president of our toxicology department called me into his office to take a look at some mysterious printing problems he was having with the department’s computer. Documents suddenly stopped printing in mid-sentence, or vanished entirely between computer and printer. And often when this happened, the entire computer system had to be shut down and started before printing could resume. The problem wasn’t hard to find. The department’s system consisted o

A Glossary Of Leasing Terms

{WantNoCacheVal} A Glossary Of Leasing Terms The American Association of Equipment Lessors, based in Arlington, é produces several publications to help potential lessees understand the jargon associated with this complicated business. This glossary of lease-related terms is excerpted from “Equipment Leasing Is Good Business Here’s Why.” Capital Lease A type of lease classified and accounted for by a lessee as a purchase and by the lessor as a sale or a financing, if it m


With Pricey Lab Equipment, Leasing May Be The Answer

Rapid improvements in the technology that is driving scientific instrument development can make some laboratory tools obsolete in as few as five years after they are purchased. And with tight budgets, some organizations, especially high-technology startups, may not have sufficient cash to buy expensive equipment outright. In cases like these, leasing equipment could be the logical alternative. The American Association of Equipment Lessors, based in Arlington, é produces several publ

Books etc.

Censorship Poses Threat To Everyone, Scientists Included

LIBERTY DENIED: The Current Rise Of Censorship In America Donna Demac PEN American Center; New York 171 pages; $6.95 Why in the world is a book on censorship of interest to the scientific community? After all, we’re not writing pornography. And our research—objective and usually not very sensational—hardly seems vulnerable to libelous accusations. Indeed, for most scientists—and most Americans, for that matter— censorship seems to be a form of suppression that h


Also Notable

U.S.A.: Companies, Data And Analysis Mark Dibner; Stockton Press; New York 352 pages; $175 Neurobiologist Mark Dibner from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center has assembled a wealth of information on 360 U.S. biotechnology companies. The guide includes sections on their financing, personnel, patents, partnerships, R&D budgets, and areas of interest. ASSESSMENT DIRECTORY Council on Health Care Technology; National Academy Press; Washington; 592 pages; $250 Put out by an arm of the Inst

Suomi Yields Science Center Helm

After 23 years at the helm of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Space Science and Engineering Center (SSEC), Verner E. Suomi has stepped down. Replacing him as the center’s director is meteorologist Francis P. Bretherton, former director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.. Space scientist and meteorologist Suomi cofounded the center in 1965 with the late Robert Parent, a University of Wisconsin electrical engineer. As an emeritus professor, Suom


Nobel Laureate Luis Alvarez Dies at 77; Noted For Diverse Career And Controversial Theories

Physicist Luis Walter Alvarez, a age 77, lost a long battle with can cer on September 1,1988—and the scientific community lost one of it most creative and feisty members Luie, as he was known by colleagues and castigators alike, won numerous awards, including the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1968 for his work in developing, and experimenting with, the hydrogen bubble chamber a device used to track the paths of, and thus identify, elementary particles. But long before that he bad been a k


Shootout At The K/T Boundary

Several years ago, paleontologist Dewey M. McLean stepped to the podium at a conference on the climatological effects of volcanoes. The silver-haired professor from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute looked out over the packed house like a pastor surveying his flock. He was about to deliver a sermon— well, a paper actually—that would take on one of the exalted among his priesthood—the redoubtable Nobel laureate Luis W. Alvarez. Specifically, McLean was about to challenge Alva

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