Salute to Sagacity
Richard Gallagher | Dec 8, 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
Richard Gallagher | Nov 24, 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
Richard Gallagher | Nov 10, 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
Richard Gallagher | Oct 27, 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?
Richard Gallagher | Oct 13, 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
Richard Gallagher | Sep 29, 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
Richard Gallagher | Sep 15, 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
Richard Gallagher | Sep 1, 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
Alexander Grimwade | Aug 18, 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
Richard Gallagher | Jul 21, 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