Commentary
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 www.the-scientist.com, 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
Intelligent Design and Memes
Steve Bunk | Jul 7, 2002
The holy war against evolution has escalated again, with attempts by creationists to construe an explanatory statement accompanying a federal law on education as evidence that the US government approves the teaching of intelligent design theory alongside Darwinian evolution.1 Obviously, intelligent design should not be taught as a science, anymore than, say, phrenology should be. But this raises a public relations issue: The desperate fruits of prohibition are too well known; look what happens
Awash in DNA News
Barry Palevitz | Jun 23, 2002
Volume 16 | Issue 13 | 8 | Jun. 24, 2002 Previous | Next Awash in DNA News By Barry A. Palevitz Like most writers, I wield a mean scissors. I love to clip articles from assorted newspapers, magazines, Web sites, and research journals. Who knows, I tell myself, maybe the flotsam and jetsam will come in handy some day. Sometimes the clippings sort themselves into meaningful piles (I gave up file
Stephen Jay Gould
Ricki Lewis | Jun 9, 2002
Of all of Stephen Jay Gould's essays in Natural History, one stands out as my favorite—for egotistical reasons. "Hopeful Monsters" appeared in October 1980. German-American geneticist Richard Goldschmidt (1878-1958) coined the term hopeful monsters in 1940 to describe the occasional two-headed calf or five-legged frog mutant that might find another like itself, breed, and somehow produce a new species. Strict Darwinian gradualists ridiculed the idea, but Gould and Niles Eldridge's 1972 pun
Navigating the Cancer Maze
Larry Hand | May 26, 2002
Attending the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting is always a rejuvenating—yet exhausting—experience. First, you get to go to some nice places: New Orleans, San Francisco (twice in three years), even Philadelphia one year. But it's not the places where these meetings are held, but the research you hear about that is simply overwhelming when compressed into a five-day time frame. In this issue, our cancer research focus for this year, we discuss some of the themes
Forensics and Critical Thinking
Barry Palevitz | May 12, 2002
An article in a recent issue of the Wall Street Journal questioned whether forensics courses belong in the elementary and high school curricula.1 Teachers and forensics professionals are promoting the subject because it exemplifies the kind of evidence-based, objective investigation that permeates science. It also captures the attention of students weaned on TV crime stories. Burlington, NC-based Carolina Biological Supply Co. is helping out with several forensics packages, including kits on DNA
Scientists on Science
Larry Hand | Apr 28, 2002
For some issues of The Scientist, themes emerge from a collection of articles that, when originally assigned to writers, were just about various individual topics. For this issue, many of our stories could have been based on a three-M theme: motivation, merit, and meaning. Mostly, the stories are about how scientists feel about their science. Starting with "Early Warning" by Steve Bunk, scientists have been highly motivated since last Sept. 11 to develop more ways to deal with terrorism, partic
Hot Papers
Eugene Garfield | Apr 14, 2002
In the April 1 issue,1 I discussed new gratis features that are now accessible from the Institute for Scientific Information: highly cited authors at www.isihighlycited.com and the editorial sections of Essential Science Indicators at www.in-cites.com, www.esi-topics.com, and www.sciencewatch.com. As I wrote then, I founded ISI in 1954, but I am no longer a shareholder, although I retain an office and the title of chairman emeritus. Essential Science Indicators and its editorial features such as
Highly Cited Authors
Eugene Garfield | Apr 1, 2002
The Scientist's new format represents a turning point in the long evolution of my involvement in the field of scientific communication. Although a major part of my work has been devoted to improving scientific information retrieval and dissemination, I have been identified increasingly with the emergent fields of scientometrics and research evaluation. Citation data have become a normal—though sometimes controversial—part of the evaluation of institutions and individuals. One can onl
The Personal Side of Science
Larry Hand | Mar 17, 2002
When we ask what you would like to see more of in The Scientist, one of the suggestions we always get is "more personal stories of science." We're taking steps in that direction. We introduced a new feature Feb. 18 called Profile, which we are publishing as a closing element on the last editorial page of each issue. Appropriately enough, that first one was about John Marburger, the science adviser to US President George W. Bush. We followed that March 4 with a "look-ahead" type of article about
ATP and the Valley of Death
Larry Hand | Mar 3, 2002
Traveling the road from basic research to marketable product takes a vehicle that can make many turns, twists, dips, and climbs, much of which takes place in the valley of death. That's the period during which a technology or product of research is too new to market; it shows commercial promise, but more research is needed to validate its apparent potential. Until that research is done, and the potential affirmed, traditional funders of commercial ventures—who generally want to know what t