September 1989

News

Ethnobiologist Forced From Brazil After Harassment By Authorities
Ethnobiologist Forced From Brazil After Harassment By Authorities
Three weeks ago, ethnobiologist Darrell Posey closed the door of his house in Belém, Brazil, leaving behind his life and scientific work of the past 12 years. The 42-year-old United States scientist’s involuntary departure from his post as coordinator of ethnobiology at Belém’s Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi, South America’s oldest natural history museum, was forced by Brazilian authorities, who Posey says are retaliating for his activism on behalf of native rights.
Study Of AIDS Statistics Hinges On Debate Over Methods, Politics
Study Of AIDS Statistics Hinges On Debate Over Methods, Politics
WASHINGTON—At the National Center for Health Statistics in Hyattsville, Md., James Massey and his colleagues are holding their breath and waiting with fingers crossed for word from Dallas. Starting Sept. 26, researchers will be knocking on doors to collect blood samples and information about possible risk behaviors for AIDS from 1,600 Texans. The results of this pilot study will determine the future of the National Household Seroprevalence Survey, a planned $25 million project to canva
MIT-Industry Program Under Siege
MIT-Industry Program Under Siege
CAMBRIDGE, MASS.—Every summer, Eric Johnson plays Santa Claus to deserving faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And the list that he checks before he hands out his gifts is laid out in a 3-inch-thick computer printout—an account of “points” accumulated by individual faculty members over the past year as the reward for having met with representatives of private industry to discuss their work and share their technical expertise. Those points are converted
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On Wednesday, July 26, Henry Wendt, chairman and chief executive officer of the SmithKline Beckman Co., appeared before the firm’s shareholders at an 8:30 A.M. meeting in the chandeliered ballroom of the Hotel Atop the Bellevue in Philadelphia. Standing before a huge transparency displaying two hands clasping one another, Wendt urged the shareholders to approve a merger with the giant British drug firm Beechain Group PLC. Minutes later, 99% of the voting shareholders created SmithKline
Beyond Honor: Sigma Xi Takes On Task Of Finding New Home, Broader Mission
Beyond Honor: Sigma Xi Takes On Task Of Finding New Home, Broader Mission
University of Alaska marine scientist. John Kelley can hardly contain his enthusiasm as he talks about the current activities and potential of Sigma Xi, the scientific research honor society, to promote science. The branch—or “club”—of the society that he has led in the city of Fairbanks for the last two years sponsors college scholarships, awards for teaching excellence, student science fairs, and field place- ments for budding researchers in the 49th state. Last month
Scientific Network Tracks Earth's Hazards
Scientific Network Tracks Earth's Hazards
WASHINGTON—”A frightening noise and then a blast of wind hit us, and we saw fire falling from the sky.” That was one of the many descriptions that reached the Scientific Event Alert Network (SEAN) after Ruiz, a volcano in Colombia, blew up Nov. 13, 1985. Peaceful for 140 years, Ruiz erupted and killed more than 22,000 people. Only three volcanoes have taken more lives; in contrast, Mount St. Helens, which got far more attention, is blamed for only about 60 deaths. But the
ICAAC Conclave This Week Hosts 13,000 Microbiology Adepts
ICAAC Conclave This Week Hosts 13,000 Microbiology Adepts
A virtual army of scientists dedicated to battling microscopic ene- mies is converging on Houston this week for the 29th Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. More than 13,000 microbiologists, clinicians, biochemists. pathologists, pharmacologists, and other scientists are expected to attend the conference, which opened yesterday, sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). Researchers will present 1,365 short papers in 113 oral and poster sessions
Startup Firm Stakes Future On New Way To Identify, Test Drugs
Startup Firm Stakes Future On New Way To Identify, Test Drugs
PALO ALTO, CALIF—In the high-pressure world of pharmaceutical research, scientists routinely risk corporate fortunes in a search for new compounds that could lead to big payoffs in such areas as cancer or heart disease. Indeed, virtually every major company has tried to speed up its process of creating and testing blockbuster drugs—a move that could save millions on development costs and beat a firm’s competitors to the marketplace. But progress in this high-stakes field has b
MATHEMATICAL DETECTIVES DETAIL A DEADLY DISEASE
MATHEMATICAL DETECTIVES DETAIL A DEADLY DISEASE
Five years ago, Mac Hyman began to worry about AIDS. “I was convinced that the problem was very much larger than the people around me were reacting to,” recalls Hyman, a mathematical modeler at Los Alamos (N.Mex.) National Laboratory. “There just wasn’t any other problem that was crying out like this.” Driven by this conviction, Hyman convinced fellow mathematicians, social scientists, computer specialists, and medical experts to help him build a theoretical mod
Rejected Applicant's Petition Says Agency Kept 'Secret' Filing System
Rejected Applicant's Petition Says Agency Kept 'Secret' Filing System
For over 14 years, the National Science Foundation has systematically deprived its grant applicants of certain basic legal rights that Congress intended them to have and which other granting agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health have made more of an effort to protect. Because of NSF’s circumvention of these rights, many scientists may have been denied grants for improper reasons—due to conflicts of interest, or because of blatantly erroneous information—without

Briefs

Government Briefs
Government Briefs
No Room For Minority Bricks And Mortar Leading figures in biomedical research from academe, industry, and the federal government have told Congress that giving minority institutions a larger share of federal construction funds is vital to the long-term health of the nation. But their recent “Report on Extramural Biomedical Research Facilities Construction” makes clear that their support for enlarging the number of federal grantees holds only in the case of a rising tide that lifts
National Lab Briefs
National Lab Briefs
DOE May Stem Flow Of Information Will the recent disclosure that Department of Energy labs have been allowing foreign countries to obtain sensitive information on nuclear weapons lead to a crackdown on scientific access? Researchers are concerned that the findings of a General Accounting Office investigation could hinder access to legitimate material requested under freedom-of-information laws. The June GAO report, which was commissioned by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, reported t
Industry Briefs
Industry Briefs
A Crime-Fighting Mass Spectrometer? Extrel Corp., a 25-year-old Pittsburgh company, recently received a $44,000 Phase I grant from the National Institute of Environment Health Services under the Small Business Innovation Research program to investigate a novel approach to detecting and identifying trace contaminants—such as illegal drug and explosives vapors—in the air. Wade L. Fite, founder, chairman of the board, and director of research at Extrel, says, “It looks very inte
Private Institute Briefs
Private Institute Briefs
High-Tech Fashion Model The Army needed a volunteer to test clothing that would protect its soldiers from chemical weapons, and, at a cost of $3 million, Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratories has provided one. The six-foot-tall Manny, the most human-like robot ever built wears Army fatigues as comfortably as any other draftee can. Its 15 joints and 42 programmed movements put typical stress on the gear it’s testing, while its rubber skir is equipped with sensors to detect poison gas th
Entrepreneur Briefs
Entrepreneur Briefs
MIT: A Solar Car In Your Future Imagine owning a car without ever having to buy gas, change the oil, or pay for expensive transmission repairs. A group of students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say they are ready to make that possible, forming a startup called Solectron that will market virtually maintenance-free solar-powered cars. James Worden, a graduate student in mechanical engineering and Solectron’s project manager, says prototypes for a $10,000 commuter car (with a
Funding Briefs
Funding Briefs
This Time They Really Mean It The first time NSF ran its competition for science and technology centers, a fleet of Federal Express trucks pulled up to the agency’s loading dock on the Jan. 15, 1988, deadline and disgorged telephone-book-sized proposals. The length and complexity of many of the 323 proposals.threatened to oveiwhelm the agency’s merit review system. There’s got to be a better way, thought program director William Harris. So this year, as part of its second r

Opinion

Kalb Vs. NSF: A Matter Of Deception--Or Sour Grapes?
Kalb Vs. NSF: A Matter Of Deception--Or Sour Grapes?
[Editor’s note: In December 1987, geologist Jon Kalb received an apology and $20,000 from the National Science Foundation after agency officials acknowledged that an NSF peer review panel had discussed a false rumor that KaIb was working for the CIA while conducting research in Ethiopia. The incident, which took place during a review of an application that KaIb had submitted in 1976, led Kalb to question many aspects of the agency’s peer review system. In July, Kalb—with the h
NSF Official Scoffs At Allegations, Asking: 'What Secret Filing System?'
NSF Official Scoffs At Allegations, Asking: 'What Secret Filing System?'
In considering the charges brought forth by Kaib and Glitzenstein in their petition to the National Science Foundation, two questions arise: First, are the charges realistic, or are they based on questionable assumptions and misunderstood information? Second. how does NSF actually deal with the kinds of matters raised? KaIb and Glitzenstein have accused NSF of maintaining a secret filing system for the sole purpose of preventing grant applicant’s from seeing and amending erroneous pee

Letter

'Mad Scientist'
'Mad Scientist'
‘Mad Scientist' I very much enjoyed “Literature Has Shaped The Public Perception Of Science” by Roslynn D. Haynes (The Scientist, June 12, 1989. page 9), which addresses the public’s perception of scientists and the role that literature has played. No such discussion is complete without mention of the first depiction of a scientist in the memories of most Americans. For those 45 and over, it was in a comic book; for those under 45, it was Saturday morning cartoons on te
Battling Malaria
Battling Malaria
Battling Malaria In his review of the myriad problems associated with the U.S. Agency for International Development’s malaria vaccine development program (The Scientist, July 10, 1989, page 1), Jim Anderson curtly discounted the role of vector control in malaria eradication programs, and implied that vaccine development was the new “silver bullet” that may solve the world’s malaria ills, even though his article shows that a vaccine may or may not be feasible. Vector c
NIH Alumni
NIH Alumni
NIH Alumni In the July 10, 1989, issue of The Scientist (page 3), you report on a recent meeting of the NIH Alumni Association (NIHAA) at which former Senator Lowell Weicker was the speaker: While we appreciate articles that inform people about NIHAA, I would like to clarify several points. The purpose of NIHAA is to promote the best interests of NIH in its role as the leading biomedical research institution in the world. It was founded on the belief that there is a continuum of service to

Commentary

'Soft Cheating' Is More Harmful To Science Than Cases Of Outright Fraud
'Soft Cheating' Is More Harmful To Science Than Cases Of Outright Fraud
With the ongoing flurry of events such as the Dingell hearings in Washington and allegations that the National Science Foundation is misusing the peer review system, the public flap over misbehavior by scientists is mounting. And, no doubt, concern over cheating and fraud in science is going to intensify further before it subsides. Through it all, it’s becoming increasingly clear that there is not, nor should there be, any special place for questionable scientists to hide—any more t

Research

AIDS Drug Research Picks Up Speed
AIDS Drug Research Picks Up Speed
With an estimated 500,000 cases worldwide, the number of AIDS patients is quickly outpacing the meager advancements made to control the disease and treat those infected with the human immunodeficiency virus. Only one drug, zidovudine (AZT), has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat HIV infection. Although results from recent clinical trials have found that AZT significantly slows the progression of the disease in patients with early AIDS-related complex (ARC), the dr
Plant and Animal Sciences
Plant and Animal Sciences
PLANT AND ANIMAL SCIENCES BY PETER D. MOORE Department of Biology King’s College London, U.K. " Strangler figs begin their life as epiphytes, rooted in small hollows in their host’s trunk and branches, where organic matter accumulates. These pockets of elevated soil are actually richer in nutrients than are surronding soils, so even when the figs have established ground roots they still retain some upwardly growing roots to tap this rich resource. F.E. Putz, N.M. Holbrook, R
Articles Alert
Articles Alert
PHYSICS BY SOKRATES T. PANTELIDES IBM Research Division Thomas J. Watson Research Center Yorktown Heights, N.Y. " As devices shrink below the micron regime, a very different and interesting world is unveiled. In a recent paper, the resistance of submicron junctions is shown to behave nonlinearly with current injection. H.J. Queisser, R. Trzcinski, “Nonlinear unipolar charge transport in silicon microcontacts,’ PhysicalReview Letters, 62, 2721-3, 5 June 1989. (Max-Planck-Institut
Computational Science
Computational Science
COMPUTATIONAL SCIENCE BY BRUCE G. BUCHANAN Department of Computer Science University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, Pa. " In a recent review of a 10-year software project, a grandmaster of programming opens his log book of errors and changes. He classifies 15 reasons for making changes and analyzes outstanding examples of most of them. His conclusions about the ubiquity of errors should be taped beside every programmer’s terminal. Programming has always been a humbling experience; programmin
Articles Alert
Articles Alert
CHEMISTRY BY RON MAGOLDA Medical Products Department E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. Wilmington, Del. " A new and general route to pyridones is reported via an Aza-Robinson annulation. F.G. Fang, M. Prato, G. Kim, S.J. Danishefsky, “The Aza-Robinson annulation: an application to the synthesis of ISO-A58365A,” Tetrahedron Letters, 30, 3625-8, 1989. (Yale University, New Haven, Conn.) An exceptionally mild, efficient, and safe intramolecular method for the preparation of cyclopropa

Profession

Dissecting, And Demystifying, An NIH Grant Application
Dissecting, And Demystifying, An NIH Grant Application
“I have been writing grant proposals the way I saw fit all my life, and I never had a problem until recently,” a Harvard Medical School emeritus professor told me some months ago, “but now my colleagues tell me I have to follow the instructions.” I didn’t appreciate the importance of certain details, either—until I began to review grant applications. Although much of the National Institutes of Health application packet is self-explanatory or is explained
NASA Seeks Increased Funding For Space Life Sciences Study
NASA Seeks Increased Funding For Space Life Sciences Study
On the 20th anniversary of the first manned lunar mission in July, President Bush called for a permanent return to the moon and a manned Mars expedition. While some critics quickly labeled the proposal as political pie in the sky, life scientists had more down-to-earth concerns. They pointed out that, although a Mars mission could last as long as three years, three months is the longest any United States astronaut has been in space. And while a moon base could mean years of low gravity for
Infectious Diseases Expert To Head National AIDS Unit
Infectious Diseases Expert To Head National AIDS Unit
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has named George W. Counts as head of the newly established Clinical Research Management Branch in the Treatment Research Program of NIAID’s Division of AIDS. Prior to the appointment, Counts, 54, had been a professor of medicine at the University of Washington, Seattle, since 1975. He also served as director of the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seat- tle from 1985 to 1989. Co
New Initiatives Aim To Emancipate 'Scientist-Programmers'
New Initiatives Aim To Emancipate 'Scientist-Programmers'
Cornell University’s Eldredge Bermingham spends hours each day, against his will, in front of a computer. Bermingham isn’t a reluctant computer scientist; he’s just a biologist who needs some good software. He uses the latest techniques in molecular genetics to understand how new species are formed. His work requires computer programs so specialized that most of them aren’t available commercially. So Bermingham has to write his own, or hire programmers to help him. Ove

New Products

Gene Gun Accelerates DNA-Coated Particles To Transform Intact Cells
Gene Gun Accelerates DNA-Coated Particles To Transform Intact Cells
Although geneticists use a variety of gene transfer methods to introduce foreign DNA into microbial, plant, and animal cells, many important organisms do not respond to these established techniques. Problems with delivering genes in a reproducible, cost-effective, and timely manner still preyent researchers from manipulating certain genomes. But a new transformation technique, called particle gun technology, has overcome many of the obstacles of existing techniques and holds promise for bec
New Storage Phosphor Screens Challenge Autoradiography
New Storage Phosphor Screens Challenge Autoradiography
Molecular biologists and geneticists use autoradiography to read images of radioactivity from electrophoresis gels, blotting membranes, and other media. In autoradiography, the radiation emitted by samples labeled with isotopes exposes photographic film. The silver grains on the film’s emulsion layer precipitate only after repeated exposure to beta or gamma rays. As a result, researchers must use long exposure times or high doses of radiation to get an image. In addition, the linear res