Taxonomy, RIP?

Re: “A fading field,” 1 about the disappearance of traditional taxonomy, about fifteen years ago, I was accepted into a master’s program in botany and plant systematics at a nearby university. The first day of class in September, I was told that the masters program in botany/plant taxonomy was canceled.

I was most unhappy. I complained to a friend, a physics professor at the same university, who explained that geology, botany, and similar fields were being shut down so that all the money could go into molecular biology. But what about taxonomy? Eh, it’s all molecular now, I was told. It’s beyond astounding—I just don’t have a word for it—to consider the loss of thousands of years of accumulated knowledge and the accompanying way of thinking.

Diggitt McLaughlin
Meadville-Lombard Theological School
Chicago, IL

It is not just taxonomy, but virtually every branch of classical biology is...

Arunachalam Subbiah
Centre for Internet and Society
Bangalore, India


1. B. Grant, “A Fading Field,” The Scientist , 23(6):32-38, June 2009.
Funding Challenges

According to the email I got today, 18,000 reviewers are reviewing the 20,000 Challenge Grants, which Steven Wiley rightly suggests might not be worth applying for 1 . This effort may not help a large number of scientists get funding, but it certainly is keeping scientists busy. Busy as in move that pile of bricks from here to there, not use that pile of bricks to build a house.

Marcus Muench
Blood Systems Research Institute
San Francisco, CA

Not to be outdone, the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California beat the drums loudly to spur both Challenge and Supplement applications. Pinned to my lapel is a congratulatory pin sent to me from our dean stating that “I met the Keck School 500 Team Challenge ARRA 2009” (we applied for a supplement, not a Challenge Grant). That’s right. A school goal of 500 applications was met. How few will be funded remains to be seen.

Larry Kedes
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA


1. S. Wiley, “Stimulus Application? Not Me,” The Scientist , 23(6):25, June 2009.
Shh...I'm Listening

Since I work in an institutional setting, albeit not in a lab, I can testify to the debate over the use of iPods in the lab 1 . I think iPods are a distraction and do not lead to enhanced communication. In general the younger generation seems to be so distracted with the iPods, Twittering, etc., I’m in fear that we will become a nation of iPod zombies.

Elsie Elaine Connelly
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Lincoln, NE

Sometimes the conversations in the lab can distract me too much while I am trying to work, so having my MP3 player helps. My other lab mates often have their music devices on but they remove one or both sides when I approach them with a question or something. I think people need to balance their use of such devices and make sure that they are not interfering with anyone’s research or causing respect issues.

Karen Kerr
Iowa State University
Ames, IA


1. E. Dolgin, "Do not disturb," The Scientist, 23(6):18-19, June 2009.
Fooled You?

Someone tests the security of a system by submitting a “fake” paper to The Open Information Science Journal , published by Bentham, and it is called unethical 1 . Sorry, that is rubbish - security needs testing regularly.

Jeremy Wickins
Durham University
Durham, UK

I feel compelled to refute the idea that the tendency in open-access and author-pay journals is to compromise standards in order to increase content, and hence, revenue.

Serious OA publishers, such as those who are members of Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA), are sensitive to the potential conflict of interest that publication fees can imply. (Bentham is not a member of OASPA.) To give an example, at Co-Action Publishing we have consciously structured our operations such that editorial functions are entirely separate from financial functions. Our journals are led by external editorial teams and it is the sole judgment of an editor-in-chief to accept or reject a manuscript. Under no circumstances do we interfere with this judgment. At the same time, the ability of authors to pay is unbeknownst to our editors.

Yes, some of us do have an interest in earning a living from our publishing activities. But businesses as well as individual journals are more profitable over the long run when high quality in all respects is at the heart of our business.

Caroline Sutton
Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) and Co-Action Publishing
Stockholm, Sweden

I serve on the editorial advisory board of The Open Stem Cell Journal , also published by Bentham. On hearing this story I requested my name to be removed with immediate effect. In my own experience, the case described herein is unprecedented and is sufficient to warrant serious concerns of the credibility of Bentham Open as a publishing enterprise.

I hope that this is an isolated case specific to Bentham Science Publishers but I am afraid the reputation of this publishing house is now seriously and irrevocably damaged. I believe it is incumbent upon us as editorial board members to refuse to serve until firm and absolute reassurances are made public that such malpractices can never be allowed to occur again. In any case, one event is too many and for that reason alone I summarily requested my name to be withdrawn from the editorial advisory board of The Open Stem Cell Journal . I should sincerely hope that others will follow.

Marc Williams
University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry
Rochester, NY


1. B. Grant, “OA publisher accepts fake paper,” The Scientist NewsBlogs , June 10, 2009.


The original version of "Best Places to Work: Industry" stated that Infinity Pharmaceuticals had secured funding through acquisition. Infinity Pharmaceuticals was not acquired, but rather, maintained its growth by entering into partnerships. The article also listed Christian Fritz as the director of the cancer biology group. Fritz is the senior director of the cancer biology group.

The original version of "A Fading Field" mistakenly listed Michigan State University as Ralph Holzenthal's affiliation. Holzenthal is a faculty member at the University of Minnesota. The Scientist regrets these errors.

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