So They Say

"Bizarre Bifocals," by Editorial "That Nagging Feeling," by Donald E. Fink "No Longer a Mad Scientist's Dream," by Clive Hollands "Biology Behind Bars," by Editorial "An Appalling Appearance," by "Reagans Science Aide Cautious on Expanded Soviet Ties" "Are Proper Processes In Place?," by Stuart Pugh "Profit or Perish," by Calvin Sims "Too Much Redundancy," by Larry W. Sumney "More Spin-Ins Than Spin-Offs," by Lester C. Thurow "Selling Science," by John R. Hensley "Invent

Jan 25, 1988
The Scientist Staff

"Bizarre Bifocals," by Editorial
"That Nagging Feeling," by Donald E. Fink
"No Longer a Mad Scientist's Dream," by Clive Hollands
"Biology Behind Bars," by Editorial
"An Appalling Appearance," by "Reagans Science Aide Cautious on Expanded Soviet Ties"
"Are Proper Processes In Place?," by Stuart Pugh
"Profit or Perish," by Calvin Sims
"Too Much Redundancy," by Larry W. Sumney
"More Spin-Ins Than Spin-Offs," by Lester C. Thurow
"Selling Science," by John R. Hensley
"Inventing Peace?," by "Scientists on War-Is It Natural?"
"A Loss of Interest in Research," by "Indifference Bemoaned"
"Editorial Ethos," by Patricia K. Woolf
"Whither Fame And Fortune," by Terence Kealey
"The Fashionable Virus," by Jennet Conant

America’s space agency keeps looking at the heavens through bizarre bifocals. At a time when the paramount need is to reduce the Federal deficit, NASA’s top goal is to build a $32 billion space station that has no clear purpose. Congress knows that, yet is willing only to cut in half NASA’s request for $770 million in start-up funds.

It would do better to transcend timidity, cancel this celestial circus and point NASA to a more productive long term goal: a joint mission to Mars with the Soviet Union.

This is no time for bid-ticket space shows. In the next few years, a sensible space budget would be devoted to cheaper unmanned missions, like launching satellites to monitor the earth’s climate and environment, and robotic space-craft to explore the solar system. But NASA also needs a long-term goal for manned flight that can focus its efforts without requiring immediate large outlays.

—Editorial: “To Mars, Via Moscow"
The New York Times, p. A18
December 24. 1987

The award by NASA of $5 billion in space station development contracts has given four U.S. aerospace industry teams something to celebrate.... it is heartening to see that at last solid progress is being made...

It is equally disheartening, however, to note that formidable dollar figures notwithstanding, there is a hollowness to the station program; a nagging feeling that there may be considerably less long-term substance to the effort than the initial numbers indicate....

In the current budgetary environment, it would be irresponsible for NASA’s management to charge ahead with overly ambitious space station plans that ignore the realities of the financial crisis afflicting the federal government. This would run the risk of having the station program stopped dead in its tracks. However, if NASA’s managers shrink back now in the face of financial constraints that may be more perceived than real, they invite the same outcome. The only difference is that the station’s death throes will be prolonged.

-Donald E. Fink
Editorial:“The Space Station Dilemma"
Aviation Week & Space
Technology
, p. 11
December 7, 1987

Genetic splicing is a key which is similar in too many ways to another key discovered a lifetime ago—splitting the atom. Both keys were and are capable of unlocking doors to secure for the world great good or great evil....

Genetic engineering can produce life-saving drugs—it can also produce monsters. In the USA, new animals, not new breeds but totally new species, may now be patented. Pigs 12 ft. long and cows weighing 10,000 pounds are no longer a mad scientist’s dream.

...Gene splicing can create a half-man, a “zombie”, with great strength and limited intelligence, to undertake simple tasks—indeed, a new slave race.

—Clive Hollands
Letter to the Editor
The Times, p.9
December 30, 1987

With no lead from [the British] government, [human embryology] researchers will have to do all the work themselves. They have less than a year to convince MP’s and the public at large that they are not mad scientists, and that their research is essential. It is an enormous task: few lay people are convinced that scientists are trustworthy, and the public understanding of early mammalian development is primitive, at best. . ..One remedy would be to publicize the workings of local ethical committees in universities and hospitals, which now control experiments on humans...

Scientists should also re-examme their relationship with the media... [S]omehow or other, the public must understand what they are doing. Otherwise, biologists may find themselves with a criminal record trying to do good science.

—Editorial: “Shattered Test Tubes"
New Scientist, p. 21
December 3. 1987

While Washington gushed with Soviet-American amity [in early December], White House Science Adviser William R Graham was expressing dour views of the prospects for increased scientific and technological cooperation between the two countries.

"We are always exploring possibilities... But there is great concern, of course, now—and there has been for many years—that the Soviets are making a large and very focused and determined effort to acquire from the West technologies of military significance. They attempt to buy it when they can; they attempt to steal it when they can’t buy it.”

Graham... made an appalling impression, both within the substance of his prepared talk and his monotonic, humorless delivery. To an audience that included many whose years in Washington science affairs exceeds his months on the job, Graham offered a term-paper style history of the origins and development of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy....

"Reagan's Science Aide Cautious on Expanded Soviet Ties”
Science & Government Report, p.5
December 15, 1987

It is presumed that the [U.S. university engineering research dentres have been established to trigger the production of marketable, high-tech products on a broad technological front, to compete in world markets. To take advantage of the output of these Centres it must be assumed that the appropriate competitive design processes are in place in both the universities and industry. From my reasonably detailed knowledge of both sectors I consider that such an assumption would be erroneous. While some sections of US industry have awakened to this fact, and are doing something about it, there is as yet little evidence of this from the universities.

Without the appropriate design processes in place, I suspect that the Centres will “invent” things which the Japanese will then refine by design, and take the markets. Thus “high tech” will become “no tech”.

—Stuart Pugh
"US ‘High Tech’ May Become ‘No Tech’"
Financial Times, p. 13
December 23, 1987

Many scholars had feared that ... (university/industry] alliances would give corporations undue influence over the kinds of research that universities conducted.

In addition, both universities and companies had worried about conflicts over publishing the findings of such....But D. Allan Bromley, a Yale physics professor, notes, companies and universities have been able to work out compromises. “We learned very quickly that we could reach agreements more easily if we protected the industrialist from competitors and the rights of the academic to publish,” said Dr. Bromley, who is a member of the White House Science Council, which advises the President on science and technology matters.

—Calvin Sims
“Business-Campus Ventures Grow”
The New York Times, pp. Dl. D3
December 14, 1987

It is not unusual, as we see now in superconductivity, to have 20 industrial laboratories and a similar number of university laboratories chasing the same opportunity. When the United States was at the pinnacle of its high technology leadership, this pluralism worked and was affordable. Now with international competition so strong, that is no longer the case. To compete, the United States must now employ its resources more efficiently and effectively. We can no longer afford unbridled redundancy.

—Larry W. Sumney
Letter to the Editor
Forum for Applied Research p. 119
Winter 1987

Defense research is often defended as resulting in civilian spin-offs, but in recent years these spin-offs have been hard to find. As defense has gone into space the spin-offs either do not exist or take much longer to work their way into civilian applications. In fact, there have been more spin-ins then spin-offs. It is easy to cite recent civilian innovations that have had great military applicability.., it is hard to cite the reverse.

—Lester C. Thurow
“A Weakness in Process Technology’
Science, p. 1662
December 18, 1987

One of the hottest topics being debated by museum professionals is just how science museums should present science and technology. Some believe that science museums should “sell” science as they explain it, promoting new technology and supporting industry and commerce. Others want science museums to explain research developments and technical innovations and draw attention to the ethical questions they raise. Currently, most American science museums... communicate knowledge in ways that avoid controversial issues but that do foster scientific literacy, adhere to institutional credos, and promote the belief in progress as a virtuous force.

John R. Hensley
Museums, Technology and the Future”
The Futurist, p. 37
January/February 1988

“Humanity can be freed from the bondage of biological pessimism The same species who invented war is capable of inventing peace.” These encouraging words conclude the Seville Statement on Violence, a report prepared by twenty leading biological and social scientists from twelve nations and recently endorsed by the American Psychological Association, as well as numerous other research groups. ...

The statement concludes that it ‘is scientifically incorrect to say that we have inherited from our animal ancestors a tendency to make war. Warfare “is a peculiarly human phenomenon and does not occur in other animals,” the researchers found. It is also incorrect to say that war or other violent behavior is genetically programmed into human nature or that human beings have a “violent brain.”

-“Scientists on War—Is It ‘Natural’?”
Vogue, p. 28
January 1988

More in sorrow than in anger, Sir George Porter, president of the Royal Society of London,... wrung his hands over the indifference of the British to “the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake”. He was delivering this year’s anniversary address to the Royal Society.

Porter said that... it seems that “the pursuit of natural knowledge is to be allowed to diminish.” Pleading that the argument about the state of British science should not degenerate into demands that “the government should hand out more money”, he said that “deeper and more serious” trouble is that “neither governments nor the country” seem to have much interest in research.

Porter went on to describe how he had been told by ministers and civil servants that there is “too much science”, that Britain “can leave it to others” and that the “importance of Nobel prizes went out with Harold Wilson”. He said that the “only argument for improving natural knowledge which carries any weight today is that it creates wealth, and even this is refuted in some quarters”.

“Indifference Bemoaned”
Nature, p. 411
December 3, 1987

As journal editors become increasingly prominent citizens of the scientific community, it is appropriate for them to take the lead [in ensuring integrity in biomedical publication]. They can define and enforce standards for appropriate authorship. They can establish date retention and availability politics for their journals, as well as policies about sharing proprietary research materials. They should reinforce the peer review system.

...There should be guidelines for handling allegations of fraud and for publishing retractions, which should include titles, authors’ names, and key words that lead readers to the original articles, prominent and predictable locations in all journals, reasonably prompt responses, listing in the table of contents, and annual indexes. . . They should require full disclosure of all ambiguous research methods that might be regarded as shortcuts, such as the use of historical controls, or post hoc choices of statistical methods and graphic techniques that falsely enhance the significance of the data.

--Patricia K. Woolf
“Ensuring Integrity in Biomedical Publication”
JAMA, pp. 3426-27

December 18, 1987

Why are there no longer any famous scientists? ...The only living scientists who seem to be recognized for their research are Crick and Watson. But their fame derives as much from their books as from their work because that, as The Double Helix showed, was largely done by Franklin and Wilkins.

One answer is that there are an awful lot of scientists these days, and they run around in teams; but then there are an awful lot of foot-ballers, and they also run around in teams—yet their fans know them. Individual scientists seem to have few fans. Perhaps this is because individual scientists are replaceable.

Yet science has never been more important...The only way a scientist could become really famous now would be to prove that the world was indeed created at nine o’clock on the 15 March BC 4004.

--Terence Kealey
“No More Darwins Nowadays”
The Spectator, p. 24
December 19/26, 1987

[Michael A.] Fumento and other conservative critics charge that [Mathilde] Krim [a research biologist and a founder of the New York-based American Foundation for AIDS Research], along with some scientists and gay activists, exaggerated the heterosexual risk [of AIDS] in order to reduce the stigma of the “gay plague” and raise more money for research.....The issue of heterosexual AIDS is becoming incendiary as scientists... compete for research dollars. AIDS researchers say their cause has great urgency: AIDS is infectious and deadly. Other scientists worry that funds vital to studying diseases that take a larger toll than AIDS are being siphoned off by the now “fashionable” AIDS virus... . Some scientists also feel that because of the flood of new money for AIDS research, the standards for grant proposals are not as high as they should be...

--Jennet Conant
“The Fashionable Charity”
Newsweek, pp. 54-55
December 28, 1987


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(The Scientist, Vol:2, #2, p.24, January 25, 1988)
(Copyright © The Scientist, Inc.)

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