Newsmakers

Science  28 Sep 2007:
Vol. 317, Issue 5846, pp. 1841
  1. THREE Q'S

    CREDIT: LUÍSA FERREIRA

    The first World Conference on Research Integrity drew 300 people from 52 countries last week to Lisbon, Portugal. Science caught up with one of its organizers, Nicholas Steneck of the U.S. Office of Research Integrity, which joined with the European Science Foundation to initiate the event.

    Q: Did the conference achieve what you wanted?

    My expectations changed significantly over time. I had overestimated the level of engagement [on this issue] in many other countries, and therefore we had to back up and do more basic education. From that perspective, I'm enormously pleased.

    Q: One speaker called plagiarism a “victimless crime.” Were you disappointed by that?

    Raising that question is important. I have often said that plagiarism may have a positive outcome … because it still spreads scientific information. … We really do need to assess which behaviors are having the biggest impact on research integrity.

    Q: Norway has established a very formal scientific misconduct system with an appointed judge. Do we need a World Court of Research Integrity?

    The solutions have to be country-appropriate. What is important is [to] establish minimum standards: There must be a place to report, there has to be reasonable assurance an investigation will take place, [and] there has to be anonymity or at least protection of whistleblowers.

  2. TWO CULTURES

    CREDIT: CAROLE RIFKIND

    WANT TO TRY IT? After 3 years and 100 hours of tape, Richard Rifkind, chair emeritus of the Sloan-Kettering Institute for cancer research in New York City, is wrapping up a documentary on how science really gets done. The Lab chronicles the attempts of graduate student Robert Townley to uncover the atomic structure of AMP-activated protein kinase in Lawrence Shapiro's protein crystallography lab at Columbia University.

    Rifkind, a cancer researcher who helped develop the lymphoma drug Zolinza, wanted to portray an important scientific challenge that also would look nice on film in his quest to educate the public about the true process of scientific discovery. Townley didn't pull any punches, either, says Rifkind: “At one point, he looks at the camera and says, 'Two-and-a-half more years of misery.'”

    The film is co-produced with Rifkind's wife, Carole, and incorporates a video diary that Townley had been independently keeping for several years. The Rifkinds are in talks with several broadcasters for release rights. The couple's first film, released in 2005, documented the effects of tourism on Venice.

  3. THEY SAID IT

    “I propose the following character sequence for joke markers: :-) Read it sideways.”

    —Scott Fahlman, inventing the first emoticon in a message he posted on an electronic bulletin board 25 years ago. Fahlman, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and his colleagues last week started an annual $500 Smiley Award student contest to foster innovation in technology-assisted person-to-person communication.

  4. CAMPAIGNS

    SOURCE: CHLOé LEGRIS

    LIGHTS OUT. Darkness has fallen over a sliver of eastern Canada, and astronomers are thanking Chloé Legris for it. The 32-year-old engineer at the Mont-Mégantic Observatory in eastern Quebec province took the lead in persuading federal, provincial, and municipal governments to limit light pollution of the night skies around the observatory. Her efforts led to the first reserve recognized by the International Dark-Sky Association. All of the sky-polluting light fixtures within 25 kilometers of the observatory have been replaced with shaded models that do not project light upward, in the first step of a process that will eventually include neighboring Sherbrooke, a city of 150,000 residents.

    The measures should reduce light pollution to the levels last seen 30 years ago, says Robert Lamontagne, director of the observatory. The increased level of light pollution, he says, had “shrunk” the observatory's 1.6-meter telescope to the point at which “there was some research we couldn't do anymore.” Legris says public officials saw the light after she explained that replacing 2500 light fixtures with astro-friendly designs would also save 1.3 gigawatt-hours of energy each year.

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