Science  24 Oct 2008:
Vol. 322, Issue 5901, pp. 511

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    Linguistics students at the University of California, Berkeley, are getting a chance to document a rare African language—without leaving campus. The opportunity comes via Simon Nsielanga Tukumu (left), a Berkeley resident and native speaker of Nzadi, a language spoken by a few thousand people living in fishing villages in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    Berkeley linguist Larry Hyman is an expert on the Bantu languages of Africa, but until a mutual acquaintance introduced him to Nsielanga last year, he had never heard of Nzadi. The language isn't listed in the major database of human languages. Seeing a unique opportunity, Hyman recruited Nsielanga as a teaching assistant for his undergraduate class Introduction to Field Methods. By querying Nsielanga, students are piecing together the vocabulary and grammar of Nzadi.

    Nsielanga, who is working on a master's degree in ethics at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, relishes the chance to share his culture. “I'm so happy to help them learn my language,” he says. Happy is yang in Nzadi.


    “If Marty and Roger want to show me some gratitude, they can always send some cash. I'm accepting gifts and donations.”

    Douglas Prasher, the biochemist who isolated the jellyfish gene behind green fluorescent protein (GFP). Work on GFP earned Martin Chalfie, Roger Tsien, and Osamu Shimomura the 2008 chemistry Nobel, but Prasher—who gave Chalfie and Tsien the gene in the early 90s—now drives a courtesy shuttle for a car dealership in Huntsville, Alabama.


    BREADTH. William Brody, the departing president of Johns Hopkins University (JHU) in Baltimore, Maryland, has been named head of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, California.


    A radiologist, electrical engineer, and successful biotech entrepreneur, Brody helped triple JHU's endowment, now $2.5 billion, during his 12-year term. He hopes to put those fundraising skills to work at Salk, a nonprofit with 870 scientific staff and a $114 million budget. He also intends to help the institute, founded in 1960 by Jonas Salk, forge new partnerships with biotech companies and local universities.

    Marsha Chandler, Salk's executive vice president, says the 64-year-old Brody “is a perfect fit” because of his “broad appreciation of science” and his interest in “innovation and tech transfer.” As such, she says, Brody will advance Salk's mission of “doing curiosity-driven basic science” as well as “transferring the fruits of that research to society.”

    Brody leaves JHU at the end of the year and will start in the new position on 1 March 2009.


    MR. HEALTH. Paul Rogers, a former Democratic representative from Florida who helped enact the National Cancer Act of 1971 and the Clean Air Act and increased funding for medical and scientific research, died of lung cancer on 13 October. He was 87.

    Rogers, a lawyer, served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1955 to 1979 and chaired a panel on health and the environment that oversaw, among other agencies, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Environmental Protection Agency. He continued his advocacy as chair of Research!America from 1996 to 2005. “He absolutely understood the strategic importance of making NIH research available to the public,” says NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, who remembers Rogers as being empathic, charismatic, and thorough.

    Rogers was passionate about improving quality of life, adds Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America. “It really was his hope, his optimistic vision, that people of good spirit will work together in assuring that research for health makes our country a better place.”

  5. THREE Q'S

    This month, the arXiv preprint server ( posted its 500,000th preprint. Created in 1991 by particle physicist Paul Ginsparg of Cornell University, the site is now the primary venue for results in many subfields of physics and also serves the mathematics, computer science, statistic, and quantitative biology communities.

    Q: Did you ever envision that the arXiv would rack up hundreds of thousands of papers? No. It was originally intended for a tiny subfield of theoretical particle physics, encompassing about 100 articles per year. And the plan was to hold them only for 3 months, by which time they would be disseminated by conventional means. Happily, I never got around to deleting anything.


    Q: The arXiv hasn't put journals out of business, even though many of the papers they publish appear there first. Why not?

    The journals provide both a measure of quality control and a feeling of security, like an insurance policy funded by one's institution. A decade and a half ago, I certainly would not have expected the current state in which preprint servers coexist with conventional online publications.

    Q: Can researchers gain an unfair advantage by posting a slapdash manuscript and then revising the paper later?

    We've long kept a full, date-stamped revision history of every article publicly available so that disputes can be adjudicated by looking at the precise contents of a particular version from a particular date. The knowledge that every version will be archivally available also helps ensure that authors are cautious about what they submit.