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Evaluation of publications – Role of impact factor
I would like to express my views on the
in a journal with low impact factor, both editorial (Curr. Sci., 2000, 78, 1177–
1178) regarding evaluation of scientists according to the citation number of their tion of an article that is above the aver- age of a low impact factor journal. If we I still feel that the impact factor of the these publications, we could see that an journal where they publish their work is average article in a journal with a high impact factor will be far better than that Optimal publication lists
The editorial on ‘The impact of publica-
tion lists’ raises issues central to the the problem. In their deluge, as Balaram hints1, the original papers are ‘forgot- ten’ and ‘little clubs of scientists who tice to the contributions from the devel- physicians, scientists and ‘vaidyas’ said, ‘Ashok, in Clinical Pharmacology citation and recognition. These pioneers current ‘molecular biology dominant’ has to be one-third of what we’ve actu- in the politics of research. Table 1 lists ally done’. I liked the idea, more due to of supposedly ‘low impact value’, but Several ‘senior’ Indian scientists, with root plant of India, either ignored or ridiculed by scientists for decades, were Table 1. Some major research contributions from India in life sciences
dispelled with the isolation and identifi-cation of its active alkaloid.’. Sanskrit and local languages, that exist all over India. Recently, the Department efforts to get these translated into Eng- lish, permitting critical review for their tioned, ‘Books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life cacy and extinction of that living intel- lect that bred them’. Books on medicinal plants by Desai3, Pade4, Jaikrishna Indraji5, CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 79, NO. 2, 25 JULY 2000 CORRESPONDENCE etc. though hardly cited, are major research 6. Siddiqui, S. and Siddiqui, R. H., J. In- 13. Vaidya, A. B., Rajagopalan, Mankodi, resources for life sciences. Innumerable dian Chem. Soc., 1931, 8, 667.
7. Sen, G. and Bose, B. K., Indian Med. Purohit, A. V. and Wadia, N. H., Neu- cally investigated and developed; molecu- rol. India, 1978, XXVI, 171–175.
8. Chopra, R. N., Bose, B. C., Gupta, J. C. 14. Pandey, V. N. and Chaturvedi, G. N., and Chopra, I. C., Indian J. Med. Res., J. Res. Indian Med., 1970, 5, 1–24.
1942, 30, 319.
15. Bordia, A. et al., Atherosclerosis, 1977, 1. Balaram, P., Curr. Sci., 2000, 78, 1177–
9. Mehta, D. J., Sheth, U. K. and Deliwala, C. V., Nature, 1960, 187, 1034.
2. Davis, R. E., Perspect. Biol. Med., 10. Kothari, M. L., Vaidya, A. B., Doshi, 1983, 26, 198–203.
J. C. and Sheth, U. K., J. Assoc. Physi- 3. Desai, V. G., Aushadhi Sangrahas, cians India, 1966, 14, 221–222.
11. Vaidya, R. A., Aloorkar, S. D., Rege, 4. Pade, S. D., Aryabhishak, Sastu Sahitya Sheth, A. R. and Pandya, S. K., Fertil. 5. Jaykrishna Indraji, B. Y., Jaikrishna Steril., 1978, 29, 632.
Indraji Vanaspatishashtra, Pravin 12. Bhargava, K. P. and Singh, N., Indian J. Med. Res., 1981, 73, 443.
On the quality of students’ seminars: The singer or the song?
While discussing the syllabus for M Sc
tal, there is no other means by which we of the talks had any discussion at all and could consider the course useful or not. teach students to be scientific. Various This lack of participation included those and courses on scientific writing and/or dents also participated for daily assess- The focal question soon developed. If one person talked and twenty listened, latter since, over the years these courses what is the role of these twenty people? The first answer was that they learn. If on the students). Here I narrate briefly they were to learn, would they not do so why a seminar is necessary: (i) to share knowledge; (ii) to clarify doubts; (iii) to docs, etc.; (iv) as a better way of learn- ing rather than from classes alone; (v) to papers. It is not a ritual offered at all understood. It relates to the fact that it learn to be scientific in a practical way. meetings? What is the role of the listen- is a group activity. (Whatever has been that personal reading is superior to mass listening if one wants to master details. > postdocs > students, etc. All agreed purpose has been, by and large, ignored. were the faculty. The dilemma started as students mostly argued that they need to is no point in their selecting a paper: if from the course being useless to it being was useful. Then they were asked: ‘How have sharing of knowledge as the pri- mary purpose, to what end do they se- good?’ Apparently less than 10% of the to improve their final presentation. One talks had any significant discussion. So niscient faculty/postdoc combine so that poorly the first time did better in subse- CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 79, NO. 2, 25 JULY 2000 Any goal that is not taken explicitly into not to indulge is recklessly by actually knowledge acquisition, being scientific, that it would be only fair if all of them Strangely, nearly every one argued their accordingly. Is it the fault of the student enough but to listen to the same stuff 15 up, it was suggested that even the daily clusions be reached? Is that being scien- practicals could be taken up as seminars fragile nerves could bear! By this time, since a lot of detail could be discussed. stupor, so diagnostic of ‘seminaritis’, is realized by every student. That, in itself, give a scientific talk, and how to break- up the talk. This has brought us back to the earlier courses on scientific writing ask questions. Politeness has a strangle- doing. Also it was clear that 50% of the do with a group of people discussing it.
class was very Sicilian in their outlook, The wrong policy at the right time
In the era of globalization and free mar-
need of the hour is therefore to develop search orientation is palpable among the are not properly maintained and also not funded R&D institutes such as IITs to ing theoretical research in this informa- Needless to say, the stress should be on cause of the diverse facilities offered to CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 79, NO. 2, 25 JULY 2000 CORRESPONDENCE IITs and other government-sponsored institutes/organizations. The fallacy is earn trivial revenue in comparison to the cific institutes. This causes an artificial tions. As a policy, the facilities available to the research students in all these or- students instead of getting trained in the ganizations should be uniform and realis- tic. For example, in IIT Kharagpur, with the academic registration fees spiraling nance fee ever rising, the students here defeated! If this policy remains, then we e-mail: The Indian Science Congress: Kumbh mela or an effective
forum for Science & Technology
The rather hesitating final support for
well as electronic media; (iii) Developing entific discussions involving top leaders an efficient distribution mechanism of the sessions by H. S. Virk1, after comparing ously, greater attention to well-thought (i) projecting in an effective manner the for citing (with utmost humility) that in result, through concerted efforts of the problems and societal impact of science, as well as (ii) bringing about a remarka- nan and others in all the local as well as coupled with (ii) half an hour’s broad- session should be an effective force for the general public, scientists and policy nurtured by persons like Jawaharlal Nehru. salary), he had taken for the expenses of active role with steps like: (i) Publica- 1. Virk, H. S., Curr. Sci., 2000, 78, 1052.
Everyman’s Science with short biogra- 2. Prabhu, R., National Herald, 19 March eral and Sectional Presidents (preferably with a brief account of their plan); (ii) them well in time for use by the print as CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 79, NO. 2, 25 JULY 2000
Bt – Boom and bust
The development of insect-resistant
trait is recessive, it is difficult to detect finds that Bt can provoke immunologi- technology research so far. The Bt ing recessive alleles are critical as these transgenic crops derive their resistance rium Bacillus thuringiensis. Cotton, or other serious allergic reactions, notes of a strain selected for its extreme high study leader Bernstein of the University resistance to CryIA(c), the Bt gene used During more than 30 years of use, Bt ing behind this success is the potential vulnerability of Bt crops to eventual However, ‘its potential allergenicity had were tested for resistance to Bt toxin health risk to the farmers. Regarding the using artificial diets in the laboratory. before and after fields were sprayed and Bt transgenics will certainly impose a demonstrated Bt’s allergenicity. Before selection pressure for pre-existing Bt- for resistance to Bt toxin, leading Gould application of the pesticide, 4 of 48 crop pickers, about 8 per cent, had a positive frequency of Bt resistance alleles was skin test to Bt, indicating a sensitivity after harvesting Bt-sprayed celery, pars- research definitely illustrates that resis- berries, half the pickers tested positive. the evolution of insect adaptation to Bt That share climbed to 70 per cent within transgenic plants for potential escapes, resistance alleles in the population, but sential to maintain the viability of this develop Bt sensitivity. Of 34 packers rely instead on theoretical estimates that who washed and crated Bt-treated crops, The excitement over the success of Bt Bt cotton, the EPA has mandated that tests after the spraying. Among 44 field hands working 3 miles away from Bt- of their crop with non-transgenic cotton ‘refuges from toxin’ will harbour sus- by Fred Gould et al.1 of North Carolina ceptible insects and thus retard the evo- to the strain of Bt sprayed. These anti- lution of insect resistance against the Bt in Bt research because it provides the gene. Gould et al.1 predict that with 4% Hay fever sufferers, for instance, often refuge, the Bt cotton could remain effi- quency of Bt-resistant insects. They report that in tobacco budworms (Helio- velop. ‘We’ll take a look at this study’, this virescens), a major cotton pest, 1 in resistance to the Bt toxin. This estimate ties in lesser time. However, the current Bt cotton has less resistance to other findings are confirmed, ‘the (pesticides) sumed in earlier theoretical models, and industry would be concerned’, he says. ‘In terms of consumer safety, there is thors predict a boom cycle of only 3–4 probably also reason for concern,’ says calls this study ‘a timely finding’ which years for this variety. Again Tabashnik2 ‘provides inspiration to plunge ahead’ into larger field tests of resistance man- deners and others ‘should remember Bt spect they would other pesticides’, he Regarding the second aspect, Bt, that adds. Though the data show that Bt ‘has 1993, before transgenic Bt crops were sponses’, the pesticide was ‘not horribly allergenic’, observes coauthor MaryJane CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 79, NO. 2, 25 JULY 2000 CORRESPONDENCE K. Selgrade of the Environmental Pro- cally manipulate Bt to make it less 5. Baker, B., Organic Farming Research Foundation News Lett., 1999, 6.
1. Gould, F. et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 1997, 94, 3519–3523.
2. Tabashnik, B. E., ibid, 3488–3490. National Research Centre on Plant Bio- 3. Raloff, J., Science News Online, 1999, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Bt allergenic is not what makes it pesti- 4. Bernstein, I. L. et al., Environ. Health Perspect., 1999, 107, 575.
Chernobyl to shut-down*!
According to an announcement made on
debris in an impenetrable shroud, and to down totally, 14 years after the world's biggest nuclear disaster; lying bare and tor. Following the explosion, radioactiv- ity, equivalent to what could be released sistent effects of the explosion 14 years ago. The plant is still generating power. The workers are confident that the plant as ‘a positive void coefficient’, which in getting shut down, there will be loss of gus (see Figure 1) which entombs reactor Kirby is ‘despite the brave hopes of the the legacy of Soviet safety culture itself. been, there was a tendency to believe in the invincibility of the state’s technol- culled and edited from a number of web-sites Several sites currently nuclear industry in the rest of the world exist which describe the sequence of Cher- nobyl events and the effects on the offsite communities and environment. One has to be cautious as some of them, unfortunately, misrepresent the events, reasons, and conse- website { Ukrainian capital Kiev, was the scene of nuclear/chernobyl/htm} are believed to pro- in Ukraine are scarce, although three of CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 79, NO. 2, 25 JULY 2000 cer, a treatable disease which is rarely per the IAEA statement. ‘However, with lated to radiation exposure,’ it said. nobyl disaster has always been disputed. tion of the Soviet Union, Russia and its Figure 1. Chernobyl NPP, view
of the completed sarcophagus seen from the north- west at ground level showing the northern cascade and western contraforce walls. Photo credit: The Kurchatov Institute (Russia) and the ISTC-Shelter (Ukraine). 1986 history is concerned, this is not the only Ukraine. Immediately after the accident, used to produce electricity. It underwent amounts of radioactive waste into a lake recovery and clean-up after the accident radiation. The exact amount of radiation tryside can be mentioned in this context. have had direct effects on their safety. clear power stations deliver. This means exposed to radiation. A month later, all that the operators at the stations can go the plant – about 116,000 people – had 4% of the 190 tons of uranium dioxide’s CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 79, NO. 2, 25 JULY 2000 NEWS clear waste disposal in general. Storage facilities for radioactive waste and used fuel elements are believed to be filled to shelter is expected to cost. The rest of sult – because of earthquake, accident or extreme weather – if the shelter were completed, in 2005, it is envisaged that international governments for the urgent agreed earlier to shut the site but it de- repairs to sarcophagus, close to the sum the outlines of the final solution should Chernobyl accident, the world has yet to ise to close the power station in 1995 in announced in a joint statement issued by during Clinton’s brief visit to Kiev. The a substantial portion of the fission prod- ucts in the reactor core and some of the billion. Ukraine failed to close the plant ronment. It also represents the first time hailed it as an ‘historic announcement’ the end of the plant’s natural life in several years’ time. One of the key ele- fected by events at a plant. Chernobyl’s one. ‘The aim of this decision is to re- K. R. Rao ‘Gokula’, 29/2, 11th Cross
Silicon devices with biological functions

The next time you need to spot a rela-
1 of a digital circuit, which is by defini- tive, or a friend on a railway platform, by an electronic circuit, whose status is not respect this distinction. A question output current, while inactive otherwise. naturally arises – is it possible to train No negative current values are possible. of vision. Talking in terms of electronic A total of 16 such active circuits, repre- In a recent publication in Nature1, re- senting neurons, are placed together in a tions. If identification of the particular individual corresponds to the state 0 or CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 79, NO. 2, 25 JULY 2000 itself and onto its nearest and next near- ferential instabilities which is necessary for constrained selection, and the possi- addition, each circuit is connected to a single central neuron that is trained to chines. The work of Hahnloser et al. enough to build integrated circuits that profile is seen to center on the stimulus uli amplitudes are vastly different, the 1. Richard, H. R., Hahnloser, Sharpeshkar, areas while plotting the tuning curve of Seung, H. S., Nature, 2000, 405, 947–
a cell, and are called population codes. In the circuit this is achieved by a bal- Nirupa Sen, T-115, Transit House, JNU
Hughes medal for C. N. R. Rao
C. N. R. Rao of the Jawaharlal Nehru
tronic and magnetic properties of transi- ognition of an original discovery in the field of materials chemistry, particularly physical sciences, particularly electric- ity and magnetism or their applications. Volvo Environment Prize for Amulya Reddy

Amulya Kumar N. Reddy formerly pro-
fessor at the Indian Institute of Science, CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 79, NO. 2, 25 JULY 2000


Microsoft word - knee arthritis. non-operative treatments

Dr C S Waller MB BS FRCS(Ed) FRACS FA(Orth)A Specialist Hip and Knee Surgeon NON-SURGICAL TREATMENTS FOR OSTEOARTHRITIS of the KNEE The knee is the largest joint in the body, and is also the joint most commonly affected by osteoarthritis. There are many factors that contribute to the development of osteoarthritis. Such factors include family history, injury, obesity, overuse, malalignme

Moral hygiene

Recent years have witnessed the expansion of also pursue a lawbreaker to apprehend him andpurportedly “public health” programs intopunish him. These actions of defense or punish-areas of personal conduct not traditionally viewedment are not considered medical treatment. as medical. Since sickness and health are meta-People who have studied medicine have no spe-phors readily applicable t

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