Monday, May 31, 2004

Cafe Scientifique

Cafe Scientifique:

"Cafe Scientifique is a place where, for the price of a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, anyone can come to explore the latest ideas in science and technology. Meetings have taken place in cafes, bars, restaurants and even theatres, but always outside a traditional academic context. "

This movement started in the UK seems to be spreading widely, including countries such as Brazil, Singapore and India.

Generic Names for Soft Drinks in the U.S.

Generic Names for Soft Drinks in the U.S.

I found it interesting how the word varies geographically. Compare it with the map of voting in 2000.

By the way, for non U.S. citizens, the size of the counties might be interesting, Counties are much smaller in the east than in the west.

African Growth and Opportunity Act in Trouble in Congress

Sartorial Snag (

"There's a program that works for Africa. It has created 150,000 jobs there, stimulated $340 million dollars of private investment and boosted the region's exports by perhaps $1 billion a year. This program costs the United States almost nothing, but it's about to be gutted."

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Starving Science (

Starving Science (

"Reports from the National Science Foundation and elsewhere indicate that the decline is not only relative. It is also absolute: American science is growing weaker, although not across the board."

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Gore's Speech Yesterday

Remarks by Al Gore:

"The abuse of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib flowed directly from the abuse of the truth that characterized the Administration's march to war and the abuse of the trust that had been placed in President Bush by the American people in the aftermath of September 11th. "

Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - U.S. picks 16 nations eligible for new aid fund - May 10, 2004 - U.S. picks 16 nations eligible for new aid fund - May 10, 2004:

"The countries chosen were Armenia, Benin, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Georgia, Ghana, Honduras, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Mongolia, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Senegal, Sri Lanka and Vanuatu."

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

South Africa's new voice

South Africa's new voice:

"After a decade of democratic government in South Africa, the face of research remains largely untransformed. Published research has declined significantly in relation to global output, and spending on research and development (R&D) has declined as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP). White scientists still produce more than 90% of research articles published. Moreover, the research community is ageing, with almost half of authors of research articles now being over 50. Very few able school-leavers are being attracted into research careers and, despite the de-segregation of the country's school system, only a tiny proportion of black scholars leave school with university-entrance qualifications in mathematics and physical science. Those who do are attracted to careers in the professions, which are perceived as more lucrative."

OneWorld US - Scientists, Religious Leaders Urge Congress to Take Action on Global Warming

OneWorld US - Scientists, Religious Leaders Urge Congress to Take Action on Global Warming:

"The 'people of science' signing the Plea include the two 1995 Nobel Prize winning chemists Dr. Mario Molina, professor of environmental chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Dr. F. Sherwood Rowland, who serves as the Bern Research Professor in Earth System Science at the University of California at Irvine. These chemists were honored for their discovery of the link between chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and depletion of the ozone layer.
Other distinguished secular leaders who signed the Plea include Dr. Lewis Branscomb, Aetna Professor in Public Policy and Corporate Management, Emeritus, at the Center for Science and International Affairs, Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University; Dr. Alan Leshner, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and executive publisher of the journal 'Science;' Dr. Peter Raven, Engelmann Professor of Botany at the Washington University in St. Louis; and Dr. George Woodwell, founder/director of the Woods Hole Research Center.

The group also includes ranking professors at the California Institute of Technology, Cornell, Duke University, MIT, Princeton, Rice University, University of Michigan, and Stanford, as well as physicist John H. Gibbons, currently president of Resources Strategies who served as director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy under President Bill Clinton. "

Intel Builds $2 Billion Wafer Fabrication Plant

Intel Builds $2 Billion Wafer Fabrication Plant:

"When completed, the converted Fab 12 will become Intel's fifth 300mm wafer facility. Five 300-mm fabs provide the equivalent manufacturing capacity of about 10 200mm factories. Intel's other 300mm fabs are located in Hillsboro, Ore. (two facilities), Rio Rancho, N.M. and Leixlip, Ireland.", 21st April 2004. | The cost of AIDS | The cost of AIDS:

"A report presented, in its final draft, on May 20th by British parliamentarians and the Royal African Society draws together the findings of various recent studies and experts' testimony. It concludes, alas, that the most realistic estimates of the economic impact of AIDS are also the most pessimistic. The disease, it reckons, is already depressing sub-Saharan Africa's annual GDP growth rate by 0.8 percentage points. In the worst-hit countries, where more than one-fifth of adults have HIV, the burden is 2.6 points."

Saturday, May 22, 2004

AAAS S&T Forum Opens With Lively R&D Budget Debate

American Association for the Advancement of Science:

"Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) accused the current Administration of favoring 'vending-machine science,' focused on quick, low-cost results. Marburger said that the President's proposed FY 2005 budget would represent a 44-percent increase in federal R&D over the past four-year term. Kei Koizumi, director of the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program, said that the President's proposed FY 2005 budget, combined with his plan to cut the deficit in half within five years, would mean cuts in R&D funding for all but three federal agencies by 2009. "

Feeding the hungry | Economics focus:

"The authors see investments in technology as the most effective means of increasing the incomes of hungry people. Teaching a man to farm better, it seems, can yield far more than simply giving food or medicines away."

The fourth of a series of articles in the Economist on the Copenhagen Consensus project.

South African Science Cutbacks

A couple of recent articles have dealt with science and technology in South Africa. (One in Nature, 29 April 2004.) In the ten years since the introduction of multiracial democracy, the country’s share of global scientific publications has dropped from 0.8 to 0.49 percent. Expenditure on R&D has dropped from 1.1 to 0.64 percent of GDP. “Nearly all of South African publications are authored by white males (about half of whom are over 50 years old, up from 18% in 1990). Eleven percent of government researchers leave their government laboratories each year, and fifteen percent of university researchers leave.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Culture and Public Action: Papers

Culture and Public Action: Papers:

Contributors to the book in order of their chapters: "Amartya Sen, Arjun Appadurai, Mary Douglas, Marco Verweij, Timur Kuran, Arjo Klamer, Lourdes Arizpe, Sabina Alkire, Anita Abraham, Jean-Phiippe Platteau, Monica Das Gupta, Carol Jenkins, Fernando Calderon, Alicia Szmuckler, Simon Harragin, Shelton Davis,Vijayendra Rao, Michael Walton "

The first chapter can be downloaded free, as can abstracts for the other chapters.

IQ, per capita income, and 2000 vote by State

This list invites cheap shots, but probably is best interpreted in terms of how deep the red versus blue divisions are in U. S. society, and how fundamental are the cognitive differences that mark U.S. politics. Gore took 15 of the 16 states with highest IQ, which are also among the highest income states. Bush took24 of the 25 lowest average IQ states, which also are among the poorest states.

The big urban states -- New York, California, Illinois, etc. -- voted for Gore, while the smaller, rural states voted for Bush. (The U.S. voting system, that gives the small states added weight in the elections, gave the election to Bush even though Gore won the popular vote.) Of course, Gore got Rhode Island and Delaware -- small states both.

Still, a situation in which parties play to constituencies of markedly different average intelligence (and one may infer different average education) suggests a difference in the ways those parties functionaries are likely to use knowledge.

T. Volken: The Impact of National IQ on Income and Growth

T. Volken: The Impact of National IQ on Income and Growth:

Abstract: "Recently Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen have presented evidence that differences in national IQ account for the substantial variation in national per capita income and growth. This paper challenges these findings and claims that, firstly, they simply reflect inappropriate use and interpretations of statistical instruments. Secondly, it is argued that the models presented by Lynn and Vanhanen are under-complex and inadequately specified. More precisely the authors confuse IQ with human capital. The paper concludes that once control variables are introduced and the models are adequately specified, neither an impact of IQ on income nor on growth can be substantiated."

04/14/02 - A Few Thoughts on IQ and the Wealth of Nations

04/14/02 - A Few Thoughts on IQ and the Wealth of Nations:

"The correlation between national IQ and national income is very high. For the 81 countries, the r is .73 for GDP measured in purchasing power parity terms."

Of course, the questions are:
- To what degree does wealth allow countries to buy IQ?
- Under what conditions does high average IQ help countries to increase per capita GDP?

Wednesday, May 19, 2004 | The dotcoms come of age | The dotcoms come of age:

"The 200m Americans who now have web access are likely to spend more than $120 billion online this year. And that is only part of the story. E-commerce has not only grown into a huge thing in its own right, it has done so in a way that will change every kind of business, offline as well as online, as our survey explains."

Press release on Global Support for Information Society Targets

Press release on Global Support for Information Society Targets

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Research in Science and Technology Studies


This page provides abstracts and links for papers by Sulfikar Amir. He is a PhD student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Some of the materials are specific to Indonesia, and others more general in nature.



Subtitle: "Agrigultural Biotechnology: Meeting the needs of the poor?"

The Twilight of the Information Middlemen

The New York Times > Business > Your Money > Techno Files: The Twilight of the Information Middlemen:

"The emergence of two information sources that make us collectively richer and exist only because of fairly recent changes in the Internet.

"One, believe it or not, is the world of blogs. If you've been away, blogs are those essentially personal Web pages where bloggers list their thoughts, include pictures or sound clips, post links to other sites - and keep adding new thoughts. "


"In principle, this publicly financed knowledge has always been the public's property, but until a few years ago there was no easy way to get it from research centers to a wide audience. Thus various middlemen arose - notably scientific journals, which did the expensive work of printing and distributing research papers in return for steep subscription costs.

"With the coming of the Internet, these intermediaries were no longer technically necessary - but, like the big music companies, they won't just fade away."

By JAMES FALLOWS, The New York Times, May 16, 2004.

Science -- Bhattacharjee 304 (5673): 943a

Science -- Bhattacharjee 304 (5673): 943a:

"Sixteen academic and professional organizations this week asked the Bush Administration to take steps to ease the entry of foreign scientists and students into the United States without undermining national security."

Science -- Mervis 304 (5673): 942b

Science -- Mervis 304 (5673): 942b:

"NIH is quietly launching a training program for the 2004-05 academic year that will be open to all, regardless of citizenship. The agency is now reviewing the first set of proposals for the $6 million initiative and expects to select about a dozen institutions for 5-year awards of up to $600,000 a year."

Perceived Threats and Real Killers

Today, there seem to be two distinct types of infectious diseases: the rare but much feared diseases
for which investigators greatly outnumber the fatal cases, and the major everyday infectious
diseases that are real killers, for which the number of deaths massively outnumber the investigators.
The challenge for us all is to sustain research on the killer diseases while keeping in perspective
those diseases that remain largely as threats. As we set priorities in public health, we should ensure
that new interest generated by emerging infections helps to both sustain and support programs to
control and prevent the recurrent killer diseases whose global burden remains great and where investments
can be lifesaving. We need to guide the public’s attention and policymakers’ priorities to
keep the response to the epidemic of the day in perspective and not lose sight of the real infectious
disease problem: the everyday killers of children and adults around the world.



"Agrigultural Biotechnology: Meeting the needs of the poor?"

Monday, May 17, 2004

Immigrants' Cash Floods Homelands (

Immigrants' Cash Floods Homelands (

"The massive flows are part of an estimated $30 billion annually that Latin American immigrants in the United States convey to their home countries, according to the study, to be released today by the Inter-American Development Bank. Of that amount, the study estimates, $94 million comes from the District. Immigrants living in Maryland send $500 million, the survey estimates, and those living in Virginia send $586 million. Most Latino immigrants in Maryland and Virginia live in the Washington suburbs. The study said the region's immigrants are more likely to send money to Latin American than are immigrants nationwide, and they send money more often. "

Sunday, May 16, 2004

The New Yorker: Annals of National Security

The Gray Zone, by Seymour Hersh:

"The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld?s decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of ?lite combat units, and hurt America?s prospects in the war on terror."

Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary Of the Verse (

Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary Of the Verse (

"As we know,
"There are known knowns.
"There are things we know we know.
"We also know there are known unknowns."

Saturday, May 15, 2004

United Nations Association of the United States of America: A Global Agenda

United Nations Association of the United States of America: A Global Agenda:

"For more than two decades, UNA-USA's annual publication, A Global Agenda, Issues Before the General Assembly of the United Nations, has served as the ultimate authority on the full spectrum of U.N. activity?the Security Council, General Assembly, Specialized Agencies and more."



"The current revolution in science and technology has led to concern that unbridled scientific progress is not always ethically acceptable. UNESCO?s Programme on the Ethics of Science and Technology reflects this concern and aims to place such progress in a context of ethical reflection rooted in the cultural, legal, philosophical and religious heritage of the various human communities. The Ethics of Science and Technology, including the Bioethics Programme and the World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST), is one of UNESCO?s five priority programmes. "

Friday, May 14, 2004

World Press Freedom Day - 3 May 2004

World Press Freedom Day - 3 May 2004:

"May 3rd is dedicated to World Press Freedom, a day to remember and stress the importance of free press in a free society. Highlighting World Press Freedom Day, the Committee on Information will dedicate its morning session of work on 3 May to the Day with a two-part event."

10 Stories the world needs to know more about

10 Stories the world needs to know more about:


Uganda: Child soldiers at centre of mounting humanitarian crisis

Central African Republic: a silent crisis crying out for help

AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa: a looming threat to future generations

The peacekeeping paradox: as peace spreads, surge in demand strains UN resources

Tajikistan: rising from the ashes of civil war

Women as peacemakers: from victims to re-builders of society

Persons with disabilities: a treaty seeks to break new ground in ensuring equality

Bakassi Peninsula: Recourse to the law to prevent conflict

Overfishing: a threat to marine biodiversity

Indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation"

US Ambassador to UNESCO Louise Oliver's statement to the Executive Board on April 20

Americans for UNESCO>:

"Since engineering skills are critical for making progress towards this goal, as well as towards the Millennium Summit goals of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, we will be discussing possible initiatives in this area, including a proposal supported by the American engineering community called 'Engineering For a Better World'"

The Seeds Of a Rights Scandal In Iraq (

The Seeds Of a Rights Scandal In Iraq (

Former President Jimmy Carter explains the roots of the disasterous failure of U.S. human rights policies, and summarizes the recent history of efforts to explain to the Bush Administration the problems their policies were creating.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

2 FDA Officials Urged to Resign Over Plan B

Subtitle: "Lawmakers Call Decision Political"

Lead: "A dozen members of Congress yesterday called for the resignation of the two Food and Drug Administration officials most responsible for last week's decision to keep emergency contraception a prescription-only drug."

By Marc Kaufman, The Washington Post, May 13, 2004.

Monday, May 10, 2004

The New York Times > Health > Herbal Drug Is Embraced in Treating Malaria

The New York Times > Health > Herbal Drug Is Embraced in Treating Malaria

UNICEF and the World Bank have approved use of artemisinin, a compound based on qinghaosu or sweet wormwood, in malaria control programs. The new Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has given 11 countries grants to buy artemisinin and has instructed 34 others to drop requests for two older drugs — chloroquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine — and switch to the new one. Agencies are racing to acquire 100 million doses. "Until recently," according to this article, big donors like the United States and Britain had opposed its use on a wide scale, saying it was too expensive, had not been tested enough on children and was not needed in areas where other malaria drugs still worked."

Sunday, May 09, 2004 Books: The Social Control of Technology in North Africa: Information in the Global Economy Books: The Social Control of Technology in North Africa: Information in the Global Economy

This book looks at ICT policies in North Africa in the 1990's. Books: Microcomputers in African Development: Critical Perspectives Books: Microcomputers in African Development: Critical Perspectives

Having described "Negotiating the Net" in a posting last week, it occurred to me to suggest two earlier books. This is one, and it looks at the political dimensions of the introduction of microcomputers in Africa in the 1980's.

Plan B Won't Be Sold Over Counter (

Plan B Won't Be Sold Over Counter (

"The (FDA) decision was an unusual repudiation of the lopsided recommendation of the agency's own expert advisory panel, which voted 23 to 4 late last year that the drug should be sold over the counter and then, that same day, 27 to 0 that the drug could be safely sold as an over-the-counter medication. "

FDA Acknowledges Plan B Rejection (

FDA Acknowledges Plan B Rejection (

"The Food and Drug Administration today acknowledged that it rejected over-the-counter sale of the emergency contraceptive Plan B after its own staff -- as well as two expert advisory panels -- recommended that it be approved."

White House to Discuss Stem Cells With House (

White House to Discuss Stem Cells With House (

"Members of Congress who have been lobbying the White House to loosen restrictions on research with human embryonic stem cells have been promised a meeting with a White House representative next week. Several Hill-watchers said it would be the first face-to-face meeting between lawmakers and the White House on the issue in more than two years. "

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

2004 NAS President's Address

2004 President's Address

This address by Bruce Alberts at the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences is unusual in its strong international focus.

National Institute of Standards and Technology Plans Layoffs (

National Institute of Standards and Technology Plans Layoffs (

"About 2,800 employees work for NIST at its headquarters in Gaithersburg and about 400 at its lab in Boulder. The agency is known for employing world-class scientists, engineers and technical experts who focus on measurement, standards and technology. Two years ago, Congress directed the agency to review building failures, and NIST has teams investigating the destruction of the World Trade Center in the 2001 terrorist attacks and the fire last year that destroyed a Rhode Island nightclub and killed 100 patrons.
NIST received $359.1 million for its labs and operations in fiscal 2003, but received $338.6 million for this fiscal year. The 2004 appropriation was about $49 million below the president's request, according to the House Science Committee. "

U.S. Patients Spend More but Don't Get More, Study Finds (

U.S. Patients Spend More but Don't Get More, Study Finds (

"Americans receive the right treatment less than 60 percent of the time, resulting in unnecessary pain, expense and even death, according to a study released yesterday."

U.S. SCIENCE POLICY: White House Budget Blowout

Science -- Malakoff 304 (5671): 658b

The Bush Administration proposes to cut funding for science in EPA, NOAA, Interior, DOE, and NSF in the next five years, while radically increasing R&D funding in the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense.

More details are available in the AAAS website.

Negotiating the Net

Negotiating the Net

I attended a presentation on this project last week. Under the project, people have been working on case studies for more than 18 months, based on extensive field interviews in five African countries. They have worked from a common framework, focusing on key issues in the expansion of Internet connectivity, and how they are negotiated among key stakeholders.

The expansion of the Internet has occurred first among those people who already are connected to telecommunications and who already have computers. Thus the development of the underlying communications and information processing infrastructures greatly influenced the rate of growth of Internet connectivity. Of course, there have been key issues in the development of these infrastructures -- privatization of telecommunications, telecom regulatory policies and the creation of independent regulatory agencies, competition policy, tariffs on computers and software, open source software policies, etc.

In the case of the Internet, key policies have included whether monopolistic telecoms would extend their monopoly to Internet service provision, licensing of ISPs, licensing of VSAT terminals, rate structures for Internet users of telephone network, whether to allow VoIP, and whether to have in country Internet exchange points among ISPs.

The analysis has focused on the roles of various organizations -- government, ISPs, the national telecom operator, etc. Well and good.

In developing countries I have noted there are some leaders who have been especially active in the ICT sector. These people tend to have held university posts, but have also started private companies, sometimes done research, participated in ICT related associations (such as the Internet Society), served in government posts, and served on advisory commissions.

There is an old phrase: "Where you stand depends on where you sit." One would expect that the representatives of academia, ISPs, government, etc. would argue the positions in the interests of the organizations they represent. On the other hand, the same person may sequentially represent many different stakeholder organizations. How much does the person's personal beliefs influence their negotiating stance, as compared with the stakeholder they represent?

I would add: "where you sit depends on where you stand." People are appointed to represent institutional stakeholders in part because they are politically or ideologically affiliated with those they are asked to represent.

I liked one acronym presented at the meeting very much -- SSOS! (Sam says, "Oh S...."). It recognized that in some countries an important national leader will have a moment of revelation, in which he recognizes that the development of the Internet is important in terms of values that he, the leader, holds dear. The ejaculation at that moment represents a benchmark of the time in which attention to the Internet increases. Internet policy ceases to be a backwater affair handled largely by a group of technocrats, and becomes recognized as an issue suitable for high level political negotiation.

A book on the research findings will be out later in the year, but check out the project website now.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Massachusetts Town Becomes 300th Jurisdiction to Denounce Patriot Act

OneWorld US - Massachusetts Town Becomes 300th Jurisdiction to Denounce Patriot Act:

"The 300 local and state jurisdictions that have gone on record against the Act have objected especially to the sweeping powers given to the Justice Department to round up, detain, and summarily deport immigrants without filing charges or providing them with access to attorneys, or, in some cases, even to their family members; the use of racial and ethnic profiling by federal agencies in targeting suspects; and/or the granting of unprecedented powers to the FBI to secretly obtain information with little or no judicial review about individuals. "

Monday, May 03, 2004

Jeffrey Sachs: Science and Technology needed to Pass Through the 21st Century Bottleneck

Sustainable Development

"Developing and mobilizing the needed science and technology will require long lead times, public funding for research and development, and improved systems of global governance. In short, passing through the bottleneck will require a level of collective action that is nowhere yet in sight. Budget funding for the future technologies that could underpin
sustainable development is a small fraction of military spending, and only a slight part of that spending is directed at the health, energy, and environmental needs of the world’s poorest people."

This editorial in Science magazine suggests we have the chance for sustainable development, but are a long way from creating the political will to make it happen.

Politicized Science

Speed Bump By Dave Coverly from the Washington Post.

Great topical cartoon!

U.S. Is Losing Its Dominance in the Sciences

The New York Times > Science > "U.S. Is Losing Its Dominance in the Sciences":

"The United States has started to lose its worldwide dominance in critical areas of science and innovation, according to federal and private experts who point to strong evidence like prizes awarded to Americans and the number of papers in major professional journals." | Public libraries | Public libraries:

"Though spending on libraries is up, visits have declined by 21% and numbers of books borrowed by 35% in the last ten years, making a once public-spirited enterprise bad value for public money."

As more people can afford to buy books, fewer visit British public libraries. | Mobile phones | Mobile phones:

"Just as mobile phones have changed dramatically in recent years, the industry that makes them is being transformed too."

Good article in the Economist suggesting that the barriers to entry in the mobile phone business are coming down as markets for intermediate hardware and software goods are being created.