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September/October 2004

Sigma Xi International Newsletter
Volume 3, Number 9/10
September/October 2004

This electronic bulletin is designed to keep subscribers updated on developments in Sigma Xi’s international activities as well as provide links and topics of interest to researchers around the world. To submit an item to the newsletter, contact the Manager of the International Program at international@sigmaxi.org. You can also download and print a PDF version of this issue. To subscribe to this newsletter, please use this online form.

Past Issues

In This Issue

Modern Modes of Internet Communication
Part 2: Forums and Wikis and Blogs, Oh My

Part 1 of this article, published in the
August 2004 newsletter, introduced the topic of Really Simple Syndication (RSS). Part 2 will elaborate on three additional Web applications for online communication--forums, blogs and wikis. All three can be considered asynchronous communication because participants can communicate over a period of time as opposed to everyone participating simultaneously.

Forums, also known as bulletin, discussion or message boards, allow a community to hold electronic discussions centered on specific topics. Often, the subjects that have the most recent postings will be listed first. Replies to a specific topic are usually linked under that topic as a “thread.” In moderated forums, the moderator can approve, delete, move or rate postings. The user can typically choose to view only the unread postings, recent postings, or postings with a certain rating. Any user can view the postings (and even sometimes search them) as a guest. Usually, the ability to add new postings is limited to registered community members. A member cannot, however, modify existing postings authored by another person. The predecessor to today’s Internet discussion forum was the Usenet discussion forum, or “newsgroup.” Although Usenet discussion groups have been around for 25 years, only in the past decade have they become more user-friendly, developing searchable and sortable archives. Many Usenet groups are now accessible via the Internet.

The use of web logs or “blogs” has mushroomed from approximately 25 blogs in 1995 to millions at present. Blogs are Web sites comprised of date/time-stamped entries listed in reverse-chronological order. Originally, the main function of blogs was to filter information available on the Internet, and many blogs focus on current events and politics. Although most blogs are written by an individual as a type of electronic diary or journal, some blogs also allow postings by the users. Most blogs allow you to post comments to an item, although you cannot change the original item. A very popular blog where comments are integral to the nature of the site is Slashdot “News for Nerds. Stuff that matters.”

A wiki (originating from the Hawaiian word for “quick”) is a Web site that allows any user to post content and edit other people’s content. These sites are considered self-regulating because inaccurate information is removed by other users. One of the most prominent wikis is the Wikipedia, a free encyclopedia in more than 50 languages containing a total of nearly 350,000 articles. The content in Wikipedia is a collaborative effort of more than 20,000 contributors from around the world. These powerful tools provide new ways to manipulate information on the Internet; it is amazing to think that most have been developed within the past 5–10 years. [Sources: Interactive Communities Overview and Blogs, Wikis and Other Animals]

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Disclosing Clinical Trials
It is known that, just as all researchers are more likely to publish positive results, researchers supported by pharmaceutical companies are more likely to publish clinical trials supporting the sponsoring company’s proposed treatment than negative or inconclusive trials. The selective reporting of clinical trials is particularly disturbing because of the potential risks this practice poses to human health. Even though the idea of registering all clinical trials was proposed 30 years ago, there still is no U.S. law requiring mandatory registrations of all ongoing clinical trials. In response to recent public clamor over industry and journal failures to report the possible linkage between children and antidepressants, several pharmaceutical companies have announced new policies to register their clinical trials. Although a step in the right direction, these self-imposed policies are neither uniform nor comprehensive. A statement from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), published simultaneously in the 11 member journals this month, said that all of the ICMJE member journals will now require registration of clinical trials in a public database before papers are considered for publication. They define a clinical trial as “any research project that prospectively assigns human subjects to intervention or comparison groups to study the cause-and-effect relationship between a medical intervention and a health outcome.” In addition, they note that studies designed for other purposes, such as to study pharmacokinetics or major toxicity, would be exempt. Any clinical trial initiating patient enrollment after 1 July 2005 must be registered before or when patients are enrolled in the study. Trials enrolling patients before this date have until 13 September 2005 to register. The only online registry which currently meets all of the ICMJE requirements is the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s
http://www.clinicaltrials.gov [Sources: Clinical Trial Registration and Trial Registration]

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World Water Monitoring Day
America’s Clean Water Foundation and the International Water Association are collaborating to organize the
2004 World Water Monitoring Day (WWMD) on 18 October 2004. From 18 September to 18 October, volunteers can take measurements of temperature, pH, turbidity and dissolved oxygen in their local watersheds and submit their data. The project is designed not only to educate the public about the importance of monitoring and protecting their local watersheds, but also to gather more information about watershed health over time. For those without access to water sampling equipment, test kits good for up to 50 tests may be ordered online. Last year, volunteers in 18 different countries submitted measurements. Organizations around the world are encouraged to help sponsor local testing by providing the test kits free of charge. [Source: Science in Africa]

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New Science & Technology “City” for Egypt
A new science & technology center is being built just outside Cairo, in the 6th of October City, with the goals of promoting science communication as well as promoting the public understanding and appreciation of science. Dubbed a “science and technology city,” the 146,000 m² complex will feature interactive museum exhibits and a motto of “science for all.” The project leaders also hope to strengthen ties with other scientific organizations in the Arab world in order to establish an Arab network for science awareness. The center plans to distribute information about basic sciences and applied technology in a number of formats including books, pamphlets, videotapes, television programs and CD-ROMs. The initial phase of the project is being supported by the Egyptian government, and later funding is expected to be raised from public-private partnerships. Already under construction, the science center is expected to open at the end of 2005. [Source:

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Honorary Membership in Sigma Xi
For more than 20 years, Sigma Xi has recognized distinguished individuals not otherwise eligible for membership who have made outstanding contributions in communicating science to the general public or in their support of science, engineering, and technology. Such individuals are eligible to be elected honorary life members by the Board of Directors.
Sigma Xi’s Web site explains the nomination process and lists previous honorary members. The Committee on Awards will consider nominations for the 2005 honorary members at the Society’s 2004 Annual Meeting in November. Nominations should be sent to the Committee on Awards at the Society’s administrative offices before 15 October 2004. Individuals from around the world may be nominated as honorary members, and a maximum of two honorary members may be elected in any one year.

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North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Develops Science, Technology and Research Network
In order to foster resource sharing, the NATO Research Technology Agency recently finished the initial development of its ”science, technology and research network” (
STARNET)--a collection of scientific data sources freely available on the Internet. The purpose of this network is to facilitate access to the non-classified scientific information already existing in many different countries. The STARNET virtual library focuses on seven different topic areas or “nodes”: Aerospace and Aerospace-Related Research Information Node (ARIN); Defense Against Terrorism Node (DTIN); Environmental and Biological Sciences Node (EBSIN); Information Science Node (INSCIN); Land-Based Operations Node (LBON); Naval, Marine and Sea-based Operations Node (NAVMAS) and Research Planning Node (RESPLAN). NATO is currently seeking feedback on STARNET as well as suggestions for additional resources to include in the network. [Source: Internet Resources Newsletter]

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Local Portal to HighWire Launched in China
HighWire Press, a division of the Stanford University Libraries, produces the online versions of more than 680 high-impact, peer-reviewed journals as well as other scholarly content. They host the largest repository of free, full-text life science articles in the world; currently more than 750,000 free, full-text articles are available through their Web site. China’s Ministry of Education has now created a locally-hosted broadband connection to the HighWire site at the China Education and Research Network (CERNET). Previously, users at China’s academic institutions could use HighWire only by directing their Internet browsers to the U.S.-based Web site, and consequently had to pay fees for accessing foreign Web sites. This significant development will enable HighWire-affiliated publishers to strengthen the link with their members, authors and growing readership in China. [Source:
Open Access News]

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Did You Know?
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation’s Capacity Building Program “Jeunes chercheurs (Young scientists)” is designed to support fieldwork activities in developing or transitional countries for young Swiss and foreign Ph.D. or postdoctoral students studying in Switzerland. The fieldwork activities must take place in collaboration with a local partner in the host country and his or her institution. Funded research must generate results that are relevant to developing countries and development-related issues; particular attention must be given to dissemination of results and to possible applications. The submission deadline for proposals is 15 October 2004.

Sigma Xi’s William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement annually recognizes a scientist who has made an outstanding contribution to scientific research and has demonstrated an ability to communicate the significance of this research to scientists in other disciplines. The prize consists of a certificate, a glass sculpture and US$5,000. In addition, each recipient is asked to designate a younger scholar, usually working in the same field, to receive a $5,000 Grant-in-Aid of Research award from the Procter Prize Fund. Nominations should be submitted by 15 October 2004 in order to be considered for the 2005 Procter Prize.

The Third World Academy of Sciences offers several fellowships for study and research that have application deadlines of 31 October 2004. Foreign developing country scientists can apply to study or perform research in Brazil, China or India. [Source: SciDev.Net]

The Iranian Research Organization for Science and Technology (IROST) is accepting applications for the Khwarizmi International Award until 31 October 2004. Eligible fields include engineering, basic sciences, human sciences agriculture, biotechnology and environment. Awards are made in the categories of inventions, innovations, applied research and fundamental research.

The Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences is accepting nominations for the 2004 Kuwait Prizes. Kuwaiti and Arab citizens in several fields, including marine biology, nuclear medicine and development and economic restructuring polices in the Arab world, may be nominated for these ~US$100,000 prizes. The nominations are due on 31 October 2004. Contact prize@kfas.org.kw for more information, or you can try the KFAS Web site, although the English version was not functioning properly at the time of publication. [Source: SciDev.Net]

Each year, the American Technion Society and the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology award the Harvey Prize to recognize major breakthroughs in science and technology. Usually, two prizes of US$75,000 each are awarded annually in fields that rotate in a five-year cycle. Nominations are being accepted through 1 November 2004 for living candidates who have “truly contributed to the progress of humanity” through their research.

Canadian nationals and permanent residents who are conducting doctoral level research in environment and natural resource management or information and communication technologies for development are eligible to apply for the International Development Research Centre Doctoral Research Awards. Applicants must also be enrolled at Canadian universities. The next deadline is 1 November 2004. [Source: Digital Dividend Digest]

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Upcoming Meetings
World Congress of Science Journalists; Montréal, Canada; 4-8 October 2004

12th International Conference of Science Editors (IFSE-12) “Future Trends in Science Editing and Publishing: Bringing Science to Society;” Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico; 10-14 October 2004

Engineering Education in Sustainable Development 2004 Conference; Barcelona, Spain; 27-29 October 2004

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For more information on any of the programs mentioned in this newsletter, please contact:

Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society
P. O. Box 13975, 3106 East NC Highway 54
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709 USA
Telephone: +1-919-549-4691 or +1-919-547-5246
Fax: +1-919-549-0090
E-mail: international@sigmaxi.org


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