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October 2002

Sigma Xi International Newsletter
Volume 1, Number 3
October 2002

This monthly electronic bulletin is designed to keep subscribers updated on developments in Sigma Xi's international activities as well as links and topics of interest to researchers around the world. To submit an item to the newsletter, contact the International Program Coordinator at international@sigmaxi.org. If you would like to, you can download and print a PDF version of this newsletter. To receive notice of this monthly newsletter, please use this online form.

Past Issues

In This Issue

World Summit on Sustainable Development
The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) recently convened in Johannesburg, South Africa from August 26th to September 4th. The WSSD was planned to be a follow-up to the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as "the Earth Summit." Designed to assess the 10-year progress on UNCED initiatives, the goal of the WSSD was to revitalize the global commitment to sustainable development. More than 21,000 people participated in this event. Although the outcomes were mixed, WSSD did adopt a Plan of Implementation and the Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development. The Plan of Implementation covered multiple topics such as water and sanitation, sustainable production and consumption, energy, chemicals, management of the natural resource base, and health. Not surprisingly, at the plenary session set aside for statements from agencies and organizations, technological progress was mentioned as one of the key elements for the implementation of sustainable development initiatives. In order to better relate the world of science to the world of policy, a forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development was held parallel to the WSSD. (Source: Earth Negotiations Bulletin)

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Regional Communication of Science
One of the first steps in the quest for research funding in any country is to convince the policymakers and, ultimately, the public of the importance of local scientific research. When a significant fraction of the population is fighting for their basic necessities, gaining public and legislative support becomes an even more daunting task. An electronic conference on Science Communication Needs for Developing Countries recently highlighted these issues.

Several electronic resources have been created to disseminate regional developments in scientific research. These Web sites are an effective way to inform local as well as international researchers of regional scientific progress. Listed below are a few examples of sites that communicate regional science news.

Sites dedicated solely to regional science news

  • News in science
    http://abc.net.au/science/news/
    A service of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that highlights science news in Australia.

  • Science in Africa
    http://www.scienceinafrica.co.za
    The first popular science magazine for Africa.
  • Sites that include regional science news

  • SciDev.Net
    http://www.scidev.net
    A free-access, Internet-based network devoted to reporting on and discussing those aspects of modern science and technology that are relevant to sustainable development and the social and economic needs of developing countries; the SciDev.Net site has four regional gateways, including the recently launched one for Sub-Saharan Africa as well as gateways for Latin America, the Middle East, and South and East Asia.

  • Science.ca
    http://www.science.ca/newsandevents.php
    An educational site that describes Canada's scientists and their achievements.

  • Swiss Science
    http://www.myscience.ch
    An overview of sciences, employment, funding, research area, universities and other research institutions in Switzerland. It provides also practical information about research mobility and living in Switzerland including immigration, taxes and legal issues. It is intended for researchers (PhD candidates, postdocs, professors, researchers in private labs, etc.) and students, and all those who are interested in sciences in Switzerland and abroad.
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    Interview With: Professors Vladimir Boldyrev and Andrei Arzhannikov of Novosibirsk State University and the Research and Education Center for Molecular Design and Ecologically Safe Technologies (REC-008).

    The Research and Education Center for Molecular Design and Ecologically Safe Technologies (REC-008) recently received a Packard Initiative networking award, and they will be sending a representative to participate in the 2002 Sigma Xi Forum and Annual Meeting.

    SX: What is your general field, and in which specific topics do you conduct research?
    VB: I have been working in the field of solid state chemistry for more than 50 years. I am especially interested in the reactivity of solids, finding methods of controlling the rates and spatial propagation of solid state reactions, as well as the state and the properties of the reaction products. In the last few years, I have moved toward studying molecular solids, solid drugs in particular, and mechanochemistry.
    AA: The general field of my research is physics. I conduct research in the following specific topics: physics and techniques of high power electron beams, interaction of relativistic electron beams with plasma and solids, microwave generation by relativistic electron beams, applications of mm-waves, measurements of low intensity neutron flux, and the physics aspects of global ecology.

    SX: Please tell us about the summer science camp that your institute organizes.
    AA: One of the very important tasks of the education activity of REC-008 is the popularization of the most recent achievements of science.
    VB: For 40 years, Novosibirsk State University has brought children from all over Siberia to the university for a summer science camp. Last year, REC-008 joined this camp by organizing a weeklong satellite school in supramolecular chemistry so that the 750 school children could attend popular lectures by the leading experts in the field.
    AA: The summer school for 14-16 year-old students, their teachers and anyone interested in science was a great success. In 2002 we organized a school again, this time devoted to "hot topics in physics and chemistry."
    VB: The specific topics ranged from quantum computers to applications of physics and chemistry in biology and medicine.

    SX: How do average Russian citizens perceive scientific research and scientists?
    VB: In former times, the interest in science was much higher when compared with the present day. There were many popular journals, radio and TV programs, and good, inexpensive popular books dealing with science. There was a tradition similar to your Distinguished Lecturers program, where prominent scientists traveled to small towns and villages, visited industrial enterprises, schools, etc. giving popular lectures on their subjects. Science and scientists were respected. Now the situation has changed, but we nevertheless have young people, especially those living far from the major cities, who are interested in science. And we still have enthusiasts who continue to work and teach.
    AA: Most average Russian citizens perceive scientific research and scientists quite positively, but the "new Russian people," who have accumulated a lot of money during "perestroika," don't want to invest financial resources in scientific research on new technology and fundamental knowledge.

    SX: How supportive of scientific research is the federal government?
    VB: Support is very low. More words than real support.
    AA: The total amount of government financial support for the research group of a distinguished Russian professor as a rule does not exceed $30,000 per year. In modern experimental physics, for example, such a research group usually consists of 15-20 people.

    SX: What are some of the ways research groups at your university overcome the problems of limited funding for research?
    VB: They are looking for support from various foundations in Russia and abroad.
    AA: We also try to establish collaborations with research groups abroad.

    SX: What are some of the strengths for doing research in Novosibirsk?
    VB: Novosibirsk Akademgorodok is a very good scientific campus, with good science, good interdisciplinary linkages, and a very good creative atmosphere. We are all supportive with respect to each other, and this helps us to survive now.
    AA: Highly skilled scientific researchers in different areas of natural and social sciences, high quality education at Novosibirsk State University, and the proximity of different research institutes that allows us to carry out interdisciplinary investigations.

    SX: What are some of the obstacles that researchers in Novosibirsk and the surrounding area face?
    VB: The salaries are low, especially when compared with those for non-educated people. Young researchers have serious problems finding accommodation. It is easy to find a position, but it is difficult to survive with the salary this position gives. As a result, fewer and fewer young people choose science as their profession. Access to recent literature and the lack of modern equipment are also serious problems. In the past few years, however, the situation with these last two problems has improved slightly, thanks to the support of various foundations. Although the support of young scientists has improved, the support of their senior colleagues is still a major problem.
    AA: The obstacles are mainly connected with financial conditions in the Siberian region. In particular, the long distance from the center of Russia and Europe presents additional obstacles to cooperation and taking part in conferences.

    SX: Which worldwide scientific developments have had the greatest effect on the research in your field in your region?
    VB: A breakthrough at the beginning of the 20th century in the understanding that solids can be participants of various chemical reactions, and that these reactions have many peculiar features that make them different from transformations in gases and in liquids. Recent successes in solid state chemistry have made it possible to develop new generations of materials and to suggest new technologies; solid state chemistry is becoming increasingly important also for medicine and biology.
    AA: Achievements in the pulse power technology have provided a strong impulse in the development of super power particle beams and sources of electromagnetic radiation, and this, in turn, has opened a wide area of high technology applications.

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    Did You Know?

    The University of Cape Town Centre for Bioethics has received a grant from the Fogarty International Center of the U.S. National Institutes of Health to support international bioethics education for four years through the International Research Ethics Network for Southern Africa. The objective of the program is to assist Research Ethics Committees in South Africa and neighboring countries in building capacity in research ethics. Successful trainees will be awarded the Diploma in International Research Ethics. The course will run over an academic year, and scholarships are available. The final deadline for applications is November 20, 2002. For more details, contact Carmen de Koker at cdekoker@uctgsh1.uct.ac.za or see: http://www.scidev.net/notices/detail.asp?t=G&id=2009200216212737

    The purpose of the E7 Sustainable Energy Development Scholarship Programme is to support outstanding students to pursue advanced studies in sustainable energy development and to encourage meaningful contributions to the collective body of knowledge about this subject. Students from developing countries and economies in transition who plan to undertake studies at the Masters level or Post-Doctoral level in areas directly related to sustainable energy development are eligible to apply for this scholarship. Scholarships of up to $US 20,000 per year for two years are offered for Masters level students. Scholarships up to $US 25,000 per year for two years are offered for Post-Doctoral students. Application deadlines are Dec. 1, 2002 for the Post-Doctoral program and Apr. 1, 2003 for the Masters program. For more information, see: http://www.e7.org/Pages/O-Schol.html.

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    Upcoming meetings

    Sigma Xi's 2002 Forum: Changing the Face of Science and Engineering;Galveston, Texas; November 14-15, 2002.
    http://www.sigmaxi.org/meetings/forum/ upcoming.shtml

    2nd International Conference on Open Collaborative Design for Sustainable Innovation (dyd02); Bangalore, India; December 1-2, 2002.
    http://www.thinkcycle.org/dyd02/

    7th International Conference on Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST); Cape Town, South Africa; December 5-7, 2002.
    http://www.fest.org.za/pcst/index.html

    Third International Conference on Science, Mathematics and Technology Education; East London, South Africa; January 15-18, 2003.
    http://www.curtin.edu.au/curtin/dept/smec/sacon.html

    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: 919-549-4691 or 919-547-5246
    Fax: 919-547-5263
    E-mail: international@sigmaxi.org

     

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