home page

ASCB Newsletter - February 2001

Call for Proposals

New Summer Meeting Series
All ASCB members, individually or in teams, are invited to submit proposals to organize the first in a series of summer meetings, to be held in 2002. The three-day meetings will host about 200 participants.

Topics should be novel (e.g., combining fields that don’t traditionally meet together, or focusing on an emerging area) and include:

  • a one-page summary of the scientific substance of the meeting;
  • names of 3-10 potential speakers (confirmation need not be obtained in advance);
  • CVs of proposed lead organizers.

Application deadline is July 1. Some participation in fundraising may be required of organizers. Meeting dates and site to be determined by the Society in consultation with the organizer(s).


Society Builds on Electronic Publishing Innovations

Seismic events are shaking the once sleepy world of scientific journal publishing and a fault line runs through the offices of the ASCB. It passes straight through the bookcase that Stephanie Dean took over at the first of the year along with the title of ASCB Director of Publications. The bookcase is packed with back issues of the Society’s flagship publication, Molecular Biology of the Cell, back to Volume 1, Number 1, in 1989, when the journal began as Cell Regulation. The title changed in 1993 but the seismic break runs through 1997. That’s when the journal went electronic, says Dean. To the left of that line, MBC was printing just over 10,000 paper copies of each issue. To the right, the print run slopes downwards. MBC is now printing 1,900 paper copies for ASCB members who pay for a printed backup to the electronic version that is maintained online through PubMed Central and HighWire Press.

As a research tool, Dean says the online version of MBC is already far more useful than print. Texts are fully searchable with links to previous citations and to other journals. The electronic MBC can also deliver video and complete datasets. The paper version has its advantages and its partisans, says Dean, but the electronic trend is clear.As a research tool, Dean says the online version of MBC is already far more useful than print. Texts are fully searchable with links to previous citations and to other journals. The electronic MBC can also deliver video and complete datasets. The paper version has its advantages and its partisans, says Dean, but the electronic trend is clear.

Dean comes to the ASCB from the Society of Nuclear Medicine where she was Senior Journals Manager for the Journal of Nuclear Medicine, Journal of Nuclear Medicine Technology, and the newsletter Uptake. Working with Editor-in-Chief David Botstein as Editor-in-Chief and Editor Keith Yamamoto, Dean is in charge of the practical side of publishing MBC, in partnership with ASCB staffers Stacie Lemick and Rebecca Wason. The ASCB will be publishing MBC on paper for years to come, Dean believes, yet the fate of the printed scientific journal is anybody’s guess. “No one really knows the answer,” says Dean. “I think paper will become less and less important but whether it disappears completely, I don’t know. There will always be people who just like to have the journal to carry around with them. But of course, there are already some features of the online version that paper just don’t support.”

Dean takes her new job at a time when technologies and economic realities are transforming scientific communications. Online publishing is one way of keeping up with the changing technology of scientific research but it’s also a way of dealing with the rising costs of paper, printing and postage. Then there’s the question of speed. Many journals are notorious for publishing stateof-the-art reports on state-ofthe-19th-century timetables. “Everyone wants everything sooner,” says Dean, “so inevitably the future of scholarly publishing will be electronic; you can’t put that cat back in the bag.”

Then there are the economic questions. Commercial journals can be hugely profitable and, in recent years, mergers and acquisitions have created a handful of megapublishers. The latest round came last fall with the announcement that Reed-Elsevier, the world’s largest journal publisher, was offering $3.5 billion for Harcourt General’s nearly 500 journals. ReedElsevier already has roughly 1,200 journal titles and takes in $1.1 billion a year from its science publishing operations. The Harcourt deal would leave just five major commercial players in medical and scientific journal publishing, including John Wiley & Sons in New York, Wolters Kluwer in the Netherlands, Springer-Verlag in Germany, and Blackwell in the UK.

Research librarians have strongly denounced the Harcourt deal as a potential disaster. According to the New York Times, journal subscription rates have risen roughly 11% a year over the past 11 years, forcing libraries to cut elsewhere. Subscription increases for some top journals have been much sharper. For example, a library subscription to ReedElsevier’s neurology journal Brian Research costs $16,000 a year. Even nonprofits like the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which publishes Science, have become much more aggressive in marketing, subscription rates, and ancillary commercial services.

These concerns have led to a backlash from scientists concerned about the efficient unencumbered exchange of scientific information. One of the leaders of the movement has been Harold Varmus. While still Director of the NIH, Varmus launched an online free-access journals library in 1999, now called PubMed Central. Addressing the ASCB’s Annual Meeting in San Francisco last December, Varmus urged his fellow members to take “The Pledge,” a vow written by ASCB member Pat Brown at Stanford, to refuse to contribute to, review for, subscribe to, or serve on the editorial board of any journal that does not make its content freely accessible within six months. (ASCB posts Molecular Biology of the Cell on PubMed Central two months after publication.)

In this unsettled environment, the ASCB’s single self-published journal is a small fish. Stephanie Dean thinks that’s an advantage. “We have a reputation for being a forwardthinking journal. We were the first to supply videos and datasets online. We’re working with consortiums of research institutions to deliver current subscriptions at discounted rates in developing countries. I think that the main challenge for us is to maintain our independence and our reputation by staying on the cutting edge of technology. An ancillary challenge is to provide new technologies to members and institutions while doing our best to contain costs.”



The ASCB is grateful to those below who have recently given gifts to support Society activities:

Milton Adesnik
Sally Amero
Barbara Birshstein
David Carroll
Christopher Carron
Julia Carter
Steven Castillo
Laura Cisar
Eloise Clark
Donald S. Coffey
Leslie Engel
Leslie Gold
Alfred Goldberg
Kevin Hsiao
Richard Hynes
Siro Kawaguti
Greta Lee
Ellen LeMosy
Marco Muda
Mohandas Narla
W. James Nelson
Elizabeth Neufeld
Thoru Pederson
John Henry Pizzonia
Edward Salmon
William Saxton
Dennis Shields
Carolyn Silflow
W. Sue Shafer
Shirley Tilghman
Barbara Vertel
Elizabeth Wayner
James Weatherbee
Zena Werb


WWW.Cell Biology Education

The ASCB Education Committee calls attention each month to Web sites of educational interest to the cell biology community. The Committee does not endorse nor guarantee the accuracy of the information at any of the listed sites. If you wish to comment on the selections or suggest future inclusions please send a message to Robert Blystone.

  1. Attending Professional Meetings Successfully
    This Web site provides a highly useful document in how to obtain the most out of a professional meeting. The report was prepared by Beth Fischer and Michael Zigmond of the University of Pittsburgh. Organized in eight sections, topics include preparing for the meeting, participating in the meeting, poster presentations, and tenminute talks. For undergraduate and graduate students who have never attended a professional meeting before, this report gives a step-by-step accounting of what to expect at a professional meeting. There are useful sections on networking and developing a conference binder to assist in navigating the hour-by-hour activities of the meeting. The descriptive material for setting up a poster are excellent even to the point of suggesting reading organization and font style and size of the poster. The fourteen page document provides information on how to design 35 mm slides and even how to load the slides into the projector. Thanks to ASCB Education Committee member Roger Sloboda for recommending this highly useful URL.
  2. Survey on Doctoral Education and Career Preparation
    For some time ASCB has been following the career pipeline in cell biology. This Web site provides a broad overview on the preparation of doctoral students for professional careers. To quote from the homepage: “The Survey on Doctoral Education and Career Preparation is a national survey of doctoral students intended to provide a snapshot picture of their experiences and goals. Over 4,000 students completed the 20-page survey. These students were from 27 selected universities, one cross-institutional program (The Compact for Faculty Diversity), and represented 11 arts and sciences disciplines.” The survey addressed four questions: “1) How effective are doctoral programs at preparing students for the wide range of careers they pursue, both in and out of the academy?; 2) Do students understand what doctoral study entails before they enroll and once they begin their studies?; 3) Do students understand what is expected of them during their programs and how to adequately meet those expectations?; and 4) Are the day-to-day processes of doctoral programs sufficiently clear so that student can concentrate on developing knowledge and skills?” The study was funded by the Pew Charitable Trust. The questions posed were far reaching and a visitor to this Web site has the ability to respond a Web version of the survey. Of additional interest were links to a number of sites that explore this same topic. The report and 16 data charts are available as PDF file downloads. Thanks again to Roger Sloboda for suggesting this site.
  3. Critical Thinking, the Scientific Method
    Dany Adams of Smith College has assembled a nice overview of how to teach critical thinking. She has correlated the process with Gilbert’s Developmental Biology textbook. She explains her efforts as follows: “Explicitly discussing the logic and the thought processes that inform experimental methods works better than hoping students will “get it” if they hear enough experiments described.” Adams provides students with a framework for thinking about experiments. Students are asked to recognize elements of a scientific report by means of three steps titled: Show It, Block It, and Move It. Using this technique she always asks an “experiment” question on an exam. Student performance has improved with the technique. The descriptive Critical Thinking report is an eight-page read from which any undergraduate instructor would benefit.

These sites were checked January 22, 2001. Previous ASCB columns reviewing Educational Web sites with the links to the sites may be found online.



Assistant Professor. Biology Department, York University, Toronto, Canada seeks tenure track Assistant Professor in Cell Biology.

Training Program in Aging—Baylor College of Medicine. Pre-doctoral and postdoctoral positions available Cell and Molecular Biology of Aging. Fifteen investigators participate in the training program at BCM. The group is highly interactive and the research interests cover a broad range of areas: memory & learning, neurodegenerative disease, cell cycle, gene transcription, cell senescence, hormonal regulation, cardiology, immunology, telomere biology, bone development. Candidates have the opportunity for support from an NIH training grant. Must be permanent residents, non-citizen nationals, or U.S. citizens. Please send curriculum vitae, a statement of citizenship status, and three letters of reference to: Gretchen J. Darlington, Ph.D., Huffington Center on Aging, M320, Baylor College of Medicine, One Baylor Plaza, Houston, TX 77030, Fax: (713) 798-4161. BCM is an equal EEOC/AA/EA employer.

Postdoctoral. A postdoctoral position is available to study cell cycle regulation in budding yeast. Projects include the identification of novel proteins involved in mitotic regulation, the role of the mitotic inhibitor Pds1 in cell cycle regulation and in the DNA damage checkpoint pathway, and the identification and analysis of Pds1's functional domains. Studies will involve the use of genetic, molecular and cellular biology and biochemical methodologies. Successful applicants will benefit from a creative and collaborative environment. A strong background in molecular biology, cell biology, or yeast genetics is required. Applicants must have a Ph.D. or M.D. degree and should have less than five years of postdoctoral experience. Please send curriculum vitae and names of three references to Dr. Orna Cohen-Fix, NIH, NIDDK, 8 Center Drive, Building 8 Room 319, MSC 0840, Bethesda MD 20892-0840.


Grants & Opportunities

Research Grants. Human Frontier Science Program. Research grants are awarded for projects that involve extensive collaboration among teams of scientists working in different countries. Emphasis is on novel collaborations that bring together scientists from different disciplines. Deadline: March 30. HFSP website.

Maria Mitchell Women in Science Award. Recognizes an individual, program or organization that encourages the advancement of women in the natural and physical sciences, mathematics, engineering, computer science and technology. Deadline is April 30. Contact (508) 228-9198.

WE Health Research Awards. The Women in Endocrianology Research Award is for a Junior Faculty Member with interest in clinical or basic areas related to the advancement of women’s health. Nomination deadline is March 15..

facebook twitter1 youtube linkedin