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ASCB Newsletter - October 2003

Cytokinesis Meeting Slated for Summer

The successful ASCB Summer Meeting Series will continue in 2004 with a meeting on Cytokinesis to be organized by Yu-Li Wang of the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Dates, location and program will be announced in the ASCB Newsletter.


New Feature at Annual Meeting: Concurrent Symposia

Concurrent Symposia will be held at the 43rd ASCB Annual Meeting in San Francisco from 10:30AM-12:00 noon on Wednesday, December 17. Speakers and room numbers are posted in the Annual Meeting Program.

Biomolecular Networks in Cell Biology; H.Steven Wiley, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Discussion of the new technologies that are being used to elucidate the structure and function of cellular networks, including gene and protein microarrays, mass spectrometry-based proteomics, high-throughput enzyme activity assays, and large-scale isolation of protein complexes.

Building the Cell; Wallace Marshall, University of California, San Francisco
Exploration of the mechanisms of cell morphogenesis, with a particular emphasis on the concepts of robustness, stability, and selforganization.

How to Write Better Research Papers; William Wells, Journal of CellBiology
How can you write papers that have a better chance of getting published? Introduction of strategies for getting across your message more effectively.

The Nucleolus—NewRoles Coming Into View; Thoru Pederson, University of Massachusetts Medical School
The nucleolus, the classically established site of ribosome formation, has other functions as well. Discussion of the latest developments in this rapidly emerging field.

Security and the Biological Research Community; Stephanie Loranger, Federation of American Scientists
An invitation to cell biologists to enter the dialogue and an illustration that national and global security are on the radar screen of the cell biology community.


Lodish Presents Cell Biology Tutorial to Congressional Staff

Incoming ASCB President Harvey Lodish explained the intricacies of proteins, genes and chromosomes at a briefing of House of Representatives staff members in the U.S. Capitol last month. The briefing was organized by the office of Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA).

Lodish covered the basics of molecular biology, proteins, DNA and messenger RNA and the use of model organisms. The program, scheduled for an hour, lasted almost two.


Members In The News

Elizabeth Blackburn of the University of California, San Francisco, an ASCB member since 1978 and 1998 President, Larry Goldstein of the University of California, San Diego, an ASCB member since 1984 and current Secretary, and Irving Weissman of Stanford University School of Medicine, an ASCB member since 2001, were appointed to the California Stem Cell Research Advisory Panel by Governor Gray Davis.

Shinya Inoué of the Marine Biological Laboratory, an ASCB member since 1967, will receive the 2003 International Prize for Biology from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.

Marc Kirschner, an ASCB member since 1975 and 1991 President, will become Chair of the new Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School.

Vassilios Papadopoulos, an ASCB member since 1988, was named Chair of the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department at Georgetown University.

George Pappas of the University of Illinois at Chicago, an ASCB member since 1960 and 1975 President, received the 2003 Henry Gray Award from the American Association of Anatomists.

Christopher Reeve, Chairman of the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, an ASCB member since 2002, received the 2003 Mary Woodard Lasker Award for Public Service.

Laura Robles of California State University, Dominguez Hills, an ASCB member since 1980, will receive a Mentor Role Model Award from Minority Access, Inc., as a role model in biomedical research.

Maria Elena Zavala, of California State University, Northridge, an ASCB member since 1980, has been named Local Hispanic Hero by California Union Bank and public television station KCET.



The ASCB is grateful to the following members who have recently given gifts to support Society activities:

Bruce Alberts
Valerie Barr
Michael Brown
Nancy Bucher
Daniel Caprioglio
Nirupa Chaudhari
Shu Chien
Mary Clutter
Dorothy Croall
Caroline Damsky
Donna Dean
F. Paul Doerder
William Epstein
Marcus Fechheimer
Christine Field
John Frenster
Joseph Gall
Costa Georgopoulos
Vilma Greene
Maryanne Herzig
Wayne Lencer
Jose Marin-Garcia
Vivianne Nachmias
Mohandes Narla
Yukio Okano
Richard Rachubinski
Michael Reedy
Hitoshi Sakakibara
William Saxton
Susan Strome
Joel Swanson
Jiro Usukura
Judith Varner
James Weatherbee
Zena Werb


ASCB 43rd Annual Meeting

Special Interest Subgroups
Subgroups will be held at the Moscone Convention Center, from 1:00 PM 5:30 PM on Saturday, December 13. Descriptions, speakers and room numbers are posted at www.ascb.org, and in the Annual Meeting Program.

All About Filopodia: Functions, Regulation, and Molecular Organization
Richard Cheney and Tatyana Svitkina, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Biology of Lysophospholipids–LPA and S1P
Timothy Hla, University of Connecticut Health Center and Jerold Chun, The Scripps Research Institute

Cell-Cell Fusion
Agnes Vignery, Yale School of Medicine

Cellular Biology of Gap Junction Channels
Linda Musil, Oregon Health Sciences University, and Andrew Harris, New Jersey Medical School of UMDNJ

Cellular Factors that Prevent Re-Replication of DNA
Anindya Dutta, University of Virginia School of Medicine

Control of Skeletal Gene Expression
Gary Stein and Jan Lian, University of Massachusetts Medical School and Masaki Noda, Tokyo Medical and Dental University

Current Advances and Controversies in the Biological Function of p120-Caterin Family Proteins
Alpha Yap, University of Queensland, Al Reynolds, Vanderbilt University and Andy Kowalczyk, Emory University

Diverse Roles of Unconventional Myosins
Tama Hasson, University of California, San Diego

Endocytosis and Dynamics of Caveolae/Raft Domains
Ivan R. Nabi, University of Montreal

Exocytosis:View from Imaging Analysis
Samuel W. Cushman, NIH, National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive Disorders

Fertilization, Emphasis on Amphibians
Bradley J. Stith, University of Colorado, Denver

Formins:Assembly Factors for Cellular Architecture
Art Alberts, Van Andel Research Institute

Functional Imaging of Proteolysis
Bonnie Sloane, Wayne State University

Gravity and Mechanotransduction Cell Signaling
Nancy Searby, NASA Ames Research Center

Integrated Approaches to Cell Architecture and Dynamics
Jeffrey Nickerson, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Interactions of Membrane Steroid Receptors with their Signaling Partners
Cheryl Watson, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston

Interface of Small Molecule Chemistry and Cell Biology
James H. Sabry, Cytokinetics

Muscle Cytoskeletal Protein Assembly
Joseph W. Sanger, University of Pennsylvania, and Carol Gregorio, University of Arizona, Tucson

New Roles for Centrosomes in Cell Biology and in Human Disease
William Saunders, University of Pittsburgh

A Standardized Kinesin Nomenclature
Carolyn Lawrence, Iowa State University

Telomeres and How to Pass Crisis
Irmgard Irminger-Finger, University of Geneva

Tools for Computational Modeling of Cellular Mechanisms
Ann E. Cowan, University of Connecticut Health Center


ASCB Misrepresented in Scams

Despite Strict Privacy Policy, Scientists are Fraudulently Phoned, Emailed in Society’s Name

Scientists have been increasingly harassed in recent weeks by individuals claiming to represent the Society. Two scams in particular have been reported: an email notifying members that they have won a lottery, and telephone invitations to participate in ASCB meetings, or to recommend colleagues for meetings.

The telephone calls, sometimes from a woman identifying herself as Amanda Walsh, have been tracked to an animal rights-front organization. The calls seem to target nonmembers who work in pharmaceutical companies.

ASCB members who respond to emails about the lottery are solicited for extensive personal identification, including passport number and other sensitive information, “to receive their prize.”

The ASCB does not and has never rented, sold or given away its members’ email addresses or telephone numbers for any purpose without the specific permission of the member.

The Society is taking all steps available to block these misrepresentations. Individuals who are suspicious of contacts are urged to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. at (301) 347-9300.


Letters To The Editor

Job Market Not as Upbeat as Claimed

To the Editor:

As a newly-minted biology PhD, I was disappointed by Randy Schekman’s recent article “Academic Research Career Opportunities An Upbeat Assessment” [August 2003]. Dr. Schekman’s article was responding to two studies on the careers of young life-scientists, one led by Shirley Tilghman and one by Frank Solomon, Elizabeth Marincola, and others. These studies were long, serious endeavors, and they found many disturbing trends, but their main conclusion was that overcrowding in the PhD job market is leading to abuse of biology trainees. Dr. Schekman points out that biology programs are expanding around the country. These expanded programs will surely bring new job opportunities, which he claims will relieve overcrowding in the job market and improve the morale of trainees. This argument lacks solid foundation:

  • The article provides no actual numbers. Yes, academic biology programs are expanding, but how many jobs are being created? For example, will the expansion in academia compensate for the biotech layoffs that Dr. Schekman notes in passing? Millenium alone recently laid off 800 workers. These numbers for both academia and industry should be easily accessible, without recourse to a new formal survey.
  • The training problem is exponential. As Dr. Schekman acknowledges, “the system will [continue to] produce an excess of trained personnel”. This problem is intrinsic to a system that relies on students as its main source of labor. The newly-promised academic positions mean new academic labs, which will need to be filled with new graduate students and post-docs. And so it goes.
  • Biology trainees are depressed about more than just the lack of jobs. Long training time, long work hours, neartotal dependence on our advisors, and low pay all exact their toll. These problems need to be addressed directly. Building new, beautiful labs will not help a post-doc purchase health insurance, nor will it help the third author of a Cell paper claim from his advisor the right to showcase his own work in a specialty journal. In assessing the situation, a separation must be made between the vibrancy and output of the biomedical enterprise on the one hand, and its treatment of trainees on the other.

Frank Solomon, Shirley Tilghman and Elizabeth Marincola courageously challenged our community to reassess the training process. The problems they identified are real, and they require real, tough solutions. The NIH has already made a substantial change in trainees’ standard of living by mandating new pay scales. Despite this and other positive steps, the continued discouragement among trainees speaks for itself: more needs to be done. Calls for renewed studies only undermine the efforts of the many community leaders who continue to work for change.

—Ilana Goldhaber-Gordon, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“Upbeat Assessment” is More Hope than Fact

To The Editor:

Randy Schekman’s WICB Column, “Academic Research Career Opportunities—an Upbeat Assessment” [August, 2003] points out the obvious: that it has been five years since the life sciences community assessed the career opportunities for its trainees and graduates. In 1998-9 three independent and data-rich scientific assessments, performed over years and with the collaboration of some of the world’s leading labor economists, came to virtually the same conclusions: that the feelings of apprehension often voiced by trainees about their future prospects could best be attributed to the over-production of scientists and the sequelae of longer time-to-degree and postdoctoral training. Schekman voices the opinion that things have very much changed for the better, using anecdotal evidence such as the fact that the number of applicants for faculty positions at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is on the faculty, has fallen from hundreds to mere dozens, the doubling of the NIH budget, and new investments by the Wellcome Trust and Howard Hughes Medical Institute. No one would be happier to see the tide turn than we, but saying it does not make it so.

Academic research is a deeply rewarding and valued profession. We share Schekman’s dedication to this calling, and we continue to sincerely and enthusiastically encourage our talented students and post-docs who are passionate about pursuing academic careers to do so. But given the seriousness of the trends just five years ago, we do not serve our young colleagues by presenting a revisionist upbeat assessment based on anecdotal evidence rather than facts. To do so is to insult their intelligence, foster their cynicism, and offend those who have actually studied the economics of the biomedical research enterprise.

—Frank Solomon, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Shirley M. Tilghman, Princeton University

Nature a Long Way from Open Access

To the Editor:

I was disappointed that, under the headline “Nature Defends Access Advances”, the recent letter co-signed by Jayne Marks of the Nature Publishing Group (NPG) and Alfred Gilman did no such thing. Instead, the writers publicized the Signaling Gateway, a joint effort of NPG and the Alliance for Cellular Signaling. The Gateway is a valuable online resource for those who work on signaling, and NPG is to be commended for its contribution. However, the papers available through the Gateway are a narrow subset of the papers that NPG publishes, the tip of a very large iceberg. Furthermore, the availability of these papers is only evident to registered users of the Gateway, not to anyone searching PubMed or even Nature’s own website. The availability of the Gateway does not address in any significant way the substantive questions about unrestricted access to the scientific literature that have been raised in recent issues of this newsletter by Suzanne Pfeffer, Vivian Siegel, Manfred Schliwa, Sandy Schmid and myself.

NPG also occasionally makes other, non-signaling articles freely available. When the genome of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum was published by Nature in 2002, all of the malaria papers in that issue were made freely available. As a parasitologist, I applauded this decision, as I’m sure did all those concerned with health in the third world. But if NPG recognized the importance of making available this one issue that featured malaria, how can it justify restricting access to the many other malaria articles in its journals? And if information about malaria is worth broad dissemination, why not information about HIV, tuberculosis, Parkinson’s Disease, global warming, biodiversity and everything else that is of sufficient importance to be published in Nature?

Nature adds value to the research articles found in the back of the journal with what’s up front: news, commentary, reviews, etc. This front content is mostly the work of the journal’s professional staff and, as such, is a product that the publisher is justified in charging for. The original research articles in the back are an entirely different matter, for all the reasons that have been outlined recently in these pages and elsewhere. Why not charge for the front content, while making the research articles in the back freely available?

Scientific publishing is big business. The recent purchase of Cell Press by Elsevier for what is reported to be in excess of $100 million should dispel any lingering doubts about this. The job of commercial publishers is to make money, and they are good at it. However, scientists and the public that funds scientific research are poorly served by a system in which the dissemination of scientific information is in large part controlled by parties whose primary motivation is profit.

Scientists have the collective power to change this situation, yet we remain our own worst enemies. Nature has the status it does because we give it that status. To get hired, funded and promoted, we submit to the “highest impact” journals we can, perpetuating the system. NPG aggressively promotes the “impact factor” of its journals, reinforcing the already excessive importance that scientists assign to this one measure of quality. Until sufficient numbers of authors, editors, subscribers and reviewers start voting with their feet in support of journals that offer better access, this system will persist and we will all be held captive to it. In the meantime, let’s not be fooled into thinking that a Gateway here or a malaria article there represents a significant advance when it comes to open access.

— Gary Ward, University of Vermont


Grants & Opportunities

NIAID Fellowships. The NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is accepting applications from biodefense training and development researchers in the areas of prevention, detection, diagnosis and treatment of diseases caused by potential bioterrorism agents. Support includes grants, fellowships and career development awards.

NIH Loan Repayment Programs. The National Institutes of Health Loan Repayment Programs offer up to $35,000 per year to repay student loans of scientists, physicians, dentists, and other health professionals willing to commit to a career in clinical, pediatric, health disparities or contraception and infertility research. Applicants must have doctorate and be able to commit at least 50% of their time for two years conducting qualified research. Apply before December 31.

MARC Grants. The NIH NIGMS Minority Access to Research Careers is accepting applications for predoctoral fellowships. Application deadline is April 5 and December 5 of each year.

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