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June 2004

Sigma Xi International Newsletter
Volume 3, Number 6
June 2004

This monthly electronic bulletin is designed to keep subscribers updated on developments in Sigma Xiís 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 monthly newsletter, please use this online form.

Past Issues

In This Issue

Russia to Ratify Kyoto Protocol
President Vladimir Putin recently announced Russia's intention to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, which sets targets for future emissions of the greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol. The protocol's aim was to get industrialized countries to agree to reducing their emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulphur hexafluoride. As a group, collective emissions averaged over the 2008-2012 time period should be at least 5% lower than their 1990 levels. Currently only 11 of the 134 parties have not ratified or acceded to the Kyoto Protocol. In the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, five of the 11 (Australia, Croatia, Liechtenstein, Monaco and the U.S.) were "Annex I" parties that made specific commitments to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, in most cases, to 1990 levels. [Source:
SciDev.Net]

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South Africans Launch New Linux Software
The Gauteng Linux Users Group in South Africa has just released a special version of Linux called
Impi. Linux is a freely available operating system that can be used for servers as well as home and office computers. As an Open Source software, the programming code in Linux can be seen and changed; it has consequently become the main alternative for Unix and Microsoft operating systems. Billed as "South Africa's first business desktop Linux distribution," the software comes bundled with e-mail, word processing, Web browsing and accounting applications. Impi Linux will eventually have translations in South Africa's 11 official languages through a collaboration with translate.org.za, an Open Source software translation project. [Source: Open Knowledge Network Africa Newsletter]

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New Management Sought for African Journals Online (AJOL)
The International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) is seeking to turn over the management of
AJOL to a local African organization in 2005. AJOL is a service that provides online access to African, published research, and it currently includes abstracts and tables of contents for more than 185 journals from more than 20 different countries on the continent. Interested organizations are asked to write to ajol@inasp.info.

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Journal Lets Authors Choose Open Access
The Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences (PNAS) recently announced an experimental "open access" option for authors. For a US$1,000 surcharge, authors can choose to make their papers immediately available for free on both the PubMed Central and PNAS Online Web sites. The journal expects that anywhere from 10-33% of its authors will exercise this option after a few months. The policy will be evaluated in December 2005. Since 2000, back issues of the journal have been freely available on both sites six months after publication. PNAS has also offered free online access to developing countries for the past two years, expanding from the original 81 to the current 145 eligible countries. [Source:
Open Access News]

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Code of Conduct in the Digital Age
By Anushka Wirasinha, Harvard University
The days of World War spies and coded messages may sound trivial compared to today's encrypted data transfers and steganography, where information is concealed within other text or graphics. However, modern DNA-related computation and encryption techniques have stirred scientific interest while creating complications for global encryption standards. In DNA computing, using molecular biology techniques, the problem (input) and all possible answers (outputs) are represented by nucleotide sequences-rather than binary sequences. The correct answers are detected by DNA hybridization of the problem strand and one or more solution strands. Because the DNA computer has such efficient parallel processing, where all possible solutions are simultaneously tested, it is much more powerful than the traditional computer. The potential of the DNA computer poses a threat to the most secure of encryption packages and possibly makes the protection of encrypted information worthless and encryption law frivolous. Given the situation that encrypted messages of the highest strength could, in fact, be cracked, this would be a considerable security issue in an international context, where those possessing the correct tools can gain access to any sensitive data available on globally networked systems in any part of the world. On the other side of the coin lies a situation where information is hidden within human DNA itself and becomes impossible to crack. This could bring forth a new scenario of global problems where espionage thrives in the safe haven of the few who have the capability to conceal data using impenetrable coding techniques. The DNA Microdot technique inserts a "message" sequence flanked by start and stop markers into a normal DNA strand, mixes the message strand with a huge amount of DNA of similar lengths but different sequences, and dries the mixture on paper such that a small dot of the paper no larger than a period/full stop is sufficient to carry the message. Although DNA computing and encryption is still in its infancy, the ability of DNA computers to crack Data Encryption Standard (DES) systems and the emergence of DNA Microdots indicate the very real scenario of human DNA usage in the immediate future. While the Internet and the World Wide Web have brought forth the ease of global communication and transactions between individuals, businesses and governments worldwide, the security of globally networked systems and the safe storage of our sensitive data therein have become a growing issue and a universal problem. In the battle of encryption, can we ever win? If it can be cracked, it is dangerous, and if it can not be cracked, it is even worse!

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Did You Know?
In November 2003, Research Councils U.K. announced a new £10 million international scholarship program called the
Dorothy Hodgkin Postgraduate Awards. The award is designed to attract top science, engineering, medicine, social science and technology students from China, Hong Kong, India, Russia and the developing world. Students wishing to pursue a Ph.D. at one of 24 different U.K. universities can apply directly to the universities, and application deadlines vary. The first round will award approximately 130 scholarships for students entering Ph.D. programs in October 2004. [Source: Chronicle of Higher Education]

The deadline for submitting entries to the 4th International Vega Awards for Excellence in Scientific Broadcasting is June 25, 2004. Entries should have been produced in the past 18 months and can come from anywhere in the world as long as the work is originally done or subtitled/dubbed in English. Winning entries will be shown at the BA Festival of Science in Exeter this September. [Source: SciDev.Net]

Scholarships are available for journalists from developing countries to participate in the 4th World Conference of Science Journalists, scheduled to take place in Montreal October 4-8, 2004. For applications and further information, either see the Web site or write to info@wcsj2004.com. The deadline for scholarship applications is June 30, 2004. [Source: PCST Listserv]

The International Research Ethics Network for Southern Africa (IRENSA) and the University of Cape Town Bioethics Centre are presenting the 2nd Annual IRENSA Research Ethics Seminar in Rondebosch, South Africa on August 2-3, 2004. Potential participants should have a background that reflects significant interest in bioethics or research ethics. There is no registration fee, but participants do need to register by July 15, 2004. Further details may be obtained on the IRENSA Web site or by contacting Ms. Carmen de Koker at cdekoker@uctgsh1.uct.ac.za.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) created the AAAS Award for International Scientific Cooperation to annually recognize individuals or small groups in the scientific and engineering community that have contributed substantially to the understanding or development of science or engineering across national boundaries. Nominations must be received by August 1, 2004.

The Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) offers short- and long-term Postdoctoral Fellowships for Foreign Researchers. Applications can be submitted either by the prospective Japanese host researcher in September or May, or through the appropriate "overseas nominating authorities" according to their respective deadlines. The host researcher can also apply for an additional research grant.

The Tyler Prize is annually awarded to individuals for "conferring great benefit upon mankind" through energy science, medicine, or environmental science. Living individuals or public/private institutions of any country are eligible to be nominated for the US$200,000 award. Nominations must be received by September 15, 2004 and will be considered for three years. [Source: SciDev.Net]

Nominations may be submitted online for the Albert Einstein World Award of Science. For 20 years, the Consejo Cultural Mundial (World Cultural Council) has recognized those whose scientific and technological achievements have "brought progress to science and benefit to mankind." The World Award laureates receive a diploma, a commemorative medal and US$10,000.

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Upcoming Meetings
Global Biodiversity Forum - South East Asia; Manila, Philippines; June 20-23, 2004

ENVIROMIN 2004; Kasane, Botswana; June 24-July 1, 2004

The Science of Changing Climates-Impact on Agriculture, Forestry and Wetlands; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; July 20-24, 2004

World Association of Industrial and Technological Research Organizations (WAITRO) Biennial Congress "Technology for Sustainable Development"; Juja, Kenya; September 6-11, 2004

33rd International Society for Engineering Education (IGIP) Symposium "Local Identity - Global Awareness"; Fribourg, Switzerland; September 27-October 1, 2004


For additional upcoming meetings, please see the Sigma Xi Exchange.

 

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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