Edited by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee awards

Japan Prizes. Masatoshi Take-ichi, director of the RIKEN Center for Developmental

Biology in Kobe, Japan, and Erkki Ruoslahti of the Burnham Institute in La Jolla, California, will split this year's Japan Prize for cell biology. Makoto Nagao, president of Japan's National Institute of Information and Communications Technology in Tokyo, will receive the Information and Media Technology prize.

Takeichi (above, left inset) and Ruoslahti (right inset)

made fundamental contributions toward elucidating the molecular mechanisms of cell adhesion, which could lead to new therapies for treating malignant tumors. Nagao (center left) is honored for his contributions to natural language processing, which paved the way for advances in machine translation of languages. Each prize is worth $475,000, an amount Takeichi and Ruoslahti will share.


Adios. Two years after being fired as head of Spain's premier agency for basic research, theoretical physicist Rolf Tarrach has become rector of the University of Luxembourg.

Tarrach says his decision to join the 2-year-old institution was driven in part by his frustration with the Spanish bureaucracy, which he says stifles innovative research.

pioneers celebrating history

Vietnam's friend.

Few people in France know his name. But French microbiologist Alexandre Yersin, who discovered the plague bacterium, is still revered in Vietnam, where he was sent by Louis Pasteur in 1891 and where he remained until his death in 1943. A new documentary film about Yersin's life that premiered this month in Paris depicts his devotion to public health and the simple life he led in the fishing village of Nha Trang. Those values make Yersin a "hero" and a "great humanitarian," says director Alain Tyr.

"I never had sufficient freedom" to reform the archaic structures of the Spanish Higher Research Council, says Tarrach, who was fired from the agency in January 2003 after the government was criticized for its handling of the Prestige oil

Support group. Meeting other women at scientific conferences helped Maria Klawe get through graduate school in the male-dominated field of mathematics. Now, as dean of Princeton's engineering school, Klawe hopes that an exchange program starting in the spring of 2006 with the all-women's Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, will serve as a similar confidence booster for Princeton co-eds.

The initiative is part of a broader effort to increase the number of women in science and engineering at Princeton. Klawe hopes that some of Smith's undergraduates will want to go to engineering graduate school at Princeton after completing the semester-long exchange.

"When you meet lots and lots of people like you," she says, "it makes you feel that you are not weird."

spill (Science, 31 January 2003, p. 637).

Tarrach hopes things will be different at the University of Luxembourg, a government-owned institution that he says is run like a private corpo-ration.That should provide "more flexibility and ease" to execute new ideas, he says.Tarrach will be on unpaid leave from the University of Barcelona until the end of his 5-year term.

Change at AAMC. One of the top jobs in medical research and education policy will open up next year when nephrologist Jordan Cohen steps down as president of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Cohen, who has led AAMC since 1994, completes his current term in June 2006.

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Revisiting the Taxonomic Impediment

We readwith some frustrationthe recent

Editorial and Letters concerning the "taxonomic impediment" (Q. D. Wheeler et al., "Taxonomy: Impediment or expedient?", Editorial, 16 Jan. 2004, p. 285; "Taxonomists and the CBD," R. Geeta et al., Letters, 20 Aug. 2004, p. 1105; "Museum collections and taxonomy," D. Causey et al., Letters, 20 Aug. 2004, p. 1106). Geeta et al. 's claim that "developing nations... produce far fewer taxonomists than developed countries" is not true in much of Latin America, where a large proportion of research biologists are system-atists. For example, Brazil has more systematic ichthyologists, entomologists, and botanists than most countries, due to a federal directive in the 1980s that trained new generations of specialists in cladistics. Undergraduate biology courses in Brazil emphasize not only zoology and botany but also cladistics and biogeography, more so than in American universities, which consequently produce fewer new systematists. But with meager employment prospects in morphological systematics in U.S. institutions and in the developed world generally, how could this be otherwise? This bleak prognosis has also affected U.S. collections (1), representing a "broader trend away from organismal biology" (2); the number of doctorates awarded yearly in botany and zoology is decreasing in the United States.

Unfazed, Geeta et al. further suggest that the United States must help overcome the tax-onomic ignorance and "dearth of taxono-mists" in biodiversity-rich countries. A globalization of taxonomy, like its economic cousin, may negatively affect taxonomic research where it is most needed—in developing nations, which should have a greater stake in biodiversity-related profits. This, in turn, depends on an efficient legal framework that discriminates basic research from biopiracy (3, 4). Developing countries should take the lead in funding research on their biodiversity (5); it will be their burden to protect it.

Wheeler et al. 's argument that taxonomists are not capable ofefficiently providing species "identities" for ecologists, conservationists, and politicians is fallacious. This static, atheo-retical view of species ignores their phylogeny and biogeography, and thus fails to consider relevant conservation priorities (6). Our notions of species and their relationships (taxa) are based on scientific theories subject to change; the identification of a species is also open to falsification. This is trivialized by conservationists, some molecular systematists (7, 8), and even by Wheeler et al., who affirm that current taxonomic practices "are clearly inadequate for the challenge at hand." Descriptions of new taxa require theoretical, empirical, and epistemological rigor and seldom follow a time-frame judged appropriate to curtail the biodiversity crisis. This is not a "failure" of systematists but of those who regard taxonomy as only a "biodiversity-naming" service.

/ / A globalization of ■ ■ taxonomy, like its economic cousin, may negatively affect taxonomic research where it is most needed—in developing nations, which should have a greater stake in biodiversity-related profits."

-deCarvalho etal.

A disregard for long-established taxonomic practice, not considered cyber-enhanced enough (7-10), underscores our angst. We concur that "informatics... is not a substitute for science" (11), and that the "Big Machine" of molecular taxonomy will "do little to address the real problem" (12). Speeding up the pace of taxonomy through the Internet and technology, although desirable, is not enough to stimulate a growing taxonomic foundation. For this, systematics needs theoretical training, more professionals, a lasting commitment to collections, and recognition as a robust science by peers and policy-makers, without which taxonomy itself may fall victim to extinction.


Ricardo M. C. Castro,1 Anthony C. Gill,4 John D. McEachran,5 Leonard J.V. Compagno,6 ROBERT C. SCHELLY,7 RALF BRITZ,8 JOHN G. LUNDBERG,9 RICHARD P.VARI,10 GARETH NELSON 11 1Departamento de Biologia (FFCLRP), Universidade de Sâo Paulo, Avenida dos Bandeirantes 3900,

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