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THE WORLD OF BIOLOGICAL RESEARCH 245 rating environment in which science is being conducted at its outermost frontiers. EDUCATIONAL LIMITATIONS An attempt was made to estimate the extent to which working life scientists sense deficits in the educational preparation for their careers. Respondents to the questionnaire were asked to state whether their current research programs are significantly limited by their own educational preparation in chemistry, mathematics, physics, electronics, statistics, other areas of the life sciences, or the use of computers. In all, 4,396 scientists, 30.6 percent of the entire responding population, indicated that full develop- ment of their current research effort is indeed very seriously hindered by insufficient personal training in one or more of these disciplines. Lack of knowledge of chemistry was most frequently felt to be limiting (1,766 individuals ), followed by computer science ( 1,5 69 ), mathematics ( 1,427 ), ( 1,085 ), and electronics (983), with only 498 life scientists acutely aware of insufficient personal training in physics. Scientists in academic institutions were not distinguished from those working in nonacademic institutions with respect to this pattern of per- ceived inadequacies, although 38 percent of academic personnel were aware of some such limitation, and only 30 percent of nonacademic scien- tists were. In both groups, those in the middle of the age range (35-50 years) were about 30 percent more likely to be aware of such deficits than were younger or older investigators. Again, however, age was essentially without influence on the pattern of perceived disciplinary insufficiency; the rank order of disciplines cited above for the entire population was char- youngest, oldest, and midrange investigators alike. statistics ( 1,136 ), other biological sciences acteristic of the WITH WHAT MATERIALS DO LIFE SCIENTISTS WORK? The panorama of the biological universe offers such remarkable and diverse organisms, ecological situations, environmental responses, and unanswered questions at levels varying from the molecular to the cosmic that it is not surprising that research biologists employ an almost equally disparate and diverse variety of approaches to the questions they put to nature. In Table 14 is displayed a representation of primary research materials and -

OCR for page 245
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OCR for page 245
THE WORLD OF BIOLOGICAL RESEARCH the extent to which these are utilized by those who work in various bio- logical research areas. It may come as a surprise to some that mathematical models are utilized by representatives of almost every research area, most frequently by those engaged in the study of physiology, molecular biology and biochemistry, genetics, or biophysics and, increasingly, in studies of ecology. Molecular models are to be found in virtually every biochemical laboratory, and the refined, precise models now available have become an extremely important tool for those seeking to relate molecular structure to biological function. Indeed, 46 individuals stated that such models constitute their primary materials. It was somewhat surprising to find 6 percent of the entire surveyed pop- ulation engaged primarily in the development of analytical procedures of various types. Study of molecular systems, utilizing highly purified ma- terials of natural origin, engaged 10 percent of the total population, in- cluding one third of the biochemists. A somewhat greater proportion of life scientists were studying the behavior of subcellular organelles, isolated or in situ. Such materials are utilized by scientists, except the ecologists, in all research areas and, as one might expect, are a principal preoccupa- tion of cell biologists and biochemists. A small proportion (3 percent) of our population, most notably the cell biologists, were learning to use dis- associated preparations of living cells, from either plant or animal sources, as primary tools in their studies. Tissue culture was twice as popular and was utilized by at least some scientists, including behavioral biologists, in every research area, while intact tissues and organs claimed the attention of 12 percent of the total population, involving all research categories except ecology-most notably morphologists, pharmacologists, physiol- ogists, and developmental biologists. Intact individual organisms were the test objects of one third of all life scientists in the study, notably the behavioral biologists and those studying disease mechanisms, ecology, systematic biology, genetics, nutrition, phar- macology, and physiology. Decidedly smaller numbers of scents addressed themselves to entire populations of organisms or to ecosystems. Of interest is the fact that the pattern of use of materials by those with original training in the health professions cannot be distinguished from that of the remainder of the population; their primary research materials simply reflect the pattern of all others in the research areas in which they now engage. Accordingly, their major research materials are whole organ- isms (32 percent), tissue and organ systems (23 percent), subcellular fractions (13 percent), cell cultures (8 percent), and molecular systems (9 percent). , ~. ~ 247