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Opportunity Calling

Interacting with readers and authors

David Schoonmaker

ONE OF THE GREAT PLEASURES of my job is interacting with readers. Sure, sometimes the conversation is to set straight something I’ve said. I have, indeed, been known mistakenly to refer to an “amphibian” as a “reptile”—biology is not my strong suit. I don’t mind; I wouldn’t be here if I weren’t a perennial student.

More often, however, the contact is to discuss the substance of content in the magazine and expand on it. Take Brian Hayes’s January–February “Computing Science” as an example. As a refresher, Brian devoted that column to efforts to simulate life with computer programs. The column starts with the sentence, “Almost 30 years ago, Harold J. Morowitz, who was then at Yale, set forth a bold plan for molecular biology.”

Not long after that issue was mailed to readers, my phone rang, and the caller announced, “Hello, this Harold Morowitz at George Mason University.” I soon learned (to my relief) that he was pleased with the column but had a few updates. Almost 30 years later, he’s still working on that bold plan to completely understand the workings of a cell, but there have been twists in the plot. You can read more about that in “Letters to the Editors,” where we have waived the normal 250-word limit on account of fascination.

Of course, interactions with authors are often an equal treat—and sometimes of the small-world sort. We actually learned of Robert Louis Chianese’s work (see “The Umbrellas,” pages 108–109) when Sigma Xi’s executive director, Jerry Baker, attended a meeting of the Pacific Region of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, of which Chianese was president, the first with a humanities background.

Robert is English professor emeritus at California State University, Northridge, where I was once an English major and science minor. We compared notes, and he was involved in a cross-disciplinary program (humanities and science, of course) and taught only one English course per semester at the time. As far as either of us can recall, I was never his student. But I certainly was the student of a number of his capable colleagues. It was a treat to share memories.

You may recall the announcement in this space back in September 2011 that nearly all of American Scientist’s back issues (since 1913) are now housed at the digital archive JSTOR. Some of you may even have had the good fortune to use that service if your institution provides access. Others, however, have not been so fortunate—until now.

In early January, JSTOR announced a major expansion of its beta program called Register & Read; it now includes 1,200 publications, of which American Scientist is one. Register & Read requires, as the name suggests, registration, which includes providing some demographic information to help JSTOR understand who the users are. Once you’re registered, it allows you to read online as many as three articles every two weeks at no charge. More information is available at: We’re also exploring another JSTOR option that allows individuals to download articles for a fee. Stay tuned!

Finally, I direct your attention to a note concerning the Scientists’ Bookshelf. It is with deep regret that we must bid the section adieu with this issue.—David Schoonmaker

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