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Big evolutionary steps Adapting by trade-off




edited by Jennifer Sills

Editors Note
WE THANK READERS FOR THE MORE THAN 120 COMMENTS IN RESPONSE TO THE NEWS FOCUS story Saudi universities offer cash in exchange for academic prestige (Y. Bhattacharjee, 9 December 2011, p. 1344). The comments cover a range of opinions, some of which are reected in the letters printed below, on issues critical to the future of science in Saudi Arabia and the region. We encourage you to peruse the comments, available at http://comments. COLIN NORMAN AND JENNIFER SILLS


Assistant Vice Rector, Graduate Studies and Research (Research Affairs), King Saud University, Riyadh 11451, Saudi Arabia. E-mail:

Saudi University Policy: King Saud Response

KSU has been ranked among worldclass universities since 2008. The increase in research papers published in 2010 was documented in all literature databases, not KING SAUD UNIVERSITY (KSU), THE PROGRAMS only those considered by rankings. Moreof which were discussed in the 9 December over, KSU faculty members, researchers, 2011 News Focus story by Y. Bhattacharjee and students have contributed substantially (p. 1344), is the largest institution of higher to KSU research that has been published in education in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. databases that are not indexed by the InstiOver decades, KSU has invested in scholar- tute for Scientic Information (ISI). ships, personnel, and infrastructure. In recent KSU applies best practices for interyears, KSU has recruited over 700 faculty national collaborations through different members, 345 researchers, and 323 foreign programs, including the Distinguished Scigraduate students (bringing the total to 5626 entist Fellowship Program and the Visitfaculty and 5851 graduate students). KSU has ing Professor Program. Both programs are beneted from government research funds, common initiatives in top universities, set including US$2.1 billion as KSU benchmarks for science and technol- King Saud University. according to KSU Stratogy, and has established a egy 2030. number of centers, instiKSU views intertutes, research chairs, and national collaborations satellite labs in Germany, such as those described France, and Canada. Since in the News Focus story then, KSU has experias a means to share enced a surge in research knowledge, accelerate outcomes (1254 articles development, and meet indexed in the Institute for demand for academic sciScientific Information in entists to serve new ini2010) concurrent with a tiatives. These collabo50-fold increase in patents, rations provide opportuthe launch of four spin-off nities and high potential companies, investment of for research excellence. US$1.3 billion of endowKSU has brilliant faculty ments, and the creation and will expand interof the 1.6-million-squarenational collaborations. meter Science Park. Future expectations are

Saudi University Policy: King Abdulaziz Response

KING ABDULAZIZ UNIVERSITY (KAU) IS FLATtered to receive international attention regarding its ambitious efforts to recruit scientic talents. Nevertheless, the title of the News Focus story Saudi universities offer cash in exchange for academic prestige (Y. Bhattacharjee, 9 December 2011, p. 1344) gave the wrong impression of a newly established program at KAU, which aims to further enhance its scientic research activities through the integration of visiting professors at the institution. We appreciate the interviews with visiting professors Neil Robertson (Ohio State University) and Ray Carlberg (University of Toronto), in which they explained the real theme of our program. KAU is clearly making a sound strategic business investment for the future of our country. Moreover, our program is not different from those in many elite universities around the world from which top scientists continue to receive attractive offers. KAU had started a program in March 2010 in mathematics under which several top-notch mathematicians visited KAU and gave courses on topics of current research, collaborated in publishing research papers, began writing two books, and launched Bulletin of Mathematical Sciences (published by Springer). This program was extended to all disciplines by involving other distinguished visiting professors more intensively in research projects of mutual inter-


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very high, and the coming years will witness landmark achievements in knowledge production for the benet of Saudi Arabia and the world.

Amphibians under threat

Selective signaling

est to KAU faculty. The contracts made with highly cited scientists are on the basis of part-time or full-time work. In this way, KAU is denitely not buying research publications for the sake of ranking. KAU would never sacrice its reputation in order to obtain false rewards; neither would the elite scientists collaborating with the institution accept such an unethical proposition.

Next year, a female student of Al-Dossarys, Mashaal Al Khaldi, will join my group at the Fritz-Haber-Institute in Berlin. This is an effort to strengthen the still relatively weak scientic community in Saudi Arabia, a venture undertaken by many eminent scientists from around the world. I believe that my experience is true for many other scientists involved in cooperative activities with Saudi Arabia. We should appreciate these efforts, as they help the Arabic countries to survive.
Fritz-Haber-Institut der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, 14195 Berlin, Germany. E-mail:


Vice President for Graduate Studies and Scientic Research, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah 21589, Saudi Arabia. E-mail:

Saudi University Policy: Meaningful Cooperation

THE NEW FOCUS STORY SAUDI UNIVERSITIES offer cash in exchange for academic prestige (Y. Bhattacharjee, 9 December 2011, p. 1344) gives the impression that King Abdulaziz University (KAU) and King Saud University (KSU) are paying researchers from prestigious institutions, most of them listed in the highly cited researcher list of the Institute for Scientic Information (ISI), for putting their name with their afliation in Saudi Arabia into the ISI Web page and on their publications. The article claims that this is done regardless of whether the work involved any meaningful collaboration with KAU or KSU researchers. This impression is wrong. I am a member of the Distinguished Scientist Fellowship Program (DSFP) at King Saud University. I received an e-mail 3 years ago offering me a part-time position including a real, research-oriented, joint project with a corresponding budget for personnel and equipment. I received this project granted by DSFP a year later and now I have another project granted by King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology on the order of half a million euros. I am now a part-time professor at KSU. My KSU colleague, Omar AlDossary, has since participated in every experiment we have conducted at the Berlin Electron Storage Ring for Synchrotron Radiation (BESSY) of the HelmholtzZentrum Berlin, as well as the experiments at the Free-Electron Laser at the German Electron Synchrotron (DESY) in Hamburg.

Saudi University Policy: Overvalued Rankings

I READ WITH GREAT INTEREST THE NEWS Focus Story Saudi universities offer cash in exchange for academic prestige (Y. Bhattacharjee, 9 December 2011, p. 1344) on the practices used by Saudi universities to boost their academic rankings. Just as King Abdulaziz University. with fellow astronomer Bob Kirschner, I received an e-mail out of the blue last June from someone I didnt know, offering me an adjunct professorship at King Abdulaziz University (KAU). Attached to the e-mail was a contract for a year, extendable for a second year. Despite the strange way that the offer was made, I was enthusiastic initially. According to the e-mail, I was expected to visit Jeddah for 1 or 2 weeks in lem is the ridiculous system of university the year, build up a research group (can be rankings, which is exacerbated by the naivety discussed later), do 4 months of work for of decision-makers who take these univerKAU, and add KAU as a second afliation sity rankings so seriously. The situation is to my Web page. The extremely damaging for academia because offer was extremely attractive financially. the university ranking metrics are often used They would pay me $6000 per month for a as the basis for policy-making and funding. year. In addition, they would provide me with University ranking tables can also be seen a startup research grant of $80,000. in a wider contextnamely as part of the conWhen I called the university to request stant pressure to be accountable, to produce, more details, it became clear to me that the and to be the best in the world. The Saudi key reason for the offer was not a desire to action illustrates the danger of fostering such strengthen my research field at KAU, but a competitive, target-based approach in all solely the fact that I happen to be included in walks of life. The distorting, sometimes This is a database that terproductive, effects of such a philosophy lists the 250 most-cited scientists for each are obvious in areas as diverse as the targeted of the 22 major subelds of science. Several reduction of hospital waiting lists, published
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Nobel prizewinning astronomers are not included, and I doubt whether Albert Einstein would ever have made it onto the list. Nevertheless, is an important ingredient for the Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings, regularly quoted by such publications as the Economist and Newsweek. The Shanghai rating is important reading for civil servants, ministers, philanthropists, and potential students throughout the world. It was clear to me that the new KAU adjunct professorship program is designed to boost the ranking of the university articially by paying highly cited researchers to sell their afliation. I believe passionately that astronomy can be a unique tool for capacity building and global development. Hence, if I had thought that by accepting the KAU offer, I could have helped to build up astronomy in Jeddah or within Saudi Arabia, I would have welcomed the opportunity. Given the circumstances, I reluctantly felt compelled to decline the offer. Three months later, in a quick browse through the astronomy/space sciences section of the ISI Highly Cited Web pages, I counted nine prominent astronomers newly affiliated to the KAU. This outnumbers ISI Highly Cited astronomers at the University of Cambridge in the UK by 50% and exceeds that of any European university. I do not blame KAU or the Saudi authorities for setting up such a program. The prob-

rankings of schools, pressure on trafc wardens to dole out a specic number of parking tickets, and bonuses for bankers that sell large numbers of irresponsible mortgages. We deceive ourselves by insisting that everything can be measured and quantied and that economic accountability should be the most important criterion driving society. How do you measure the cost-effectiveness of inspiring a young child with the excitement of the Universe? GEORGE MILEY
Department of Astronomy, Leiden Observatory, University of Leiden, Leiden, NL-2300 RA, Netherlands. E-mail:

I error rate of Atkinsons analysis is hugely inated. The data at best support only a weak interpretation of the serial founder hypothesis. Full text at 6072/1042-a

Response to Comment on Phonemic Diversity Supports a Serial Founder Effect Model of Language Expansion from Africa
Quentin D. Atkinson
Jaeger et al. use statistical simulations to show that the serial founder effect analysis I reported has an inated type I error rate. Crucially, however, their simulations also reveal that the strength of the observed relationship between phonemic diversity and distance from Africa is unlikely to be due to chance, even accounting for multiple comparisons and geographic clustering of phonemic diversity. Full text at 6072/1042-b


extracted folding rates as a function of temperature to Kramers model. The postjump temperature differs by ~12C. The corrected absolute folding and unfolding rates for each WW variant differ by less than twofold from those values reported originally. The corrected portion of Table 1 appears above. The beginning of the sixth sentence in the penultimate paragraph of the main text should read as follows: Glycoprotein g-WW-F, T folds three times faster and unfolds at an indistinguishable rate relative to its nonglycosylated counterpart.... In the supporting online material, corrections have been made to table S3 and gs. S11 to S18. These changes do not affect the conclusions of the paper.

Comment on Phonemic Diversity Supports a Serial Founder Effect Model of Language Expansion from Africa
T. Florian Jaeger, Daniel Pontillo, Peter Graff
Atkinson (Reports, 15 April 2011, p. 346) argues that the phonological complexity of languages reects the loss of phonemic distinctions due to successive founder events during human migration (the serial founder hypothesis). Statistical simulations show that the type

Letters to the Editor

Letters (~300 words) discuss material published in Science in the past 3 months or matters of general interest. Letters are not acknowledged upon receipt. Whether published in full or in part, Letters are subject to editing for clarity and space. Letters submitted, published, or posted elsewhere, in print or online, will be disqualied. To submit a Letter, go to


Reports: Protein native-state stabilization by placing aromatic side chains in N-glycosylated reverse turns by E. K. Culyba et al. (4 February 2011, p. 571). The authors inadvertently used the prejump equilibrium temperature to extract WW domain folding and unfolding rate information from the apparent rate constant data and in tting the


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