Below is a sample of the FAX-BACK comments we received for each topic raised in the March issue.
On creative suggestions for waste disposal:
"Most disposable plastic ware used for tissue culture is about as infectious as empty yogurt pots. Universities allow it to be put into regular trash cans. Why not NIH?"-- A. George, NIDR.
"Make sure all labs/clinics pay by weight or volume to create meaningful feedback for volume reduction." -- S. Leighton, NCRR.
"I would like to raise my concern over general paper products waste. Everyday I see our waste receptacles being filled with junk mail, old journals and copies of reprints, and especially with "test" printouts and manuscripts which continuously stream from our laser printers. I have been collecting my share of this waste, and have inquired about recycling. Unfortunately no one has been able to give any constructive suggestions, but everyone shares the same exasperation about the lack of the centralized paper recycling service and the lack of generally accessible collection points for paper waste. Since we have a functioning aluminum recycling program here, I believe the same could and should be done for paper. Any suggestions about what to do with the paper I have collected for recycling?" -- R. Somogyi, NINDS.
"I have been concerned for some time with the general problem of radioactive waste and more recently with incinerators. I would like to work with the task force in attempting to develop NIH policies that could ameliorate these problems." -- A. Minton, NIDDK.
"NIH needs to get serious about ecologically sound, cost-efficient, and simple alternatives not only to current medical-pathological waste disposal problems, but also, and just as important, ecologically sound, cost-efficient, and simple alternatives to resource consumption and waste disposal in general. ... Of all Federal agencies, the National Institutes of Health should be particularly sensitive and responsible to environmental issues. While we are on the subject, I understand that the kind of paper The Catalyst is printed on cannot be recycled since it is glossy. At a minimum, it should be printed on paper like the NIH Record which is recyclable. The Catalyst staff additionally should locate printing stock which contains post-consumer recycled waste. C'mon NIH, I am not asking for a deep shade of green, just a light tinge would be nice." -- P.F. Torrence, NIDDK.
Editor's Note: The recycled and recyclable paper stocks available to us were not able to reproduce technical photographs such as PET scans, MRIs, blots, or gels clearly. But we'll keep researching. If we find the appropriate stock , we'll switch immediately.
Consumer complaints or raves about scientific products (reagents, kits, equipment, instruments, etc.):
"What about an NIH computer bulletin board arranged by technique or by large equipment type or by reagent? Users could ask technical questions of other users of the same system or product; preview existing products on campus without the filter of the product's sales representative; and most importantly, borrow that little O-ring or 5 mg of whatever in an emergency from someone here on campus." -- Anonymous.
"Product evaluations are a bit dangerous. This newsletter could really influence the purchase of products, and complaints could be deadly for a specific product. It is very important to be sure that the consumer has used a product exactly as specified before a complaint should appear. On the other hand, if a company admits to a problem with a specific product, this newsletter could be a great forum for distributing the information. For example, my lab had been using the Boehringer Mannheim CAT Elisa kit but gave up because of background. BM now admits the kits had some technical problems and we are receiving credit for our purchases." -- Howard Young, NCI-FCRDC.
On techniques you would like to see covered in our Hot Methods Clinic and your tips and suggestions on the yeast two-hybrid system
"Clonetech sells a yeast two-hybrid system they call "Matchmaker" that comes with a lot of control plasmids. I'm currently using their kit and am about to do my first library transformation. Their technical service department is useless for help though." -- Connie Fisher, NCI-FCRDC.
"I would really like to see an article on in vivo footprinting. Keiko Ozato's lab is actively using that technique. This section could also be very useful for describing techniques which have resulted in the elimination of radioisotope usage." -- Howard Young, NCI-FCRDC
Your opinion on the new distribution system for The NIH Catalyst.
"Wider distribution is great, but please keep mailing The Catalyst, as some of us virtually never use the cafeterias for gastronomic reasons. I am impressed by how topical and frank some of the articles and comments are -- keep up the good work." -- K Yamada, NIDR.
"Don't stop mailing -- I love this publication but I'd never see it if I had to search it out in the cafeterias." -- J.A. Burris, NCRR.
"Please don't discontinue mailings. We might never see The Catalyst in Frederick." -- Howard Young, NCI-FCRDC.
"No! Do not discontinue mailing. You might consider making it available via Mosaic on helix.nih.gov." -- R. Mejia, NHLBI.
Editor's note: Starting in June, The NIH Catalyst will be available, sans pictures and graphics, through the Campus Information menus on Gopher.
"I, as well as many of my colleagues, are concerned about the mandatory cutbacks, especially when the only thing that seems important is meeting a numbers goal. Everyone should be reminded that, as private citizens, we have the right to write our congressional representatives expressing our concerns about the cutbacks." -- Howard Young, NCI-FCRDC.
"While I am not a particular friend of answering machines, I welcomed the introduction of the NIH voice mail system, believing that it would shield us somewhat from unwanted solicitations. How naive this assumption was, I realized when, instead of listening to my messages, I heard an advertisement of some event at Parklawn. Our (conventional) mail boxes are daily cluttered with junk mail and now NIH starts to do the same with our phone mail system. Will we soon have to listen to a string of memos and advertisements before we can retrieve our personal messages? The dissemination of general information via the personal phone mail is a blatant invasion of the privacy of NIH employees. It is a nuisance and waste of time that needs to be stopped before it becomes customary." -- B. E. Flucher and colleagues, NINDS.