Saturday, July 14, 2007

Abstract thought

India is the Paris Hilton of abstracts, so far, on the website for the upcoming International AIDS Society conference in Sydney, Australia. The searchable website comes up with 50 abstracts mentioning India. This may be something that happens when you are the world's biggest democracy. (Padma Tata says it's because certain South Africa-based journalists are feeling jealous, but Christina Scott of SciDev.Net says that South Africa has lots and lots of really good research, including a couple of important studies on diaphragms, coming up at the conference. Anyhow, it's hard to get jealous about AIDS research search results.)
But what is up with Nepal? It is 40 on Wikipedia's list of countries ranked by population. It appears in 20 abstracts on the IAS website. (Nice flag, too) Pakistan, which is the world's sixth most populous nation, shows up precisely three times. That's three, as in one, two, three. The most uncharitable explanation so far is that a statistically significant group of AIDS researchers are also fanatic mountaineers who want to summit Mount Everest as well as find a vaccine for AIDS. In which case they should watch out - one IAS Nepalese abstract is on sex between trekkers and their guides through the famous mountains of Nepal.
We would suspect that organisers were trying to limit the number of abstracts per country in order to cope with reporters' famous inability to count - but then why would India have over 50 abstracts? A more lucid explanation will have to wait for the conference itself. * Christina Scott is based in Cape Town, South Africa, where she is Africa editor for SciDev.Net

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