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Research

Research, Scholarly and Creative Activities, and Discovery (RSCAD) News

June 9, 2016

The weekly RSCAD newsletter provides the latest research news, funding opportunities, and academic trends.

Announcements from the Office of the Vice President for Research

Notes from the Desk of the VPR

Since our last RSCAD Momentum, the Department of Labor announced its final ruling on the exempt status of, among many others, research professionals in academics, which may be found here. This is something that the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), College and University Professional Association (CUPA-HR), and the Council of Graduate Schools have been following very closely and working on diligently since a preliminary notice about the exempt status and overtime pay was announced in July 2015. 

The ruling requires a set of “tests” regarding the exempt status of positions, and Vice President Cheryl Johnson (HCS), Provost Mason, and I have been discussing how these tests will be applied across the academy. In particular, many faculty have asked me about graduate assistants, postdoctoral scholars, and other similar position classifications.  You will find specific guidance for academic institutions here. We are working on creating recommendations for how we implement the ruling, which is scheduled to go into effect starting December 1, 2016.

Finally, I noted in a previous RSCAD Momentum and other venues that we were going to continue to make service and safety a priority for the OVPR even in the face of state funding reductions. Although we have had to absorb a cut to our General Use funds like other units on campus, we are creating ways to keep our services going and provide continuous improvements. Look for more detail in my letter to campus next week.

— Peter 

Don't Miss These Resources 
May Awards are posted!

Check our Research Awards site to find the latest round of successful funding proposals or to find reports from previous fiscal years.  

New Funding Opportunities

The Funding Connection

The Funding Connection is a weekly publication of Research & Sponsored Programs. For more information about individual programs and for applications, please e-mail research@k-state.edu or call 785 532-6195.

Highlight from this week's Funding ConnectionThe National Science Foundation’s Centers for Chemical Innovation (CCI) Program supports research centers focused on major, long-term fundamental chemical research challenges. Successful centers will tackle challenges of large scope and impact, producing transformative research leading to innovation and enhanced economic competitiveness. CCI awards will bring researchers with shared and complementary interests into productive contact to foster synergy, potentially transformative research, and innovation.

K-State in the News

No Room in U.S. Grain Silos Means Dumping Wheat in Parking Lots

6/2/16 MSN.com
"Cash prices could become weaker at local elevators as they are reaching their storage capacity limits," said Dan O'Brien, a Kansas State University agricultural economist in Colby. "It will be a sizable crop." 

USDA Awards More Than $14.5 Million to Support Plant Health and Resilience Research

6/2/16 EIN Presswire
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today awarded more than $14.5 million in grants to support research into plant health, production and resilience. These grants were made through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Foundational program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill and administered by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). ... Understanding Plant-Associated Microorganisms and Plant-Microbe Interactions: ... Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kan., $500,000.

Veterinary Researchers Patent Methods for Detecting, Treating a Bacterial Infection

6/3/16 World News Report — EIN
A team of researchers from Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine has received a U.S. patent to control and treat fusobacterial infections in humans and animals. 

Preconditioning for Profit

6/4/16 AgWeb.com
“Preconditioning your calves is a no-brainer. It makes money for everybody in the chain and improves the quality of beef for consumers,” says Dan Thomson, Jones Professor of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University and the host of DocTalk on RFD-TV. “We’ve got to get more producers to precondition their calves.”

To Love, Honor, and Share a Credit Card Statement

5/25/16 Yahoo! Finance
Money is a common topic for arguments in relationships, notes Sonya Britt, an associate professor of personal financial planning at Kansas State University who specializes in financial therapy, which she suggests for all soon-to-be wed couples. Her research has found that arguing about money is one of the top predictors for divorce. "We are socialized to not talk about money," Britt said. "When (couples) are dating, they are not having the conversations they need to about money. So when they are sharing a household they are facing it more intensely."

Doctor’s Orders for Tallgrass Prairie: More Fire and Ecologists Advise an Increase in Prescribed Grassland Burning to Maintain Ecosystem

5/31/16 Breitbart and EurekaAlert!
If tallgrass prairie goes without fire for too long, it can quickly transition to shrubland and woodland. A new study puts the tipping point at three years without fire. To maintain the unique ecosystem of the Plains States, ecologists at Kansas State University recommend more prescribed burns.

Moviegoers and Eye Movements

5/20/16 Inside Higher Ed
Next time you watch a movie, try to control your eyes. In today’s Academic Minute, Kansas State University’s Lester Loschky discusses how Hollywood directors have become masters at telling our eyes where to look when watching a film. Loschky is an associate professor of psychological sciences at Kansas State.

From Our Peers 

Summer Mosquito Surveillance to Assess Zika Carrier Numbers; IA State

6/1/16 SF Gate
Scientists at Iowa State University are stepping up their mosquito surveillance program this summer to see if the species that carries the Zika virus is showing up in Iowa. Brendan Dunphy, a research associate in Iowa State's Medical Entomology Laboratory, says the two types of mosquitoes that carry and transmit Zika are found mostly in tropical or sub-tropical climates and are rare here.

Hydraulic Fracturing Chemical Spills on Agricultural Land Need Scrutiny; CO State

6/1/16 Science Daily
Hydraulic fracturing, a widely used method for extracting oil and gas from otherwise impenetrable shale and rock formations, involves not only underground injections composed mostly of water, but also a mixture of chemical additives. These chemicals range from toxic biocides and surfactants, to corrosion inhibitors and slicking agents, and many are also used by other industries. A Colorado State University research team desired a deeper understanding of the fate of these chemicals when they are spilled accidentally during either transportation or production in oil and gas operations. These spills, especially in Colorado, often take place on or near agricultural lands.

New Devices, Wearable System Aim to Predict, Prevent Asthma Attacks; NC State

6/1/16 Science Daily
Researchers have developed an integrated, wearable system that monitors a user's environment, heart rate and other physical attributes with the goal of predicting and preventing asthma attacks. The researchers plan to begin testing the system on a larger subject population this summer. The system, called the Health and Environmental Tracker (HET), is composed of a suite of new sensor devices and was developed by researchers from the National Science Foundation's Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST) at North Carolina State University.

What Happens When the American Southwest Runs Out of Water; CO State

6/1/16 Esquire
"This problem is not going away and it is likely to get worse, perhaps far worse, as climate change unfolds," said Brad Udall, a senior water and climate research scientist at Colorado State University. "Unprecedented high temperatures in the basin are causing the flow of the river to decline. The good news is that we have time and the smarts to manage this, if all the states work together."

RSCAD Trending Topics

Gene-Drive Modified Organisms Are Not Ready to Be Released Into Environment; New Report Calls for More Research and Robust Assessment

The emerging science of gene drives has the potential to address environmental and public health challenges, but gene-drive modified organisms are not ready to be released into the environment and require more research in laboratories and highly controlled field trials, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.  To navigate the uncertainty posed by this fast-moving field of study and make informed decisions about the development and potential application of gene-drive modified organisms, the committee that conducted the study and wrote the report recommended a collaborative, multidisciplinary, and cautionary approach to research on and governance of gene drive technologies.

2016 One Health Innovations Symposium Announced

The Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute (KCALSI) announces “One Health Innovations – The Nexus of Human and Animal Medicine,” a two day symposium focused on the translational and comparative aspects of human and animal medicine.  The August 28-29 event will be held at the Kansas City Convention Center. Designed for physicians, veterinarians, and scientists interested in research and clinical studies, this year’s Symposium has an impressive slate of speakers covering topics that include: gene therapies for Duchenne muscular dystrophy and melanoma, vaccine development for osteosarcoma, stem cell-based therapies, polycystic kidney disease, orthopedics, diabetes, and bioinformatic approaches to drug discovery.

Who Should Talk About Science?

The academic leadership and administration of higher education institutions need to embrace science communication as a key pillar of their existence and enter the world of media. Most of society -- political candidates and parties, the corporate sector, nonprofits, even religions -- now engage in aggressive and technologically innovative campaigns in the struggle for influence. But not universities. Instead, scientific and educational institutions still appear reluctant to harness their accumulated intellectual, literary and technological capacity. 

Scientists Are Just as Confused About the Ethics of Big-Data Research as You

WHEN A ROGUE researcher last week released 70,000 OkCupid profiles, complete with usernames and sexual preferences, people were pissed. When Facebook researchers manipulated how stories appear in News Feeds for a mood contagion study in 20141, people were really pissed. OkCupid filed a copyright claim to take down the dataset; the journal that published Facebook’s study issued an “expression of concern.” Outrage has a way of shaping ethical boundaries. We learn from mistakes. Shockingly, though, the researchers behind both of those big data blowups never anticipated public outrage. (The OkCupid research does not seem to have gone through any kind of ethical review process, and a Cornell ethics review board that did look at the Facebook study declined to review it due to the only limited involvement of two Cornell researchers2.) And that shows just how untested the ethics of this new field of research is. Unlike medical research, which has been shaped by decades of clinical trials, the risks—and rewards—of analyzing big, semi-public databases are just beginning to become clear.

What if … A Letter From the CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

One question unites those of us who work at the Gates Foundation: What if? What if infectious diseases could no longer wreak havoc on poor communities? What if women and girls everywhere were empowered to transform their lives? What if all children – especially the poorest – had an equal opportunity to reach their full potential? For more than 15 years, the Gates Foundation has been imagining what’s possible. Our belief that all lives have equal value guides everything we do to eradicate poverty and increase opportunity for the people we serve.

USDA Announces $21 Million Available For Bioeconomy Research and Development

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) … announced the availability of $21 million to support the development of regional systems in sustainable bioenergy and biobased products, as well as education and training for the next generation of scientists that will expand availability of renewable, sustainable goods and energy. This funding is available through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill and administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

Universities form food-security commission

The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities recently formed a commission to address future food-security challenges and to ensure universal food security by 2050. Randy Woodson, chancellor at North Carolina State University, is chairing the commission, which has been named “The Challenge of Change: Engaging Public Universities to Feed the World.” The commission is charged with identifying the research, education and engagement efforts public universities should develop to ensure that the World Health Organization’s three pillars of food security – access, availability and utilization – are met throughout the world. The commission is expected to issue a report in early 2017 with final recommendations for public-research universities on how to align their agendas to meet this challenge, and for the new U.S. presidential administration on how it can provide federal support of research efforts.

The Road to ISIS: An unorthodox anthropologist goes face to face with ISIS. Is the payoff worth the peril?

The least jittery member of the team is its leader, Scott Atran, an anthropologist who floats among several institutions, including the University of Michigan and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, part of the City University of New York. He’s also a founder of the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict, at the University of Oxford. He’s normally the one arguing to go a little farther afield, to challenge the group’s comfort zone, perhaps to cross over into Syria. While sitting around the hotel he appears restless and testy, headed toward ISIS territory he is in his element, enlivened and unfazed. "We don’t want to drive off the road, because it’s probably mined on both sides," he warns casually from the passenger seat, the way you might note a change in speed limit or a forthcoming rest stop. Atran is known as an expert on terrorism, a title he doesn’t particularly want and a word he doesn’t find useful. He views his work, broadly, as examining what motivates people to do things beyond themselves, for good or ill. These days he focuses on the ill, specifically ISIS. "What propels people from 100 countries to come to this place to blow themselves up?" he asks. "There’s something in human beings that this appeals to; otherwise it wouldn’t work. And my goal is to figure out what that is."