June 30, 2016

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

June 30, 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

Petfood Innovation Workshop Early Bird Special

Manhattan will host the annual K-State Pet Food Experience and Petfood Innovation Workshop September 13-15. Read more about the workshop and register; early bird pricing is available until August 15.

Fringe Benefit Rates for Proposal Budgets

New fringe benefit rates for fiscal year 2017 are effective immediately and should be used when preparing budget estimates to be included in proposals for extramural support. To facilitate the transition to these new rates, budgets that are in process will be accepted at the old rate until July 8. Read more about the new rates or view a detailed chart.

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 Connection: The Russell Sage Foundation’s program on Social Inequality supports innovative research on whether rising economic inequality has affected social, political, and economic institutions. Also of interest is the extent to which increased inequality has affected equality of opportunity, social mobility, and the intergenerational transmission of advantage. The Foundation seeks investigator-initiated research projects that will broaden our understanding of the causes and consequences of rising economic inequalities in the United States.

K-State in the News

Egypt Rejects Another Wheat Cargo Amid Fungus Confusion

6/25/16 Washington Post
Egypt has imported little wheat from the U.S. in recent years, buying from Europe and the Black Sea region because of price competitiveness and improving quality, said Jay O’Neill, senior economist at Kansas State University’s International Grains Program Institute. The U.S. exported 41,798 metric tons to Egypt in the marketing year that ended June 1, compared with 386,873 tons in the prior season, U.S. Department of Agriculture data show.

How do Food Manufacturers Pick Those Dates on Their Product Packaging — and What do They Mean?

6/27/16 SF Gate (By Londa Nwadike, Kansas State University)
No one wants to serve spoiled food to their families. Conversely, consumers don’t want to throw food away unnecessarily – but we certainly do. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates Americans toss out the equivalent of US$162 billion in food every year, at the retail and consumer levels. Plenty of that food is discarded while still safe to eat.

A ‘Fitbit’ for Plants? Low-Cost, Portable Platform to Gauge Plant Health

6/22/16 Science Daily
The "laboratory" is often an outdoor field with thousands of plants. Farmers have monitored their fields for millennia by simply walking among the rows of plants, observing changes over time, and noting which plants do better. But as plant breeding technology becomes more complicated, farmers and scientists want specific data. They want to know exactly how tall the plants are, or exactly how green the leaves are. In a large test field, getting exact numbers means hours or even days of labor for a plant breeder. "Larger sample size gives you more power," said Jesse Poland, assistant professor in the Departments of Plant Pathology and Agronomy at Kansas State University. "Measuring phenotypes is very labor-intensive, and really limits how big of an experiment we can do."

Get a Clue: Biochemist Studies Fruit Fly to Understand Parkinson’s Disease, Muscle Wasting

6/22/16 Science Daily
Erika Geisbrecht, Kansas State University associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics, is studying the fruit fly, or Drosophila melanogaster, to understand a gene called clueless, or clu. Geisbrecht and her research team have found a connection between clu and genes that cause Parkinson's disease. Geisbrecht's team is among the first to focus on the connection between clu and mitochondrial function in fruit fly muscle cells. The researchers recently published their work in the journal Human Molecular Genetics. "We are trying to understand how muscles develop and how healthy muscles are maintained throughout the entire life of a fruit fly in the hopes of applying this knowledge to the human body," Geisbrecht said.

From Our Peers

Artificial Intelligence Has a 'Sea of Dudes’ Problem

6/23/16 Bloomberg
"From a machine learning perspective, if you don't think about gender inclusiveness, then oftentimes the inferences that get made are biased towards the majority group—in this case, affluent white males," said Margaret Burnett, a professor at Oregon State University's School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Burnett developed GenderMag, which helps software developers build systems that account for the differences in gender of their users. Microsoft has been experimenting with the software, she said. She's also investigated how machine learning systems suffer if the designers don't properly account for gender. "If un-diverse stuff goes in, then closed-minded, inside-the-box, not-very-good results come out," she said.

Researchers Devise New Tool to Measure Polarization of Light

6/27/16 Bloomberg
Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a new tool for detecting and measuring the polarization of light based on a single spatial sampling of the light, rather than the multiple samples required by previous technologies. The new device makes use of the unique properties of organic polymers, rather than traditional silicon, for polarization detection and measurement.

RFID Journal to Hold RFID in Retail and Apparel Event in New York City

6/22/16 Yahoo! Finance
This exclusive, invitation-only event for retailers and brand owners will feature case studies presented by end users already utilizing radio frequency identification, as well as technology companies showcasing their latest products. The conference sessions will cover the four foundational use cases for RFID in retail: inventory accuracy, out-of-stocks, product location and loss detection. In addition, presenters will discuss second-order use cases, including enhancing the customer experience, cycle-counting strategies, conversion and loss prevention. The presentations will help attendees determine the best approach for their needs, learn best practices from early adopters, find the right technology partners and move forward with deployment. Dr. Bill Hardgrave, the dean of Auburn University's Harbert College of Business and the founder of the University of Arkansas' RFID Research Center, will discuss the key components of omnichannel retail and how each component is integral to having a successful, sustainable initiative. Dr. Hardgrave is one of the world's most recognized RFID researchers.

Fat is Back! Shoppers Opt for Whole Milk, Greek Yogurt

6/26/16 SF Gate
"Full-fat dairy products used to be seen as taboo. We were told we should cut them out of our diet," said Ruth Litchfield, associate professor of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University. But "we're realizing that fat can be good. “Litchfield said the federal dietary guidelines still recommend that Americans consume low- or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese. The concern: Foods that contain saturated fat — such as whole milk, cheese and butter — can raise cholesterol levels that contribute to heart disease. But some new studies are challenging that perspective, Litchfield said.

RSCAD Trending Topics

What Does Brexit Mean for Science?

Britain’s exit from the European Union could have long-term implications for science, research and high tech engineering in the UK and Europe, as the community has close ties across borders both in terms of financial support and professional interaction.

Policy: Social-Progress Panel Seeks Public Comment

Modern science and technology have been nurtured by a fervent belief that they lead to social progress. It has become clear that the relationship is more complex. Considerable developments in the social sciences and the humanities since the Second World War have brought a much better understanding. For instance, the virtues and limitations of market economies and public interventions have been extensively scrutinized at the intersection of economics, political science, sociology and anthropology. The drivers of inequality and its possible remedies are still debated, but that discourse is now much more advanced, thanks in particular to better data.

New U.S. Drone Rules Get Positive Reviews from Researchers

New U.S. rules on drone operations are getting a general thumbs up from researchers who rely on the unmanned aircraft to collect data and make observations. That marks a shift from a few years ago, when worried researchers went to court to block Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) drone regulations that they argued were overly restrictive and would harm academic science. The final FAA rule, released by the White House on Tuesday, seems to have alleviated many of those concerns. (You can read all 624 pages of the final rule here). The new regulations are “fantastic, just late,” says biogeographer Benjamin Heumann of Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, who uses drones to map biodiversity and invasive species and had been critical of early versions. “It’s nice to have the FAA come forward with some new rules that kind of follow some common sense. … This is where we should have been 2 years ago.”

Out, Out Red Tape: Congress Weighs Bills to Reduce Regulatory Burden on Academic Science

The federal government and U.S. universities are notorious for their stifling bureaucracies. So it's no great surprise that the government’s oversight of campus-based research is larded with requirements that are inefficient, redundant, and simply make no sense. Periodic attempts to streamline the process haven’t been very successful. But this year, influential lawmakers from both parties are hoping to make a significant dent in the problem by tying the issue to broader pieces of legislation moving through Congress. One of those bills should advance this week, in fact, as a Senate panel is expected on Wednesday to approve a measure that includes substantial language aimed at giving researchers some regulatory relief. The bill—which is officially known as the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (S. 3084)—would promote research, innovation, and science education at the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Commerce, and across federal agencies. But it offers a convenient legislative vehicle to address regulatory reform. Other bills that address the topic focus on shortening the time from discovery to treatment in the U.S. health care system, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), or on tweaking specific federal regulations.

How Your Journal Editor Works

When I first began submitting work to scholarly journals, I had every sort of outlandish idea about the editor on the other side of the transaction. In hopeful moments, I imagined a kindly bespectacled someone with a jumbo coffee cup at a spotless wooden desk, or holding a glass of wine in an overstuffed chair near a fireplace. This faceless editor would read my essay slowly, nodding approvingly and then more vigorously. "Brilliant!" the editor would say. "Eureka! Accept with no revisions!"

Inside the US Army Lab Racing to Create a Zika Vaccine

So why is this Army research lab working on Zika when 15 other academic or government labs are doing the same thing? Soldiers, Marines and sailors aren’t like business travelers. They can’t telecommute or come home if they get sick. They have to be ready to go anywhere, anytime. And they get a lot of vaccinations. Plus, the Pentagon announced this month that 17 servicemembers and family were infected with Zika while stationed overseas. That number is likely to rise. “We have to be in the game to make sure that what ultimately gets put on the shelf can be used by our folks,” said Col. Stephen Thomas, an infectious disease physician and the Zika program lead at WRAIR. "There are all sorts of nuances of that population and the mission and what they need to be protected."

The Ghost (Writer) in the Machine

Helpful as the computer seemed, plenty of writers viewed this magical invention with skepticism (and some holdouts, fond of old-fashioned implements, still do). They worried that it would change writing for the worse, or that the glowing box might replace the writer entirely. Matthew G. Kirschenbaum explores those anxieties in his new book, Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing (Harvard University Press), and attempts to identify the first novel written on a word processor. Along the way, Kirschenbaum, an associate professor of English at the University of Maryland at College Park, digs up anecdotes from the recent past that — now that computers are so thoroughly embedded in our lives — feel like ancient history.