July 14, 2016

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

July 14, 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

From the Desk of the VPR

I recently met with leaders of the K-State Postdoc Association who are busy planning for the September celebration of postdoctoral scholars on our campus. We discussed how K-State and our office, working with faculty and staff, could provide professional development training for these valuable members of our university community. Currently, K-State is home to more than 150 postdoctoral scholars who contribute much to our research and teaching missions and are often overlooked when it comes to career development. As part of a national conversation about postdoctoral scholars, we are encouraging all postdocs at K-State to participate in the survey cited below.

We also launched a conversation among leaders of the K-State Research Foundation (KSU-RF), K-State Innovation Center (KSU-IC), the KSU Foundation, the Office of Corporate Engagement, and our PreAwards Services group. We have a number of talented people across K-State who are supporting intellectual property management, technology transfer, and corporate partnerships. My goal is to have us review together how we are doing business with businesses and chart a course to a university that is engaged and committed to an environment that supports and celebrates industry relationships. Later this fall, the campus community will be asked to provide input and feedback on our developing strategic plan.

— Peter

Global Food Systems Innovation Program Demonstrates Excellent Return on Investment

Seed grants totaling $500,000 for nine projects have resulted in $1.2 million in funding, with another $2.5 million in proposals either pending or planned. Read more.

In Case You Missed It

If you've been on vacation, you may have missed these announcements.

  • National Postdoc Survey: Postdoctoral researchers are a vital part of the strong and efficient scientific workforce that is critical to the health and future of the U.S. economy. A recent editorial in the American Journal of Physiology addressed the "postdoc crisis" and encouraged postdocs to fill out the National Postdoc Survey to gather a range of information about demographics, mentorship and training experience, training duration, and career aspirations. More than 4,000 have already responded. We encourage all K-State postdocs to add their voices to this information-gathering effort that will support informed policy decisions aimed at improving postdoc conditions and safeguarding our future scientific workforce.

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 National Science Foundation's Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC) Program welcomes proposals that address cybersecurity and privacy and draw on expertise in one or more of these areas: computing, communication and information sciences; engineering; economics; education; mathematics; statistics; and social and behavioral sciences. Proposals that advance the field of cybersecurity within a single disciple or efforts that span multiple disciplines are both encouraged.

K-State in the News

Char None! Healthy Options for High Heat Cooking

7/6/16 Huffington Post
The type of marinade may matter: According to a study conducted at Kansas State University, herbed marinades with rosemary and thyme both boost your immune system and combat cancer-causing carcinogens in meat. The Food Science Institute found that a steak cooked in a Caribbean marinade had an 88 percent drop in HCAs, an herb marinade accounted for a 72 percent drop and a Southwestern mixture had a 57 percent drop.

Money Actually Did Buy Me Happiness

6/8/16 Time Magazine
Friendships are easier to maintain when you can afford dinners, movies, and nights out. And as for love, a study by Kansas State University found that arguments over money were the greatest predictor of divorce. Enjoying your work certainly increases your happiness, but that will be mitigated if your passions can’t pay for food, water, shelter, and utilities — if you can’t put money in a savings account or let it compound in the stock market, if the occasional splurge is entirely outside your reach.

Agencies, Universities Study Ways to Keep Zika Out of Kansas

7/5/16 Washington Times
The Kansas Biosecurity Research Institute at Kansas State University has increased research on the virus in recent months, and the Shawnee County Health Agency has started an awareness campaign to deter any further spread. The Zika virus can be carried in two types of Aedes mosquito, often doesn’t include severe symptoms and rarely leads to death. But it has been linked to some severe birth defects such as microcephaly, where an infant’s head doesn’t develop to full size.

Can Gaming at Work Make You More Productive?

7/8/16 BBC-Capital
Research suggests that these so-called micro-breaks are beneficial. In a 2014 study by researchers at Kansas State University in the US of 72 full-time employees from a variety of industries, those who spent one or two minutes during breaks in their day playing games such as Candy Crush on their phones reported being happier than their peers. Employees reported spending 22 minutes playing video games during an eight-hour workday.

From Our Peers

Meet the US Farmers Turning Their Tobacco Into Airplane Fuel

7/6/16 MSN.com
Since 2009, the US biofuel company Tyton BioEnergy Systems has partnered with agronomists from Virginia Tech and North Carolina State University and tobacco growers to research the potential for turning tobacco into biomass. Mills grows two acres of energy tobacco under contract with Tyton. “We’re experimenting with varieties that were discarded 50 years ago by traditional tobacco growers because the flavours were poor or the plants didn’t have enough nicotine,” explains Tyton co-founder Peter Majeranowski. Researchers are pioneering selective breeding techniques and genetic engineering to increase tobacco’s sugar and seed oil content to create a promising source of renewable fuel. The low-nicotine varieties require little maintenance, are inexpensive to grow and thrive where other crops would fail.

Robot is Helping to Reveal How the First Creatures Crawled On Land

6/8/16 Yahoo! Finance
A team of physicists, biologists, and roboticists from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Clemson University, and Carnegie Mellon University are using robots to explore how the first animals crawled on land 360 million years ago — by creating a robot modeled on the African mudskipper fish, which is able to propel itself in both water and land. The work is not only helping us understand more about the way that the first creatures to crawl out of the water moved, but also to learn valuable lessons that could make future robots more efficient at moving on surfaces such as sand and mud, which are typically tough to negotiate.

The World’s Clouds Are in Different Places Than They Were 30 Years Ago

7/11/16 Washington Post
In a new study published in Nature on Monday, scientists say they have for the first time thoroughly documented one of the most profound planetary changes yet to be caused by a warming climate: The distribution of clouds all across the Earth has shifted, they say. And moreover, it has shifted in such a way — by expanding subtropical dry zones, located between around 20 and 30 degrees latitude in both hemispheres, and by raising cloud tops — as to make global warming worse. “As global warming occurs, there’s the expectation that the storm track will shift closer to the pole and the dry areas of the subtropics will expand poleward,” said Joel Norris, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, and the study’s lead author. The work was conducted with scientists at Scripps, the University of California at Riverside, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Colorado State University.

The Best Way to Teach Adults to Save Energy Might Be Through Their Children

7/11/16 Washington Post
In a new study involving 30 California Girl Scout troops, researchers demonstrated that interventions targeting youth can help promote energy-saving actions in both children and their parents, with concrete behavioral changes lasting for months after an intervention takes place. The research highlights the idea that youth-oriented environmental programs can have a tangible impact on entire families. The study, which was published Monday in the journal Nature Energy, revolves around a concept known as social cognitive theory, an idea that suggests a person’s behaviors can be influenced by their social interactions, their environment and other factors affecting the way they learn new things. Social cognitive theory has been used effectively in the past in public health interventions — including ones targeted at children — but rarely in environmental ones, the researchers note in the paper. “A lot of the techniques that are recommended through that theory have to do with really practicing skill-building, behavior changes, modeling those behavior changes to others, setting goals — pledging and committing to make changes to behavior — and then monitoring progress over time,” said Hilary Boudet, a sociologist at Oregon State University and the new study’s lead author. “And so we tried to build all those components into each session with the Girl Scouts.”

RSCAD Trending Topics

Important Information Regarding Automated Compliance Checking of NSF Proposals

NSF continues to focus on the automated compliance checks of proposals in order to decrease the burden on both the research community and NSF staff. Effective July 25, 2016, all proposals will be subject to a new series of automated compliance validation checks to ensure proposals comply with requirements outlined in Chapter II.C.2. of the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG). The new set of automated compliance checks will trigger error messages for each of the following rules: Biographical Sketch(es) and Current and Pending Support files are required for each Senior Personnel associated with a proposal; and Biographical Sketch(es) can only be uploaded as a file, must not exceed two pages and can no longer be entered as text. Note About Proposal File Update (PFU): Proposers should be aware should that if a proposal was received prior to July 25 and contained only one Biographical Sketch and/or Current & Pending Support file (rather than individual files for each senior personnel), a PFU addressing any section of the proposal will result in the proposal not being accepted if it does not comply with these new compliance checks. The checks will be run on all sections of the proposal regardless of which section was updated during the PFU. Note About Grants.gov: Proposers should also be aware that Grants.gov will allow a proposal to be submitted, even if it does not comply with these proposal preparation requirements. Should NSF receive a proposal from Grants.gov that is not compliant, it will be returned without review. Please note that the new set of compliance checks are in addition to the compliance checks that currently exist in FastLane. You can view a complete list of FastLane auto-compliance checks, including these checks, by clicking here .

A Shot in the Arm for Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative

Precision medicine is a big idea. Tailoring drugs and therapies to a patient’s individual disease, lifestyle, environment, and genes could touch off a health-care revolution, or so the thinking goes. But first there is much we need to learn about what that all means to a person’s health. That’s why the Obama administration announced Wednesday evening that it is devoting $55 million this year to the creation of a public database containing detailed health information about a million or more volunteers. It’s also why it’s trying to figure out how to better regulate the fast-growing genetic testing market.

Research in the Crowdsourcing Age, a Case Study

Digital age platforms are providing researchers the ability to outsource portions of their work – not just to increasingly intelligent machines, but also to a relatively low-cost online labor force comprised of humans. These so-called “online outsourcing” services help employers connect with a global pool of free-agent workers who are willing to complete a variety of specialized or repetitive tasks. Because it provides access to large numbers of workers at relatively low cost, online outsourcing holds a particular appeal for academics and nonprofit research organizations – many of whom have limited resources compared with corporate America. For instance, Pew Research Center has experimented with using these services to perform tasks such as classifying documents and collecting website URLs. And a Google search of scholarly academic literature shows that more than 800 studies – ranging from medical research to social science – were published using data from one such platform, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, in 2015 alone.

Major Funders Launch International Repository of Cutting-Edge Cancer Models

For decades, cancer biologists have relied on so-called lines of cancer cells for their experiments. But these cultured cells often bear little resemblance to the tumor they came from. That’s because a piece of tumor tissue dropped into a petri dish doesn’t just start growing. Instead, researchers pull out a few cells in the tumor that happen to replicate well—often cells that don’t need the surrounding normal cells that nurture tumors inside the body. And the genetic makeup of cell lines can change over the years they multiply in labs. No wonder, then, that an experimental drug that kills a colon cancer cell line won’t necessarily help a patient with colon cancer. Now, several U.S. and European funding agencies want to change that. Today, they’re launching the Human Cancer Models Initiative (HCMI), which aims to give the research community tumor cells that behave more like actual human tumors. The project involves four groups: the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Bethesda, Maryland; Cancer Research UK in London; the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, U.K.; and the nonprofit Hubrecht Organoid Technology in Utrecht, the Netherlands, which was founded by Hans Clevers, a cancer researcher at the Hubrecht Institute.

Massive Open-Access Database on Human Cultures Created

An international team of researchers has developed a website at d-place.org to help answer long-standing questions about the forces that shaped human cultural diversity. D-PLACE -- the Database of Places, Language, Culture and Environment -- is an expandable, open access database that brings together a dispersed body of information on the language, geography, culture and environment of more than 1,400 human societies. It comprises information mainly on pre-industrial societies that were described by ethnographers in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

‘Web of Science’ to be sold to private-equity firms

The vast science-citation database ‘Web of Science’ will be sold by its long-time owner, Thomson Reuters, as part of a US$3.55-billion divestment of the firm’s intellectual-property and science division. The deal, according to an announcement on 11 July, will transfer the division to private equity funds affiliated with Onex Corporation, based in Toronto, and Baring Private Equity Asia, headquartered in Hong Kong. But industry observers expect that the new owners will later break up the division and resell its parts for a profit.

NIST 3-D Ballistics Research Database Goes Live

"When an expert testifies that two bullets are a match, the jury wants to know, 'How good a match is it?'" said Xiaoyu Alan Zheng, a mechanical engineer who conducts forensic science research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). "No forensic results have zero uncertainty.” Researchers are developing statistical methods for quantifying that uncertainty, and the main obstacle they face is a lack of sufficient data. This month NIST released the largest open-access database of its kind--the NIST Ballistics Toolmark Research Database--to help remove that obstacle.

Early support and mentorship programs build long-term research careers

A public — private mentored research program based at the National Institutes of Health called the NIH Clinical Research Training Program (CRTP) has helped foster the careers of research-oriented medical and dental students, and similar programs may help bolster the dwindling pipeline of biomedical researchers and clinician — scientists, according to a study now available electronically in Academic Medicine.