Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sustainability news from Michigan's research universities for the week ending June 25, 2011

As I wrote yesterday in the Weekly Roundup for June 14th through 24th, 2011:
With that, the past week's cycle ends. It begins anew with the weekend sustainability news linkspam, which I will post starting tomorrow night. See you then!
It may not be "tomorrow night," strictly speaking, but it is tomorrow and it is nighttime, so here goes.

By now, all of you should know the drill. Tonight's installment is part one, sustainability news from the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and Wayne State University. Part two will be sustainability from the University of Wisconsin, Indiana University, Purdue University, and Ohio State University, with a bonus story from Penn State University. Both parts include articles that comment on announcements by President Obama, so watch the videos from the White House YouTube channel. Part three will be news from national and international commercial sources. There will be a bonus part four, sustainability stories from archeology.* Most of these stories have already been published in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Summer Solstice 2011 edition) on Daily Kos, but not all.

Again, I've arranged the stories so they link up into a circle--science to society to economy and back again to science. Watch for the blending.

*Yes, archeology. I make a point of finding sustainability stories in the strangest places. In the lecture on sustainability I give to my students, I present a list of the usual suspects, such as food, energy, and water, and then include tourism. Trust me, I can find sustainability in almost any issue, including war. Speaking of which, there are war stories in both parts one and two.

Enough meta. Time for the linkspam.

General Sustainability

President Obama kicks off the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP), a national collaboration between the government, industries, and universities to invest in cutting-edge technologies, create new jobs and bring about a renaissance in American manufacturing. June 24, 2011
University of Michigan: U-M president joins President Obama's new Advanced Manufacturing Partnership
June 24, 2011
Responding to President Obama's call to action, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman joins leaders from five other universities as part of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, a national effort bringing together industry, universities and the federal government.

The goal of the new AMP is to invest in the emerging technologies that will create high quality manufacturing jobs and enhance the United States' global competitiveness.
s part of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, Obama's plan, which leverages existing programs and proposals, is to invest more than $500 million to jumpstart this effort. Investments will be made in the following key areas: building domestic manufacturing capabilities in critical national security industries; reducing the time needed to make advanced materials used in manufacturing products; establishing U.S. leadership in next-generation robotics; increasing the energy efficiency of manufacturing processes; and developing new technologies that will dramatically reduce the time required to design, build, and test manufactured goods.

"This initiative matters more to Michigan than any other state," Coleman said. "We are at ground zero for losses in manufacturing jobs. But we also are better positioned to be the epicenter of manufacturing innovation. We know how to retool."
Unlike last week's linkspam, I had no trouble finding general sustainability stories. You and I can thank President Obama for that. He really likes the idea of sustainable development packaged as making America competitive.

University of Michigan: Marie Lynn Miranda named new SNRE dean at U-M
June 24, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—One of the nation's leading researchers in children's environmental health, Marie Lynn Miranda, will be the new dean of the School of Natural Resources and Environment, effective Jan. 1, 2012, pending approval from the University of Michigan Board of Regents.

Miranda is a faculty member in the Nicholas School of the Environment, the Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health Program and the Global Health Institute at Duke University. She also is a faculty member in the Department of Pediatrics within Duke Medicine.

The Detroit native has devoted much of her professional career to research directed at improving the health status of disadvantaged populations, particularly children. She is the founding director of the Children's Environmental Health Initiative, a research, education and outreach program that fosters environments where all children can prosper. She has held the director post since 1999.
Yes, an education story up here. I did that in last week's part two because the story was about a school of the environment. Nice precedent, isn't it?

Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation: Survey shows health coverage is important — but not sufficient to guarantee access to care
Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation survey reveals those with Medicaid coverage face more difficulties accessing care than all but the uninsured
June 20, 2011
Ann Arbor, MI – The second annual Cover Michigan Survey, released today by the Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation (CHRT), shows that people who lack health coverage are more likely to seek medical treatment in costlier care settings and less likely to have regular, preventive care.

The survey of 1,000 Michigan adults also reveals that simply having health coverage does not guarantee access to care.

Among those with health coverage, those with Medicaid coverage reported the greatest difficulty gaining access to preferred primary care providers or specialists and were the most likely to delay seeking care when needed.

The uninsured—who reported more difficulty accessing care when compared to the insured—appeared to be sicker or more acutely ill at the point they sought health care services. And among the uninsured, nearly one in three (32 percent) reported having been diagnosed with depression, compared to one in ten (11 percent) of the insured.
CHRT is a partnership between the University of Michigan Health System and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Michigan State University: Researchers examine federal delisting of wolves issue
June 23, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. – A team of researchers from Michigan State University, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Michigan Technological University is looking into the potential removal of wolves from federal protection under the Endangered Species Act and what that removal means for Michigan’s residents – both people and wolves.

"We’re covering new ground here," said Michelle Lute, graduate student in MSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, whose doctoral work focuses on this issue. "The distribution and abundance of wolves are just the beginning; we would like to understand why people value – or don’t value – wolves and what management strategies they will support."
"Once wolves are removed from federal protection, it is up to Michigan to manage its own wolf population," said Meredith Gore, assistant professor in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, and adviser to Lute. "Wolves can be considered an endangered species success story and are becoming the 'poster species' for delisting. We have a good idea of what current wolf management in Michigan looks like, yet we are trying to understand how people will coexist with wolves under potentially new management scenarios."
You pick out the science from the politics and economics in this story. I dare you.

Michigan State University: Agricultural events to take place this summer
June 21, 2011
This summer, there are a variety of agricultural events that will take place on the campus of Michigan State University from bug tours to Michigan Ag Expo.
As you can tell, I like food as a general sustainability story.

Environment, including science and technology

University of Michigan: Collaborative efforts between GM and the U-M College of Engineering create technology to maximize the Volt's battery weld quality
June 24, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Collaborative work being done by engineers and researchers at General Motors, alongside faculty and students at the University of Michigan College of Engineering is helping to guarantee the 16 kWh lithium-ion battery system used in the Chevrolet Volt meets exceptional quality standards.

"We have greatly enjoyed this productive partnership with General Motors, which is in its fourteenth year. The technology we implemented in the Volt battery plant is another example of the fruits of this successful partnership," commented Jack Hu, G. Lawton and Louise G. Johnson Professor of Engineering and the university co-director of the General Motors Collaborative Research Lab (CRL) in Advanced Vehicle Manufacturing and leader of the project.

Jeff Abell, lab group manager in manufacturing systems research at GM and co-director of the CRL added, "This is a great example of successful technology development and transfer resulting from the partnership between GM and U-M."
This ties in nicely with the first story. It also makes for a good tie in to the end, where economy loops back into science. Yes, I'm serious about maintaining that continuity.

Speaking of which...

Michigan State University: MSU nets $5 million grant to increase dairy production efficiency
June 20, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. — As human populations increase and available arable land decreases, agricultural systems are under pressure to produce more food more efficiently.

Michigan State University researchers believe that breeding dairy cows that produce milk with less feed can help meet this goal.

“We already know how to get cows to produce more than 100 pounds of milk a day – we have the science to be able to do that,” said Mike VandeHaar, animal science professor and MSU AgBioResearch faculty member. “Our question now is whether some cows are genetically predisposed to produce that milk with less feed. If we find that feed efficiency is inherent in a cow’s DNA, it will improve our ability to sustainably produce the milk and dairy products that our growing population consumes.”
There's more science than economy in this story, but you can definitely hear the coins clinking in the "efficiency" meme. That's all about money.

Michigan State University: Grad student receives NASA fellowship for Panda research
June 20, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. — A graduate student recently was awarded the NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship.

Vanessa Hull, a doctoral candidate in the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, will receive $30,000 per year for up to three years to pursue her research on how animals choose a home that can best meet their needs to survive – and how those needs intersect with its human neighbors.
Hull will be using detailed information on how the endangered giant pandas move through their territories in southwestern China, combined with information gleaned from remotely sensed imagery, habitat characteristics and interviews with people who share pandas’ neighborhoods.

NASA reviewers noted that her work has "broad application to the field of animal behavior, remote sensing and landscape ecology and biodiversity conservation."
This story didn't make the cut for Overnight News Digest (not enough money), but it is cool and deserves its spotlight here.

Michigan State University: Water Quality Reports
June 23, 2011
As a public water supply, Michigan State University is required by law to produce and distribute an annual water quality report. The report provides information about MSU's water supply, including where the water comes from, what is done to ensure it's safe to drink, what is in it and how it compares to State of Michigan and Environmental Protection Agency standards.

We are pleased to inform that MSU water meets or surpasses all federal and state drinking water standards.
PDFs of all reports from 1998 to 2010 at the link.

University of Michigan: A century of bird study in Northern Michigan
June 20, 2011

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—This year marks a full century that instructors at the University of Michigan Biological Station on Douglas Lake near Pellston have been teaching students about northern Michigan's birds. The station was established in 1909, and two years later a course titled "The Natural History of Birds" first appeared in the summer bulletin.

According to the 1911 description: "Birds will be studied with especial reference to their environment. Field work will include identification, observations on habitat preferences, food habits, nesting activities and the early autumnal migration movements."

That same description could apply to the course today. Dave Ewert, who currently teaches Biology of Birds, described a typical class session: "We arrive at a site in early morning, take a field quiz, have breakfast, and then learn other species at the site." The field quiz covers 10 birds, and students are expected to know them by voice and sight. Ewert noted that the field breakfast—eggs, bacon and cowboy coffee cooked over a fire—is a longstanding tradition started by professor Olin Sewall Pettingill, Jr., who taught at the station from the late '30s to the mid-'70s.
While I was a grad student at U of M, I went to the biological station for a weekend. It was one of my more fun experiences there.

With the above education story, these articles are now taking a progressive turn into society.

University of Michigan: Few parents enforce shower-before-pool rules that prevent illness from waterparks
Many parents do not understand risk of water infections from pools and water parks or recognize the role showering plays in preventing infections
June 20, 2011

Water parks offer families a chance to have fun and be physically active. That fun may come with the risk of getting sick with infections from the water, illnesses that affect over 10,000 Americans each year. One of the best ways to reduce the risk of infection is to make sure that parents and kids shower before playing at water parks.

The University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health asked parents of elementary school kids about their perceptions of water park risks and their opinions about basic water park rules. The sample included families who have taken their children to water parks within the past year.

“While 64 percent of parents feel it is very important for children to not swallow the water at a water park, only 26 percent of parents think it is very important to shower before getting in the water,” says Matthew Davis, M.D., director of the poll and associate professor in the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the U-M Medical School. “Parents seem to understand the risk of contaminated water for their kids but few have their kids take the necessary preventive steps to keep everyone healthy.”
This is fluff, but it does have a serious environmental and public health angle to it.

Michigan State University: MSU to provide talent for national nuclear security pipeline
June 22, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State University is among several institutions that will share a five-year, $25 million grant designed to prepare students to work on the country’s nuclear security needs, including the threat posed by the potential proliferation of nuclear weapons.

The grant is from the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Security Administration. It will fund the Nuclear Science and Security Consortium, which will focus on education and hands-on training of undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students. The core set of experimental disciplines that support this mission include nuclear physics, nuclear chemistry, nuclear instrumentation and nuclear engineering.

“MSU’s role is one of the sources for the pipeline of talented researchers who can take positions at the U.S. national laboratories to solve some of the greatest challenges of U.S. national security,” said Brad Sherrill, chief scientist of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams at MSU and leader of the MSU team on the NSSC project. “MSU is the top nuclear physics graduate program in the nation and hence is one of the top places where students learn about nuclear science. This makes MSU a natural partner in such a venture.”
I told you there was a war story in here. War is a sustainability issue.

University of Michigan: Black heart attack patients wait longer for advanced treatment, U-M study shows
Quality of hospitals plays key role in racial differences in health care
June 20, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Black patients having a heart attack wait longer at hospitals than white patients to get advanced procedures that will restore blood flow to their hearts, according to a University of Michigan Health System study.

The differences in care may be explained by hospital quality, rather than the race of individual patients. Black patients were much more likely to go to slow hospitals than were whites, and as a result waited six hours longer to get life-saving procedures.

Most elderly black patients received care in a small number of hospitals that take longer to transfer their patients, regardless of race, according to the U-M study published in the July issue of Medical Care, the journal of the American Public Health Association.
I couldn't resist putting this article next to the following one. Yes, I consider diversity to be a sustainability issue. Imagine making a case for a just society without respect for diversity. You could, but I don't think most people would like that idea of a "just society."

Michigan State University: Prejudice linked to women’s menstrual cycle
June 22, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Women’s bias against male strangers increases when women are fertile, suggesting prejudice may be partly fueled by genetics, according to a study by Michigan State University psychology researchers.

The study, funded by the National Science Foundation, appears online in Psychological Science, a major research journal.

“Our findings suggest that women’s prejudice, at least in part, may be a byproduct of their biology,” said Melissa McDonald, a doctoral student and lead author on the paper.

The researchers conducted scientific studies with two groups of women that investigated how women’s implicit attitudes toward men change across the menstrual cycle. They found that fertile women were more biased against men of different races and men of different social groups than men of their own group.
Yes, biology has to be considered, but biology is not destiny.

Society, including culture and politics

Michigan State University: Youth cybercrime linked to friends’ influence
June 23, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Peer influence and low self-control appear to be the major factors fueling juvenile cybercrime such as computer hacking and online bullying, according to a new study led by a Michigan State University criminologist.

Thomas Holt, assistant professor of criminal justice, said the findings reinforce the need for parents to be more aware of their children’s friends and Internet activities.

“It’s important to know what your kids are doing when they’re online and who they are associating with both online and offline,” Holt said.

The study, which appears online in the American Journal of Criminal Justice, is one of the first to examine the cybercrime motivations of students in middle and high school. Previous research has focused on college students, creating questions about the causes of cybercrime involvement among youth.
Here's where I drew the line between stories in which science and technology dominated and those in which society did. As for the hackers and others, hey, I've been online for more than 21 years. I've run into lots of people who fit the above descriptions.

Speaking of copyright issues, we now go from illegal downloaders to technology in the hands of respecting fair use.

University of Michigan: U-M Library to share HathiTrust orphan works
June 23, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The University of Michigan Library will share with the U-M community digital copies of the orphan works owned by the U-M Library. The U-M digital copies also reside in the HathiTrust Digital Library.

This marks the next phase in the library's orphan works project, following the announcement in May that MLibrary Copyright Office has begun identifying orphan works from among the millions of in-copyright digitized books in the HathiTrust Digital Library. Making these orphan works accessible to the U-M community will begin to unlock that large portion of the 20th-century scholarly and cultural digital record that is in copyright and unavailable because copyright holders cannot be found or contacted.

The library's intent is to foster these works, and make them available so they can be used. Paul Courant, university librarian and dean of libraries, said the project is integral to the library's overall mission to preserve and share the scholarly and cultural record, and is in keeping with the intent of copyright law, which is to promote progress. Courant said sharing of orphan works falls within copyright law's "fair use" provision (specifically, section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976).
One can start smelling the money here.

Wayne State University: Wayne State University announces research enhancement program in the arts and humanities awards totaling over $194,000
June 23, 2011
DETROIT - Wayne State University Vice President for Research and Interim Dean of the Graduate School Hilary H. Ratner announced the awardees of the university's Research Enhancement Program in the Arts and Humanities. For five years, the university has administered this program as an investment in the expertise of faculty to fulfill WSU's urban research mission through the arts and humanities. Selected studies typically have cultural, social or economic impacts, build knowledge and appreciation of the arts and humanities, document or preserve important works of art, and much more.
I may be a scientist, but I recognize how important arts and culture are to both society and the economy.


Wayne State University: Board approves budget, raises tuition in face of largest decrease in state support in Wayne State history
June 22, 2011
DETROIT - Faced with a $32 million cut in state appropriations, the Wayne State University Board of Governors voted on Wednesday to approve a budget for FY 2012 that includes $29 million in carefully targeted cost reductions and a 6.9 percent tuition increase for undergraduate programs. For many students, the tuition increase will be partially offset by an 8.7 percent increase in financial aid.

"We never want to raise tuition this much," said Tina Abbott, chair of the Board of Governors. "We know how difficult this economy is, and how much this hurts students and their families. But we faced the largest cut in state appropriations in our history. We have a duty to protect the quality of a Wayne State education and we had no other choice."

The reduction in state appropriations means a cut of $1,000 per student. When adjusted for inflation, this cut reduces Wayne State University's total state appropriation to its fiscal year 1966 level. The tuition increase offsets less than half of this cut-or approximately $446 per student. Cost reductions throughout the University will make up the rest of the state cut.
Last week, both the University of Michigan and Michigan State University adopted similar austerity budgets.

Wayne State University: Wayne State University and Baylor University marketing professors test and recommend response strategies for brand crises
June 24, 2011
When a corporation draws negative publicity for an adverse event, its brand's reputation can suffer, even if the allegations are false. Marketing professors Sujay Dutta of Wayne State University in Detroit and Chris Pullig of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, offer research-based insight that can help brand owners and managers salvage a brand's reputation after a crisis.

The pair's research implies that most brand crises can be placed in one of two categories and examines three response strategies that organizations commonly use to address brand crises. The findings reveal that certain strategies are more effective than others.
A performance-related crisis usually involves a defective product. An example is an automobile with sudden acceleration problems. This type of crisis adversely affects consumers' perceptions of a brand's ability to deliver expected functionality.

A values-related crisis does not directly involve the product; it centers on social or ethical issues associated with the brand, such as the use of child labor in the manufacture of apparel. A crisis of this type negatively impacts a brand if consumers perceive a reduced ability to provide symbolic and psychological benefits.
According to Dutta and Pullig, an organization will typically exercise a corrective action, reduction-of-offensiveness, or denial strategy when faced with a brand crisis.
Corrective action is most effective, while denial is the least effective. No surprise there.

Wayne State University: Former auto executives ‘Shift Gears’ at WSU’s TechTown: New skills and a fresh mindset retool Michigan workers for small business success
June 23, 2011

Seventeen Michigan Shifting Gears participants will celebrate completion of the career transition program. The Michigan Shifting Gears program helps seasoned professionals move into new career opportunities by leveraging their business knowledge and experience in new ways.
Michigan Shifting Gears seeks highly skilled and talented professionals who want to increase their effectiveness and capabilities for the dynamic environment of small business. The four-month program's results are impressive: 35 percent of participants land new jobs within three months, 55 percent land positions within six months, and 80 percent find work within nine or more months. During the course of the innovative program, participants receive a career transformation assessment and professional career coaching, attend eight days of workshops, learn the differences between the old and new economies, attend peer networking events, participate in mock job interviews and resume reviews, and complete a three-day small business simulation. Each participant is also assigned a volunteer mentor from the business community and is required to complete an 80-hour pro bono internship with a start-up business. Mentors work one-on-one with participants to provide feedback on the career development process, improving small business skills and communicating effectively during the hiring process.

"Shifting Gears helps executives from large corporations transfer their skill sets to new opportunities," said Entrepreneurial Talent Champion Faris Alami, who organizes the Shifting Gears program at TechTown. "It helps them find the jobs in our new economy and gives them powerful career development tools."
The program is based in TechTown. The location alone works to transition economic issues right into technological ones.

With that, I conclude part one. See you some time after the sun rises with part two, which I already have the stories for.

Now, off to play Rift with my wife!

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