January 10, 2018
Funding Connection

From the desk of the VPR
Welcome back to campus from the holiday break. As I noted in my final 2017 note to campus , I hope you have come back inspired for the new semester from your different “sequestered nooks of quietude.”

My break comprised the usual early morning ritual with TSA at the Manhattan airport followed by the 10-minute dash through O’Hare to catch a connection that turned out to be late. Not to be missed: the lost baggage. Our family holiday tradition has been to gather together whenever new Star Wars movie is released and savor the film together on Christmas Eve. Yes, I was in high school when the first movie was released, and yes, I am one of those guys who was enchanted by the stories and characters. 

No spoiler alert is required here. If you haven’t seen the new Star Wars movie, I’m not going to ruin it. So, read on.

I will admit that I am captivated by the teachings of Yoda. This quote is particularly relevant for research: “Failure, the best teacher is.” The companion quote that I looked up is, “The difference between a master and a beginner is that the master has failed more times than the beginner has ever tried.” 

Yogi Berra, another of my favorite philosophers, also had a view on failure: “Failure is just another opportunity to start over." All of us involved in research know how true this is!

Maybe your research involves mixing metal salts together to make a new ceramic glaze. Perhaps it’s bringing together new chord structures in a new piece of music or considering a new mathematical relationship in your theorem. It might be attempting a new combination of chemical compounds to create a new molecule, a new circuit pattern on a chip, or trying a new methodology to improve the disease resistance in wheat. Each of us explores new paths, tests new hypotheses, or attempts to create new knowledge in our scholarly work, and each of us has experienced the steep part of a learning curve. It is the best teacher.

These learning experiences are valuable for everyone at K-State. Our students have the unique opportunity to learn from the best. When people ask me “Why should I send my daughter/son to a research university like K-State?” I respond that a research university is the best place to learn how to be successful in their careers by learning to be challenged, to learn from the attempt, to meet a difficult project head on, and to work with colleagues to discover a path forward. Like our state motto says: To the stars through adversity.

This semester, I hope you will continue to challenge our students with research questions in the classroom, studio, laboratory, or test plot. Whether for undergraduate or graduate students, K-State should continue to be the university of choice among Kansans because they know we have the best. While we all strive to be the best teachers and researchers we can be, we should also do our best at being teachable.

Happy New Year!

— Peter
Events and announcements

  • The American Geophysical Union is seeking applications for its Congressional Science Fellowship. Applications close January 15. Find more information.

  • The Golden Goose Award demonstrates human and/or economic benefits of federally funded scientific research. It also shows that scientific outcomes build upon each other and that the technological advances that flow from them cannot easily be predicted at the outset of a particular research project. Find information about nomination criteria; nominations are due January 31.

  • The National Academy of Inventors is accepting applications for the 2018 NAI Student Innovation Showcase. Selected student teams present their inventions at the 2018 NAI Conference in Washington, D.C. Apply by February 14.

Export controls training requirements
Export controls regulations can affect several research, academic, and business activities, including — but not limited to — conducting research, hosting international visitors, international collaboration, international travel, hiring, procurement and purchasing, international shipments, and other financial-related transactions.

All K-State faculty, staff, and students must be aware of how export controls relate to their work to minimize the risk of noncompliance. Training is key in helping individuals to recognize how activities they engage in may result in violations.

The Provost and the Dean’s Council recently approved the export controls training plan developed by the University Research Compliance Office. The plan identifies certain categories of employees for whom training is required. Previously, export control training was required for all full-time employees. The new training plan is narrower in scope, focusing only on employees whose job activities or supervisory responsibilities are likely to intersect with export controls.  

K-State maintains a subscription to online export controls training courses offered through the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative , or CITI, Program ( www.CITIProgram.org ). To minimize the risk for our faculty, students, and staff, export control training will be required for the following categories of employees: 

  • All staff in the Office of Vice President for Research;
  • All grant recipients;
  • All persons identified in proposed Technology Control Plans;
  • All supervisors submitting requests to hire foreign nationals (non-immigrant employees);
  • All employees submitting requests to host an international visitor;
  • All unit and department heads;
  • All employees in the units under Office of International Programs, including Education Abroad, International Student and Scholar Admissions, and International Admissions;
  • Study abroad organizers submitting a request for study abroad programs; and
  • All employees identified on an IRB, IBC, or IACUC protocol.

Visit the URCO website for additional information or contact URCO at exportcontrols@ksu.edu or 785-532-3224.
Agency news and trending topics
The National Institutes of Health is lifting a funding pause dating back to October 2014 on gain-of-function (GOF) experiments involving influenza, SARS, and MERS viruses. GOF research is important in helping us identify, understand, and develop strategies and effective countermeasures against rapidly evolving pathogens that pose a threat to public health. Other recent NIH notices:

Pfizer has announced plans to end its research efforts to discover new drugs for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. The pharmaceutical giant explained its decision, which will entail roughly 300 layoffs, as a move to better position itself "to bring new therapies to patients who need them."

In our hypercompetitive funding climate, it’s critical for investigators to write clear, cohesive, compelling proposals that foreground the science and its potential significance. With so much at stake, it’s a shame to watch a proposal rejected for something that could have been avoided with a little work upfront. Given that we have a collective 15 years of experience working with scientists to sharpen their grant proposals, we thought it might help researchers to have a list of the 10 most-common nonscientific errors we see in grant writing.

Ideas supported by well-defined and clearly described methods and evidence are one of the cornerstones of science. After several publications indicated that a substantial number of scientific reports may not be readily reproducible, the scientific community and public began engaging in discussions about mechanisms to measure and enhance the reproducibility of scientific projects. In this context, several innovative steps have been taken in recent years. The results of these efforts confirm that improving reproducibility will require persistent and adaptive responses, and as we gain experience, implementation of the best possible practices.

In 2017, Janine Caira released her magnum opus: “ Tapeworms from Vertebrate Bowels of the Earth .” The 463-page volume, which Caira edited with   University of Kansas scientist Kirsten Jensen , is the result of a eight-year effort to survey the intestinal parasites of animals from around the world. The book inventories 4,810 species collected from two oceans and every continent except Antarctica. It also introduces 211 species that are entirely new to science.

Moon missions, ancient genomes and a publishing showdown are set to shape research.
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