October 3, 2018
Funding Connection

  • The National Science Foundation Understanding the Rules of Life: Building a Synthetic Cell solicitation seeks participants for an Ideas Lab to facilitate the generation and execution of innovative research projects aimed at designing, fabricating, and validating synthetic cells that express specified phenotypes. 
  • The Bibliographical Society of America funds fellowships each year to foster the study of books and other textual artifacts. Topics relating to books and manuscripts in any field and of any period are eligible for consideration as long as they include analysis of the physical object as historical evidence. 
  • Read more of this week's featured opportunities
From the desk of the VPR
October is Biosafety Month.  The American Biological Safety Association, ABSA, advocates for “Promoting a Culture of Biosafety and Responsibility” in academic, government, and private sector laboratories and field stations and reminds everyone that we need to pay attention to biosafety and biosecurity standards in particular.

However, biosafety isn’t just about the regulations; it’s not just compliance. Safety, broadly speaking, should be part of a professional culture on our campus. As faculty, we teach content, skills, and techniques, and we advise, mentor, and promote our students and alumni who turn to us to establish and practice disciplinary professional standards.

We celebrate so many aspects of the Wildcat culture at Kansas State : our academic programs, clubs, and other student organizations; KSUnite; athletics; and our engaged alumni and stakeholders — the K-State Family. Let’s also embrace a culture of safety for the sake of our Family.

Whether you are teaching or learning in a life sciences laboratory, or involved in any learning or research environment on campus, take some time this month to review and refresh your safe operating protocols. Check the expiration dates on containers and properly dispose of unnecessary materials and clutter. Look after the people around you, and create a culture of safety.

I hope you will consider joining me and three other chemical professionals in a free webinar next Thursday, October 11, at 1 pm Central Time offered by the American Chemical Society on Laboratory Safety. You may register for the webinar at www.acs.org/acswebinars .

Stay safe, K-State.

— Peter
Events and announcements

  • The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research will expand and refine the FFAR Challenge Areas for 2019. Provide input on the realignment and the training needs of the next generation of agricultural researchers and find registration information for FFAR's public meeting on October 12, 2018.

  • So, you think you can dance (your Ph.D.)? This is the 11th year of the “Dance Your Ph.D.” contest sponsored by AAAS and Science, challenging scientists to explain their research without PowerPoint slides or jargon—in fact with no talking at all. The deadline for submissions is January 14, 2019. Find instructions.
Find funding through DoD programs
Learn about Department of Defense funding opportunities through the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program and the Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative at training sessions hosted by the Office of Research Development and conducted by McAllister & Quinn on October 25.

  • The CDMRP originated in 1992 via a Congressional appropriation to foster novel approaches to biomedical research in response to the expressed needs of its stakeholders (the American public, the military, and Congress).
  • Programs orient around 29 focus areas under the CDMRP umbrella and support 7 other Department of Defense programs/project investing in groundbreaking research, targeting critical gaps and supporting both the next generation of researchers and established scientists as well as the full spectrum of research development, including basic, translational, and clinical research. 
  • This session is October 25, 9:00 to 10:30 a.m. in Union 206.

  • MURI efforts involve teams of researchers investigating high-priority topics and opportunities that intersect with more than one traditional technical discipline.
  • For many military problems, this multidisciplinary approach serves to stimulate innovations, accelerate research progress, and expedite transition of results into naval applications. The Army Research Office, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the Office of Naval Research solicited proposals in 24 topic areas important to the Department of Defense and the Services. 
  • This session is October 25, 9:00 to 10:30 a.m. in Union 207.
Introducing the K-State Facility Security Office
Security of research data and intellectual property has been much in the news in recent months. The National Institutes of Health recently announced that it is investigating whether U.S. scientists are sharing ideas with foreign governments. In an April hearing, House Science Committee leaders expressed deep concern about foreign espionage campaigns targeted at academic institutions and explored how to balance countermeasures with maintaining a welcoming environment for international  scholars

The K-State Facility Security Office, or FSO, is focused on ensuring that K-State maintains national security along with an open research environment. The FSO role is mandated by government regulations and is focused on administrative rather than physical building security. 

  • Our Facility Security Officers are Craig A. Beardsley and Jonathan Snowden. Craig and Jonathan collaborate with and support many topic areas and offices in the research realm, including the University Research Compliance Office, the K-State Research Foundation, and the Biosecurity Research Institute.
  • They have been and will continue to be involved in protecting K-State research and intellectual property and in communicating what they learn from law enforcement and intelligence entities.
  • They also listen to the concerns of university faculty and staff and have prepared a presentation to inform researchers and staff members how they can safeguard their work. 

The FSO is here to help investigators protect themselves and to facilitate cooperation between K-State and state and federal governments.
Agency news and trending topics
Two scientists who pioneered an entirely new way to treat cancer have won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. James Allison at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and Tasuku Honjo at Kyoto University in Japan will share the 9 million Swedish kronor (US$1 million) prize.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) in Alexandria, Virginia, has made  several tweaks  to its grant proposal policies in recent years to keep staff and reviewers from being overwhelmed by the rising number of submissions. But some biologists say the  latest change goes too far . Last month, NSF’s biology directorate announced that researchers could submit only one proposal a year in which they are listed as a principal investigator (PI) or co-PI. The cap applies only to the directorate’s three core tracks and excludes several other NSF programs from which many biologists receive support. The new limit is intended to reduce the number of rejected proposals resubmitted without major changes, says Alan Tessier, the biology directorate’s deputy assistant director.

Scientists call it “the valley of death.” Pharmaceutical and medical research tends to follow a well-worn path in the U.S.: In its early stages, research is funded by the government and nonprofits, and conducted at universities and research institutes. At the end of its life cycle, when the outline of a promising drug or treatment takes shape, venture capitalists and drug companies show up with checkbooks. It’s in the middle when things fall apart. ... That’s where so-called bio-bonds come in. A bill introduced in Congress in July, the Faster Treatments and Cures for Eye Diseases Act, introduces an entirely new financial instrument for funding disease research, with the hope of bringing new classes of investors, and thus new money, into the process.

In July 2016, a group of archaeologists commissioned a small plane—along with special pilots—to fly over the thick jungle canopy in northern Guatemala, near the border with Mexico. Cruising well above the trees, the pilots combed the area, pointing three lasers at the ground that fired 300,000 pulses of light per second. Over 12 days, the team used  the lasers  to create one of the largest-scale maps of Maya cities built between 1000 BC to 1500 AD. Although archaeologists have surveyed slivers of these metropolitan ruins in the past, the new maps showcase entire cities for the first time, putting the Maya’s formidable pyramids, city roads, and farming terraces in context.

For academics on the tenure track, the pressure to publish at all costs and in the top journals in their field is immense. That’s because meeting that professional standard matters — a lot.How much does it matter for academic economists? A  new working paper  by James J. Heckman, a Nobel laureate and economist, and Sidharth Moktan, a predoctoral fellow, provides a look. ... The outsize influence of T he American Economic Review , Econometrica , the  Journal of Political Economy , The Quarterly Journal of Economics , and  The Review of Economic Studies  is referred to in the paper’s subtitle as “The Tyranny of the Top Five.”
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