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Over the holidays I read The Most Powerful Idea in the World, a brilliant chronicle by William Rosen of the many innovations it took to harness steam power. Among the most important were a new way to measure the energy output of engines and a micrometer dubbed the "Lord Chancellor," able to gauge tiny distances. Such measuring tools, Rosen writes, allowed inventors to see if their incremental design changes led to the improvements-higher-quality parts, better performance, and less coal consumption-needed to build better engines. Innovations in steam power demonstrate a larger lesson: Without feedback from precise measurement, Rosen writes, invention is "doomed to be rare and erratic." With it, invention becomes "commonplace."
Of course, the work of our foundation is a world away from the making of steam engines. But in the past year I have been struck again and again by how important measurement is to improving the human condition. You can achieve amazing progress if you set a clear goal and find a measure that will drive progress toward that goal-in a feedback loop similar to the one Rosen describes. This may seem pretty basic, but it is amazing to me how often it is not done and how hard it is to get right.
The cash-strapped National Institutes of Health is considering potentially major changes in its grant-awards system, including a greater reliance on a system that evaluates researchers rather than their proposals.
Addressing his advisory committee on Thursday, the agency's director, Francis S. Collins, said that a decade of experience with the NIH Director's Pioneer Award Program has proved that approach's success, and that it's time to consider expanding it throughout the agency.
Dear Colleagues: The Political Science Program at NSF will be holding its regular and dissertation competitions this spring. As usual, the deadline for both competitions is January 15th with results being announced between the middle of May and early June.
Overhead payments to universities conducting federally sponsored medical research have been increasing faster than grant values, cutting the efficiency of taxpayer support for scientific discovery, Congressional auditors warned last week.
The payments by the National Institutes of Health for so-called indirect costs—meaning facility and administrative expenses—rose 16.9 percent from 2003 to 2012, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said in a report. But average grant payments to scientists rose only 11.7 percent during that period, the report said.
The American Association of University Professors, in a draft report that documents recent battles over faculty intellectual property, has recommended a detailed set of principles it says colleges should adopt to protect the inventions, courses, writings, and other materials produced by professors.
The report's 10 principles center on such issues as how sponsored-research agreements are managed, shared governance and the management of inventions, and exclusive and nonexclusive licensing. The goal, the association says, is for colleges to incorporate the principles into faculty handbooks and collective-bargaining agreements..
Hearing a lot about open access these days but not sure what it means for scholarly publishing? Here is an informative and entertaining video that explains the open access movement and some reasons why it is gaining momentum.
Powerful private foundations are drawing increased scrutiny as their influence on the agenda for higher-education reform has grown, but their role is not a particularly new one in the history of American academe, according to panelists at a discussion on Friday at New York University.
The discussion, "Private Dollars for Public Purposes: Are Foundations Setting the Agenda for Higher-Education Reform?," considered whether the dominance of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Lumina Foundation is sidelining disparate voices on important policy debates.
Today, Global Impact released the results of a research report, “Giving Beyond Borders: A Study of Global Giving by U.S. Corporations,” at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civic Leadership Center’s (BCLC) annual corporate social responsibility conference. Global Impact President and CEO Scott Jackson is set to speak at the BCLC event this afternoon and will share details of the study’s findings with attendees. The study, commissioned by Global Impact and researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, explores the scope and depth of international giving by U.S. corporations.
As you know, the federal government partially shut down at midnight last night, and while we believe this disruption will be relatively short, we do not yet know when normal business will resume. We understand how unsettling this is to both researchers and students whose work and education is supported by federal funding, and we will keep you updated with all the information we have.
As of this point: Researchers whose work is supported by federal funds should continue their activities unless otherwise advised by your agency or program. Specific contingency plans from those federal agencies which have made plans available appear on the OSP website in the blog section: