Tuesday, January 20, 2015

New Steps to Enhance Transparency and Accountability at the National Science Foundation

National Science Foundation
January 13, 2015
 
Over the last year, the National Science Foundation has taken new steps to enhance transparency and accountability. This notice focuses on efforts to clarify NSF's award abstracts, which serve a different purpose than the project summary that is submitted as part of a proposal.

Effective December 26, 2014, NSF's updated Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) (NSF 15-1) includes the following statement about award abstracts: "Should a proposal be recommended for award, the PI (Principal Investigator) may be contacted by the NSF Program Officer for assistance in preparation of the public award abstract and its title. An NSF award abstract, with its title, is an NSF document that describes the project and justifies the expenditure of Federal funds."  Read more

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Big-Data Scientists Face Ethical Challenges After Facebook Study

Paul Vooson, Chronicle of Higher Education
December 15, 2014
 
Though it may not feel like it when you see the latest identity-affirming listicle shared by a friend on Facebook, we are a society moving toward evidence. Our world is ever more quantified, and with such data, flawed or not, the tools of science are more widely applied to our decisions. We can do more than observe our lives, the idea goes. We can experiment on them.

No group lives that ethos more than the life-hacking coders of Silicon Valley. Trading on Internet-wired products that allow continuous updates and monitoring, programmers test their software while we use it, comparing one algorithmic tweak against another—the A/B test, as it’s known. As we browse the web, we are exposed to endless manipulations. Many are banal—what font gets you to click more?—and some are not.

Last summer the technologists discovered how unaware everyone else was of this new world. After Facebook, in collaboration with two academics, published a study showing how positive or negative language spreads among its users, a viral storm erupted. Facebook "controls emotions," headlines yelled. Jeffrey T. Hancock, a Cornell University professor of communications and information science who collaborated with Facebook, drew harsh scrutiny. The study was the most shared scientific article of the year on social media. Some critics called for a government investigation.  Read more

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Two NSF Grants That Have Drawn Republican Scrutiny

Paul Baskin, Chronicle of Higher Education
December 8, 2014

The Republican leadership of the House science committee has repeatedly criticized the National Science Foundation’s research choices. In many cases, detailed examinations have shown that, while there may be partisan reasons underlying the complaints, the disputes are often marked by misunderstandings. Two examples concern projects involving the environment and mechanics.  Read more

What Do House Republicans Want From the NSF?

Paul Basken, Chronicle of Higher Education
December 8, 2014

Republicans leading the House science committee have spent much of the past two years ratcheting up the pressure on the National Science Foundation. They’ve sought information on several dozen grants awarded by the NSF. They’ve made increasingly strident attacks on some of its choices. And for several weeks now, committee representatives have been trekking out to NSF offices in Arlington, Va., to inspect grant paperwork.

The oversight campaign has left researchers worried that the committee is trying to impose partisan priorities on scientific processes. But a committee aide involved in the work said the panel’s escalating pressure could ease soon. All it would take, the aide said, is for the NSF to meet a demand made by Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the committee’s chairman: that each new grant award include a brief summary explaining the project’s value.  "Immediately, it would change the nature of the dialogue," the aide said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.  Read more

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Spending Down, Atlantic Philanthropies to Share Lessons Learned

Philanthropy News Digest
November 4, 2014
 
With $1 billion left to spend before it closes its doors in 2016, Atlantic Philanthropies is planning to award even larger grants and fellowships than it has in the past and to share the lessons it has learned in the process of giving away $7.5 billion over more than thirty years, the New York Times reports.  Read more

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

New Rules for Human-Subject Research Are Delayed and Debated

November 3, 2014
Christopher Shea, Chronicle of Higher Education

When I. Glenn Cohen, a professor at Harvard Law School and director of a bioethics center there, helped to organize a conference in 2012 about the future of research on human subjects, he says he worried about being "late to the party."
In 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services had floated some ideas for changes in the rules governing such research. The aim was both to better protect the subjects and to reduce the much-resented bureaucratic burden on professors and university staff members.  Mr. Cohen needn’t have worried about tardiness. Today, more than two years after the conference, the regulations remain just where they were in 2011: still under development.  Read more

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Columbia U. to Pay $9-Million to Settle Federal Claims Over AIDS Grants

Andrew Mytelka, Chronicle of Higher Education 
October 29, 2014
 
Columbia University has admitted wrongdoing and agreed to pay $9-million to settle a federal lawsuit accusing it of mismanaging federal grants for AIDS research, reports Capital, an online news service covering New York.

According to the office of the federal prosecutor that handled the case, the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs, a unit of Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, filed claims for reimbursement citing work that was not done. Columbia received millions of dollars under more than 75 federal grants to prevent AIDS and HIV, but it was required to track the work of employees and submit that tally in order to obtain the grant money.  Read more