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R&D Programs Weather Tough Budget Climate (So Far)
“In early November we warned that the funding outlook for science agencies this year looked to be worsening, but some new technology programs were in play. Shortly after, Congress proved us partially wrong by increasing funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) above what Congress was proposing at the beginning of the year. But Congress’ work isn’t finished for the year. Capitol Hill and the White House are actively discussing an across-the-board cut to everything that has been approved earlier this year. Rumors put the percentage cut at around 1 percent, but some have said it could be up to three percent. We won’t know the final number until Congress comes back in the beginning of December. Here are the funding figures so far:
|DOE Office of Science||$3,633,000,000||$3,600,000,000||0.92|
|NASA (top line)||$16,427,177,760||$16,100,000,000||2.03|
|DHS Cybersec Research||$16,700,000||$18,000,000||-7.22|
We will update the final numbers once Congress decides whether to apply an across-the-board cut and, if so, how much.
It is pretty shocking that Congress actually increased NSF above what either the House or Senate approved at the beginning of the year. It is even more surprising considering that the budget climate actually got much worse over that same time period. This might be the untold story of this year. Certainly one significant factor has been the tremendous drumbeat in the media and from many members of Congress about the role that research funding plays in supporting America’s global competitiveness. Tom Friedman’s book “The World is Flat” is a best seller, and Congress realizes that the American public is beginning to understand that their future is tied to innovation and the next technology breakthroughs that drive economic growth.
(From ACM Washington Update)
Turing Award Winners Earn Nation’s Highest Civilian Award
November also saw Bob Kahn and Vinton Cerf awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for their pioneering work on Internet protocols. Established by Executive Order 11085 in 1963, the Medal may be awarded by the President “to any person who has made an especially meritorious contribution to (1) the security or national interests of the United States, or (2) world peace, or (3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
In its announcement, the White House notes that the two “have been at the forefront of a digital revolution that has transformed global commerce, communication, and entertainment.” The award caps a big year for the research team. As we reported in this space previously, the pair won ACM’s 2004 A.M. Turing Award, which is often considered the Noble Prize for computing. Following the ceremony Cerf and Kahn participated in an interactive online forum — a full transcript is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/ask/20051109-2.html
(From ACM Washington Update)
Budget Reconciliation Bill Includes New Grant Program for STEM Students
A budget reconciliation bill passed by the Senate before the holidays and is expected to be passed in early February in the House includes $3.75 billion over the next five years for grants targeted to low income students who major in physical, life, or computer science; mathematics; technology; engineering; or “foreign languages that are critical to national security.”
The new Department of Education Science and Math Access to Retain Talent (SMART) Grants program was included as a mandatory funding program as part of Title IV of the Higher Education Act, which means the program is not subject to the annual appropriations process. These supplemental grants will be available to Pell-eligible college students who seek to major in the fields listed above. In the first year of study, students can receive up to $750 in assistance, which is in addition to funds they can also receive under the Pell program. In the second year, students can receive up to $1,300, and in their third and fourth years of college, they can receive up to $4,000 in assistance.
To be eligible during the first two years of the program a student must be eligible for a Pell grant and have completed a rigorous high school program. During the third and fourth years, students must enroll in one of the STEM areas listed above or a foreign language deemed necessary for national security to receive the full $4,000 amount. Recipients must maintain a 3.0 grade average to continue receiving assistance. There is no service obligation associated with the grant.
For more information, contact Jodi Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(From NSTA Legislative Update)
Nieman Reports: Intelligent Design (pdf)
From The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University comes a collection of essays for journalists about reporting on intelligent design.
OECD Review of Environmental Policy in the U.S. (pdf)
“A new OECD review of environmental policy in the U.S. recommends more efficient use of energy and water as a way to safeguard economic prosperity while protecting the environment and human health. Despite progress in some areas over the past decade, more effort is needed in others. The OECD recommends that the U.S. play a more proactive role in dealing with global environmental concerns.” Full text of the report is fee-based. However, conclusions and recommendations are available free.
The Impact of Electronic Publishing
An article by John Savarese.
NSTA Express Poll Indicates Widespread Support for National Science Standards …
A recent survey conducted in NSTA Express reveals strong support for national content standards in science, uniform assessments, and a national curriculum. The survey asked science educators if they thought a uniform set of national content standards in science that every state would be required to use is a good idea, and a resounding 71% said yes (27% said no). The results were similar when respondents were asked if they liked the idea of uniform national assessments (64% supported the idea and 34% did not) and a national science curriculum (73% supported the idea, 26% did not).
OMB policy on posting information sparks debate
The OMB Memorandum (pdf)
“The Office of Management and Budget’s new policy asking agencies to improve how they disseminate public information is at the heart of a larger battle over how much categorization is needed to make government information publicly accessible.” (From Government Computer News)
U.S. Competitiveness: The Innovation
This IEEE Website tracks legislation, new stories, and documents on this topic.
FY 2006 R&D Appropriations Wrap-Up Report (pdf)
Full Report (pdf)
“On December 30, nearly three months into the fiscal year, President Bush signed the last two FY 2006 appropriations bills into law, bringing the FY 2006 appropriations process to a close. In the FY 2006 R&D appropriations wrap-up report now available on the AAAS R&D web site (URL above), AAAS estimates that the federal R&D portfolio totals $134.8 billion in 2006, a $2.2 billion or 1.7 percent increase. But 97 percent of the increase goes to just two areas: defense weapons development and human space exploration technologies. Funding for all other federal R&D programs collectively will barely increase, and will fall nearly 2 percent after adjusting for inflation. Leaving out large federal investments in development, congressional appropriations for basic and applied research total $57.0 billion, an increase of $1.0 billion or 1.8 percent over 2005. But NASA applied research on human space flight technologies accounts for a majority of the increase, leaving most agency research portfolios with modest increases falling short of inflation, or cuts.
Many flagship federal science agencies have disappointing budgets in 2006: the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget falls for the first time in 36 years; the National Science Foundation (NSF) wins a small increase but has less in real terms for its research portfolio than in any of the last three years; the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science budget declines, and despite big increases in development funding the Department of Defense (DOD)’s basic research funding declines.
For several measures of the federal R&D investment, final FY 2006 appropriations represent another year on a downward slope from the highs of a few years ago. For trend after trend, big increases leading up to 2003 flattened out more recently, and now funding is headed down in real terms.”
NAE 2006 National Meeting Symposium: Gilbreth Lectures
A distinguished group of young engineers from the Academy’s Frontiers of Engineering program will explore leading-edge developments in several fields of engineering in the Gilbreth Lectures at the NAE National Meeting. This free event on Feb. 9 is open to the public; registration is required.
State of Science Standards, 2005.
Thomas B. Fordham Institute, 2005.
External Review Draft, Nanotechnology White Paper.
Stand-Down of Los Alamos National Laboratory: Total Costs Uncertain; Almost All Mission-Critical Programs Were Affected but Have Recovered.
Real Science — Encouraging experimentation and investigation in school science learning.
National Summit on Competitiveness, Statement of the national Summit on Competitiveness: Investing in U.S. Innovation, December 2005.
Extended Range Forecast of Atlantic Seasonal Hurricane Activity and U.S. Landfall Strike Probability for 2006.
Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, 2005.
Homeland Security: DHS Needs to Improve Ethics-Related Management Controls for the Science and Technology Directorate.
Survey of Recent Innovations in Energy Policy.
Government Innovators Network, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, 2005.
Assessing Fitness for Military Enlistment: Physical, Medical, and Mental Health Standards.
Review of NASA Plans for the International Space Station.
Linkages: Manufacturing Trends in Electronics Interconnection Technology.
Performance Measurement: Accelerating Improvement.
Supporting Local Health Care in a Chronic Crisis: Management and Financing Approaches in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Enhancing the Community College Pathway to Engineering Careers.
The Future of Technology Assessment.
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 2005.
Initial Employment Report: Physics and Astronomy Degree Recipients of 2002 & 2003.
America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science.
Assessing and Managing the Ecological Impacts of Paved Roads.
Improved Seismic Monitoring — Improved Decision-Making: Assessing the Value of Reduced Uncertainty.
Learning to Think Spatially: GIS as a Support System in the K-12 Curriculum.
Letter Report for the Committee on Prospective Benefits of DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Fossil Energy R&D Programs.
Linkages: Manufacturing Trends in Electronics Interconnection Technology.
Noise and Military Service: Implications for Hearing Loss and Tinnitus.
Safe Medical Devices for Children.
Superfund and Mining Megasites: Lessons from the Coeur d’Alene River Basin.
Systems for State Science Assessment.
Improved Seismic Monitoring — Improved Decision-Making: Assessing the Value of Reduced Uncertainty.
Treating Infectious Diseases in a Microbial World: Report of Two Workshops on Novel Antimicrobial Therapeutics.
Frequently, art imitates life, and at times, the foreshadowing power of art can shape debates about critical issues facing human kind. The Museum of the Moving Image continues this tradition with their Sloan Science Cinematheque website, which is intended to serve as a general forum that will enhance the public understanding of science and technology. The site is divided into three primary sections, including one that contains short student films, lively scholarly articles, and “Dialogues”. This last section contains video coverage of panel discussion about science and film held at the Museum’s headquarters. The student films are well worth taking a look at, as they address a wide range of themes, including urban ornithology and a city-dweller obsessed with botany. The site concludes with the articles section, which features commentary from the Museum’s curators on the recent documentary “Grizzly Man”, and the complex depiction of the late Alfred Kinsey in the film “Kinsey”. [KMG] (From the Scout Report)
Source: U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Frequently Asked Questions
The one-line description on this simple, uncluttered page says it all: “Our FAQ database contains hundreds of answers to frequently asked questions on a wide range of natural science topics.” And so it does. You can browse these by topic — they’re in alphabetical order, from aerial photographs to wildlife — or do a simple search of everything by typing a keyword or phrase in the text box provided. There are 34 topics in all, several of which pop up regularly as school report assignments, e.g., Endangered Species, Volcanoes.
By default, clicking on each FAQ topic will display 20 questions and their answers. Radio buttons at the bottom of the page allow you to display up to 100 questions and answers at a time (if that many are available for a given topic). In some cases, the source of the question and answer is available as a live link — e.g., to the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) FAQs or the National Atlas of the United States of America. This is pretty cool because it leads you to related resources outside this site.
BTW, while you’re browsing around here, you may want to also visit the USGS Library. It offers four databases:
Additionally, there are vetted collections of links to map-related sites, and U.S. and world geological surveys. You can also search the library catalog. (By Shirl Kennedy in ResourceShelf)
Ben Franklin Resources on the Web
The Benjamin Franklin web portal is a comprehensive, one-stop site that includes carefully curated educational resources, Franklin’s own writings and proverbs, and tens of thousands of websites scattered throughout cyberspace. Befitting this founding father’s leadership in establishing the country’s first public library, this free site, in honor of his Tercentenary, is accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
BBC Story on Science’s Picks for Best Science of 2005
Science — Breakthrough of 2005
NSF, 2005: Year in Review
Top Science Stories of 2005
NASA, 2005: A Year of Exploration Milestones
Best Science Photographs of 2005
Best Science Illustrations of 2005
IgNobel 2005 Awards
Each year the editors of Science choose the most important research breakthroughs of the year. In 2005, the topic is evolution. The Science site leads you to article on this topic and the runners up, including a streaming video.
NSF brings you its choices for the year in review.
Scientific American brings you their choice of the top science news stories of the year.
2005 was the International Year of Physics, and NASA and PhysicsWeb both have their lists of the most important news.
The National Geographic brings you a gallery of the best science photographs of 2005, and LiveScience the best illustrations, and these are all stunning!
And who would want to forget the science that, in the words of IgNobel’s master of ceremonies Marc Abrahams, “first makes people laugh, then makes them think”.
The FunWorks featured in Cisco Public Awareness Campaign
On November 7, 2005, Cisco Systems, Inc. and The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) launched a campaign to increase awareness about education and career opportunities for girls and women in math, computing and technology. Also partnering on the initiative is Education Development Center Inc., creators of The FunWorks—NSDL’s only career exploration collection developed specifically for and by middle school-aged youth. Other partners in the campaign include the Information Technology Association of America and the Stanford University Office of Science Outreach and Junior Achievement. The campaign is designed to address the declining interest of girls and women in information technology careers. The campaign kicks off with a letter targeting parents, educators, and girls and introduces a comprehensive digital library with a variety of resources for encouraging interest in math, computing and technology, including information about careers, local technology clubs, programs, curricula and summer camps. The campaign website features the FunWorks as a premiere resource for youth, parents and educators.
Restoring the Elwha River
Information about the “removal of two dams on Washington [state]’s Elwha River, beginning in 2008, [which] will be one of the most significant river restoration projects of our time.” Provides background material about the river; information about the dam removal and river restoration; maps; photos; “3-D photo-realistic visualizations that depict the Elwha valley before, during, and after dam removal”; and other resources about the river and the project. From the nonprofit organization American Rivers. (From Librarian’s Index to the Internet)
Animal Vegetable Video
What does a flock of sheep do when it’s alone? In 1988, Sam Easterson strapped a video camera to a sheep’s head to find out. (The answer: a lot of starting and stopping and checking in with each other). Sam has since outfitted a wide range of wild animals with his custom-designed “helmet-mounted” cameras. And, with the sample footage available here, he allows us to glimpse his astonishing work. A wolf snuffles and digs in the undergrowth; a baby chick squeakily trails another hatchling; a tarantula pads across the rocks. There’s a lot of nosing around: A wheezy pig pokes in the mud with its wide snout; an alligator nudges through the swamp, occasionally flaring its nostrils. We’re even offered a tumbleweed’s point of view as it plunges onward. The videos are choppy and brief, but they’re unfettered by human presence — and that’s enormously satisfying. (From Yahoo’s Picks of the Week)
K–12 students can view bugs under a scanning electron microscope via the World Wide Web by applying to the program and describing the type of project they want to do (from the University of Illinois). (From the Exploratorium)
The Computing Revolution
A virtual exhibit from the Boston Museum of Science covering history, hacking, predictions (both bad and good), and more.
The Grid on Tryscience
What’s “grid computing” and how can it solve huge problems like finding a cure for cancer? You’ll learn through several online and offline activities available on this site. You’ll need the free Flash Player. (From the Exploratorium)
The Web site iWASwondering.org is a project of the National Academy of Sciences intended to showcase the accomplishments of contemporary women in science and to highlight for young people the varied and intriguing careers of some of today’s most prominent female scientists. The site draws from and accompanies the publication of a ten-volume series of biographies entitled Women’s Adventures in Science, co-published by the Joseph Henry Press (an imprint of the National Academies Press) and Scholastic Library Publishing.
Seattle Power and Water Supply Collection
The western United States has been the site of some of the most ambitious public works projects in the country’s history. One only need think of massive structures such as the Hoover Dam or the Grand Coulee Dam to be reminded of the strong human desire that compels various groups of individuals to harness and control water. This latest digital collection from the University of Washington’s Digital Collections group showcases images of hydroelectric power and water supply facilities built in the state of Washington from the 1890s to the 1950s. Among its 695 images, visitors will find construction photographs of the Snoqualmie Falls Power Plant, plans for the “Seattle Water System”, and the Lower Baker River development, which was built with steam donkeys and dynamite. Understanding of these developments in public works (and the photographs themselves) is greatly enhanced by an accompanying essay on the construction of these edifices by noted local historians Paul Dorpat and Genevieve McCoy. [KMG] (From the Scout Report)
NASA and the Russian space agency have spent over forty years solving the problems of living in space. Can you match wits with their engineers and design a human habitat as good as the new International Space Station? (From Blue Web’N)
USPTO Releases Annual List of Top 10 Organizations Receiving Most U.S. Patents
IFI Announces Top Patent Winners for 2005
Source: IFI Patent Intelligence
“Using proprietary, state-of-the art indexing and standardization technology, IFI Patent Intelligence, a Wolters Kluwer business, today issued its annual compilation of the top U.S. patent winners. According to the analysis, the total number of U.S. patents issued in 2005 declined 12 percent compared to 2004. This is the second year in a row to show a decrease — 2004 posted a 2.7 percent drop. Even IBM Corp., which tops the list this year as it has for 13 straight years, saw a decline of more than 9 percent with 302 fewer patents than in 2004. At 2,972 patents, IBM’s annual total falls below the 3,000 mark for the first time since 2001. Canon and Hewlett-Packard come in at number 2 and 3 respectively, but well below IBM.” (From ResourceShelf)
Power Play: An Activity about Capturing Power
A fun online game to “capture power” by putting together some crazy virtual machines. You’ll need the free Flash Player. (From the Exploratorium)
Frontline: The Storm
This Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) Frontline program “examines how and why government at every level — local, state and federal — was unprepared, uncoordinated and overwhelmed in dealing with the Hurricane Katrina disaster.” The website features interviews, analysis, a timeline of the warnings leading up to the hurricane, excerpts from home videos, video of the program, readings and links, and a teacher’s guide. (From Librarian’s Index to the Internet)
High-quality precipitation analyses used for flood forecasts, drought monitoring and climate trends are being made available on the NOAA National Weather Service Web site on a trial basis through June 2006.
NASA: Satellite Tracking [Real Player, pdf]
Union of Concerned Scientists’ Satellite Database
1.) While NASA has offered a number of fine sites about their research for the general public over the years, this particular site may be one of their best. With a minimum of fuss, visitors can use several of the online tracking applications offered here to locate hundreds of satellites and other such large objects in space. A good way to start a visit to this site is by taking a look at the J-Track 2.5 section, as it offers a quick way to find out the current location of the Space Station and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. Additionally, visitors can also locate weather satellites using this application. The Live 3D Java Tracking Display here allows visitors to monitor close to 700 satellites that are in motion around the earth. Finally, visitors can also use a handy application offered here that allows them to determine which satellites might be seen from their location in the night sky. [KMG](From the Scout Report)
2.) Have you ever seen the distant flickering of a satellite in the night sky and wondered what country it might belong to or what it might be used for? Now you can indulge your curiosity with the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Satellite Database, the first comprehensive, easy-to-use repository of information on the more than 800 active satellites. “We are launching the database not only to feed interest, but to start a conversation about the best uses of space,” said Dr. Grego. “People can learn just how valuable satellites are by browsing through the database. Satellites serve many practical functions, from weather forecasting and television broadcasting to military spying. But many people aren’t aware that satellites could become threatened, as some in the United States government want to build weapons to destroy or interfere with satellites. It raises a slew of scientific and diplomatic questions.”
The database is in Excel format and can be downloaded on the UCS website.
NASA JPL Stardust Site
Space.com Stardust Archive
The stardust is here!
“NASA’s Stardust sample return mission returned safely to Earth when the capsule carrying cometary and interstellar particles successfully touched down at 2:10 a.m. Pacific time (3:10 a.m. Mountain time) in the desert salt flats of the U.S. Air Force Utah Test and Training Range.” In January 2004, the Stardust spacecraft flew through the coma of comet Wild2 and captured thousands of cometary dust grains in special aerogel collectors. Two years later Stardust has returned, bringing these dust grains — the first sample return from a solid solar-system body beyond the Moon — to Earth. But Stardust carries an equally important payload on the opposite side of the cometary collector: the first samples of contemporary interstellar dust ever collected. As well as being the first mission to return samples from a comet, Stardust is the first sample return mission from the Galaxy. But finding the incredibly tiny interstellar dust impacts in the Stardust Interstellar Dust Collector (SIDC) will be extremely difficult.
The Space.com website is loaded with news stories on every aspect of this project, including graphics, animations and links.
You can participate in this project through Stardust@home! “We are seeking volunteers to help us to search for these tiny samples of matter from the galaxy. Volunteers are critical to the success of this project. Please help us find the first samples of contemporary Stardust ever collected.” You can be a space explorer from the comfort of your own computer …
Molecularium: Kid Site
What lives in the nano world? You’ll find out here through interactive activities, a gallery, and more! By Rensselaer’s Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center for Directed Assembly of Nanostructures. You’ll need the free Flash Player. (From the Exploratorium)
The Library of Economics and Liberty
With substantial financial support from the Liberty Fund, Inc. the Library of Economics and Liberty is “dedicated to advancing the study of economics, markets, and liberty.” The site will be a real treat for anyone with a penchant for these issues, and perhaps may even spark a new interest for the first-time visitor. The site’s features include a number of features columns, definitive editions of classics in the fields of political theory and economics, and a number of annotated bibliographies. For those looking for some contemporary perspectives on related issues, they need look no further than the Library’s homepage. Visitors can read reflections on “licit globalization” from Ibsen Martinez and a piece titled “Why is Economics so Boring?” from Boston College’s Donald Cox. For a bit of fun, visitors can also view a list of upcoming birthdays of notable economists such as Gunnar Myrdal and others. [KMG] (From the Scout Report)
“The Mummy Who Would Be King”
It is a tantalizing idea and an outrageous long-shot: a shriveled mummy with crossed arms that has lain neglected on a dusty museum shelf at Niagara Falls could be the remains of a long-lost Egyptian king. While a trail of clues hints at how the looted mummy made its way to North America, archeologists, scientists, and even an orthodontist look to the latest genetic testing and imaging techniques in hopes of ascertaining the body’s hidden identity. “The Mummy Who Would Be King” reveals an astounding story filled with historical intrigue and the wonders of forensic science.
On the NOVA Web site:
Resources for Economists on the Internet
“Resources for Economists on the Internet is a categorized list of resources relevant to economists, with categories like Data, Forecasting & Consulting, and Software. Don’t forget to use the Details link for each of the listings — there’s plenty more information available.
RFE now has a search engine as well. The ESE (Economics Search Engine) uses Nutch to index 300,000 pages from 10,000 economics sites around the Internet. Materials indexed include text, PDF, and Microsoft Word files.” (From ResearchBuzz)
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GEORGE MASON DEVELOPS ACADEMIC BROWSER ADD-ON
Researchers at George Mason University are developing a plug-in for the Firefox browser that will help academics organize sources and properly cite them. The tool is designed to harvest bibliographic information from online sources and organize it for someone doing research on the Web. Assuming the bibliographic elements are formatted in a way the software can recognize, the application will parse title, author, and other information and correlate it with the source. Daniel J. Cohen, assistant professor of history and one of the developers, said it can be thought of as “incredibly smart bookmarking… You’re not just bookmarking the page, but you’re automatically [capturing]…all that info that scholars want to save.” Unlike commercial products that organize sources, the new application will tie directly into the browser, eliminating the step of manually collecting citation details. The open source application is expected to be completed next year and will be available for no charge from George Mason’s Web site. Cohen said he believes the application will make unintentional plagiarism less likely than if a researcher were keeping sources organized manually.
Chronicle of Higher Education, 6 December 2005 (sub. req’d) (via Edupage)
EXPERT-EDITED ALTERNATIVE TO WIKIPEDIA
Larry Sanger, a co-founder of Wikipedia, plans to launch a project called Digital Universe that will take advantage of public input for its content but rely on acknowledged experts to edit the submissions. Material will be free, with copyrighted material available to subscribers for a fee. A number of institutions have already signed up for the project, including the American Museum of Natural History and the National Council for Science and the Environment. Sanger has raised $10 million in start-up funding.
The Register, 19 December 2005 (via Edupage)
UNIVERSITY LOOKS FOR TECHNOPHOBES FOR STUDY
Researchers at the University of Dundee are looking for subjects for a study about how to make technology more appealing to users who are not especially comfortable with the latest gadgets. Alex Carmichael, research fellow at the university, said, “Unfortunately a lot of ’modern technology’ tends to be designed by relatively young and technically savvy people, effectively for other young, technically savvy people.” Many users may believe in the advantages of technology but are uneasy with having to learn how it works. In addition, the change between 2008 and 2012 from analog to digital television will force many users to adjust to new technology, whether they want to or not. The research project, which is seeking individuals over 40 who have difficulty adapting to technology, will look at ways to smooth that transition, including changes to interfaces and controls and possibly using new devices for purposes that would be more appropriate for users in their 40s.
BBC, 6 January 2006 (via Edupage)
USPTO TO WORK WITH OPEN SOURCE DEVELOPERS
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will participate in a series of efforts intended to improve the quality of software patents and reduce the time and money organizations currently spend challenging and defending patents, particularly for open source applications. As open source technologies have flourished, high-profile disputes over the validity of software patents and over so-called prior art have become a common aspect of intellectual property concerns. Many have faulted the USPTO for issuing too many patents, saying that many of them rely on components developed by others. The patent office will work with open source developers and industry to establish more and clearer channels of communication about technologies. Such an open exchange of information, it is hoped, will reduce the number of unwarranted patents issued while minimizing the efforts spent defending legitimate patents. In another initiative, the USPTO will develop a quality index for patents.
New York Times, 10 January 2006 (registration req’d) (via Edupage)
DHS GRANT FUNDS OPEN SOURCE RESEARCH
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has awarded a $1.24 million, three-year contract to improve the quality of open source software. Given the growing reliance on open source technologies for infrastructure that underpins national security, DHS expects to see real benefits from the grant. The award will be split among Stanford University, Symantec, and Coverity, a firm that specializes in code analysis. Rob Rachwald, senior director of marketing at Coverity, said, “The DHS in many ways is obviously brokering this and they are the main beneficiary.” For the grant, Coverity will identify security flaws and risks; Stanford will offer academic analysis of trends and provide opinions about the relative security of various technologies; and Symantec will provide consulting on how governmental agencies can incorporate open source products in a secure fashion into their own applications.
Internet News, 11 January 2006 (via Edupage)
This site from Seed Magazine and artist Jonathan Harris visually explores “the space where science meets culture.” (Jonathan Harris also designed our 10th Anniversary Netrospective, and we’re unabashed fans.) Here’s what happens on Phylotaxis: A program scours the Web for science news. It then transforms the articles into small, colorful beads that shimmer just slightly and form a circle. Move your cursor over the beads, and they enlarge and spread. Click, and a story emerges. A ball of bright blues and greens reveals an article on Martian water; a black, metallic ring leads to an examination of Iran’s space program. The small disks, the colors, and the articles shift and update as new stories emerge online. Agitate the circles, load new ones, and select by date or theme. Or do what we did, which is browse and marvel. (From Yahoo’s Picks of the Week)
British Library Puts Mozart Online
In celebration of the 250th anniversary of the birth of W. A. Mozart, the British Library has placed pages from the composer’s “Catalogue of Aall My Works” online. Mozart compiled the diary of sorts between February 1784 and December 1791, making entries for 145 of his works. For each entry, Mozart wrote the title, date it was composed, and instruments that should perform it. For some works, the composer also identified who commissioned it, where it was composed, and singers who performed it. Mozart then added to the diary the opening bars of each work included. For the project, the British Library commissioned the Royal College of Music to record those opening bars for about half of the works in the diary. Visitors to the Web site can see Mozart’s notes and click on a link to hear the recording of the opening. BBC, 12 January 2006 (via Edupage). Check this same site for Leonardo’s sketches, the first atlas of Europe, Alice in Wonderland, and more …
All items from the Scout Report are copyright Susan Calcari, 1994-2006. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of the Scout Report provided the copyright notice and this paragraph is preserved on all copies. The InterNIC provides information about the Internet to the US research and education community under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation: NCR-9218742. The Government has certain rights in this material.
Blue Web’n is a searchable library of Blue-Ribbon Web sites categorized by grade level, content area, and type. Visit Blue Web’n online at http://www.kn.pacbell.com/wired/bluewebn/.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this newsletter are those of the participants (authors), and do not necessarily represent the official views, opinions, or policy of the National Science Foundation.