February 7, 2018
Funding Connection

  • The National Science Foundation Sociology Program supports basic research on all forms of human social organization (societies, institutions, groups and demography) and processes of individual and institutional change.
  • The University of Kansas Center for Molecular Analysis of Disease Pathways (CMADP) requests proposals from faculty, at Kansas research universities, whose research embraces the molecular analysis of disease pathways in the broadest sense.
  • Read more of this week's featured opportunities
From the desk of the VPR
This past weekend, as the President of the American Chemical Society (ACS), I convened a Safety Summit with leaders of ACS, the Chemical Safety Board, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and numerous corporate, academic, and national laboratory representatives and stakeholders to discuss the challenges and opportunities related to laboratory safety, primarily in academic laboratories. In light of several high-level reports over the past few years, it was time for action.

Recently, we have heard more and seen more attention paid to the topic of laboratory safety. A number of unfortunate incidents have shed light on something missing from our research community. The reaction by those outside academia and industry has been escalating over time, the repercussions have been harsh, and the veil of indemnity has been torn asunder. Organizations like ACS, APLU, and some universities, among others, have sounded the clarion, and we must answer its call.

No university, no company (large or small), and no organization can be a great one without being a safe one.   

In my 35 years in research, I have learned that safety isn’t just about me. Each of us has someone who depends on us, cares for us, loves and respects us – friends, family, and colleagues. They rely on us to be safe, to think about safety, and to come home safe. No experiment or trial, no process or technique, no result is so important that we should ignore safety.  My goal is to help K-State RAMP up safety: Recognize hazards, Assess risk, Minimize those risks, and Prepare for emergencies.

This past year, we created a team to review our practices in Environmental Health and Safety and the University Research Compliance Office, identify gaps, and begin to develop a plan to advance K-State research.  During the rest of the semester, we will be working with campus to address our gaps and create an environment conducive to supporting learning and creative endeavors.

No other activity can have a greater impact on renewing the public trust and value in research than demonstrating that its practitioners care about people. No other activity can have a greater impact on diversifying our community and our professionals than creating an inclusive and safe working environment for everyone. No other activity can prepare our students to be the change agents we expect than to instill in them an ethos of safety.

— Peter
Events and announcements
  • The Office of the Vice President for Research is hosting a viewing location for a webinar series about creating university-industry relationships. The sessions are every other Wednesday beginning February 7 from 12 noon to 1:15 p.m. Find the details.

  • The BioKansas Q1 BioBreak is February 15 at 4:00 p.m. at the University of Kansas Bioscience & Technology Business Center in Lawrence. Find the details and register.

  • Applications for the ComSciCon 2018 National Workshop are due March 1. The workshop is June 14-16 in Boston. ComSciCon helps participants build communication skills that scientists and other technical professional need to express ideas to different audiences. Find more information.

  • Proposals for Faculty Development Awards and University Small Research Grants are due March 5. Attend an information session to learn about the application and review process February 8 or 21 at 3:30 p.m. in Union 207. Find more information.

  • The 2018 NASA Fundamental Physics Workshop is April 9-11 in La Jolla, California. The workshop will provide a forum for NASA fundamental physics investigators to present results and discuss research ideas for future space experimentation with interested international and U.S. colleagues. All interested scientists, researchers and NASA/NSF managers are invited to participate. The participation of current NASA-funded investigators is strongly encouraged and kindly requested. There is no registration fee. Submit abstracts by February 16, 2018; register by March 9, 2018. Find more information and register.

Understand the laboratory sign system
In recent years, the regulations that govern research have increased significantly at the federal, state, and local levels. Health and safety functions have therefore become increasingly integral to the overall success of higher education institutions .

As such, the mission of the Department of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) at K-State is to support uninterrupted research and learning within a safe and healthy environment. In addition, EHS supports our researchers’ efforts to achieve compliance with applicable federal, state, and local environmental and safety statutes, regulations, enforceable agreements, and permit requirements.

K-State EHS has worked with Manhattan Fire Department and safety representatives on campus to develop the K-State laboratory sign system , which provides information that aids lab workers, hazardous materials response teams, and fire response efforts — plus facilitates emergency communications.

  • The lab sign system allow those entering the lab to see at a glance the nature of the laboratory hazards, the required personal protective equipment (PPE), what precautions are needed, and general hazards that may be present. This system fulfills various related regulations and funding entity expectations.

  • The use of a standardized system for laboratory signs is required to provide consistent information to emergency responders, students, faculty, and staff. The “language” of the signage is communicated in training and will become part of emergency response procedures and communications.     
  • All laboratories on the Manhattan campus must have these signs posted at lab entrances. Completing and submitting the sign form registers your laboratory with EHS. It is extremely important to complete the process by clicking the Submit button, then clicking Send on the email message that automatically pops up. If the form is not submitted and sent, EHS will have no record of your lab registration.

  • Submitting the completed form sends lab-specific information to K-State Police and EHS, thus eliminating the need to provide this information separately. Having this central repository of information allows the K-State Police Dispatch office to provide up-to-date information to emergency responders or promptly contact the PI, lab personnel, or department representative in the event of an incident in their lab(s). 

EHS staff are always happy to field questions or provide assistance; contact EHS at safety@ksu.edu or 785-532-5856.
Agency news and trending topics
Last month, NIH announced a revision (NOT-OD-18-116) to a decades-old policy originally conceived in response to concerns that children were not appropriately included in clinical research. These changes broaden the policy to address inclusion of research participants of all ages, and as discussed at the last Advisory Committee to the NIH Director meeting, will apply beginning in 2019 to all NIH-supported research involving human subjects.

The typically tame world of academic publishing got heated last year, as several journals took flak for editorial decisions about content regarding historically marginalized groups. Now one of those journals has a plan to “transform.” “I have no illusions about what an enormous challenge this will be, and I fully expect it will make people unhappy on both sides of the barricades,” said Alex Lichtenstein, professor of history at Indiana University at Bloomington and editor of  American Historical Review , in a  new column announcing changes to the journal.

Brenda Fitzgerald, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), resigned abruptly [on January 31]. She stepped down on the heels of   a report from Politico  that she had purchased stock in a large tobacco company 1 month into her tenure leading the nation’s top public health agency, which devotes itself to persuading smokers to quit and warning kids not to take up the habit.

As a midcareer scientist, I’ve sat through more unintelligible seminars than I can remember. (Which is kind of the point; they were unintelligible, so I don’t remember them.) I used to wholeheartedly blame my own shortcomings when I’d fail to maintain eager-squirrel-level fascination in the speaker’s topic—until I realized the failure was not always mine. Some seminars are, in a word, hideous.

We've long known that our flu vaccines aren't built to last, or to tackle every strain. But pharma companies don't have an incentive to research drugs that will make them less money—not while current vaccines are good enough to make them $3 billion a year. To drive those new vaccines forward, medicine needs a Manhattan Project-style investment, pulling on resources outside the drug industry to force a new generation of vaccines into existence.

After decades of effort, scientists have finally managed to derive embryonic stem (ES) cells from cows and keep them in their primitive state in a dish. Access to these versatile cells, which can become all kinds of tissues, from skin to muscle to bone, could make it easier to tweak and preserve useful genetic traits of beef and dairy breeds. 
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