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Bitcoin

October 7, 2014 Comments off

Bitcoin
Source: Harvard Business School Working Papers

Bitcoin is an online communication protocol that facilitates virtual currency including electronic payments. Since its inception in 2009 by an anonymous group of developers, Bitcoin has served tens of millions of transactions with total dollar value in the billions. Users have been drawn to Bitcoin for its decentralization, intentionally relying on no single server or set of servers to store transactions and also avoiding any single party that can ban certain participants or certain types of transactions. Bitcoin is of interest to economists in part for its potential to disrupt existing payment systems and perhaps monetary systems, and also for the wealth of data it provides about agents’ behavior and about the Bitcoin system itself. This article presents the platform’s design principles and properties for a non-technical audience; reviews its past, present, and future uses; and points out risks and regulatory issues as Bitcoin interacts with the conventional financial system and the real economy.

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Power plant standards could save thousands of U.S. lives every year

October 6, 2014 Comments off

Power plant standards could save thousands of U.S. lives every year
Source: Harvard, Syracuse, Boston Universities

ower plant standards to cut climate-changing carbon emissions will reduce other harmful air pollution and provide substantial human health benefits, according to a new study. The research shows that, depending on the policy options included in the final Clean Power Plan, the power plant standards could prevent thousands of premature deaths and hospitalizations, and hundreds of heart attacks in the United States every year.

In the new study, Health Co-benefits of Carbon Standards for Existing Power Plants, scientists at Harvard, Syracuse, and Boston Universities analyzed three options for standards to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. They modeled air quality and health benefits for these scenarios and compared them to business as usual in the year 2020. The analysis is called a “co-benefits” study because it focuses on the added benefits of a carbon standard that come from reducing other harmful power plant emissions such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter. These pollutants are precursors to smog and soot that cause heart and lung disease, exacerbate asthma, and contribute to premature death.

Website linking: The growing problem of “link rot” and best practices for media and online publishers

September 12, 2014 Comments off

Website linking: The growing problem of “link rot” and best practices for media and online publishers

Source: Harvard Kennedy School of Government

The Internet is an endlessly rich world of sites, pages and posts — until it all ends with a click and a “404 not found” error message. While the hyperlink was conceived in the 1960s, it came into its own with the HTML protocol in 1991, and there’s no doubt that the first broken link soon followed.

On its surface, the problem is simple: A once-working URL is now a goner. The root cause can be any of a half-dozen things, however, and sometimes more: Content could have been renamed, moved or deleted, or an entire site could have evaporated. Across the Web, the content, design and infrastructure of millions of sites are constantly evolving, and while that’s generally good for users and the Web ecosystem as a whole, it’s bad for existing links.

In its own way, the Web is also a very literal-minded creature, and all it takes is a single-character change in a URL to break a link. For example, many sites have stopped using “www,” and even if their content remains the same, the original links may no longer work. The rise of CMS platforms such as WordPress have led to the fall of static HTML sites with their .htm and .html extensions, and with each relaunch, untold thousands of links die. And even if a core URL remains the same, many sites frequently append login information or search terms to URLs, and those are ephemeral. As the Web has grown, the problem has been complicated by search engines, which crawl the Web and archive — briefly — URLs and pages.

Chief Sustainability Officers: Who Are They and What Do They Do?

September 12, 2014 Comments off

Chief Sustainability Officers: Who Are They and What Do They Do? (PDF)
Source: Harvard Business School Working Papers

While a number of studies document that organizations go through numerous stages as they increase their commitment to sustainability over time, we know little about the role of the Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) in this process. Using survey and interview data we analyze how a CSO’s authority and responsibilities differ across organizations that are in different stages of sustainability commitment. We document increasing organizational authority of the CSO as organizations increase their commitment to sustainability moving from the Compliance to the Efficiency and then to the Innovation stage. However, we also document a decentralization of decision rights from the CSO to different functions, largely driven by sustainability strategies becoming more idiosyncratic at the Innovation stage. The study concludes with a discussion of practices that CSOs argue to accelerate the commitment of organizations to sustainability.

Smart People Ask for (My) Advice: Seeking Advice Boosts Perceptions of Competence

September 4, 2014 Comments off

Smart People Ask for (My) Advice: Seeking Advice Boosts Perceptions of Competence
Source: Harvard Business School

Although individuals can derive substantial benefits from exchanging information and ideas, many individuals are reluctant to seek advice from others. We find that people are reticent to seek advice for fear of appearing incompetent. This fear, however, is misplaced. We demonstrate that individuals perceive those who seek advice as more competent than those who do not seek advice. This effect is moderated by task difficulty, advisor egocentrism, and advisor expertise. Individuals perceive those who seek advice as more competent when the task is difficult than when it is easy, when people seek advice from them personally than when they seek advice from others, and when people seek advice from experts than from non-experts or not at all.

Emodiversity and the Emotional Ecosystem

August 22, 2014 Comments off

Emodiversity and the Emotional Ecosystem (PDF)
Source: Harvard Business School Working Papers

Bridging psychological research exploring emotional complexity and research in the natural sciences on the measurement of biodiversity, we introduce-and demonstrate the benefits of-emodiversity: the variety and relative abundance of the emotions that humans experience. Two cross-sectional studies across more than 37,000 respondents demonstrate that emodiversity is an independent predictor of mental and physical health-such as decreased depression and doctor’s visits-over and above mean levels of positive and negative emotion. These results remained robust after controlling for gender, age, and the five main dimensions of personality. Emodiversity is a practically important and previously unidentified metric for assessing the health of the human emotional ecosystem.

Dragging Patent Trolls Into the Light

August 21, 2014 Comments off

Dragging Patent Trolls Into the Light
Source: Harvard Business School Working Knowledge

Proponents say that non-practicing entities play a valuable role by sticking up for small inventors, going up against big companies that steal the ideas of entrepreneurs who are unable to fight their own legal battles. (NPEs acquire patents either by purchasing them from companies, inventors, and academic institutions, or by being assigned them in the first place for original work.) If it weren’t for NPEs, the argument goes, resource-rich companies would be free to steal ideas of small inventors without fearing retaliatory lawsuits—and this would poison the business environment.

But critics have another name for many NPEs: patent trolls. In this view, a significant number of non-practicing entities acquire patents for the sole purpose of coercing companies, mostly technology firms, into paying licensing or settlement fees (whether justified or not).

New research coauthored by Lauren H. Cohen, professor of finance at Harvard Business School; Umit G. Gurun, of University of Texas at Dallas; and Scott Duke Kominers, of the Harvard Society of Fellows, attempts to answer that question by studying which firms NPEs target in litigation, when the litigation occurs, and the impact of the legal challenges on the targeted firms’ abilities to innovate and grow. Their paper, released in July, is entitled “Patent Trolls: Evidence from Targeted Firms.”

The research concludes that NPEs not only go after the most susceptible, cash-rich targets, but in the process damage those companies’ abilities to innovate in the future.

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