Archive for the ‘Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars’ Category

A Guide for Communicating Synthetic Biology

December 4, 2014 Comments off

A Guide for Communicating Synthetic Biology
Source: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

As the synthetic biology field advances, the need increases for methods to communicate to the public the scientific findings and applications born from synthetic biology. This document provides a set of guidelines that may help organizations, institutions, journalists, and others discuss synthetic biology with various audiences. The “Communication Process” section incorporates key concepts that communicators should keep in mind during message development and delivery, ensuing discussions, and any evaluations that follow. It is also important to consider “Message Content,” which is covered in the second section. These recommendations are based on studies focused on the perception of synthetic biology, its potential risks and benefits, and the issues surrounding the science. These recommendations are based on public perception research, focus group discussions, and cautionary tales about the hype surrounding the nascent field of synthetic biology. This guide aims to help communicators shape and deliver their messages about synthetic biology in ways that achieve their goals, while still informing the public about the potential benefits and risks of the science in a balanced way.

Helping Parents, Helping Children: Two-Generation Mechanisms

May 30, 2014 Comments off

Helping Parents, Helping Children: Two-Generation Mechanisms
Source: The Future of Children (Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs/Brookings Institution)
From Executive Summary (PDF)

It’s a stark fact: Despite decades of efforts to give them a leg up through preschool and other early-childhood initiatives, children from poor families still show up for kindergarten far behind children from wealthier families, and they fall further behind during the school years.

Poor children’s school problems start with the quality of the home environment. Parents and the home environment they create exert a powerful influence on children, beginning before they are born and continuing throughout childhood. Study after study has shown large differences in the home environment by income, all of them favoring children from more affluent families. For example, among many other disadvantages, poorer children spend less time reading or being read to, spend less time talking with adults, and hear far fewer words each week.

Because the home environment is so important for children’s development, many people think that “two-generation” programs, which serve parents and children simultaneously with high-quality interventions, can be more effective (and perhaps more efficient) than programs that serve them individually. The hope is that we can work through parents to make preschool interventions more effective, while helping parents at the same time. Several promising demonstration programs are under way.

This issue of Future of Children assesses past and current two-generation programs. But it goes much further than that. The editors identified six widely acknowledged mechanisms or pathways through which parents, and the home environment they create, are thought to influence children’s development: stress, education, health, income, employment, and assets. Understanding how these mechanisms of development work—and when, where, and how they harm or help—should aid us in designing interventions that boost children’s intellectual and socioemotional development, strengthen families, and help close academic gaps between students from poor and more affluent families.

Connecting Grassroots and Government for Disaster Response

December 3, 2013 Comments off

Connecting Grassroots and Government for Disaster Response
Source: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Leaders in disaster response are finding it necessary to adapt to a new reality. Although community actions have always been the core of the recovery process, collective action from the grassroots has changed response operations in ways that few would have predicted. Using new tools that interconnect over expanding mobile networks, citizens can exchange information via maps and social media, then mobilize thousands of people to collect, analyze, and act on that information. Sometimes, community-sourced intelligence may be fresher and more accurate than the information given to the responders who provide aid. This report explores approaches to the questions that commonly emerge when building an interface between the grassroots and government agencies, with a particular focus on the accompanying legal, policy, and technology challenges.

Connecting Grassroots to Government for Disaster Management: Workshop Summary

September 27, 2013 Comments off

Connecting Grassroots to Government for Disaster Management: Workshop Summary
Source: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

The growing use of social media and other mass collaboration technologies is opening up new opportunities in disaster management efforts, but is also creating new challenges for policymakers looking to incorporate these tools into existing frameworks. The Commons Lab, part of the Science & Technology Innovation Program, hosted a September 2012 workshop bringing together emergency responders, crisis mappers, researchers, and software programmers to discuss issues surrounding the adoption of these new technologies. This report discusses the key findings, policy suggestions, and success stories that emerged during the workshop.

The Criminal Diaspora: The Spread of Transnational Organized Crime and How to Contain its Expansion

September 4, 2013 Comments off

The Criminal Diaspora: The Spread of Transnational Organized Crime and How to Contain its Expansion
Source: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

The Criminal Diaspora: The Spread of Transnational Organized Crime and How to Contain its Expansion, examines the multiple factors leading to the international expansion and diffusion of organized crime networks. Government efforts to dismantle or displace criminal groups have helped push them beyond traditional borders, while new markets and rising demand for illicit products have led criminal groups to expand their networks. To account for this phenomenon, The Criminal Diaspora moves beyond the analysis of specific countries to examine “criminal clusters,” such as the so-called “Mexican cartels”—with international linkages between criminal groups operating in the United States, Central America, and the Andes—as well as Colombian and Brazilian clusters. Many criminal groups have now established links and operations throughout the hemisphere and beyond, including in Africa and Europe. New and expanding illicit markets, the fragmentation of criminal organizations, and increased deportations of criminals from the United States to Latin America have contributed to what the authors call a criminal diaspora, the spread of crime and violence throughout the region and beyond.

Transforming Earthquake Detection and Science through Citizen Seismology

July 10, 2013 Comments off

Transforming Earthquake Detection and Science through Citizen Seismology
Source: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and other scientific institutions are using social media and crowdsourcing to learn more about earthquakes, according to a new report. These techniques provide inexpensive and rapid data to augment and extend the capabilities provided by traditional monitoring techniques.

The new report, Transforming Earthquake Detection and Science Through Citizen Seismology, released by the Commons Lab at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, outlines these groundbreaking citizen science projects.

The report describes how the USGS and others are engaging the public and advancing earthquake monitoring and knowledge of seismic events. The ultimate goal, according to the USGS, is to provide more rapid earthquake detection and generate more real-time hazard and impact information.

The efforts discussed in the report include the Tweet Earthquake Dispatch (TED), which uses an algorithm to provide seismologists with initial alerts of earthquakes felt around the globe via Twitter in less than two minutes. The report also examines the Quake Catcher Network, which equips the public with low-cost sensors to collect information on seismic activity, and Did You Feel It? (DYFI), which uses the Internet to survey individuals about their experiences in earthquakes, including location and extent of the damage.

Rebuilding the American Food System: One Heirloom Tomato at A Time

October 3, 2011 Comments off

Rebuilding the American Food System: One Heirloom Tomato at A Time (PDF)
Source: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

The food system of the United States is currently witnessing a remarkable shift. Small farms and artisanal producers are on the rise, working with restaurants, institutional food services, and retail outlets to make locally-sourced, sustainably-grown food more widely available. Health- and environment-conscious consumers — “the locavores” — are placing new demands on the food system in ways that are affecting the nation’s economy as well as its eating habits (see the “infographic” opposite). On March 4, 2011, United States Studies at the Wilson Center, with the support of the Chesapeake Bay Trust, convened practitioners, scholars, farmers, producers, and food activists to discuss both the scope of this phenomenon and the challenges faced by those seeking to transform the way Americans eat.

One of the greatest challenges, according to Fred Kirschenmann, a noted expert on sustainable agriculture, is moving from industrial to “agrarian” agriculture. As Kirschenmann explained, the food systems of the United States and other developed countries depend on “stored, concentrated energy” that is being rapidly depleted. To feed future populations, the entire food system must be redesigned.

The best way to do this, according to Kate Clancy, another leading expert on sustainable food systems, is to pay attention to scale. “A properly managed system,” she said, “should self-organize on a scale that respects ecological limits and optimizes both economic and social efficiency.” Solutions to complex problems must come from across scales in the system. This requires local efforts to interact with the scales both above and below. Kirschenmann and Clancy both expand on their views in the papers that follow in this report.


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