Archive for the ‘science’ Category

The Organizational and Geographic Drivers of Absorptive Capacity: An Empirical Analysis of Pharmaceutical R&D Laboratories

April 24, 2014 Comments off

The Organizational and Geographic Drivers of Absorptive Capacity: An Empirical Analysis of Pharmaceutical R&D Laboratories
Source: Social Science Research Network

Scholars and practitioners alike now recognize that a firm’s capacity to assimilate and use know-how from external sources — what Cohen and Levinthal (1990) called “absorptive capacity” — plays a central role in innovation performance. In recent years, a common strategy pursued by companies to increase their absorptive capacity has been to locate new R&D facilities in close geographic proximity to technology “hotspots” like Cambridge, Massachusetts or the San Francisco Bay Area. Such a strategy is predicated on the assumption that geographic proximity facilitates absorption. Unfortunately, more than two decades after the publication of Cohen and Levinthal’s landmark piece on absorptive capacity, precious little is known about how different organizational strategies and managerial practices — including location choices — actually impact a firm’s ability to exploit external sources of know-how. A key barrier to empirical progress on this front has been a lack of direct measures of absorption. In this paper, we develop a novel measure of absorptive capacity that attempts to directly track the influence of external sources of know-how on the internal R&D activities on individual laboratories. We then use this measure to examine laboratory level differences in absorptive capacity and the degree to which a lab’s geographic proximity to a given knowledge base influences its absorptive capacity. To identify patterns of absorption, we exploit a quasi-natural experiment that has occurred in the pharmaceutical industry over the past two decades. Since 1989, a number of major pharmaceutical companies (Merck, Novartis, Pfizer, etc.) have chosen to locate new laboratories in one or more major life science hotspots (Massachusetts, the San Francisco Bay Area, and San Diego County). Because these are de novo green-field labs, we have an unusual opportunity to study how the capabilities of the lab evolved over time, and whether those capabilities were influenced by the technological activities of the surrounding local scientific and technological ecosystems. Our sample includes 39 R&D laboratories (at varying degrees of distance from three major life sciences hotspots — Massachusetts, San Diego County, and the San Francisco Bay Area). Our findings indicate that geographic proximity is a significant predictor of how much know-how a lab absorbs from a given hotspot. The importance of geographic proximity is also shown to be increasing over time. However, our results also show significant residual variance at both the individual laboratory and company levels, suggesting an important role of managerial practices and policies in driving absorption. The latter finding was consistent with our field interviews of R&D executives from laboratories involved in our study. The study provides further evidence of the geographically bounded nature of knowledge.

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Optimal Evidence in Difficult Settings: Improving Health Interventions and Decision Making in Disasters

April 24, 2014 Comments off

Optimal Evidence in Difficult Settings: Improving Health Interventions and Decision Making in Disasters
Source: PLoS Medicine

Summary Points

  • As for any type of health care, decisions about interventions in the context of natural disasters, conflict, and other major healthcare emergencies must be guided by the best possible evidence.
  • Disaster health interventions and decision making can benefit from an evidence-based approach.
  • We outline how systematic reviews and methodologically sound research can build a much-needed evidence base.
  • We do this from the standpoint of Evidence Aid, an initiative that aims to improve access to evidence on the effects of interventions, actions, and policies before, during, and after disasters and other humanitarian emergencies, so as to improve health-related outcomes.

Resilient Cities Research Report

April 23, 2014 Comments off

Resilient Cities Research Report
Source: Grosvenor

The ability of cities to thrive as centres of human habitation, production and cultural development, despite the challenges posed by climate change, population growth and globalisation, is determined by their resilience. From a real estate investor’s perspective, resilience allows cities to preserve capital values and generate sustainable rental income in the long term. In human terms, cities are resilient if they absorb shocks, like Hurricane Sandy, maintain their output of goods and services and continue to provide their inhabitants with a good quality of life according to the standards of the time.

Resilience – the ability of a city to avoid or bounce back from an adverse event – comes from the interplay of vulnerability and adaptive capacity.

Vulnerability is a city’s exposure to shocks in terms of both magnitude and frequency. Shocks may be due to changes in the climate, environmental degradation, shortage of resources, failed infrastructure or community strife due to inequality. That most cities have survived for the last several centuries or, in some cases, millennia, indicates a long period of stability in the pattern of urban growth. Recent population growth and industrialisation, despite many benefits, are destabilising planetary systems and making previously safe places more vulnerable than they ever were before.

Yet cities, like societies, are adaptable. Just like societies, they vary enormously in their adaptive capacity due to governance, institutions, technology, wealth and the propensity to plan.

So resilience increases when cities have more adaptive capacity and decreases when they are more vulnerable. Exponential population and economic growth is placing so much pressure on resources that resilience, which has for so long been a free gift of history, urgently needs to be rethought.

By quantifying the resilience of 50 of the world’s most important cities we, at Grosvenor, hope to contribute to this vital debate.

One Year after West, Texas: One in Ten Students Attends School in the Shadow of a Risky Chemical Facility

April 23, 2014 Comments off

One Year after West, Texas: One in Ten Students Attends School in the Shadow of a Risky Chemical Facility
Source: Center for Effective Government

One year after the fertilizer facility explosion in West, Texas, which destroyed and severely damaged nearby schools, an analysis by the Center for Effective Government finds that nearly one in ten American schoolchildren live and study within one mile of a potentially dangerous chemical facility.

The analysis, displayed through an online interactive map, shows that 4.6 million children at nearly 10,000 schools across the country are within a mile of a facility that reports to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Risk Management Program. Factories, refineries, and other facilities that report to the program produce, use, and/or store significant quantities of certain hazardous chemicals identified by EPA as particularly risky to human health or the environment if they are spilled, released into the air, or are involved in an explosion or fire.

Elevated Levels of Mercury Found in Fish in Western U.S. National Parks

April 22, 2014 Comments off

Elevated Levels of Mercury Found in Fish in Western U.S. National Parks
Source: U.S. Geological Survey

Mercury has been discovered in fish in some of the most remote national park lakes and streams in the western United States and Alaska. Mercury levels in some fish exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency health thresholds for potential impacts to fish, birds, and humans.

The information about mercury, and its appearance in protected areas considered to be relatively pristine and removed from environmental contaminants, is in a recently published scientific report from the U.S. Geological Survey and National Park Service.

The study of mercury in fish is the first of its kind to incorporate information from remote places at 21 national parks in 10 western states, including Alaska. Western parks were selected for this study because of the significant role that atmospheric mercury deposition plays in remote places, and the lack of broad-scale assessments on mercury in fish in remote areas of the west.

Mercury concentrations in fish sampled from these parks were generally low, but were elevated in some instances. This study examines total mercury in fish, of which 95 percent is in the form of methylmercury, the most dangerous form to human and wildlife health.

Mercury is harmful to human and wildlife health, and is among the most widespread contaminants in the world. It is distributed at a global scale from natural sources, such as volcanic eruptions and from human sources such as burning fossil fuels in power plants. Mercury is distributed at local or regional scales as a result of current and historic mining activities. These human activities have increased levels of atmospheric mercury at least three fold during the past 150 years.

Poverty and Crime: Evidence from Rainfall and Trade Shocks in India

April 21, 2014 Comments off

Poverty and Crime: Evidence from Rainfall and Trade Shocks in India
Source: Harvard Business School Working Papers

Does poverty lead to crime? We shed light on this question using two independent and exogenous shocks to household income in rural India: the dramatic reduction in import tariffs in the early 1990s and rainfall variations. We find that trade shocks, previously shown to raise relative poverty, also increased the incidence of violent crimes and property crimes. The relationship between trade shocks and crime is similar to the observed relationship between rainfall shocks and crime. Our results thus identify a causal effect of poverty on crime. They also lend credence to a large literature on the effects of weather shocks on crime and conflict, which has usually assumed that the income channel is the most relevant one.

Critical Issues in Aviation and the Environment 2014

April 21, 2014 Comments off

Critical Issues in Aviation and the Environment 2014
Source: Transportation Research Board

Critical Issues in Aviation and the Environment 2014 explores issues that address the major environmental components affected by aviation activities, sustainable solutions that have evolved and continue to be developed to minimize aviation’s environmental impacts, and key processes that link aviation and the environment. The focus of the e-circular is on the state of science and on identification of priority research with potential to yield benefits during the next several years to several decades.

Fueling a New Order? The New Geopolitical and Security Consequences of Energy

April 21, 2014 Comments off

Fueling a New Order? The New Geopolitical and Security Consequences of Energy
Source: Brookings Institution

The paper Fueling a New Order? The New Geopolitical and Security Consequences of Energy examines impacts of the major transformation in international energy markets that has begun. The United States is poised to overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s largest oil producer and, combined with new developments in natural gas, is on track to become the dominant player in global energy markets. Meanwhile, China is in place to surpass the United States in its scale of oil imports, and has already edged out the U.S. in carbon emissions.

Nation’s Authoritative Land Cover Map New and Improved

April 21, 2014 Comments off

Nation’s Authoritative Land Cover Map New and Improved
Source: U.S. Geological Survey

Just released, the latest edition of the nation’s most comprehensive look at land-surface conditions from coast to coast shows the extent of land cover types from forests to urban areas. The National Land Cover Database (NLCD 2011) is made available to the public by the U.S. Geological Survey and partners.

Dividing the lower 48 states into 9 billion geographic cells, the massive database provides consistent information about land conditions at regional to nationwide scales. Collected in repeated five-year cycles, NLCD data is used by resource managers and decision-makers to conduct ecosystem studies, determine spatial patterns of biodiversity, trace indications of climate change, and develop best practices in land management.

Optimal Schedules of Light Exposure for Rapidly Correcting Circadian Misalignment

April 18, 2014 Comments off

Optimal Schedules of Light Exposure for Rapidly Correcting Circadian Misalignment
Source: PLoS Computational Biology

Jet lag arises from a misalignment of circadian biological timing with the timing of human activity, and is caused by rapid transmeridian travel. Jet lag’s symptoms, such as depressed cognitive alertness, also arise from work and social schedules misaligned with the timing of the circadian clock. Using experimentally validated mathematical models, we develop a new methodology to find mathematically optimal schedules of light exposure and avoidance for rapidly re-entraining the human circadian system. In simulations, our schedules are found to significantly outperform other recently proposed schedules. Moreover, our schedules appear to be significantly more robust to both noise in light and to inter-individual variations in endogenous circadian period than other proposed schedules. By comparing the optimal schedules for thousands of different situations, and by using general mathematical arguments, we are also able to translate our findings into general principles of optimal circadian re-entrainment. These principles include: 1) a class of schedules where circadian amplitude is only slightly perturbed, optimal for dim light and for small shifts 2) another class of schedules where shifting occurs along the shortest path in phase-space, optimal for bright light and for large shifts 3) the determination that short light pulses are less effective than sustained light if the goal is to re-entrain quickly, and 4) the determination that length of daytime should be significantly shorter when delaying the clock than when advancing it.

See: Using mathematics to beat jetlag effectively (Science Daily)

Unemployment among Doctoral Scientists and Engineers Increased but Remained Below the National Average

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Unemployment among Doctoral Scientists and Engineers Increased but Remained Below the National Average
Source: National Science Foundation

In 2010, an estimated 805,500 individuals in the United States held research doctoral degrees in science, engineering, and health (SEH) fields, an increase of 6.2% from 2008. Of these individuals, 709,700 were in the labor force, which includes those employed full time or part time and those actively seeking work (i.e., unemployed). The unemployment rate for SEH doctorate recipients was 2.4% in October 2010, up from 1.7% in October 2008 and similar to the rate in October 2003 (table 1). Moreover, the 2010 unemployment rate of the SEH doctoral labor force was about one-third of the October 2010 unemployment rate for the general population aged 25 years or older (8.2%).

CRS — Green Infrastructure and Issues in Managing Urban Stormwater

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Green Infrastructure and Issues in Managing Urban Stormwater (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

For decades, stormwater, or runoff, was considered largely a problem of excess rainwater or snowmelt impacting communities. Prevailing engineering practices were to move stormwater away from cities as rapidly as possible to avoid potential damages from flooding. More recently, these practices have evolved and come to recognize stormwater as a resource that, managed properly within communities, has multiple benefits.

CRS — Air Quality Issues and Animal Agriculture: A Primer

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Air Quality Issues and Animal Agriculture: A Primer (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

From an environmental quality standpoint, much of the public and policy interest in animal agriculture has focused on impacts on water resources, because animal waste, if not properly managed, can harm water quality through surface runoff, direct discharges, spills, and leaching into soil and groundwater. A more recent issue is the contribution of air emissions from animal feeding operations (AFOs), enterprises where animals are raised in confinement. This report provides background on the latter issue.

CRS — Bee Health: Background and Issues for Congress (updated)

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Bee Health: Background and Issues for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

Bees, both commercially managed honey bees and wild bees, play an important role in global food production. In the United States alone, the value of insect pollination to U.S. agricultural production is estimated at $16 billion annually, of which about three-fourths is attributable to honey bees. Worldwide, the contribution of bees and other insects to global crop production for human food is valued at about $190 billion. Given the importance of honey bees and other bee species to food production, many have expressed concern about whether a “pollinator crisis” has been occurring in recent decades.

Acupuncture Research – Areas of High and Low Programmatic Priorities

April 15, 2014 Comments off

Acupuncture Research – Areas of High and Low Programmatic Priorities
Source: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

On this page:

  • Published Research
  • Areas of High Programmatic Priority
  • Areas of Low Programmatic Priority
  • NCCAM Contact Information
  • Selected References

Are you ready for the resource revolution?

April 15, 2014 Comments off

Are you ready for the resource revolution?
Source: McKinsey & Company

Meeting increasing global demand requires dramatically improving resource productivity. Yet technological advances mean companies have an extraordinary opportunity not only to meet that challenge but to spark the next industrial revolution as well.

Occupational Outlook Quarterly — Spring 2014

April 14, 2014 Comments off

Occupational Outlook Quarterly — Spring 2014
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Articles include:

  • STEM 101: Intro to tomorrow’s jobs
  • Careers with options: Occupations with jobs in many industries
  • Healthcare: Millions of jobs now and in the future
  • My career: Veterinary technician
  • Brief items of interest to counselors and students
  • You’re a what? Roastmaster
  • More education, less unemployment

Emerging Arctic Explored in New CFR InfoGuide

April 14, 2014 Comments off

Emerging Arctic Explored in New CFR InfoGuide
Source: Council on Foreign Relations

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) has released a new interactive guide examining the economic opportunities and environmental risks emerging in the Arctic. Climate change, technological advances, and a growing demand for natural resources are driving a new era of development in the Arctic region. Many experts assert that Arctic summers could be free of sea ice in a matter of decades, opening the region up to hundreds of billions of dollars in investment, most notably in energy production and shipping.

Secretary of Energy Advisory Board — Task Force Report on FracFocus 2.0 (March 28, 2014)

April 11, 2014 Comments off

Secretary of Energy Advisory Board — Task Force Report on FracFocus 2.0 (March 28, 2014) (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Energy (Energy Advisory Board)

This report presents the findings and recommendations for the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) Task Force on FracFocus. This Task Force report builds upon and extends the 2011 SEAB Subcommittee report on the environmental impacts of unconventional gas production.

The Task Force believes that the FracFocus experience to date demonstrates the ease of disclosure of chemicals added to fracturing fluid for companies, the value of this disclosure for the public, and the importance of public confidence in the quality and accessibility of the FracFocus chemical registry data. It has accomplished a good deal and shows the capacity to make improvements at modest additional cost. FracFocus has greatly improved public disclosure quickly and with a significant degree of uniformity.

The Task Force recommends a number of actions that will further improve the effectiveness of the FracFocus disclosure of chemical additives and improve transparency for regulators, operating companies, and the public. Recommendations are made for improving the accuracy and completeness of registry submissions. In addition, the Task Force believes that an independent audit to assess the accuracy and compliance of the process will be useful for all stakeholders.

Report: Nearly 300,000 New Yorkers Flooded in Sandy Lived Outside FEMA Flood Zones

April 11, 2014 Comments off

Report: Nearly 300,000 New Yorkers Flooded in Sandy Lived Outside FEMA Flood Zones
Source: Natural Resources Defense Council

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood maps for New York City did not identify that nearly 65 percent of the area inundated during Hurricane Sandy—home to nearly 300,000 people—was at risk from coastal flooding, according to a new analysis from the Natural Resources Defense Council. The report tallies the human toll and impact to critical infrastructure like schools and hospitals.


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