News Update :: Tuesday, June 27, 2006

News

MIT Lowers Age Criterion for $500,000 Inventors Prize

MIT said it would refocus the eligibility of its Lemelson-MIT Prize, one of the most prestigious and richest cash awards for invention in the world, to recognize the work of younger inventors. Beginning in 2007, the $500,000 prize will be awarded to a mid-career inventor, 45 years of age or younger. The university also said it would cancel its $100,000 Lemelson Lifetime Achievement Award and use the money to fund a prize in sustainability to recognize inventions that enhance economic opportunities in developing countries.

In announcing the lower age criterion, MIT said that while the award has traditionally honored unsung her'es of science, technology, and engineering, “new challenges exist in today’s changing world. Among them are the need to improve the educational system, to attract more young people to lead inventive lives, and to address the sustainability needs of the planet and its people.”

“Our culture d'es a wonderful job of glorifying entertainers and athletes, but it often relegates to obscurity the creative people whose ideas truly make profound differences,” added Merton Flemings, director of the Lemelson-MIT Program. Dorothy Lemelson, chair and president of The Lemelson Foundation, said, “It is our responsibility to show younger generations how science, technology, engineering, and math – the fundamentals of invention – can be intellectually stimulating, financially rewarding and, most importantly, a lot of fun.”

In addition, the officials said the Lemelson-MIT Program will expand its $30,000 Student Prize to other research universities. The program is providing funding for the $30,000 Lemelson-Illinois Student Prize at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the $30,000 Lemelson-Rensselaer Student Prize at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

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Stanford, Sun, Unveil Computational Earth Science Facility

Stanford president John Hennessy and Sun Microsystems chief Scott McNealy last week formally opened the Stanford Computational Earth and Environmental Science (CEES) research facility, which will be focused on interdisciplinary Earth science research that could lead to advances in earthquake detection, oil exploration, and understanding oceanic and climate changes. For instance, researchers at the center will study the detrimental effects of using applications with inefficient computing systems and explore business technology pain points related to data center consolidation and grid computing.

“Our mission is to enhance the capacity for large-scale computational research for Earth and environmental science,” says CEES director Jerry M. Harris, professor of geophysics in the Stanford School of Earth Sciences. “A driving force for this is the fact that, here at Stanford, we have some of the world’s best scientists, and across the street in Silicon Valley are some of the world’s best computer designers and builders.”

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Harvard Sees No Trace of $115 Million Oracle Pledge

Oracle Corp. chairman Larry Ellison has failed to make good on a $115 million pledge to fund health and environmental research at Harvard University, school officials told the Reuters news service. Without the funds, the school has let go three senior managers and delayed hiring 20 research fellows who were to work with the grants.

“Larry Ellison never paid us. The donation was never finalized,” Harvard spokeswoman Sarah Friedell told Reuters. The university has laid off three people it had hired to help run the proposed institute for health research as it waits for the funds promised by Ellison about a year ago. Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger declined to comment to the news agency.

Harvard’s total endowment at end of fiscal 2005 was $25.9 billion, according to the Harvard Guide.

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Penn State IT Exec Urges Senate to Back Net Neutrality

A Penn State information technology administrator urged the federal government to back Internet non-discrimination rules – known as “net neutrality” – in order to maintain academic freedom. Jeff Kuhns, senior director of Information Technology Services at Penn State, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that they should support legislation that would prevent Internet service providers from blocking or altering certain Web content.

“The government’s decision to eliminate this policy of openness last year throws all of our valuable services and research into doubt. Our distance learning, our telemedicine applications, and our research activities could be wiped out if the owners of the broadband networks are allowed to close down the Internet, or give preferential treatment to their own services,” Kuhns said. “We urge Congress to restore the net neutrality policy that governed the Internet since its inception. The future of American education, innovation, and competitiveness is at stake.”

Kuhns went on to argue that discriminatory access to the Internet would harm universities. “Our experience…has taught us that the Internet works best if the user – not the network owner or operator – determines what information is transmitted over the network,” he said. “Allowing the network owner to block or degrade content, equipment, or applications fundamentally alters the Internet experience…nondiscriminatory Internet service is absolutely essential for our university to meet our educational goals in the 21st century.”

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Web-Based Undergrad Bibliographic Resource Set to Debut

The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) will offer a new database of core titles for academic libraries that will succeed the standard reference work, Books for College Libraries (BCL), 3rd Edition, last published in 1988. It is being developed as a collaborative effort with Bowker, Inc., a bibliographic information management firm and will debut as both a Web-based subscription form and a multivolume print offering this fall.

The new database will feature a core list of books and electronic resources spanning 58 liberal arts and sciences subject areas. Within each subject area, titles will be organized in a classification system designed by the subject editor to correspond to the way the subject matter is presented in the undergraduate classroom or lab. For instance, economics and business titles were previously grouped under a single classification. The new curriculum-specific classification includes 467 new economics titles and 1,908 business titles, reflecting the actual departments and disciplines in which these works would be used in the undergraduate curriculum.

“The biggest change…is that we have decided to step away from strict adherence to Library of Congress classifications as a framework for selecting and organizing titles,” said Marcus Elmore, the project editor who is overseeing the work of more than 50 subject editors, several hundred bibliographers, and more than 50 referees. “Instead, we have adopted a system of subject-specific classification, which will allow us to reflect more accurately the contours of the undergraduate curriculum instead of trying to sh'ehorn them into a classification system designed for library catalogs.”

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