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NSF rapid grants awarded to coronavirus response projects

first_imgNine Harvard researchers have received nearly $1 million in fast-tracked funds from the National Science Foundation for seven coronavirus research projects focused on aspects of the pandemic ranging from the virus’ effects on the economy to studying social distancing using social media platforms.The funds come from the NSF’s Rapid Response Research (RAPID) mechanism. The program was created to fund time-sensitive proposals when there is an urgent need for immediate research on natural disasters and unanticipated events like mass shootings, hurricanes. So far, the funding mechanism has awarded almost $75 million for 502 studies related to COVID-19.“COVID-19 is a global pandemic that demands rapid responses,” said Weihe Guan, executive director for the Center for Geographic Analysis and principal investigator on one of the projects. “Given the urgency and complexity of this problem, no single research team can provide the solution quickly enough.”The project Guan is overseeing brings together a taskforce of international researchers to create a platform that provides essential resources and tools needed for COVID-19 research — such as revealing disease transmission patterns, modeling social and economic impacts, evaluating the effectiveness of policies, assessing health facility capacity, and predicting public sentiment from social media — through a single gateway.James Stock, the Harold Hitchings Burbank Professor of Political Economy at the FAS,  and his co-principal investigator Emmanuel Farhi, the Robert C. Waggoner Professor of Economics, are studying how to reopen the economy while simultaneously controlling the spread of the disease. They plan on doing this by creating a modeling system that combines epidemiological models and economic models to provide a quantitative framework for assessing the path of the epidemic and the economy at a granular level. Such a model is currently not available, they said. “Our hope is that these results can help to inform decisions on epidemiological/economic policy as we confront a second wave of infections,” Stock said.Another economic project comes from Emily Breza, an assistant professor of economics. She and her co-investigators Marcella Aslan, a professor of public policy at the Kennedy School, and MIT economists Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Benjamin Olken plan to design and implement messaging campaigns in two vulnerable communities to study how messages about social distancing and personal hygiene reach groups most affected by the pandemic and how effective they are. They hope their research can provide guidance on policies to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and future pandemics.Matthew Baum, the Marvin Kalb Professor of Global Communications at the Kennedy School, will use his award to analyze data collected through rolling 50-state and national surveys in order to study the attitudes and behaviors of the approximately 25,000 respondents polled each month. He hopes to capture how well the information and communication needs of Americans are met during the crisis, observe patterns of citizen compliance with government recommendations — such as stay-at-home orders and enforced lockdowns — and assesses the impacts of policy on suppressing the spread of the virus among diverse populations.Philip Demokritou, associate professor of aerosol physics at the Chan School, and his team plan to figure out a way to use a recently developed nanotechnology-based carrier platform to inactivate airborne viruses like COVID-19. The proposed method has the potential to transform the way we currently control airborne infectious diseases, the researchers said.Sheila Jasanoff, the Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies at HKS, plan to study the relationship between expertise and trust during the pandemic, “a critically important nexus for policy makers in an era of decentralized information and polarized politics,” the researchers wrote in the abstract for the project.Marinka Zitnik, the assistant professor of biomedical informatics at the Medical School, plans to develop a machine learning toolset to identify existing drugs that can be repurposed to treat the coronavirus.“By putting tools in the hand of practitioners, the activities in this project will have an immediate impact,” Zitnik wrote in the project’s abstract. “This project will provide new, open tools for rapid drug repurposing that will be relevant for COVID-19 and other emerging pathogens.”last_img read more

AI Pension books SEK54m loss in 2014 after switching funding calculation

first_imgSweden’s AI Pension fund for architects and engineers made an overall loss last year as it increased technical provisions, despite lifting investment returns to 13.2% from 8.2%.In its 2014 annual report, the pension fund — previously known as Arkitekternas Pensionkassa — reported an annual loss of SEK54m (€5.8m), down from a profit of SEK1bn the year before.The fund said: “First and foremost, the result was affected by the increase in technical provisions, but also by a good return on capital.”Fixed-income investments returned 8.8% over the year, up from the loss suffered in 2013 of 1.9%, while equities produced a 21.7% return, down from 27.9% the year before. Property generated 15.6%, up from 9.1% and hedge funds produced 1.5%, down from the previous year’s 6.0%, according to the annual report.Premium income increased by 10% to SEK237m from SEK216m.Total assets grew to SEK6.24bn at the end of 2014 from SEK5.54bn, the published data showed.AI Pension said its financial position remained strong, even though the solvency ratio had fallen as a result of the continuing decrease in interest rates to 141% at the end of 2014, from 152% a year before.The funding level for defined benefit plans was unchanged at 131% while funding for defined contribution products had increased to 111% from 106%, it said.The pension fund explained that its council had decided on a new funding policy during the year for both AI ITP and AI Life pensions, with the change prompted by the new interest rate curve to calculate technical provisions.It decided the new curve would be used for both pension types.For AI ITP, the normal funding level was increased to 130% from 120%, with the calculation changing from one based on a fixed interest rate assumption of 3% to floating interest rates.This meant it was now necessary to have a higher level of normal funding as well as a broader funding range, the pension fund said.Within AI Life, the normal funding level was revised down to 105% from 110%, with the the funding range unchanged at 100-115%, it said.AI Pension in February announced its intention to merge with PP Pension, the pension fund for the press and media, by early next year, but was later forced to abandon the proposal due to time constraints.last_img read more

Let’s hear it for the band

first_imgThe USC Trojan Marching Band and the USC Concert Band play in Bovard Auditorium on Sunday as part of “40 Years of Music and Memories,” a concert honoring band director Arthur C. Bartner, who has led the Trojan Marching Band for 40 years. The concert featured both music and visual components and was a preview to “The Man on the Ladder,” a gala concert to be held May 1 at the Galen Center.Sunil Murali | Daily Trojanlast_img

Brandon Ingram out with groin strain for at least a week, Lakers say

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersThe Lakers originally believed Ingram suffered a hip flexor injury.Ingram believed otherwise.“I was hit directly in a spot that I’ve had problems with before, but it was as bad as it was right now,” said Ingram, averaging a team-leading 16.2 points. “It’s something I will get through. Just a lot of treatment to get it back healthy so I can get back on the court.”Winslow, who, like Ingram, played collegiately at Duke, kneed Ingram in an after-the-whistle play in the fourth quarter.“I don’t think I was surprised,” Ingram said when asked about the extent of the injury. “I pretty much knew what it was exactly when it happened. I just didn’t know my timetable, or how long I would be out or if I had to be out at all. Like I said I’m happy it’s not that serious.” EL SEGUNDO — Brandon Ingram knew something was wrong the instant Justise Winslow collided with him during the Lakers’ victory Thursday over the Miami Heat. He didn’t know the severity of his injury until an MRI exam revealed he suffered a groin strain that will sideline him for about a week.Ingram is likely to be out for at least three games, and possibly more, the Lakers said Monday. He sat out the Lakers’ victory Saturday over San Antonio and wasn’t expected to play Monday against Portland, Wednesday against Orlando or Friday against Denver.It was uncertain whether he could play next Sunday in what looms as LeBron James’ free agent recruiting visit when the Cleveland Cavaliers visit Staples Center. The Lakers said Monday they expect Ingram to re-evaluated in approximately one week.“I’m just happy it’s not worse than it could be,” Ingram said. “Hopefully, I am (back in the lineup for the game against the Cavaliers). I want to be back for that game, of course. I want to be back even sooner, but I have to listen to the medical staff about what’s the best choice for myself.” Coach Luke Walton ticked off a list of reasons why Ingram will be missed.“It’s not just his scoring we’re going to miss,” Walton said. “He’s been a huge piece in the success we’ve had recently in playing the point guard position: Playmaking, really stepping up the way he rebounds the ball, using his length to get in there, and finishing off our possessions on defense.“There’s a lot we’re trying to fill in without him out there on the court.”HART UPDATEJosh Hart couldn’t say for certain whether it was a cast or a brace that was wrapped around his surgically repaired left hand Monday. No one had signed it in the days after he underwent surgery Friday, so it probably was more of a brace.What was clear beyond a shadow of a doubt was that he was disappointed he would be sidelined for up to six weeks, or perhaps for the rest of the regular season. He said he hoped to be back in the lineup before the end of the season April 11.“It was a downer at first, but it’s part of the game,” he said. “Obviously, at the beginning of the year, I wasn’t playing too many minutes and I wasn’t playing that well. The last month or month and a half have been more comfortable and Luke’s given me more minutes and a bigger role.“So, that was nice, but it’s a bummer to have it happen now.”KOBE’S OSCARWalton scoffed when told Kobe Bryant said after winning an Academy Award for his animated short film “Dear Basketball” that winning the Oscar “feels better than winning a championship, to be honest with you.” Bryant won five NBA titles, including two with Walton as his teammate.“He said that? With a straight face?” Walton asked.Bryant’s Oscar victory didn’t surprise Walton,who said, “I’m very happy for him. I’m not surprised by it. Anyone that’s been around him knows how dedicated he is and how hard he works when he puts his mind to something. Happy for him, but not surprised at all.”center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more