October 8, 2015


Higher Education News:

Endowments Under Fire Again

The nation's wealthiest colleges and universities may want to brace themselves for another round of federal scrutiny over their endowments and executive compensation, if a congressional hearing held Wednesday is any guide. House Republicans sharply questioned how universities with billions of dollars in their endowments spend that money, with particular criticism directed at executive pay and administrative costs on campuses. They pointed to rising tuition at colleges and universities as a driving factor behind those concerns. (Inside Higher Ed - Oct. 8, 2015)

Colleges Are Accused of Withholding Public Records on the Role of Race in Admissions

As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to undertake its second close examination of race-conscious admissions at the University of Texas at Austin, several other public universities are being accused of trying to shield such affirmative-action practices from outside scrutiny. Two briefs recently submitted to the court in the pending admissions-policy case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, accuse long lists of public institutions of defying open-records laws by withholding requested documents that deal with their consideration of applicants' race. (Chronicle of Higher Education - Oct. 7, 2015)

Research News:

Alexander Wary of Mandatory Spending for NIH Budget Bump

The senator leading an effort to speed the progress of new medical products to market appears highly skeptical of providing mandatory funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but did not rule out that approach during a hearing on appropriations Wednesday. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., told NIH Director Francis S. Collins his reasons for hesitating to expand the agency's funding beyond its traditional source, the federal government's regular discretionary spending operating funds. Alexander [said] he would prefer in general not to reach outside of the usual stream of discretionary money for funding NIH, citing broader budget concerns and the need for oversight as his reasons. (CQ HealthBeat - Oct. 7, 2015)

ARPA-E Announces $30 Million in Funding for Window Efficiency Technologies

The U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) today announced up to $30 million in funding for a new program focused on improving the energy efficiency of commercial and residential buildings. ARPA-E's Single-pane Highly Insulating Efficient Lucid Designs program seeks to reduce heat-loss for improved building efficiency by developing innovative materials that are both transparent and insulating to retrofit existing single-pane windows. (U.S. Department of Energy - Oct. 7, 2015)

NSF Awards $74.5 Million to Support Interdisciplinary Cybersecurity

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has long supported cybersecurity research to protect the frontiers of cyberspace. NSF today continued its commitment to securing cyberspace by awarding $74.5 million in research grants through the NSF Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC) program. New projects aim to enhance security practices and technologies, bolster education and training in cybersecurity, establish a science of cybersecurity and transition promising cybersecurity research into practice. [Vanderbilt University has received support from the SaTC NSF program.] (National Science Foundation - Oct. 7, 2015)

NASA Challenge Seeks Ways to Use Mars' Natural Resources for Astronauts

Living off the land is different when the land is 140 million miles away, so NASA is looking for innovative ideas to use in situ (in place) Martian resources to help establish a human presence on the Red Planet. The In Situ Resource Utilization Challenge offers the public an opportunity to submit designs for structures on Mars that would use existing material. The agency plans to award $10,000 to the first-place winner, with $2,500 each for two second-place submissions. (NASA - Oct. 7, 2015)

Health News:

ONC Finalizes Health IT Interoperability 'Roadmap'

The Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) today released a final "roadmap" for achieving a national health IT infrastructure that facilitates the secure exchange and use of electronic health information by 2024. The plan, which ONC called a "living document" that will evolve as technology and policy require, focuses in the next two years on government and private-sector actions to increase the nation's ability to "send, receive, find and use priority data elements to improve health and health care quality." (American Hospital Association - Oct. 7, 2015)

Medicare Cost Spike Prompts Democratic Concern

House and Senate Democrats are rallying to block a sharp increase in 2016 Medicare premiums for doctor visits and outpatient services that would affect more than 15 million beneficiaries and is due to be announced soon. The pressure point is Medicare Part B, which pays for doctor office visits, preventive services, drugs and other care delivered outside a hospital and requires beneficiaries to pay a portion of the cost. Across the Capitol, Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, introduced legislation he said would block a projected 52 percent increase in monthly premiums for roughly 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries. (CQ News - Oct. 7, 2015)

Item of Note:


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