"O" E-Clips: highlights of media coverage involving the UO and its faculty and staff

UO E-Clips is a daily report prepared by the Office of Communications (http://comm.uoregon.edu) summarizing current news coverage of the University of Oregon.

Media mentions for March 27

Restricting Independent Contracting Will Slow Economic Growth In California, Add Unemployment, Study Finds

Highland Community News: If government agencies are successful in restricting independent contracting in California the results will slow economic growth and add to the state's unemployment rate, according to a new analysis by economic policy expert and former California chief economist, Philip J. Romero. The analysis, "The Economic Benefits of Preserving Independent Contracting," shows that opposition to independent contracting is misguided and not supported by available evidence. The report demonstrates that many of the arguments frequently leveled against independent contracting – in California, other states and at the federal level – are based on myth and not credible data. A copy of the study can be found here. ... Romero is a longtime economic advisor, think tank expert and current professor of business administration at the University of Oregon's Lundquist College. The report is sponsored by leading business organizations in California, including the National Federation of Independent Business of California, the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, California Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce, California Foundation for Commerce and Education and the California Business Roundtable.

Study: Fuel demand not cut by alternative energy

Register-Guard: There aren't enough wind turbines in the world to outpower humankind's appetite for energy, a study by University of Oregon researcher Richard York has found. Photovoltaic cells haven't outgenerated the growing demand, on average, in the 130 countries that comprise much of the inhabited world, York found in a study that will appear in an upcoming issue of Nature Climate Change journal. All the alternative energy types developed over the past half-century, including nuclear power, have done little to stem the use of fossil fuels anywhere on the globe, York found in an analysis of 4,000 data points collected by the World Bank. Fossil fuel consumption grows right alongside all of them. "Adding energy sources spurs demand beyond what it was before," York said. "When wind turbines are added, you don't notice less additional growth in fossil fuels."

Why economists like the health insurance mandate

CBS News MoneyWatch: The Supreme Court Tuesday hears arguments on the key provision of President Obama's health care overhaul legislation -- the constitutionality of the individual mandate. To opponents, such as GOP Presidential candidate Rick Santorum, a requirement that everyone buy health insurance amounts to tyrannical overreach of government. To supporters, it's analogous to car insurance, but it covers broken legs instead of broken tail lights. Economists come at the issue from a different direction. They examine the market for health insurance, and explain why some buyers pony up for coverage while others go without. When you understand that motivation, you understand why, 20 years ago, individual mandates were the health care solution proposed by conservatives, including the Heritage Foundation. Is a mandate constitutional? We'll leave that to the Supreme Court. Is it necessary for a functioning health care market: MoneyWatch blogger Mark Thoma, a professor of economics at the University of Oregon, says yes it is. Here's his argument

Applying for college? There's an app for that

The Daily Caller: Applying for college can be stressful for high school students. But the process could get a little easier with the help of a free app on Facebook. The mega social media site popular with many college-hopefuls (and their parents) has an app called Acceptly that helps students apply for schools, as well as provide them with college prep tools and connecting students to the admissions offices of their top schools. ... "As an instructor at the University of Oregon, I appreciate the complexity of the college application process. Acceptly is a valuable resource that adds efficiency and thoroughness to this experience," Doug Wilson, a professor at the University of Oregon, told The Next Web. "It increases the potential to present a more attractive story about those applying."


Media mentions for March 26

Tax credit program can help families afford adoption

The Register-Guard, guest columnist, Melissa Hart, UO professor of journalism: What if you had $13,360 to lavish on your newly adopted child? If you adopted last year from the U.S. foster care system, the government will issue a cash refund up to that amount courtesy of the adoption tax credit. However, many adoptive parents let the refund slip through their fingers, unaware of its existence. Since 2003, they've been eligible for the credit. Because of health care reform legislation, those who took it last year or this year may receive a refund check. This is the last year for such bounty; for 2012, parents can claim a credit, but it's non-refundable. Foster children in the United States get a rough start in life. Often, they're born addicted or exposed to drugs. They experience neglect and abuse before being placed in foster care. Potential adoptive parents want to help, but they read a child's biography and cringe, wondering how to afford therapeutic horseback riding, a tutor, counseling. The tax credit helps people from all demographics to adopt and provide for children.

'Weak' climate change response a concern

Dalje.com via UPI: Effective international action on climate change is being hampered by "weak" responses to the crisis by both individuals and societies, a U.S. researcher says. Kari Marie Norgaard, professor of sociology and environmental studies at the University of Oregon, told this week's Planet Under Pressure Conference in London needed responses to the problem of climate change are being blunted by cultural inertia "that exists across spheres of the individual, social interaction, culture and institutions." "We find a profound misfit between dire scientific predictions of ongoing and future climate changes and scientific assessments of needed emissions reductions on the one hand, and weak political, social or policy response on the other," a UO release reported Norgaard as saying.

Marketing and communications and the changing higher education market

The Drum: For communications and marketing professionals in higher education, recent years have brought unprecedented changes in the way that universities attract and retain students. Terms like reputation, perceptions, expectations, personalisation, segmentation and nurturing are fast becoming the norm. ... I predict that in the future many universities will actively target and nurture particular cohorts of students from enquiry through to enrolment in line with institutional objectives. Customer relationship management (CRM) technology, personalised student communications and even personalised videos or virtual orientations showing students just what their experience of an institution might be like will become increasingly common. We're already seeing this in the US, where universities undertake slick engagement campaigns like the University of Oregon's Migrate to UO .University marketing teams are very aware that if they aren't speaking directly to a prospective student or their parents, a rival might be.

Can fossil fuels ever be replaced by renewables?

BusinessGreen: Renewable energy sources will struggle to replace coal and gas-fired power stations as long as energy consumption continues to rise and fossil fuel subsidies remain in place, a new study has found. Based on a study of electricity used in around 130 countries over the past 50 years, University of Oregon sociologist Richard York found that rising demand means it can require between four and 10 units of electricity produced from nuclear, hydropower, geothermal, wind, biomass or solar to displace a single unit of fossil fuel-generated electricity.

Solar installations may double in Eugene this year, nonprofit says

The (Bend) Bulletin via The Register-Guard: Homeowners will install double the number of solar photovoltaic arrays in Eugene this year, if the Eugene-based nonprofit Resource Innovation Group meets its goal. Last year, 54 systems hit the city's home rooftops, up from 29 the previous year and three systems five years ago. The group's Solarize Eugene campaign is meant to spur the technology by reducing the cost, the complexity and the homeowner inertia that stops people who are interested in the rooftop power from biting the photovoltaic bullet. They are the Eugene residents who get jazzed on the idea of solar power each week and call up Colleen Wedin, a specialist with the Eugene Water & Electric Board energy management program. They are "tire-kickers," she said, "Who go, 'Oh no, really? It costs that much?' And then they hang up." Now, Sarah Mazze, program manager at the Resource Innovation Group, is leading the tire-kickers through the maze of technical, financial and consumer issues to what, she says, is a good deal. A homeowner installing a three-kilowatt system, for instance, who can pay up to $10,000 up front may be able to eventually recover all but $140 of their investment through incentives from the EWEB and the state and federal governments, Mazze said. And then the power they collect in subsequent decades, after the system is paid off, is free for the next 20 to 50 years, the group says. Resource Innovation Group is overseen by Bob Doppelt, who teaches sustainability courses at the University of Oregon.


Media mentions for March 25

Does financial aid make college more expensive?

Boston Globe: If a college economics class does its job, students will soon realize that even their professors don't understand why their schools are so expensive. Over the past three decades, college tuition has increased at more than double the rate of inflation. Outstanding student loan debt in the United States now exceeds $1 trillion, a national burden even greater than that of credit cards. Yet no one agrees on what makes college tuitions so high. Plush state-of-the-art gyms? Classroom technology? The cost of health care, the glut of administrators, too many professors focusing on research at the expense of teaching? Then there is another theory, one that for 25 years has remained as controversial as it is counterintuitive: that the culprit is federal financial aid. Schools know that students have access to tens of billions of dollars in grants and loans, the thinking goes, and they raise tuition because the aid lets them do it. ... The research done on the hypothesis since then is enough to induce whiplash. In their 1998 book, "The Student Aid Game," economists Michael S. McPherson and Morton Owen Schapiro said public colleges and universities tended to increase tuition by $50 for every $100 in aid. In 2001, however, in a report for Congress, the National Center for Education Statistics found no evidence to support the Bennett Hypothesis anywhere. A 2003 study by Cornell University economists Michael Rizzo and Ronald Ehrenberg didn't find evidence among public schools, but a 2007 study from University of Oregon economists Larry Singell and Joe Stone found a nearly dollar-for-dollar match at private institutions.


Media mentions for March 24

Looking to unionize

Register-Guard: Is organized labor making a comeback? There are some indications that may be the case. After losing nearly 1.4 million members over the two previous years, labor unions gained 50,000 new members last year, bringing to 14.8 million the number of unionized workers in the United States. ... University of Oregon faculty members are in the process of unionizing the university's 1,900-member instructional staff as the United Academics of the University of Oregon, which would be affiliated with the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers. On March 13, leaders of the organizing effort turned in more than a thousand signed cards to the state Employment Relations Board, requesting official recognition as the exclusive bargaining agent for UO teachers -- tenured and non-tenured -- and all researchers and post-doctoral scholars (the university's 1,300 graduate teaching assistants are already represented, by the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation). ... The UO faculty has long resisted forming a union, and that used to be the mainstream thinking among faculty across the country. But decreased funding for higher education and the broad acceptance of unions by other public employee groups has gradually changed that. ... Public opinion about unions runs strong in this country, with not even the people who are covered by them in complete agreement on whether their positives outweigh their negatives. It remains to be seen whether having a unionized faculty at the UO will, on balance, be a positive development for the university and the community.


Late mentions for March 23

With university governing boards, Oregon must protect the values of its higher education system

Oregonian Editorial Board: Yes, the University of Oregon, Portland State University and other willing universities should be allowed to form their own local governing boards. And yes, those local boards should have the fundamental authority to hire and fire university presidents. Anything less would amount to creating new advisory boards. But no, the local boards should not have unfettered authority to add new schools or departments, raise tuition however high they wish or import as many lucrative out-of-state students they can recruit. There are clear and important limits that must be placed on local boards to ensure the ambitious goals that Oregon has for its entire university system are not neglected or weakened by a single-minded focus on one institution. This is the moment to sort out all the tangled lines of authority in Oregon, which is stirring an alphabet soup of governing boards -- Oregon University System board, Oregon Education Investment Board, Higher Education Coordinating Commission -- while preparing to toss in at least two new local governing boards. Lawmakers in February formed a special committee to gather testimony and draft local-board legislation to introduce in 2013.

Cooperative innovation key to breakthroughs

Sustainable Business Oregon, Portland Business Journal: It all started on the golf course. It was 2007, and Oregon State University chemistry professor Doug Keszler was on the links with University of Oregon chemistry professor Darren Johnson. Instead of hooks and slices, they were talking cluster compounds and the fabrication of thin films for electronic devices. Just like that, an idea was born. The UO has long wanted to optimize device performance and create a new green technology, but we knew that research for research's sake wouldn't draw the federal and state funding necessary for breakthroughs. But a collaboration between UO and OSU researchers -- partnering with business and investment interests -- produced a research entity that doubles as one of Oregon's most successful startups: The Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry, formerly the Center for Green Materials Chemistry. The center expands on solution-based chemistry, allowing electronics manufacturers to make high-performance devices while reducing waste.

China's Not-So-Super Computers

The Wall Street Journal: The supercomputer in this southern boomtown is named Nebulae for the interstellar clouds of gas that give birth to stars. The machine symbolizes China's soaring ambition to challenge the U.S. and other developed nations in technology, but also underscores the limitations of what China can achieve. China's unexpected progress in developing supercomputers, the brains of modern science and an engine of economic development, has caused an outbreak of anxiety over the past two years in the U.S., which has long been the field's undisputed leader. ... But a closer look at China's supercomputers reveals a program that is far less of a threat to U.S. technological dominance than commonly believed. Chinese researchers say decisions about how supercomputers are used are often made by local politicians more interested in local development projects than breakthrough technology. ... Richard Suttmeier, a University of Oregon expert on Chinese science policy, said China hasn't figured out "the right formula" to pioneer new technologies in part because researchers are rewarded according to the number of academic papers they publish rather than the quality and novelty of their work.

Green chemistry center grows up, reaches out

Sustainable Business Oregon, Portland Business Journal: Oregon is at the center of a federally funded push to eliminate waste generated in the manufacturer of semiconductor chips. Technology developed by a network of researchers at the University of Oregon, Oregon State University and others promises to cut the waste resulting from one step in the chip-making process. The research promises to revolutionize a critical Northwest industry and already has led to the creation of one startup in Corvallis. The green chemistry push, not coincidentally, is helping fill area brewpubs on weeknights as well. First, a little history.

Scripps Research Institute Team Wrests Partial Control of a Memory

Bioscience Technology: Scripps Research Institute scientists and their colleagues have successfully harnessed neurons in mouse brains, allowing them to at least partially control a specific memory. Though just an initial step, the researchers hope such work will eventually lead to better understanding of how memories form in the brain, and possibly even to ways to weaken harmful thoughts for those with conditions such as schizophrenia and post traumatic stress disorder. The results are reported in the March 23, 2012 issue of the journal Science. ... In addition to Mayford, other authors of the paper, "Generation of a Synthetic Memory Trace," are Aleena Garner, Sang Youl Hwang, and Karsten Baumgaertel from Scripps Research, David Rowland and Cliff Kentros from the University of Oregon, Eugene, and Bryan Roth from the University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill.