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Data on People’s Self-Reported ‘Experienced’ Well-Being Could Help Inform Policies

A new report from the National Research Council says gathering survey data on “experienced” well-being – the self-reported levels of contentment, joy, stress, frustration, and other feelings people experience – would be valuable to inform policies and practices in such areas as end of life care, commuting, child custody laws, city planning, and more.   
 
Interest in measuring self-reported or “subjective” well-being has grown in recent years, as some policymakers and researchers have doubted whether traditional economic measures, such as gross domestic product, can by themselves adequately reflect the quality of life of a population or country.  However, the committee that wrote the report expressed skepticism about aggregating data on self-reported well-being into a single number meant to track an average happiness level of an entire population. Which aspects of subjective well-being are most relevant and important to measure depend on the policy question to be addressed, the report says. 

The interactive Life Lab exhibit at the Koshland Science Museum challenges you to explore the human brain, learn about wellness at different life stages, and share your viewpoints on happiness and aging. Explore online or in person.

New Report Calls Attention to Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change

Climate change has increased concern over possible changes in Earth’s physical climate system, including its atmosphere, land surfaces, and oceans. Some of these changes could occur abruptly—within a few decades or even years—leaving little time for society and ecosystems to adapt. In a new report, an expert panel assembled by the National Research Council summarizes the current state of knowledge about abrupt climate change. The report also draws attention to evidence that even non-abrupt climate changes could cause abrupt impacts, such as effects on infrastructure and ecosystems, if critical thresholds are crossed.
 
The report calls for the development of an early warning system that could help society better anticipate sudden changes and emerging impacts. 

The Koshland Science Museum’s Earth Lab offers a wealth of information about the causes and impacts of climate change based on expert reports from the National Academies. Explore the Earth Lab in person or online; classroom-ready modules are also available free of charge on our Teacher Resources page.

Report Confronts Transportation Challenges

The nation’s transportation systems have a profound impact on our economy, quality of life, and resilience to disasters. Roadways, railways, airways, ports and waterways, public transit systems, pipelines, bike paths and sidewalks are the lifeblood of modern society. The National Academies’ Transportation Research Board recently released its 2013 report, Critical Issues in Transportation, which offers a list of key transportation challenges to stimulate awareness and debate and focus research on the nation’s most pressing transportation issues.

The report focuses on three main areas: (1) improving transportation system performance and resiliency, (2) reducing transportation injuries and fatalities, and (3) mitigating unsustainable environmental impacts. Transportation issues are intricately entwined with our ability to respond to disasters, adapt to broader societal changes, and address energy and environmental issues.
 
Download the report here.

 

NAE Launches New Website on Engineering Education

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) launched a new website for its Frontiers of Engineering Education program, which brings together some of the nation’s most engaged and innovative engineering educators in order to recognize, reward, and promote effective, substantive, and inspirational engineering education.
 
“This resource provides the window to the front-edge of engineering education for the nation and the world to look through and see how top-tier educators will prepare our next generation engineers to take on our greatest challenges,” said NAE President C. D. Mote, Jr.
 
The new website features networking opportunities for engineering educators, a resource collection, information and presentations from the program’s symposia, and the latest news in engineering education.  

The Nexus of Biofuels, Climate Change, and Human Health

Concerns over the contributions of fossil fuels to pollution and climate change, in addition to other factors, have led to policies that encourage the development of renewable sources of energy such as biofuels. As biofuels become more prevalent, it is important to understand how such policies may impact human health.
 
A new Workshop Summary from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) summarizes the presentations and discussions of a workshop held January 24-25, 2013 by the IOM Roundtable on Environmental Health Sciences, Research, and Medicine that focused on the intersection of biofuels, climate change, and human health. Participants examined air, water, land use, food security, and social impacts of biofuels as an energy resource.

New Insights on How False Memories are Formed

Past research has suggested that memories are somewhat dynamic, rather than being set in stone. As a result, people can develop “memories” of events that never actually happened. A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) used MRI brain scanning to pinpoint the region of the brain responsible for flexible memory processes that allow people to revise memories to include new (and sometimes false) information.
 
False memories can cause serious problems, such as mistaken eyewitness testimony during criminal trials. Harvard University researchers gave 35 volunteers a memory exercise that involved the possibility of introducing false memories, then asked them to recall certain memories while in an MRI scanner. They found false memories were associated with activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and hippocampus.
 
See these and other brain regions in the Koshland Science Museum’s online exhibit Life Lab, which explores brain anatomy and how memories are made.

Science Academies Issue Call for Action on Antimicrobial Resistance

The Global Network of Science Academies (IAP) and the InterAcademy Medical Panel (IAMP) recently issued a joint statement on "Antimicrobial Resistance: A Call for Action" highlighting the critical role that antimicrobial drugs play in today's medical practices and drawing attention to the dramatic increases in the number of pathogens developing resistance to these drugs. The statement offers 10 recommendations to reduce the problem of antimicrobial resistance, including initiating education programs, developing global surveillance systems, encouraging industry innovation, and other measures.
 
The Koshland Science Museum’s interactive online exhibit Infectious Disease: Evolving Challenges to Human Health explores the problem of antimicrobial drug resistance and other issues affecting the spread and treatment of infectious diseases worldwide.
 
Resources on Antimicrobial Resistance from the National Academies:

Scientists Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

Among the recipients of the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom are Daniel Kahneman, a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and Mario Molina, a member of the NAS and the Institute of Medicine (IOM). The Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded this year on Nov. 20 at the White House, is the nation's highest civilian honor. It is presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. This year marks 50 years since the medal was established by President John F. Kennedy.
 
Daniel Kahneman is a pioneering scholar of psychology whose work applying cognitive psychology to economic analysis along with Amos Tversky was honored with the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002.
 
Mario Molina is a visionary chemist and environmental scientist who earned the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995 for discovering how chlorofluorocarbons deplete the ozone layer.

New IOM Activity to Explore Post-Disaster Recovery

Although reconstruction of physical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and houses is often the most visible aspect of post-disaster recovery, reconstruction and improvement of public health, medical, and social services plays an important role in overall community recovery.
 
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) will hold the first meeting of the Committee on Post-Disaster Recovery of a Community's Public Health, Medical and Social Services on November 25, 2013 at the Keck Center of the National Academies, 500 5th St., N.W., Washington, D.C.  Open session will be from 1:00 - 5:15 p.m. EST. 
 
The committee will consider how to improve short, intermediate and long-term health outcomes in communities impacted by a catastrophic incident. The committee will investigate and identify key activities, recovery practices and novel programs that impact health outcomes in a community recovering from a disaster, and develop recommendations for their implementation. The activity is supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Resources on Climate Modeling

Many National Academies studies have examined the evidence, causes, and impacts of climate change. At the heart of efforts to understand and respond to climate change are scientific models that allow us to piece together the Earth’s past climate patterns, understand current trends, and predict future climate variations. Explore these Academies resources for a window into the methods used to produce and apply climate models:

Subscribe to the National Academies’ Climate Change email list for updates on the latest climate activities. Check out the Koshland Science Museum’s Earth Lab exhibit for interactive and classroom-ready materials on climate change causes and impacts.

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