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University Research

Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 29 feb 2020

Australia's retail industry is in turmoil with some of the big ones entering into voluntary administration. Tom Youl of Ibis World says, 'Weakness in the Australian economy, in particular, deteriorating conditions for households, has been placing pressure on the retail sector...Weak wage growth has been a contributing factor to decreasing discretionary incomes, but rising household costs have also played a part. The bad news for store-based retailers is online players are going to continue to grab a larger share of the pie.' Eloise Zoppos of Monash Business School says, 'Customers are seizing control of the retail landscape and those retailers not up to the changes proposed by their loyal shoppers will be left behind. Friendly and knowledgeable staff, and eye-catching and easy-to-navigate store designs, can help create memorable experiences that customers can share with their friends and family after their purchase.' Even though online shopping is on the rise but Monash's 2019 consumer survey reveals that more than 70% respondents prefer to shop in bricks-and-mortar stores. A positive story coming out of the retail churn is that of an electronics store JB HI-FI. Retail expert Amanda Stevens explains, 'If you've been into JB Hi-Fi lately, it's a fast-moving big box retailer, but they really have knowledgeable staff, which is always a sigh of relief for consumers versus other retailers you go into, and you could spend up to 15 minutes finding someone to give your money to.' Regarding the future of Australian retail Mr. Youl suggest, 'Many retailers have been thriving in recent years. A sound brand strategy and market position are always vital to success, but these factors become of paramount importance over periods of weak growth, as we have been experiencing.' Read on...

Yahoo Finance: Why Australia's retail industry is drowning
Author: Anastasia Santoreneos


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 11 jan 2020

Food security problem is a global concern. Everyone should become a part of the solution. Technologies like drones, data analytics, blockchain etc can assist in solving some of the issues related to farming and agriculture. This is what Agriculture 4.0 is all about. It is a new age of food production that leverages digital technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) to cater more precisely to the needs of crops, farmers and consumers. The coming together of - farming communities, researchers and policy makers; farm equipment and machinery, biotechnology, computer and telecommunication companies - can bring agriculture to a new state of success. Multinational agriculture and biotech companies are competing in the race to achieve the technological breakthroughs and expand their businesses and profits. Advocates of Agriculture 4.0 believe that it will solve the food security problems of the future. While critics on the other hand caution that without proper regulation few big companies will attain huge monopolistic power in global agricultural decision-making that will adversely affect small producers. According to the 2018 report Agriculture 4.0 by World Government Summit, approximately 800 million people currently suffer from hunger and by 2050 we will have to produce 70% more food to feed the world. Juanita Rodríguez, Vice-Chancellor of Innovation at Ean University (Colombia), says, 'Even though it's still not widely known, this fourth revolution in agriculture has been agile and its benefits are beginning to show, helping farmers maximise crop yields and developing ways to stop the epidemic of waste that destroys 45% of our supply.' In Mexico, Mexican engineer Julio López and German economist Manuel Richter, have created a platform helping producers to manage their crops using drone and satellite technology. Mr. Richter says, 'There is a huge potential to make the work more efficient, reduce agro-inputs, improve water use, lower environmental impact and create more economic sustainability for the farmer.' Big data use and privacy are other areas that are part of Agriculture 4.0. In 2018, North American companies spent almost US$ 20 billion on third-party data, 17.5% more than in 2017. Silvia Ribeiro, Latin America director of the Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC), says, 'Companies have a huge amount of data at their disposal. They can convert it into another business. What lies behind this is the generation of new profits.' Gabriel Cuéllar, an AI researcher, says, 'Data is the new oil. Companies today need data to make their systems more powerful.' Big data and analytics has positive side in agriculture and can assist farmers in effectively detecting pests, spotting failures in agricultural processes, or understanding market demands. The question with data is not only who is collecting it, but who can analyse it, and who wins or loses as a result. In the report 'The Unsustainable Agriculture 4.0 - Digitization and Corporate Power in the Food Chain', Pat Mooney of ETC explains his concerns on big data in agriculture. He believes that the concentration of power in agricultural data collection could result in a few companies controlling seed patenting data, pesticides, fertilisers and machinery, leaving little or no option for farmers and workers to choose what they buy. In recent times many multinationals have been drawn into controversy regarding Agriculture 4.0. According to Ms. Rodríguez, there is also a significant hacking risk associated with Internet of Things devices. Dennis Escudero from UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says, 'The profile of the farmer is changing. It is more digital. You have to understand the new tools. They don't threaten farmers, they empower them.' Read on...

Diálogo Chino: Agriculture 4.0 promises to transform food production
Authors: Emilio Godoy, Alejandra Cuéllar


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 09 jan 2020

Tackling climate change and protecting environment is critical for the better future of our planet. Current agricultural practices and economic policies that surround it have substantial impact on the natural environment. Prof. Benjamin Houlton, director of the John Muir Institute of the Environment at the University of Califoria at Davis and champion of the One Climate Initiative, says, 'Agriculture might just be the single most important industry on the planet for creating negative carbon emissions under current economic policy. Carbon farming is the key to help solve climate change. Farmers and ranchers can capture carbon and store it in the soil. They can create negative emissions, which means the amount of greenhouse gases that are going into the air from their industry is lower than the amount that they're drawing out of the air.' Prof. Houlton plans to further develop the carbon farm project through One Climate. He explains, 'The One Climate vision is about transforming society in a way that is sustainable, produces the jobs we need, trains the next generation of leaders and creates a climate-smart workforce. And one of the centerpieces of One Climate is creating the world's most innovative carbon farm.' Carbon farming involves using resources such as compost, biochar and pulverized rock, and using enhanced weathering - basically, accelerating Earth's natural processes - to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Explaining about biochar, Prof. Houlton says, 'We've teamed up with industry partners to use biochar, which is taking organic carbon like trees, vegetation and manure, and burning it slightly at a high temperature. It becomes more resistant to breakdown and helps with water and nutrient use, while also storing carbon for longer periods of time.' In California, biochar can reduce wildfires by removing trees that could be a fire risk and putting it into the soil. Similarly, compost deposits green waste or food waste into the soil to create a carbon sink. Read on...

UC Davis Magazine: How Can Agriculture Be a Part of the Climate Solution?
Author: Ashley Han


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 29 nov 2019

Traditional market research involves quantitative methods like group surveys or self-reporting to obtain valuable data, but to get the whole story, Prof. Rebecca Rast of marketing department at Missouri State University, has embarked upon a new methodology of research that utilizes iMotion software technology and uses facial expression analysis to develop a deeper understanding into the complexity of human behavior in the marketing field. iMotion technology captures physiological reactions, such as how humans think, feel, act and respond, in real time and helps to quantify engagement and emotional responses. The software can measure seven core emotions: joy, anger, fear, disgust, contempt, sadness and surprise. Prof. Rast says, 'I'm continuing to think of other applications I can use the software for to continue to look at marketing behavior...If I can share it with my students so they understand the outcomes, then I can apply it right back into the classroom when it comes to topics such as consumer behavior.' Read on...

Missouri State News: Understanding consumers through emotion
Author: NA


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 28 nov 2019

Team of researchers from Poland's Łódź University of Technology (ŁUT) led by Prof. Katarzyna Grabowska, the dean of the Faculty of Material Technologies and Textile Design, have developed a textile charger, which allows to charge phones, tablets, and other portable electronic devices using the power generated by their users' physical activity. Monika Malinowska-Olszowy, the vice dean of the faculty and member of the research team, says, 'The textile charger for mobile electronic devices is an inseparable part of the fabric or knitwear from which it is made, such as clothing...This invention replaces heavy, large batteries and power banks that often contain toxic substances. It is shock resistant and weatherproof. The main purpose of this technology is to ensure its users with uninterrupted access to electricity to sustain the operations of their mobile devices. As a result, this will exclude various problematic processes related to frequent charging of mobile phones or tablets.' ŁUT research has focused on the development of innovative textile inventions. Some of the latest examples include textile clothing for premature infants that is to protect them against dehydration and ensure thermal stability through special layered textile systems, and a prototype textronics solution that allows the integration of muscle-stimulating electrodes within various types of clothing, such as underwear, wristbands and socks, and use it to treat patients with various diseases that require such stimulation, among others. Read on...

Innovation In Textiles: Polish researchers develop textile mobile device charger
Author: NA


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 27 nov 2019

Philanthropy is a huge industry and technology is enabling it's transformation. It's contribution to the U.S. economy is significant. According to The 2019 Nonprofit Employment Report (2019), authored by Lester M. Salamon and Chelsea L. Newhouse of the Center for Civil Society Studies at Johns Hopkins University, nonprofits account for roughly one in 10 jobs in the U.S. private workforce, with total employees numbering 12.3 million in 2016. Over the decade since 2007, nonprofit jobs grew almost four times faster than the for-profit ones. Madeline Duva, CEO of Fluxx, provides insights into technological transformation of philanthropy and the positive impact it has on overall growth of nonprofit sector. She says, ' The philanthropic space has begun to adopt new technologies in earnest in order to increase capacity, improve employee job satisfaction and accelerate long-lasting impact. This transformation is further helped by the tech industry entering the space both as a funder of nonprofits and provider of improved tool sets. The innovations that made Amazon a world leader in supply chain optimization are now being repurposed to help nonprofit organizations work more efficiently and collaboratively with their own data, ultimately driving more dollars and hours toward solving long-entrenched societal and systemic issues in the U.S. and beyond.' Philanthropy is on rise and tech industry and their employees are major contributors. According to 'Giving USA 2019: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2018', researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI, in 2018 Americans gave nearly US$ 428 billion to charity, with US$ 76 billion of that coming from foundations and another US$ 20 billion coming from corporations. Tech industry's interest in philanthropy and nonprofit sector is seeing increase in specifically designed tech solutions. Ms. Duva explains, 'I've seen a steady increase (but slower industry adoption) in solutions that help foundations leverage data and efficiency and manage teams, all while scaling their work. Grantmakers (both public and private) and grantseekers (nonprofits and charities) have begun to streamline their operations through SaaS solutions, using data and workflow best practices to create more efficient processes and free up time and resources.' For tech companies seeking to work and design solutions for the philanthropic sector, she suggests - Prioritize flexibility and usability in your solutions; Understand that most nonprofits operate on extremely thin financial margins; Recognize the huge variance in the philanthropic space. One-size-fits-all approach doesn't work this space that covers and touches so many industries. Read on...

Forbes: Technology Improves Nonprofit Sector Growth
Author: Madeline Duva


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 14 nov 2019

Achieving global food security is a challenge that requires all humanity to participate and work together. It is imperative to improve food production and distribution, tackle environmental degradation and climate change, alleviate poverty and resolve conflicts through peaceful means. Prof. Miguel Altieri of University of California at Berkeley focuses his research on the concepts of agroecology. His group's research and publications aid in the emergence of agroecology as the discipline that provides the basic ecological principles for how to study, design, and manage sustainable agroecosystems that are both productive and natural resource conserving, and that are also culturally-sensitive, socially-just and economically viable. He explains that urban agriculture has potential to enhance food security in US cities. According to him, 'I believe that raising fresh fruits, vegetables and some animal products near consumers in urban areas can improve local food security and nutrition, especially for underserved communities.' US Dept. of Agriculture estimates that for 1 out of 8 citizens food insecurity is a near-term risk. The current food distribution system in cities of Califormia, where large population resides, requires enormous amounts of energy and generates significant greenhouse gas emissions. Prof. Altieri says, 'The food it delivers fails to reach 1 of every 8 people in the region who live under the poverty line - mostly senior citizens, children and minorities. Access to quality food is limited both by poverty and the fact that on average, California’s low-income communities have 32.7% fewer supermarkets than high-income areas within the same cities.' In the past 30 years, urban farming has grown by more than 30% in the US. Moreover, it is estimated that urban agriculture can meet 15 to 20% of global food demand. But, it is yet to be seen what level of food self-sufficiency it can realistically ensure for cities. There are limitations and challenges. According to a survey, 51 countries do not have enough urban area to meet a recommended nutritional target of 300 grams per person per day of fresh vegetables. Moreover, it estimated, urban agriculture would require 30% of the total urban area of those countries to meet global demand for vegetables. Land tenure issues and urban sprawl could make it hard to free up this much land for food production. Prof. Altieri explains, 'Although urban agriculture has promise, a small proportion of the food produced in cities is consumed by food-insecure, low-income communities. Many of the most vulnerable people have little access to land and lack the skills needed to design and tend productive gardens.' Cuban model of urban farming can be applied, where local urban farmers were trained to use well-tested agroecological methods to cultivate diverse vegetables, roots, tubers and herbs in relatively small spaces. In Cuba, over 300000 urban farms and gardens produce about 50% of the island's fresh produce supply, along with 39000 tons of meat and 216 million eggs. Most Cuban urban farmers reach yields of 44 pounds (20 kilograms) per square meter per year. Access to land and unaffordable water for irrigation are critical challenges for urban farming in US. Discounted water rates and land reforms specifically for urban farming can provide a boost to the concept. Prof. Altieri says, 'Cities have limited ability to deal with food issues within their boundaries, and many problems associated with food systems require action at the national and international level. However, city governments, local universities and nongovernment organizations can do a lot to strengthen food systems, including creating agroecological training programs and policies for land and water access. The first step is increasing public awareness of how urban farming can benefit modern cities.' Read on...

The Conversation: How urban agriculture can improve food security in US cities
Author: Miguel Altieri


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 30 oct 2019

Nonprofit organizations and employees operate in a challenging environment and the human resources issues can be different from the for-profit sector. According to the 2017 Nonprofit Employment Practices Survey of 420 nonprofits by nonprofitHR, 28% of nonprofits said the top challenge they faced was hiring qualified staff, and 81% of nonprofits said they can't get the staff they do hire to stay. Moreover, nonprofits are unable to do much to address the human resources problems. According to 2019 Talent Management Priorities for Nonprofits survey of 488 nonprofit leaders and HR professionals by nonprofitHR, three reasons employees give for leaving nonprofits are - dissatisfaction with their career opportunities, compensation and benefits, and workplace culture. Prof. Kim Brimhall of Binghampton University, The State University of New York, explains her research on nonprofit human resources and finds out that when employees feel valued and that their colleagues and bosses appreciate them, talented staff members become more likely to stick around. Lower salaries and compensation in nonprofits are not the only factor that makes it difficult to retain talent. Prof. Brimhall says, 'I recently completed a study regarding how managers at hospitals can improve employee performance through greater inclusivity. Inclusion...is also about helping employees feel appreciated as unique individuals and helping them feel valued as key members of their team.' According to 2018 State of the Nonprofit Sector Survey of about 3400 nonprofit leaders by Nonprofit Finance Fund, more than half of all nonprofit jobs are in the health care field and even though nonprofit hospitals generally pay their workers better than other nonprofits, they also have trouble hiring and retaining qualified staff. Prof. Brimhall recommends nonprofits to make their workplace more inclusive and to adopt the following best practices - Engage and involve employees in important work-related decision-making; Appreciate feedback of all employees irrespective of their position; Consider and treat each employee as a unique individual and provide regular training and opportunities to enhance their career; Communicate a shared sense of purpose and inspire a collective vision of the future. Read on...

The Conversation: Making employees feel welcome and valued can pay off - especially for nonprofits
Author: Kim Brimhall


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 24 oct 2019

Concrete is a preferred material, second-most used (about 22 billion ton annually), in the building and construction industry. But, it is also second-largest emitter of Carbon dioxide, as cement manufacturing accounts for 5-7% of annual emissions. According to Lucy Rodgers of BBC News, 'If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter in the world - behind China and the US.' In order to meet the requirements of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, annual cement emissions must fall by 16% by 2030. This situation brings concrete at the cusp of innovation, encouraging architects and scientists to experiment with concrete and help evolve its greener variants. Most innovations in this regard focus on reduction of cement in the concrete mix. MIT researchers developed an experimental method of manufacturing cement while eliminating CO2 emissions. Researchers at Lancaster University in the UK unveiled a novel approach of using nanoplatelets extracted from carrots and root vegetables to enhance concrete mixes. Dr. Sandra Manso-Blanco's approach of 'bioreceptive concrete' has structural concrete layered with materials to encourage the growth of CO2-absorbing moss and lichen. Another alternative mixture becoming mainstream in construction is GFRC (Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete). The material consists of a mortar made of concrete, sand, alkali-resistant glass fiber and water. Plasticity is one of the main qualities of GFRC, enabling the molding of thinner and thus lighter façade pieces. Another novel approach to concrete used by Zaha Hadid Architects is 3D-knitted shell. Termed as KnitCandela, it is inspired by Spanish-Mexican architect and engineer Felix Candela's inventive concrete shell structures. The knitted fabric for KnitCandela was developed at ETH Zurich. ETH Zurich has been at the forefront of a number of innovations concerning concrete. With the intention of maximizing available space and avoiding steep construction costs, researchers from ETH Zurich's Department of Architecture have devised a concrete floor slab that with a thickness of a mere 2 cm, remains load-bearing and simultaneously sustainable. The institute also showcased the potential of robotically 3D printed concrete. Read on...

ArchDaily: What is the Future of Concrete in Architecture?
Author: Niall Patrick Walsh


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 29 sep 2019

To tackle complex issues facing the world like environment protection, peace building, human rights, poverty, hunger etc, requires coming together of people, organizations and governments to find solutions through sharing diverse ideas, collaborative efforts and pooled resources. Around the world various platforms are developed to provide just that. At Stanford Social Innovation Review's (SSIR) Nonprofit Management Institute 2019, leaders and experts from diverse fields converged to address the economic and emotional anxieties facing civil society leaders and shared advice for moving forward with confidence. Prof. Tyrone McKinley Freeman of Indiana University said, 'We must pull more people into the philanthropic circle.' Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland said, 'We have got to think big and be less afraid of losing something through collaboration.' Jeffrey Moore, Chief Strategy Officer of Independent Sector, said, 'We have to co-create everything with community.' Charlotte Pera, President & CEO of ClimateWorks, said, 'We have to work together in and across philanthropy, civil society, government, academia.' Mayor Michael Tubbs of Stockton said, 'Change in collaboration really only moves at the speed of trust.' Bradford Smith, President of Candid, said, 'Building those relationships will take more than nice memos about teaming up - try joint projects.' The event had various sessions and here are the highlights - (1) THE CHANGING FACE OF AMERICAN PHILANTHROPY: Kim Meredith, Executive Director of the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, and Prof. Tyrone Freeman of Indiana University and co-author of 'Race, Gender, and Leadership in Nonprofit Organizations', discussed common myths of modern philanthropy, the true history of giving by minority groups in the US, and ideas on how to better connect with givers in anxious times. (2) MOVING FORWARD - MERGERS AS A GROWTH STRATEGY: David La Piana, Managing Partner of La Piana Consulting, Rinku Sen, a racial justice activist, author, and strategist, and Bradford Smith, President of Candid, discussed the upsides and risks of nonprofit mergers.' (3) VITAL BALANCE - INNOVATION AND SCALING FOR IMPACT IN THE SOCIAL SECTOR: Christian Seelos, co-author of the best-selling book 'Innovation and Scaling for Impact and co-director of the Global Innovation for Impact Lab at Stanford PACS, examined various 'innovation pathologies' that can derail organizations and 'innovation archetypes' - case study-based models that sidestep these threats, blending innovation with scaling. (4) LEVERAGING TALENT - THE POWER OF SKILLS-BASED VOLUNTEERING: Danielle Holly, CEO of Common Impact, Cecily Joseph, former VP of CSR at Symantec, and Greg Kimbrough, Lead Director of executive development at the Boys & Girls Club of America, shared insights gleaned from their experiences with volunteer programs. They talked about how can skills-based volunteering engage and strengthen your teams amid transitional, high-anxiety, or crisis situations. (5) ACHIEVING GREAT THINGS - THE ART AND SCIENCE OF ASPIRATIONAL COMMUNICATION: Doug Hattaway, President of Hattaway Communications, explored the best ways to use strategy, science, and storytelling to connect with an audience. (6) WORKING TOGETHER - HOW PUBLIC SECTOR AND NONPROFIT LEADERS CAN COLLABORATE TO TACKLE TOUGHEST CHALLENGES: Mayors Libby Schaaf of Oakland and Michael Tubbs of Stockton spoke with Autumn McDonald, Director of New America CA, about the best ways to build successful, mutually beneficial partnerships between local government and nonprofits. (7) TRUST, POWER, EQUITY - TELLING BETTER STORY TO OURSELVES AND THE WORLD: Jeffrey Moore, Chief Strategy Officer of Independent Sector, examined trends with the potential to restore the nonprofit sector's self-confidence and bring back the public's trust in it. (8) WEATHERING THE STORM - LESSONS ON EFFECTIVELY MANAGING THROUGH TOUGH TIMES: Maria Orozco, Principal of The Bridgespan Group, explored lessons from the last recession and drew from her organization's work in the years since to share insight on surviving and thriving in difficult times. (9) ACTIVATING AUDIENCES - PARTNERING BEYOND THE 'USUAL SUSPECTS' TO SPOTLIGHT SOCIAL ISSUES: Jessica Blank, a writer, director, actor, lecturer, and social innovator, Nicole Starr, VP for social impact at Participant Media, Marya Bangee, Executive Director of Harness, and Prof. Courtney Cogburn of Columbia University, discussed how storytelling can expand and accelerate social change and provided advice on how to wield narratives. (10) LEADING WITH PURPOSE - ACCEPTANCE, MINDFULNESS, AND SELF-COMPASSION: Leah Weiss, lecturer at Stanford GSB and the author of 'How We Work', described how to lead with acceptance and resilience using proven self-compassion and mindfulness techniques. (11) CLIMATE CHANGE - THE POWER OF TRANSCENDENT ISSUE TO MOTIVATE AND AFFECT REAL CHANGE: Larry Kramer, President of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and Charlotte Pera, President & CEO of ClimateWorks Foundation, discussed the impact of climate change on society and nonprofits. Read on...

Stanford Social Innovation Review: The Speed of Trust in an Anxious Era: Recap of the 2019 Nonprofit Management Institute
Authors: M. Amedeo Tumolillo, Barbara Wheeler-Bride


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 26 aug 2019

Research study, 'Onboard Evolution of Understandable Swarm Behaviors', published in Advanced Intelligent Systems by researchers from University of Bristol (Simon Jones, Sabine Hauert) and University of the West of England (Alan F. Winfield, Matthew Studley), brings development of a new generation of swarming robots which can independently learn and evolve new behaviours in the wild a step closer. Researchers used artificial evolution to enable the robots to automatically learn swarm behaviours which are understandable to humans. This could create new robotic possibilities for environmental monitoring, disaster recovery, infrastructure maintenance, logistics and agriculture. This new approach uses a custom-made swarm of robots with high-processing power embedded within the swarm. In most recent approaches, artificial evolution has typically been run on a computer which is external to the swarm, with the best strategy then copied to the robots. Prof. Jones says, 'Human-understandable controllers allow us to analyse and verify automatic designs, to ensure safety for deployment in real-world applications.' Researchers took advantage of the recent advances in high-performance mobile computing, to build a swarm of robots inspired by those in nature. Their 'Teraflop Swarm' has the ability to run the computationally intensive automatic design process entirely within the swarm, freeing it from the constraint of off-line resources. Prof. Hauert says, 'This is the first step towards robot swarms that automatically discover suitable swarm strategies in the wild. The next step will be to get these robot swarms out of the lab and demonstrate our proposed approach in real-world applications.' Prof. Winfield says, 'In many modern AI systems, especially those that employ Deep Learning, it is almost impossible to understand why the system made a particular decision...An important advantage of the system described in this paper is that it is transparent: its decision making process is understandable by humans.' Read on...

Engineering.com: Robots Learn Swarm Behaviors, Aim to Escape the Lab
Author: NA


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 17 jul 2019

Experts views are divided on how non-profit hospitals benefit communities. In US, non-profit hospitals received tax-benefits valued at over US$ 24 billion annually in 2011. In exchange for tax exemptions these hospitals provide 'community benefits' like free and subsidized care, investments in public health, community-based health initiatives intended to address the social determinants of health, such as food or housing insecurity. But, many observers argue that hospitals avoid making sustained community investments in favor of counting millions of dollars of 'discounts' to low-income patients as community benefits while aggressively pursuing unpaid bills. Krisda Chaiyachati and Rachel Werner, Senior Fellows at LDI University of Pennsylvania, have recently written two research to add information to this debate. They provide detailed estimates of how much hospitals spend on different types of community benefits, whether community benefits are matched to local need, and what effects community benefits have on health outcomes. Mr. Chaiyachati and Ms. Werner analyzed IRS tax data from over 1600 non-profit hospitals. By law, hospitals report total spending on community benefits, broken out by health care-related spending (e.g. free care), community-directed spending (e.g. anti-smoking initiatives or funds for local community organizations), and research and educational activities. To standardize comparisons, the authors measured all spending as shares of total hospital expenditures. Researchers find out that hospitals still rely on discounted charity care to meet community benefits requirements. In 2014, non-profit hospitals reported that they spent an average of 8.1% (US$ 17 million) of their total expenditures on community benefits, more than 80% of which was health care-related. On average, 6.7% (US$ 11 million) of expenditures were on health care services, compared to 0.7% (US$ 1.2 million) for community-directed contributions. The remainder of community benefits were on educational and research initiatives. The results are disappointing in light of a second study from Ms. Werner and Mr. Chaiyachati, which suggests that community-directed spending could improve health outcomes, specifically, 30-day readmission rates. Readmissions rates are a useful measure of health care quality-capturing in-hospital care, discharge planning, and follow-up. Since the Affordable Care Act, hospitals have been financially penalized for high readmission rates. The evidence from research suggests that increased investment in the social determinants of health, rather than simply writing off free care, has a significant impact on measurable health outcomes. Read on...

Penn LDI Blog: How Do Non-profit Hospitals Give Back?
Author: Aaron Glickman

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