Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Charge to the working group on Biomedical Computing

The biomedical community is increasingly taking advantage of the power of computing, both to manage and analyze data, and to model biological processes. The working group should investigate the needs of NIH-supported investigators for computing resources, including hardware, software, networking, algorithms, and training. It should take into account efforts to create a national information infrastructure, and look at working with other agencies (particularly NSF and DOE) to ensure that the research needs of the NIH-funded community are met.

It should also investigate the impediments biologists face in utilizing high-end computing, such as a paucity of researchers with cross-disciplinary skills. The panel should consider both today's unmet needs and the growing requirements over the next five years (a reasonable horizon for extrapolating the advances in the rapidly changing fields of computing and computational biology).

The result of deliberations should be a report to the NIH Director, which will be presented to the Advisory Committee to the Director. The report should include recommendations for NIH actions to support the growing needs of NIH-funded investigators for biomedical computing.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Blueprint to join up journeys

SPT today released its blueprint to make it easier to join up journeys in west central Scotland. The document is SPT's response to the Scottish Executive's transport consultation and outlines how a regional transport body like SPT can deliver the public's and the Executive's ambitions for better transport.

The response makes it clear that transport has to be planned on a travel-to-work area and that given the right powers and finance that SPT can deliver the joined up transport that we all want to see.

SPT has risen to the challenge presented by the Scottish Executive to look at how transport could be delivered better. We agree that structural change is needed but stress that it is vital that it adds value to the delivery of transport and not more bureaucracy or fragmentation of decision making.

We accept the need for closer policy co-ordination between public transport and roads functions and have called for some responsibilities for bus infrastructure and bus priority management to be given to the passenger transport authority.

There is consensus in west central Scotland that there could be better organisation and delivery of transport. We want to ensure that public transport is at the heart of any change.

Best practice shows that it is important that there is an organisation dedicated to the planning and delivery of public transport. To that end we are suggesting the continuance of a passenger transport executive, but a more strategic overall approach with the merging of the membership of the Passenger Transport Authority and the Westrans grouping.

It is important the Scottish Executive builds on the strengths of the organisations that are already in place. The consultation pointed to the expertise and professionalism of SPT staff and it is vital that major organisational upheaval doesn't put that in jeopardy and risk further delay of important transport projects like Crossrail or the airport rail links.

Commenting on the SPT response Councillor Alistair Watson, Chair of SPT, said:

"The Scottish Executive set out a challenge for us to demonstrate how better transport could be delivered. We have made a constructive response to that challenge showing how the west of Scotland has been served well by SPT over the last 30 years. SPT has a good story to tell but there are areas that could be improved.

"SPT has delivered many innovative and effect public transport projects including the multi-modal ZoneCard ticket, taxi-buses, the most extensive dial-a-bus network, school transport, daytripper and playscheme tickets, one of the largest park and ride estates in Britain, extension of CCTV and the provision of local and mobile travel centres and information. Although similar examples exist individually elsewhere in Scotland, nowhere else has the collective scale and success of these projects.

"Our response to the Executive's consultation answers their challenge to look at how delivery can be improved, how journeys can be better integrated and at the best structures for doing that.

"We have worked hard at creating a consensus in west central Scotland and I am confident that all the parties can work together to improve transport delivery."

"The most important thing that the Scottish Executive needs to deliver is better and secured funding and a long term national transport strategy. If that is done then the rest of the pieces will fall into place.

Malcolm Reed, Director General of SPT, said:

"Strathclyde is a unique area in terms of transport and the fact that it is Scotland's only true conurbation accounting for more than half of all the public transport journeys in the country. West central Scotland requires a transport body that will deliver for the area's unique needs and circumstances. These include a including the high proportion of commuting across council boundaries, relatively low car ownership and a higher dependence on public transport than other parts of Scotland.

"SPT does not agree with the consultation document's suggestion that the PTE delivery model is now less relevant because it does not provide a single functional approach to public and private transport.

"If central government is prepared to provide a planning and funding framework which is fit for purpose, effective transport integration can be achieved and delivered at the regional level within existing structures. This is clearly demonstrated by the way the English PTEs have been able to take the integrated transport agenda forward in their regions - several of them gaining government "centre of excellence" designation in the process - and by general practice in similar conurbations elsewhere in western Europe.

"SPT remains of the opinion that a professional public body which is geared specifically to public transport delivery is the appropriate solution for west central Scotland, as in comparable regions elsewhere in Britain and Europe. The size and complexity of the delivery requirement justify the specialised response that such a functionally-based organisation is able to provide.

"Independent analysis commissioned by SPTE has shown the difference that regional specification can make to passenger growth. The work showed that half of the patronage growth on the SPT rail network over the past decade is directly attributable to initiatives taken by the PTE."

Saturday, January 17, 2009

EASTERN REDBUD - Cercis canadensis, Linn

EASTERN REDBUD LENDS a quaint charm to the Missouri hillsides in early spring when the pink hues of the flowers are in sharp contrast with the brown leaves covering the forest floor.It is believed by some that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had a hand in naming this tree. Legend has it that it was this tree upon which Judas Iscariot hanged himself. Each year in remorse it weeps tears of blood-like blossoms at Easter time. Blossom time coincides with that of serviceberry and wild plum. In most years it blooms slightly before dogwood.

This is a legume and the fruit is a pod. The flat pod is two to three inches long and hangs onto the twigs throughout the winter. Bright reddish, pea-like blossoms are clustered along the twigs before the leaf buds unfold.Heart-shaped leaves identify this tree. They are dark green in summer, turning yellow in autumn.Bark is red-brown, separating into thin scales. Trees growing rapidly will produce heavy flaking of bark, giving the trunk a diseased appearance. Diameters seldom exceed six inches while heights rarely exceed 15 feet.

Eastern redbud is distributed over the entire state and often can be found growing in abandoned fields, in open woods, and along fence rows. While it is a valuable and widely used ornamental, it has little value as a commercial timber tree because of its small size. However, its wood is a soft brown color, very durable, hard, and takes a fine polish.Beavers use the bark as a source of food while birds make the small, hard, bony seed a part of their wintertime diet.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

SunButter: "Spreading" Across America

A tasty sunflower-seed butter—perfect for spreading on breads or crackers, for example—is now sold in an array of flavors and textures. Marketed as SunButter, the spread comes in creamy, natural, natural crunch, honey crunch—and even a low-carb version.

ARS scientists based in New Orleans, La., at the Southern Regional Research Center, and colleagues at Red River Commodities, a Fargo, N.D.-based sunflower seed processor, developed the spread several years ago.

The product is a satisfying option for the roughly three million Americans who suffer from peanut allergies. Twelve states now include SunButter in their school lunch programs. And, some airlines provide snacks made with SunButter, as an alternative to peanuts.