February 1996 Volume 23 No. 1
NSF Boosts Human Behavior Science
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has made 138 awards totaling $9.6
million to advance fundamental scientific knowledge about human behavior
under the new Human Capital Initiative (HCI). The agency received 280 proposals
for the initiative announced earlier this year. HCI aims to build research
on the capacity for productive citizenship by examining factors such as
education, the workplace, family processes, neighborhood influences and
economic forces. Chief among its goals is to create databases that will
give researchers more powerful tools to help advance knowledge.
"There is a critical need for data that allow us to track and understand
what's going on in these areas," says Bill Butz, NSF's division director
for social, behavioral and economic research. "There is applied research
and policy-related research, but not enough fundamental research. We need
this definitive research to expand our knowledge in such areas as welfare
reform, immigration, and other human resource programs."
Among the awards toward that end is a grant to a social psychologist from
the University of Texas-El Paso to study how basic human thought processes
lead to over-generalized beliefs about entire racial and ethnic groups.
This research will shed new light on problems of prejudice and discrimination.
An award to sociologists from the University of North Carolina, University
of Minnesota and Harvard University will study links between productivity
and compensation and training in the workplace. Another grant to anthropologists
from Florida International University will study immigrant groups and establish
a longitudinal data base which will help determine important factors in
school performance. An award to an economist from the University of Pennsylvania
will examine a large set of identical twins to more accurately estimate
the influence of families on individual behavior.
A key grant to an economist from Northwestern University will examine the
relationship between public assistance and the overall economy. "The
assumption has been that we need a public assistance system as a safety
net for the economy," Butz adds. "But when the economy has turned
up, public assistance has continued to rise. Why? We lack a fundamental
understanding of the behavioral and economic processes that are driving
this relationship. This research will help develop this understanding."
Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Scientists and Engineers ...
Immigration of scientists and engineers (S&Es) increased in 1993, even
as overall immigration to the United States decreased, according to the
National Science Foundation. The increase was partly due to the Immigration
Act of 1990, which allows for increases in immigration of highly skilled
In 1993, 23,534 S&Es were admitted to the United States on permanent
visas, according to a Division of Science Resources Studies (SRS) report
developed from Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) data. The increase
continued three years of growth in S&E immigrations.
Engineers made up nearly 62 percent of the S&Es admitted, and nearly
half of the scientists admitted were mathematical scientists and computer
Women, mostly from Asian countries, represented 21.3 percent of the S&Es
admitted - an increase from 15.8 percent in 1989.
Of the total S&Es admitted in 1993, 1,403 applied under the Chinese
Student Protection Act, which allows Chinese nationals living in the U.S.
on temporary visas to adjust to permanent resident status.
Thanks for Nothing
While in New Orleans for the 1995 Fall INFORMS Conference, Frank Trippi
and Matt Rosenshine were walking from a nearby restaurant back to the Sheraton
New Orleans Hotel when they spied an envelope on the sidewalk. Upon opening
it, Trippi and Rosenshine found a check for $131,874.31. After returning
the check promptly to the shipping line which issued it, the INFORMS duo
barely received any thanks for their effort. As reported in the New Orleans'
Times-Picayune and the Atlanta Journal/Consitution, Trippi said "I
gave it (the check) to a manager, and he muttered 'thank you' and that was
it. I figured he would at least offer me dinner to be polite. He didn't
even offer me a handshake."
Accessing large amounts of different types of data -- map, database, aerial
photo and text files -- can be difficult using a conventional database interface,
and next to impossible from remote locations. HyperTech, a graphical hypertext
interface being developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology with funding
from the U.S. Air Force's Rome Laboratory, may put such information right
at the user's fingertips.
Georgia Tech researchers have developed HyperTech to combine map, database,
aerial photo and text files to help Air Force personnel easily access linked
HyperTech accesses large amounts of diverse information, but unlike many
of its predecessors, it uses a standard, commercial relational database
system called Sybase. Not only is Sybase the Air Force standard, it also
is heavily relied upon in the business world, says senior research engineer
Kirk Pennywitt of the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI).
"Although our system is based on a Sun UNIX platform, the data can
be exported to HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), the language of the World
Wide Web," says Pennywitt, who is HyperTech's project director and
works in GTRI's Information Technology and Telecommunications Laboratory.
"HyperTech can be read by people on other computers using World Wide
Web browsers available for PCs, Macintoshes, UNIX and every other major
type of computer platform."
The researchers developed HyperTech to work with the Air Force's "Electronic
Footlocker" concept of storing information digitally and having it
ready for deployment to remote locations.
"So, for example, you have information on a foreign country and a situation
arises there -- you extract all the pieces of relevant information from
the Electronic Footlocker, put it on tape or CD-ROM, and ship it off with
people when they head for the field," Pennywitt explains. "You
might have information consisting of message traffic, maps, photographs,
reference information and other items to store in that digital format."
HyperTech lets users create links between pieces of information where an
association might not be obvious. A link, familiar to hypertext and World
Wide Web users, is an underlined or highlighted word or symbol, and by clicking
on it using a mouse, the user is transported to a related document.
"You could have an article talking about the economics of certain products
and that could relate back to the strategic importance of a certain country,"
Pennywitt said. "Basically the operator can traverse the information
in non-linear fashion."
HyperTech will allow users to update databases while they are on location
or in the field, so they are acting on the most current information possible.
In addition, this particular interface avoids one of the main problems hypertext
users encounter frequently: following so many paths within the information
that they become lost.
"Our system provides a navigable map of all the data elements of the
system," Pennywitt explains. "Pieces of information are represented
as boxes, and the links are presented as arrows going in and out of them,
so you can see which elements are linked to others, and how."
HyperTech also provides multi-user support so more than one person can access
information at one time. Multimedia support for text, graphics, video and
sound are standard features.
By March 1996, the researchers hope to make HyperTech capable of automatic
link generation, solving the problem many users face -- time to create all
the links they need between databases. They also plan to develop customizable
views of the data.
Top 25 Technology MBA Programs
Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management bested
the nearly 300 U.S. business schools polled in a survey to determine the
top 25 Techno MBA programs. The survey was conducted by Computerworld,
a newspaper focusing on information systems management.
The newspaper polled more than 3,000 corporate recruiters and 300 business
school deans (with 10 percent and 34 percent responding, respectively) to
determine the nation's strongest Techno MBA programs -- business and computer
technology courses combined into a single master's degree. The ranking was
based on the program's ability to produce information systems (IS) leaders,
managers and entrepreneurs, as well as their reputation for IS scholarship,
curriculum, faculty and students.
The top 25 Techno MBA programs, according to Computerworld, are as
1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
2. Carnegie Mellon University
3. University of Texas at Austin
4. University of Minnesota
5. University of Arizona
6. University of Michigan
7. University of Pennsylvania
8. Purdue University
9. University of Pittsburgh
10. New York University
11. University of Illinois, Urbana
12. Texas A & M University
13. Georgia Institute of Technology
14. University of California, Berkeley
15. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
16. Ohio State University
17. Michigan State University
18. University of Wisconsin, Madison
19. University of Southern California
20. Georgia State University
21. University of Georgia
22. Arizona State University
23. University of California, Irvine
24. Boston University
25. Northern Illinois University
Aerial Robotics Competition
Stanford University placed first in the 1995 International Aerial Robotics
Competition after that team's helicopter flew autonomously for almost three
minutes and retrieved metal disks from a bin. This was the first time in
the five-year history of the competition, held at the Georgia Institute
of Technology, that any vehicle accomplished that task, said competition
organizer Rob Michelson. Two other teams also flew autonomously for more
than 30 seconds, but without retrieving disks.
Stanford was also the first team to use the global positioning system (GPS)
for navigation. The team employed differential GPS, which differs from other
GPS systems in three important ways: 1) It can control the movements of,
not just track, the position of the helicopter; 2) It is accurate to within
a few centimeters, as opposed to within 100 meters; and 3) it allows for
sensing the attitude of the vehicle, which includes factors such as yaw,
pitch and roll.
A total of 10 teams competed in the event, which is open to teams of college
students from around the world. The task calls for the robotic vehicles
to locate and retrieve randomly placed metal disks, fly them across a barrier
one at a time and deposit them in another bin autonomously without direct
Stanford's craft retrieved a disk and flew across the barrier autonomously,
but was unable to deposit the disk in the bin on the other side.
For the student competitors, the event provides important experience in
solving real-world engineering problems and working on a team. For the AUVSI,
a Washington-based non-profit educational organization, the five years of
competition sponsorship have increased interest in autonomous air vehicles,
which could be used to lower the cost of routine aerial inspections and
flights into hazardous areas, as well as reduce risks to soldiers in combat
Easing the Pain of Re-engineering
Operations researchers and management scientists may work more behind the
scenes in the re-engineering of a company than a manager, but their sensitivity
to the situations created by re-engineering and the managers' plight should
not be dismissed.
In a recent issue of The Wall Street Journal, it was noted that in a re-engineering
environment, it was necessary for company leadership at all levels to commit
to working side-by-side with employees and create an atmosphere where employees
would be able to help shape their new environment and cope with the disruption.
The following suggestions were made to help managers achieve the goal of
having employees emerge from the re-engineering process stronger both personally
and professionally, thereby giving the organizations greater promise of
a more competitive future:
Make your organization a bulls-eye for headhunters: managers
can no longer promise lifetime employment, but they can promise to make
their employees very employable.
Get naked: business leaders must share more about the business
than they might have felt comfortable with in the past. This needs to be
done to help establish the trust between management and employees that is
necessary to heal the wounds of re-engineering.
Make your vision a jointly owned commitment: To do this, an honest,
two-way interchange of meaningful information must take place between the
employees and management.
Show some (real) guts: Leaders must demonstrate vulnerability,
culpability and candor if they expect their employees to respond with honesty,
innovation, calculated risk and trust. Leaders must admit to not knowing
all the answers and be willing to ask for help and critical feedback. Leaders
must take responsibility for what has gone wrong. Finally, good leaders
create forums to have candid discussions with the work force.
The bottom line that companies must realize is that successful organizations
will emerge when action is taken to minimize the pain of reengineering and
prevent it from turning into something worse -- cynicism, disloyalty and
Web-Based Workflow Applications
Action Technologies has released the Action Workflow Metro -- a workflow
solution for the Internet, which allows companies to use the Internet to
coordinate enterprise business processes, such as improved customer satisfaction,
reduced product delivery cycle time, and lowered costs for delivery of products
and services, through any standard World Wide Web (WWW) browser product.
Metro includes 20 customizable applications such as customer service, sales
and marketing, human resources, finance and accounting, and engineering
applications. These applications leverage both a corporate intranet for
internal enterprise applications, such as human resources, and the Internet
for extended enterprise applications such as customer service.
The Action WorkFlow Metro applications are launched from a company's web
site. For example, a customer can go to a company's web site and submit
a request for technical support. Once the request is submitted, the customer
can check its status at any time from the web site. Within the company,
the request is routed and tracked to ensure the necessary steps are taken
to satisfy the customer and reduce the number of calls into the help desk.
Employees within the company can access a human resources application from
their company's web site and enroll directly for benefits, saving administrative
time and costs, and allowing the employee to track the status of the request.
Doctorate Salary Survey
A record number of doctorate degrees -- 1,226 -- were awarded in the mathematical
sciences during 1994-95. Simultaneously, the unemployment rate for new doctoral
recipients also reached the highest level ever reported -- 14.7 percent.
These findings are contained in the first report of the 1995 Annual AMS
(American Mathematical Society)-IMS (Institute of Mathematical Statistics)-MAA
(Mathematical Association of America) Survey.
The report also notes these other findings in the U.S. production of mathematical
This report is based on information collected from questionnaires distributed
to departments and new doctorates.
- Among U.S.-citizen new doctorates in the mathematical sciences, 25 percent
- The median starting salary of new doctoral recipients in teaching remained
the same -- $35,000 -- for men and women.
- The number of U.S. citizens among new doctorates -- 567 -- is almost
21 percent more than those earning doctoral degrees last year, and 57 percent
above the record low reported in 1986-1987.
- Numbers of under-represented minorities receiving doctorates continue
to be low -- six of the U.S. citizens are Black and nine are Hispanic. Twenty-five
are members of other minority groups.
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