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Winter/Spring 2007 Vol. 7 No. 1



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BRIEF TAKES



Logo of the International Polar Year 2007-2008 U.S. Kicks Off International
Polar Year

The U.S. opening ceremony for the International Polar Year 2007-2008 took place at the National Academies in February with a panel of polar scientists discussing the latest research from the poles and providing an overview of polar research projects to go on during the next decade. Government leaders whose agencies play an active role in this important international effort also participated.

IPY is an intense, coordinated campaign of polar observations, research, and analysis. During the two years covered by IPY, scientists from more than 60 nations will collaborate on a wide range of activities, from studying changes in permafrost to conducting a survey of marine life in the polar regions. Scientists will work on land and at sea in both the Arctic and Antarctica, and the work done will likely answer important questions about the changing environment as well as provide a baseline for future research.

This spring, specific projects to receive government and private funding are expected to be announced including proposals to analyze data from research ships, satellites, and ice cores, which will help scientists better understand the role played by polar regions in the global system.

The National Academies' Polar Research Board serves as the U.S. National Committee for the International Polar Year and was tasked with articulating a vision for U.S. participation in the international effort. It also acts as a portal for information about IPY to the U.S. science community. For more information about U.S. IPY activities, visit <www.us-ipy.gov>.   -- Maureen O'Leary


Winners of $1 Million Challenge Announced

The National Academy of Engineering announced the winners of the first Grainger Challenge Prize for Sustainability, a contest that sought innovative solutions for removing arsenic from drinking water that is slowly poisoning tens of millions of people in developing countries. In the United States, most communities with arsenic-laden groundwater have installed expensive, centralized cleanup technologies, but different solutions are required for less developed parts of the world with limited resources.

The prize winners are recognized for the development, in-field verification, and dissemination of effective techniques for reducing arsenic levels in water. The systems had to be affordable, reliable, easy to maintain, socially acceptable, and environmentally friendly. All of the winning systems meet or exceed the local government guidelines for arsenic removal and require no electricity.

Abul Hussam, an associate professor in the department of chemistry and biochemistry at George Mason University, Fairfax, Va., received the Grainger Challenge Gold Award of $1 million for his SONO filter, a household water treatment system that is now being manufactured and used in Bangladesh to remove arsenic from drinking water. The system works by pouring water into a top bucket filled with locally available coarse river sand and a composite iron matrix that together filter coarse particles and remove inorganic arsenic. The water then flows into a second bucket where it again filters through coarse river sand, then through wood charcoal to remove organics, and finally through fine river sand and wet brick chips to remove fine particles and stabilize water flow.

A $200,000 silver award and $100,000 bronze award were also awarded, respectively, for a water treatment system that is applied at a community's well head and for a system that treats small batches of water in the home or at any source. The three winners were chosen from a field of more than 70 entries.

The Grainger Challenge Prize for Sustainability is supported by the Grainger Foundation and administered by the National Academy of Engineering. For additional information, visit <www.graingerchallenge.org>.   -- Randy Atkins


IOM Recognized for
Preventing Medication Errors

The nation's community pharmacies presented their highest honor -- the SafeRx™ Evangelist Award -- to the Institute of Medicine in recognition of outstanding leadership on the issue of patient safety and preventable medication errors.

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the National Community Pharmacists Association, and SureScripts® -- an organization founded to operate the Pharmacy Health Information Exchange, which facilitates the transmission of prescription information between physicians and pharmacists -- created the annual SafeRx awards program to recognize state officials and practicing physicians across the country who have helped make prescribing medication as safe and efficient as possible.

The SafeRx award annually goes to the governors of the top 10 e-prescribing states in the nation, and three physicians within each winning state who have demonstrated outstanding leadership through their use of this technology. However, acknowledging its landmark contributions through the 2006 report Preventing Medication Errors, the nation's pharmacies have decided this year to also recognize the Institute of Medicine with a special SafeRx Evangelist Award. This honor goes to a single person or organization whose achievements have made an exceptional impact on the awareness and prevention of medication errors.   -- Valerie Chase


Part of the new exhibit on infectious disease at the Marian Koshland Science Museum Koshland Museum Opens
New Exhibit

In March, the Marian Koshland Science Museum of the National Academy of Sciences opened "Infectious Disease: Evolving Challenges to Human Health." This new exhibit examines the viruses, bacteria, and parasites that cause some of the world's most deadly diseases, including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Using interactive displays, visitors can investigate how vaccines, drugs, and other treatments affect the spread of disease, and explore ways to protect public health in this era of increasing globalization. For more information, visit <www.koshland-science-museum.org>.
  -- Maureen O'Leary



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Copyright 2007 by the National Academy of Sciences