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May 24, 2011

European Regional Sigma Xi Conference Held in Helsinki

HELSINKI, FINLAND – On May 24, the newly constituted European Region of Sigma Xi concluded its First Annual Meeting and Research Conference at Aalto University in Espoo, to the west of downtown Helsinki.

The conference followed the successful Second Annual Meeting and Research Conference of the Nordic Chapter the previous day in the same venue, to which the European attendees were most welcome invited guests.

Vice President of Academic Affairs, Heikki Mannila, of Aalto University welcomed warmly our combined Conferences, noting that President Tuula Teeri herself would have met with us had she not had a previous commitment to meet with the Finnish Minister of Education and Science Henna Virkkunen.

Sigma Xi Executive Director Jerry Baker was on hand to deliver the keynote address, as he had for the Nordic meeting, to the assembled European participants from Switzerland, Spain, Denmark, Finland and Norway, with welcome visitors from the United States.

Host of the European event was Antonio Pita, International Committee Chairman, Executive Committee member, and Director of the Canadian/International Constituency Group. Paul C. Kettler, Associate Director of the Constituency and Founder of the Nordic Chapter assisted in the preparations. Nordic Member Tapio Ala-Nissilä of Aalto University masterfully provided all local organization for both Conferences, ensuring that the meetings proceeded without flaw.

Society President Joseph Whittaker was an expected participant in the two Conferences, but was prevented from traveling owing to an extended graduation ceremony at his Morgan State University, to which as Dean he was duty bound to attend, causing him to miss his plane, with no alternative available. Nonetheless, modern technology prevailed, and President Whittaker was able to make his presentation via Skype, to the pleasure of all.

Invited speakers to the European Conference, in addition to Executive Director Baker, were Director Pita, Magdalena Navarro of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Carl Johannessen of the University of Oregon, Bert Little of Texas A&M University, Urbano Fra Paleo, President of the Iberian Chapter, and President Whittaker. Associate Director Kettler was scheduled, but deferred to President Whittaker owing to time constraints.

Accommodations for the conference were quite comfortable at the Guest House of the University of Helsinki, as arranged by member Ala-Nissilä. Dinner for the combined conferences was at Ravintola Lasipalatsi the previous evening, serving the finest of Finnish cuisine. Most of us had the roast reindeer with parsnip purée — spectacular!

The members said their good-byes in warm cheer, with promises to convene again in a year, looking forward to another, more expansive, and equally successful Second European Annual Meeting and Research Conference.

First European Regional Research Conference
Helsinki, May 24, 2011

Future of Professional Scientific Societies
Jerry Baker, Executive Director, Sigma Xi

Professional individual member scientific societies like Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society have made many contributions to the advancement of science and engineering in the past 125 plus years. The achievements of the members of these societies is in large part due to the networking, collaboration, peer review, meetings and publications offered by professional scientific societies. Research institutions are not able to expand scientific capital until the linkages or “bridges” offered by professional associations disseminate and review the discoveries. As scientists we build upon previous knowledge and extend the frontiers of new knowledge by our collaboration with other scientists within our own discipline as well as the adoption and learning from diverse disciplines. Sigma Xi and other professional societies have an obligation to enhance and promote the health of the research enterprise as well as foster integrity in science and engineering. We are chartered as a public trust organization with an obligation to promote the public understanding of science for the purpose of improving the human condition. We must “come up higher” and train our students to conduct research with high ethical standards of conduct and hold ourselves and colleagues to the same high standards. This requirement remains a strong part of our future.

NIST Programs: Promoting Innovation
Magdalena Navarro, U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Chapter

Innovation is critical to the future of U.S. competitiveness and this is increasingly important as technological changes open access to the global economy—producing both new markets and increased competition. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is well positioned with the academia and industry—to help America address this challenge. NIST has over 100-year track record of serving U.S. industry, science, and the public with a mission and approach unlike any other agency of government. NIST’s six laboratories include the Physical Measurement Laboratory, Material Measurement Laboratory, Engineering Laboratory, Information Technology Laboratory, the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology, and the NIST Center for Neutron Research. The NIST Laboratories collaborate with U.S. industry and universities to conduct measurement, standards, and technology research that advances the nation’s R&D infrastructure. The overarching goal of the NIST laboratory programs is to accelerate U.S. innovation, which is a major driver of economic growth and job creation.

Sailing contact established between tropical Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas before 1492 C.E.
Carl Johannessen, University of Oregon

People moved into America very early across the Bering Strait. By the fifth millennia B.C.E. tropical sailors brought diseases to America and took plants and animals in both directions. Long before Columbus, tropical sailors carefully selected crops from New World highlands and shorelines, wet and dry climates, and took them to the Old World where they were grown in appropriate environments. Medicinal and psychedelic plants were traded and maintained in Egypt and Peru during separate, 1,400-year periods. This implies that maritime trade was continuous. Plants, diseases, and animals from America were distributed throughout the world, across the oceans before 1492. It is time for scientists, teachers, and students to reconsider their beliefs about the early history of civilization with World Trade and Biological Exchanges Before 1492

Data Mining as Science
Bert Little, University of Texas

Data mining in the popular press is focused on Facebook or other social networking media, and on business intelligence purposes. The foundations of data mining lie in complex mathematics and statistics. Scientists use data mining in their research, but this is not what is reported in the press. Serious scientific research uses these techniques and this talk will highlight the importance of data mining in legitimate investigation. Several specific examples of data mining as science are presented and discussed.

Risk governance: confronting complexity beyond management
Urbano Fra Paleu, Iberian Chapter

Emergency management has been progressively built to deal with disaster in order to act reactively and overcome the impact of hazardous events on human society; the outcome is a less number of casualties where sufficiently developed, although it has not led to a reduction in economic costs. Thus, increasing costs have driven organizational changes in societies towards the adoption of a novel paradigm based on both reactive and proactive approaches, by anticipating and preventing exposure, and implementing mitigation and adaptation measures. However, thus far, national, regional and local administrations have not been very successful in meeting these goals. Besides, the risk picture is not complete unless we consider the participation of multiple actors, including businesses and civil society and not only governments, with mutual competing interests and associations formed to advance common interests. However, non-cooperative interaction, instead of synergetic behavior, is more frequently found in the relationships among the different levels of administration and the various sectoral policies, that is leading to inefficiencies in policy implementation and, ultimately, to risk exposure and accumulation. The available operative framework useful to understand –and intervene- this inherent complexity of the system of actors, decisions and risk emergence is risk governance. But, still, the concept has to be more completely elaborated.

Dynamic copula models for the spark spread. (Joint work with Fred Espen Benth)
Paul C. Kettler, Nordic Chapter

We propose a non-symmetric copula to model the evolution of electricity and gas prices by a bi-variate non-Gaussian autoregressive process. We identify the marginal dynamics as driven by normal inverse Gaussian processes, estimating them to a series of observed UK electricity and gas spot data. We estimate the copula by modeling the difference of the empirical copula to the independent copula. Following we simulate the joint process and price options written on the spark spread. We find that options prices are significantly influenced by the copula and the marginal distributions, along with the seasonality of the underlying prices.

Strategic Management of Technology in Developing Countries: A Mexican Corporation under Evolving National and International Market Conditions
Antonio Pita, Swiss Chapter

A review will be made of the basic strategies used by VITRO, a Mexican Multinational Glass company, in their quest to handle the Competitive Management of Technology during the evolving national and international market conditions that have taken place from 1980 to the present. In 1980 the Mexican national market was a closed market, but its sudden opening in 1986 implied a significant change in VITRO’s approach to manage its competitive strategy and the presentation will show the schemes used by VITRO to manage and develop its competitive technology efforts under these 2 basic conditions. Reference will also be made to the strategies that were implemented further on in order to face the challenges of the international market, together with the changes demanded by certain critical economic periods, the creation of the present economic competitive poles and finally, with the global exposure to the use of open innovation initiatives.

About Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society
Founded in 1886, Sigma Xi is the international honor society of research scientists and engineers, with more than 500 chapters at colleges and universities, government laboratories and industry research centers. Membership is by invitation, in recognition of research potential or achievement. Over the years, more than 200 Sigma Xi members have received the Nobel Prize. In addition to publishing American Scientist, the non-profit Society awards hundreds of grants annually to student researchers and sponsors a variety of programs that support science and engineering.


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