Paper View:  Why SETI Hears Only a “Great Silence”

first_imgEnrico Fermi posed a curious question in 1950: “Where is everybody?”  If life emerges on planets as a consequence of evolution, there should be other intelligent civilizations out there, and some of them must have colonized other worlds.  He thought there must have been plenty of time for galactic colonizers to achieve technologies far beyond our own by billions of years, and therefore to have reached every corner of the Galaxy by now, including Earth.  Where are they?  This innocuous question, named “Fermi’s Paradox” (though others had asked it, too) has troubled advocates of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) ever since.  Though SETI technicians patiently eavesdrop on more and more stars each year in the half-century since SETI began, the Great Silence seems ominous.     Milan M. Cirkovic and Robert J. Bradbury think they know why.  Their ideas, published in New Astronomy July 2006,1 call for nothing less than a complete overhaul of SETI thinking: Hereby, we would like to propose a novel solution, based on the astrophysical properties of our Galactic environment on large scales, as well as some economic and informational aspects of the presumed advanced technological civilizations (henceforth ATCs).  In doing so, we will suggest a radically new perspective on the entire SETI endeavor. Traditional SETI, listening for radio signals from biological life, is “fundamentally flawed,” they claim.  Think post-biological.  Life will not remain content with the limitations of flesh, they reason.  Borrowing from the speculations of science historian Steven J. Dick, they believe biology will eventually give way to technology.  Advanced technical civilizations will be composed of machines.  They quote Dick: In sorting priorities, I adopt what I term the central principle of cultural evolution, which I refer to as the Intelligence Principle: the maintenance, improvement and perpetuation of knowledge and intelligence is the central driving force of cultural evolution, and that to the extent intelligence can be improved, it will be improved. Not “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong,” in other words.  At least until the universe runs down, the Intelligence Principle will triumph over Murphy’s Law.  This is the foundational principle of their proposal.  Life will gravitate toward maximum information processing, subject to the constraints of physical laws. A natural extension of the Intelligence Principle is what can be called the digital perspective on astrobiology: After a particular threshold complexity is reached, the relevant relations between existent entities are characterized by requirements of computation and information processing.  It is related to the emergent computational concepts not only in biology, but in other fields such as fundamental physics, cosmology, neuroscience, and social sciences. Here’s a brief synopsis of their scenario.  Life emerges on a planet, evolves to a state of intelligence, then gravitates toward more efficient information processing and computation, till it transcends the biological and becomes strictly technological.  A machine civilization is not going to care about communicating with beings like us.  Its priority will be to maximize information processing.  To do this, the entities will have to have to migrate from the places where they first evolved as biological life forms.  This is due to simple constraints of physics.  The warmth of a summer sun may be valuable to biological organisms like us, but heat is an enemy of computation.  Galaxies have a galactic temperature gradient: hot at the center, cooler at the edges.  It’s at the outskirts of the galaxy, therefore, where a machine civilization would migrate.  That, however, is not where traditional SETI is looking, and that is the reason for the Great Silence.     In their scenario, we need to drastically modify our search strategy.  Whether artifacts of technology would be detectable at the edges of the Milky Way or external galaxies, they are not sure.  Perhaps aliens would send inscriptions (see 09/01/2004).  They are quite certain, though, that radio is not on the broadcast schedule: We conclude that the conventional radio SETI assuming beamed broadcasts from targets – selected exclusively on the basis of the old-fashioned biological paradigm – within the vicinity of our Solar System … is ill-founded and has minuscule chances of success on the present hypothesis.  It is a clear and testable prediction of the present hypothesis that the undergoing SETI experiments using this conservative approach will yield only negative results. (Italics theirs.)  How can their prediction indeed be tested?  If conventional SETI does get a radio signal, the prediction might fail; otherwise, how long would they have to wait in silence to feel vindicated?  Traditional SETI researchers would probably argue this point.  But Cirkovic and Bradley also put forth a falsification test: look for evidence of technological artifacts at the outer fringes of nearby galaxies.  That, unfortunately, will probably be very difficult without more advanced technology.  Nonetheless, they are quite adamant that traditional SETI thinking is parochial.  It’s oblivious to the physical constraints that would drive life toward information processing.  “In a sense the problem has nothing to do with the universe itself, and everything to do with our ignorance and prejudices,” they state accusingly.  “In this special sense, the flaws in the currently prevailing views on SETI are much less excusable.”     In their paper, the authors acknowledged the contribution of Guillermo Gonzalez (along with Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee) to the extension of ideas about planetary “habitable zones” to galactic scales: the Galactic Habitable Zone (GHZ).2  They extended this concept further to a Galactic Technological Zone (GTZ), where machines could optimize their computational power.  This zone would be the outer reaches of a spiral galaxy – but not so far out that heavy elements would be lacking.  They were also honest about their assumptions: There is no meaningful scientific hypothesis for resolving Fermi’s Paradox – or, indeed, any problem of importance in science – without a set of assumptions.  In building of the migrational solution to Fermi’s puzzle, we have relied on the following set of assumptions: The Copernican principle continues to hold in astrobiology, i.e. there is nothing special about the Earth and the Solar System when considerations of life, intelligent observers or ATCs are made.2 Laws of physics (as applied to the classical computation theory and astrophysics) are universally valid. Naturalistic explanations for the origin of life, intelligence and ATCs are valid. The Milky Way galaxy exhibits well-established gradients of both baryonic matter density and equilibrium radiation field temperature. Habitable planets occur naturally only within the GHZ (which evolves in a manner roughly understood), but ATCs are not in any way limited to this region. We assume local influences both of and on ATCs.  Thus, we disregard overly speculative ideas about such concepts as cosmic wormholes or “basement universes”.  Interstellar travel is feasible, but it is bound to be slow and expensive (for anything larger than nanomachines) at all epochs. Astroengineering on the scales significantly larger than the scale of a typical planetary system (on the pc-scale and above) will remain difficult and expensive at all epochs and for all ATCs. ATCs will tend to maximize the efficiency of information-processing, no matter how heterogeneous their biological and cultural structures and evolutionary pathways are. These assumptions are naturally of varying validity and importance.  Items 1 through 3 are essential methodological guidelines of the entire scientific endeavor.  Although item 1 has recently become controversial with “rare Earth” theorists, there is still no compelling reasons for relinquishing it.  Assumption 4 is an empirical fact, and 5 is quite close to it.  Assumptions 6 and 7 are conservative extrapolations of our limited scientific and technological perspective, but in our view should be retained until the contrary positions can be verified.  In particular, absence of the Galaxy-size astroengineering effects in external galaxies … strongly supports the assumption 7. The most speculative assumption was #8, they acknowledged, but they reasoned this way: whether a civilization evolves toward hedonism (like the Romans) or toward accomplishment (like the Greeks), both would need to maximize their information processing.  “In either situation,” they rationalized, “they will seek the greatest computational capacity and efficiency possible to support these activities.”     So there you have it.  The drive toward the ultimate CPU governs the fate of life and intelligence.  Geeks will someday rule the universe. 1Milan M. Cirkovic and Robert J. Bradbury, “Galactic gradients, postbiological evolution and the apparent failure of SETI,” New Astronomy, Volume 11, Issue 8, July 2006, Pages 628-639, doi:10.1016/j.newast.2006.04.003. 2See also the film The Privileged Planet.  In this film Gonzales discusses the GHZ, and Brownlee gives reasons for his “rare earth” hypothesis.  The film also argues against the assumed Copernican Principle. Interesting paper.  Heavily sci-fi, profoundly speculative, politically incorrect, and somewhat amusing, perhaps, but thought-provoking.  Is it scientific?  Does its presence in a scientific journal indicate it is worthy of more serious consideration by rational truth-seekers than if it appeared in a theological journal or in Mad Magazine?  After all, they made predictions and provided a falsification criterion.  They talked about baryons and physical laws and thermodynamics.  And look – they even had equations!  Surely no one could accuse this kind of sober, rigorous analysis as being equivalent to religion.  What do you think?     Religion is a misleading word in this context.  It conjures up images of candles, robes, icons and prayer wheels.  World view is a more appropriate term: a way of looking at the world, of answering the big questions: who are we?  Where did we come from?  Why are we here?  Where are we going?  Science cannot answer these questions, yet world-view issues loom big in this article.  They have attempted to give their opinion about the origin and ultimate fate of the universe, dress it in a lab coat and pass it off as science.  Yet by any measure of scientific criteria, they always left a way out.     Their prediction is hollow, because it would require proving a universal negative.  Their falsification test is hollow, because we could all be dead before anyone finds a way to detect an unknown kind of technology at intergalactic distances, and even if someone did, another would find a natural explanation for it.  Predictions and falsifiability are not necessary components of science anyway, according to some philosophers of science.  And equations – well, nice, but the ones in the paper describe observable physical properties of temperature distribution in galaxies and have nothing to do with the social habits of intelligent beings.  Sentient beings are notoriously resistant to obeying equations about what they should do or will do.  In short, the scientific props of this article are distractions from the fact this is nothing more than a world view paper.     Their entire thesis breaks down on one of their assumptions.  It was nice of them to list their assumptions, but not so nice to glibly claim that the least plausible is one of “essential methodological guidelines of the entire scientific endeavor,” namely, “Naturalistic explanations for the origin of life, intelligence and ATCs are valid.”  Did you catch it?  They just attempted to baptize naturalism in the waters of science as if we wouldn’t notice.  (Only Cirkovic has a PhD, but they both attempted to doctor a philosophy.)     Why should this tactic be allowed for sci-fi speculation, but not for other kinds of scholarly investigation?  After all, theologians can make testable predictions.  A conservative Bible scholar, for instance, could predict that evidence for King David will be found, even point to the Tel Dan inscription as confirming evidence.  Some preachers argue that the equation “nothing times nobody equals everything.” has been falsified.  Should sufficiently scholarly sermons be allowed in scientific journals, then?  Not a few theologians are well trained in mathematical physics, and not a few scientists doubt the assumptions listed by these two speculators.  They should have no privilege in this game.  The quality of the reasoning and the support of evidence, not the scientific trappings and venue, need to carry weight in evaluating world view claims.  Cirkovic and Bradbury may wish to believe that life and intelligence are emergent properties of matter in motion, but they cannot support this world view with scientific evidence.  In fact, the tide of evidence is overwhelmingly against it (06/12/2006, 04/17/2006, online book).     These sci-fi speculators pulled off a shifty sidestep.  They merely assumed that “naturalistic explanations” for these things are “valid,” and then hid behind an arbitrary rule that naturalism is an essential methodological guideline for the entire scientific endeavor.  Oh yeah?  It wasn’t for many of the greatest scientists in history (see online book).  This claim is only made now by the Eugenie Scotts and Ken Millers of the world who want to shield their philosophical speculations from critical scrutiny.  It’s a tactic not unlike the childhood ploy “King’s X” that allows them to evade rules of the game to which the others are bound.     Cirkovic and Bradbury are as free as anyone to speculate, but need to take their speculations out of New Astronomy and argue them before philosophers and theologians, not claim special privilege for things that cannot be observed or known – indeed, things that run contrary to what we do know about the propensities of matter in motion.  What they wrote, though, is bound to make the SETI Institute angry.  A lot of investment capital is bound up in traditional SETI strategies.  These two warring parties may make any further comments superfluous; they may end up falsifying each other.(Visited 53 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

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Is This Insulation Too Good To Be True?

first_img Video Series: Covering an existing roof with rigid foam Insulating Low-Slope Residential RoofsHow to Build an Insulated Cathedral CeilingMartin’s Ten Rules of Roof DesignOpen-Cell Spray Foam and Damp Roof SheathingHow to Install Rigid Foam on Top of Roof Sheathing Go with the spray foam optionOne of Verschuren’s objections to spray foam is that it would defeat the purpose of installing cedar shingles over skip sheathing by limiting their drying potential.But Holladay has a suggestion: “If you are committed to your plan,” he writes, “install some cardboard or housewrap between your rafters followed by R-20 of spray foam, and live with the imperfect thermal performance of that type of assembly (assuming, of course, that your local building department doesn’t require a higher R-value),” he writes.Once Verschuren has cut up all that expensive insulation and placed it between the rafters, Holladay says, there is still the problem of thermal bridging through the rafters. “Once thermal bridging is accounted for, the improved performance compared to spray foam is minor, and certainly not worth the investment.”Nate G looks at it this way: Verschuren’s planned installation of Spaceloft, with a total price tag of $10,000 for materials alone, yields a total R-value of 38. Holladay’s alternative of closed-cell foam over cardboard plus a single layer of Spaceloft gets the roof to R-29 at a cost of $2,480.“So for less than 25 percent of the price, taking Martin’s advice and adding only a little bit of Spaceloft would get you 77 percent of the R-value. That seems like a no-brainer to me. The differences between R-30 and R-38 are not worth paying another $7,500, in my humble opinon,” he writes. “Comfort-wise, if this is conditioned space, you won’t feel the difference. But it’s your money!” RELATED ARTICLES Do the math on how much you’d really saveThe cedar roof cost $20,000 just five years ago, Verschuren replies, so removing it to put more insulation above the rafters isn’t an attractive idea — and it makes the Spaceloft option look a little less harebrained despite the expense. In addition, the engineer who’s designing a radiant-floor heating system for the house wants a healthy dose of insulation.Charlie Sullivan has sharpened his pencil and done some math. After using new cost estimates provided by Verschuren, he calculates that Spaceloft would cost about $15 per board foot (1 foot square by 1 inch thick).“That brings is back into the realm of a little eccentric, as opposed to completely wacko,” Sullivan says. “I’m comfortable with a little eccentric. My previous cost-effective calculation changes to 12 times as expensive as it should be, rather than 75 times.“The extra heat loss from that, at a 60°F temperature difference (we still don’t know your climate, so that’s a guess) is only 265 Btu/h less than you’d get with an R-5/inch solution. The radiant engineer shouldn’t call himself an engineer (or radiant for that matter) if he thinks that an extra 265 Btu/h is going to undermine his design. That’s less heat loss than a 25 square foot high-quality U-0.2 triple-pane window.”Nate G believes Verschuren would do himself a favor by being more flexible. “You seem to be getting yourself tied in knots because of the limitations you’ve set for yourself,” he adds. “Sometimes it’s time to admit that those limitations either preclude any good options or need to be removed.”If Verschuren could lose just a few inches of ceiling height, he adds, he’s have many more options. Or, if he needs more space, he could always build a ground-floor addition that preserves the architectural character of the house. The coup de grace for this idea?The discussion so far has assumed Spaceloft has an insulating value of R-10 per inch, and that apparently does apply for certain versions of this product. But Bill Dietze takes a close look at the fine print and throws this curve: “Jan, the link you provide mentions the uses of Spaceloft as ‘Great for home insulation, winter clothing, science projects,’ but the link to datasheets for material with a conductivity of 0.14 W/mK (R-10 per inch) is an undersea pipe product,” he writes. “Hardly residential. If you proceed, be aware that you are probably in the ‘science project’ category.“The Spaceloft product rated for ‘Ambient temperature walls, floors and roofs in commercial, residential and institutional building’ has a lower thermal resistance (R-8.3 per inch) and no datasheet describing the application.”If the lower R-value is correct, it makes the case for Spaceloft even less compelling, Holladay points out.“But it is still ahead in many ways over ‘the rest’ to use,” Verschuren says. We have the money to do it but do not want to waste it, either!” Editor’s note: After this article was published, GBA learned that the product formerly known as Spaceloft has be re-branded as Proloft. For more information on Proloft, visit Advanced Insolutions Inc.. Here is a link to a report on R-value testing of Proloft Aerogel Blanket.center_img There are a few downsides, however: The cost is “exorbitant,” and Verschuren still has to figure out how to detail the installation so it will be vapor-open and able to dry out.Or, does he have other alternatives? That’s the issue for this Q&A Spotlight. Our expert’s opinionHere’s how GBA technical director Peter Yost sees it:I decided I really needed to check in with Jan Verschuren on this one; just too many balls in the air to offer any helpful perspective. Having done that, I think the list of constraints (below) Jan poses or faces proves that if you narrow the boundary conditions on a problem enough, you can arrive at a singular solution.Here are the factors to consider:The newness of the current roof cladding means you can’t build up insulation topside.Very low ceiling heights mean that there is little room to build up insulation on the bottom.The ceiling is already being built down 13/16 inches for Warmboard-R panels, primarily for radiant cooling.Radiant cooling for the attic space is being driven by lack of room for ducts and an already-in-place ground-source heat pump system, making for a fairly easily retrofit for radiant cooling.The homeowners can’t really rely upon natural ventilation (open windows) for low-grade space cooling because of urban noise issues.Spray foam insulation is not an option.As Jan says, “…my hands are tied!”So, if we can agree to accept these constraints, Jan is ending up with layers of Spaceloft in between the rafters and two layers (2 centimeters) of continuous Spaceloft to the underside of the rafters.We confirmed that standardized independent R-value testing of Spaceloft yields about R-8.3 per inch. That makes Spaceloft significantly better per unit of thickness than any other readily available building insulation but also means the entire assembly is still not code-compliant and far from high performance.At the end of the day, that phrase “readily available” may be the key to whether this solution will work for Jan and others considering this pricey approach to insulation: neither I nor Jan could get Aerogel to respond at all to our requests for technical information and information on the availability of Spaceloft for Jan’s project.No magic bullet for this one, with neither the bullet or its delivery magical at all. Space what?GBA senior editor Martin Holladay has never heard of Spaceloft, but has two other suggestions. “Three and a half inches of closed-cell spray foam would give you about R-22.7,” he writes. “That’s less than code minimum requirements. The solution is to thicken up your rafters or to install several layers of continuous rigid foam under your rafters.“You’ll lose a little headroom, but at least you’ll have a roof that meets minimum code requirements.”If Verschuren absolutely can’t afford to lose any headroom in the attic, Holladay adds, “it’s time to raise the roof. Again, we’re talking physics. Sometimes you just have to face facts.”Nate G understands why Aerogel insulation performs as well as it does, but Spaceloft is another question.“I am highly skeptical of the claims of this product because Aerogel is a rigid material, basically a mostly-hollow brick made out silicon,” Nate G writes. “This stuff [Spaceloft] comes in a flexible blanket. I have a hard time believing that it behaves the same as rigid Aerogel. The way Aerogel material works is by trapping a lot of air in billions of nanometer-sized pores. In a solid material, the integrity of these pores can be guaranteed. In a flexible sheet, how can it?”And then there is the expense.“But let’s say I’m wrong that this stuff really performs as advertised,” Nate G adds. “The best price they offer is $95/inch thick/square foot. By contrast, conventional insulation materials are literally in the ballpark range of to 100 times less expensive. At 3 1/2 inches thick, you’re paying $332 per square foot of roof. You could, like, demolish the house and build a whole new one for that price given an average-sized attic.”To Holladay, that kind or price tag makes Spaceloft “fairly irrelevant to the everyday concerns of residential builders” even if it performs as advertised. CONSTRUCTION DETAILS Jan Verschuren has a nicely roofed older house, and a problem to go with it. Cedar shingles have been installed over skip sheathing, making for a roof that’s not only historically correct but one that allows air to circulate freely beneath the roof deck. Verschuren’s next objective is to insulate between the 2×4 rafters, and here’s where he has run into a snag.Building codes require at least R-38 worth of insulation in the roof. Ordinarily, that wouldn’t be a problem, but Verschuren says that he has only the 3 1/2-inch deep rafter bay to work with. He can’t afford to lose any headroom by adding insulation below the rafters, and he’d rather not tear off the roof to add extra insulation on top of the rafters.He’s zeroed in on a type of insulation called Spaceloft with a reported insulating value of R-10 per inch. The distributor’s web site describes Spaceloft as “a flexible aerogel composite blanket.”“So, 3 1/2 iches is all we have, but we’d like to get to an R-50 or thereabouts in our upgrade of this 1925 house built in Climate Zone 4C,” he writes in a Q&A post at GreenBuildingAdvisor. “Spaceloft seems the only option.”Verschuren thinks he can get nine layers of this material in the rafter bays, followed by one or two layers over the bottoms of the rafters.last_img read more

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Ceres beefs up champs league roster

first_img Oil plant explodes in Pampanga town Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. MOST READ Didal, Fil-am reach Tokyo qualifiers semifinals ‘We are too hospitable,’ says Sotto amid SEA Games woes PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games PLAY LIST 02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City01:07Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes02:49World-class track facilities installed at NCC for SEA Games02:11Trump awards medals to Jon Voight, Alison Krauss Former Kaya Iloilo midfielder Miguel Tanton could turn out to be Ceres’ marquee signing as he’s set to fill the void to be left by Ott who, sources said, will be playing in the Thai League 1 next season.The League 1, commonly known as T1, is Thailand’s premier football competition contested by 16 clubs and operates on a system of promotion and relegation to League 2.A key cog for Kaya since 2015, Tanton, a midfielder, was part of the 23-man squad of the Azkals in the AFC Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates.A versatile player who can play at midfield or in central defense, Villanueva proved instrumental in the Azkals’ qualification for the Asian Cup, but was unable to crack the squad of coach Sven Goran Eriksson.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hostingSPORTSUrgent reply from Philippine ‍football chiefSPORTSWin or don’t eat: the Philippines’ poverty-driven, world-beating pool starsDe Bruycker played in the 2017 Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia while it will be Marasigan’s second stint with Ceres, which he played for in 2015.The Busmen begin their campaign on Feb. 5 when they take on Yangon United of Myanmar in the preliminary round of Champions League qualifying at Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City. The winner of the match will take on Thai club Chiang Rai United in the next round. SEA Games hosting troubles anger Duterte Grace Poe files bill to protect govt teachers from malicious accusations Private companies step in to help SEA Games hosting Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next Bracing for an uphill climb in the AFC Champions League starting next month, Philippines Football League (PFL) champion Ceres-Negros added depth and quality to its squad after signing four new players for the coming season.Anticipating the move of stars Patrick Reichelt and Manny Ott, who are reportedly set to sign for clubs overseas, the Busmen signed former Davao Aguilas players Dylan De Bruycker and Dennis Villanueva as well as Angelo Marasigan from Global FC.ADVERTISEMENT US judge bars Trump’s health insurance rule for immigrants View comments LATEST STORIES Oil plant explodes in Pampanga town Lacson backs proposal to elect president and vice president in tandemlast_img read more

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Rocking the Case Study

first_imgI’m a huge fan of case studies. They’re an incredible tool to showcase your nonprofit’s work, demonstrate social proof, and gain more supporters. Jay Baer’s Youtility explains the power of case studies in greater detail, but here are a few ways you can use this approach to support your fundraising and marketing efforts: 1) Get testimonials. Tell the story of why people support your organization. Ask questions such as:Why are you passionate about this issue?When did you start learning about this issue?Why do you choose to support our organization?By gathering this information, you’ll not only have endorsements for your cause, but you can also use responses to inform your marketing and donor recruitment strategies.2) Document how you spent money. Did you dedicate a large portion of funds to operational expenses? Why? What impact did it have? Once you explain that to donors, they’ll better understand how you fulfill your mission, and why it’s important to have operational expenses. Every penny of your budget doesn’t have to go to on-the-ground work, but you do have to demonstrate how operations are vital to ensuring the services you provide are making a positive change. 3) Survey those you help. Ask your constituency how they’ve found your services. Do they see your nonprofit as a vital member of their community? Would they be able to get where they are without you?If those answers affirm your work, ask respondents if you can use a quote in your case study. Most will be happy to help. In some cases, if you provide them with links and social media messages, they’ll share the study with their network, too. If the answers bring up questions or poke holes in your work, pay attention to that. That’s a great opportunity to take feedback and turn it into something positive.Have you created a case study before? What were the results? How did you share it with supporters?last_img read more

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Celebrating the Second Year of the PLOS-MHTF Collection on Maternal Health

first_imgPosted on January 29, 2014August 10, 2016Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)The following was originally posted on PLOS  BlogsPLOS Medicine and the MHTF review highlights of the second successful collection, as part of their 3 Year partnership focusing on improving Maternal Health globally.Back in late 2012 the Maternal Health Task Force, at the Harvard School of Public Health, and PLOS Medicine issued a call for papers on the theme ‘Maternal Health is Women’s Health’, chosen in order to recognise that a women’s health is of crucial importance through her lifetime, and not just during pregnancy and labour.The breadth of the research that has been submitted to PLOS since the call has been of great quality and impact. In this blog, we’d like to highlight just some articles in the collection that represent a selection of the important work recommended to alleviate the poor health, low educational attainment and low socioeconomic status adversities affecting maternal health, that women and girls of experience throughout their lifetimes.To continue reading, visit the original post at PLOS. For more on Year 3 of the PLOS-MHTF  collection on maternal health, including guidelines for submitting to the collection, visit the Year 3 call for papers. To read articles published in the Year 1 and Year 2 collections, visit PLOS Collections.Share this: ShareEmailPrint To learn more, read:last_img read more

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Our New Power Woman of Tech: Maria Canfora

first_imgSilicon Valley isn’t the only hub for tech start-ups these days. The Washington D.C. area is quickly becoming a solid alternative for attracting highly-educated, ambitious and talented people in the technology sector. DCA Live has highlighted a key list of thought-leaders, innovators, and drivers of change in various industries, since 2014. One key group of individuals making an impact on the business community of DC are women, and today, DCA Live is putting out its list of the 40 women under 40 who are driving change.The Trending 40 Women in Tech includes founders, CEOs, investors, engineers, financial experts, marketing gurus, and others who contribute to the local ecosystem. The New Power Women of Tech includes our very own Maria Canfora, Chief Financial Officer, Network for Good.In a hi-tech culture that has gained a reputation for being unwelcoming to and biased against women, Maria has made a name for herself. “I absolutely love what I do,” said Maria. “Being a part of a start-up’s culture, the growth, the fast pace is invigorating. The energy is what attracts me to start-ups. And the special culture at Network for Good is unlike any I have experienced. Being a B Corp, it is one that is not only driven by their financial performance, but also the desire to develop a product that allows customers to do good.”She continued, “We are in a small and well-known group of about 2,000 companies—such as Warby Parker glasses, Dansko footwear, Patagonia outdoor clothier, and others—that are committed to meeting rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.”In this leadership role, Maria is well equipped to help drive the year-over-year 40 percent+ growth that Network for Good is experiencing.  She has more than 20 years of experience guiding start-ups and other tech companies to IPO; three to be exact. She was also the winner of the Women in Technology Leadership Award for Corporate Public Sector Small Business in 2014.Given Maria’s wealth of experience in helping start-ups build from the ground up to successful IPOs she wanted to offer these tips:Managing the Growth. Way too often start-ups hire like mad. This approach locks in overhead expenses. Sadly, most are not able to support that growth by sales.Refining Your Brand. It is easy to want to be something for everyone, especially in a high-growth space. No one wants to turn down business. But the sooner a company can identify the niche they play in and refine their brand to reflect that, the better suited they will be to take on that market share.Hiring Isn’t Just for HR. Every person in the organization should have a hand in ensuring that each new hire is a good one. When you are growing so fast, it is easy to overlook the hiring process when if anything it should be the most rigorous.last_img read more

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Increase Donor Loyalty with 5 Best Practices

first_imgWhat motivates donors to continue giving to an organization? Traditionally, research that’s focused on charitable giving has looked at how to motivate donors to give an initial gift. But are you doing everything you can to increase donor loyalty? After all, fundraising pros know that donor retention is the golden ticket. Apply these five best practices to your fundraising work and turn one-time donors into loyal, ongoing supporters.1) Build an Emotional ConnectionCompanies that optimize the emotional connection between their brand and their customers outperform competitors by 26 percent in gross margin and 85 percent in sales growth. Customers who feel emotionally connected to a brand are:At least three times more likely to recommendThree times more likely to re-purchaseEmotional connections are even more necessary in the nonprofit realm. A logical connection isn’t enough to go the distance. Emotional connections influence both the length and frequency of a donor’s engagement with your organization.2) Get FeedbackConsumer brands use post-interaction surveys to gather insightful feedback from customers. Set up your survey to ask any question you’d like to know the answer to. They can be especially helpful to nonprofits for gathering feedback on the online donation experience, for asking opinions on various issues, and for collecting ideas to improve the donor experience.3) Practice Social Listening and EngagementSurveys aren’t the only way to listen to your donors. Smart brands use social media to learn about their consumers. Engage with your supporters by responding to questions and sharing relevant information. Nonprofits can gain the same benefits by paying attention to what people are saying on both their organization’s social pages and individuals’ social pages. And they can build a relationship by responding in relevant, meaningful ways.4) Focus on the IndividualTo generate loyalty, you have to focus on each person as an individual. Consumers are used to getting customized communications that are personalized. Similarly, donors expect nonprofits to leverage what the organization knows about them to make their experience the best it can be. For example, find out what types of causes they support and share related programs they may be interested in. Learn how they prefer to give—whether via email, text, social media, or snail mail—and make the process easy for them. Find out when they like to give and time your requests appropriately.5) Show That You Appreciate ThemBrands often have customer appreciation events that are designed specifically to show customers that they’re valued. Appreciation doesn’t have to come in the form of a big event, however. Nonprofits can show appreciation to donors via letters, personalized videos, photo galleries of the project the donor has given to, etc.Ultimately, it comes back to building the relationship with your donors. They want to feel that they’re a valued part of the work that your organization does. They want to feel connected. As you focus on seeing your donors as individuals, you’ll be able to craft a donor experience program that results in loyal supporters.Learn why the donor experience is vital to a successful organization and how to implement an effective donor experience program by downloading “A Better Donor Experience: Is it the Cornerstone of Donor Loyalty?”last_img read more

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Accounting for 1 in 3 Maternal Deaths, Health Disparities Persist in South Asia

first_img ShareEmailPrint To learn more, read: Posted on April 30, 2015June 12, 2017By: Linnea Bennett, Intern, Environmental Change and Security Program, Woodrow Wilson CenterClick to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)As part of the Advancing Policy Dialogue on Maternal Health Series, the MHTF, along with UNFPA, supported the Wilson Center to host South Asia Consultation on Maternal Health: Regional Dialogue and Way Forward, to address neglected topics in maternal health.The state of maternal health in South Asia is difficult to assess. Although rates of maternal mortality are declining between 2 and 2.5 percent a year overall, the region’s massive population – one fifth of the world and over 1 billion people in India alone – means it still accounts for one out of three maternal deaths. [Video Below]Quality of care fluctuates wildly. Some countries, like Sri Lanka, have made major improvements while others, like Afghanistan and Pakistan, still struggle to meet baseline needs, said Dr. Linda Bartlett, an associate scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. There are major disparities within countries as well, noted Dr. Pallavi Gupta, health program coordinator of Oxfam India. “Even in southern states [of India] that are advanced, you have pockets that are extremely backwards,” she said. In Pakistan, the overall maternal mortality rate is 276 per 100,000 live births, but in the province of Balochistan the rate is as high as 785, with less than 10 percent of pregnant women receiving adequate vaccines and immunizations. “It seems horrifying that a country with nuclear capability can only vaccinate less than 10 percent of pregnant women in a whole big region of their country,” Bartlett said.Bartlett, Gupta, and other panelists at the Wilson Center on March 31 were participants in a February conference on the state of maternal health in South Asia sponsored by Oxfam India. Delegates from each South Asian country convened in Nepal for discussions on recurring problems, highlighting four persistent challenges as well as recommendations for improving results.Amid Data Craze, Gaps PersistDespite an emphasis on data since the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), there are major blind spots, said Gupta. “We have had instances where maternal deaths have happened but they were not on the record of the government.” Sources can also be quite different from one another. For example, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates average maternal mortality in South Asia to be 311 per 100,000 live births, but the UN reports 190. “Personally I’m not a very great fan of statistics,” Gupta said, “because I don’t really trust that the statistics we produce actually represent the reality on the ground.”Even when concrete and useful numbers are produced, they are often inaccessible or incomprehensible to the communities that need them most, and aggregation can cover up marginalized groups who are consistently left out of overall gains. And surveyors largely ignore qualitative data regarding user experience, which Gupta believes is critical to successful health programs.To close the data gap, the panel called for a more robust collection process led by surveyors who better understand the issues they are dealing with. “Frontline health workers who provide data should be trained to look at the perspective of service improvement, not just asked to fill in a data collection sheet,” Gupta said. She also suggested limiting surveys by external groups to reinforce in-country capacity and encouraging more collaboration between existing efforts by NGOs and funding agencies. When possible, data should be disaggregated too by religion, caste, ethnicity, and education, she said, to help discern which communities are in most need of programs and care.Respectful CareWhile data plays a critical role, Bartlett pointed out that maternal health is inherently a human rights issue. Providing care with dignity, informed consent, and open communication about options may be difficult to measure, but plays a major role in whether women take advantage of health care when it’s available. “It only takes one bad experience in a labor or delivery room to make you very aware of it,” she said.Instances of obstructive violence, corruption, violations of patients’ rights, and disrespect and abuse in the labor room are not uncommon. Patriarchal societies, and religious and ethnic differences often cause systematic discrimination, said Bartlett. She recommended it become mandatory for health workers – from physicians to midwives to those who operate the front door – to take basic training on respectful care. She also suggested using local celebrities to bring attention within the broader context of violence against women, noting that celebrity status can spread messages wider and faster among the South Asian diaspora than it might elsewhere in the world.Measuring Morbidity and Expanding Private CareWhere mortality measures the instances of maternal death in a country, morbidity looks at the general health and wellbeing of women. For every woman who dies from pregnancy-related causes, between 20 and 30 are left with acute or chronic health conditions, yet “there is no South Asian country besides Sri Lanka that tracks morbidity data,” said Dr. Jahangir Hossain, program director for health at CARE Bangladesh.Reducing morbidity will require a better trained workforce. In Bangladesh, Hossain said CARE has been helping to create innovative public-private partnerships that bring more skilled workers to communities in need.In Sunamganj, a flood-prone district in Bangladesh, pockets of the population were experiencing maternal mortality rates almost double that of the national average of 190 per 100,000 live births. Women on average paid 67 percent of their health care costs out of pocket. CARE partnered with the Bangladesh Ministry of Health and a private company to train 168 community-based, private care providers. Workers were also linked to commodity suppliers to facilitate better access to supplies. These providers were then distributed across 10 sub-regions and 50 remote areas in Sunamganj in which 68 percent of the people served were “poor” or “ultra-poor.”By December of 2014, 34 percent of babies in the region were delivered by the new, privately trained providers while only 15 percent were delivered by providers who had been in place before. The privately trained providers were also earning ample wages and showing signs of financial stability. The program’s results showed that private providers can complement public efforts and fill in gaps in areas where the public health system is not functioning adequately.Connecting to a “Bigger Picture”Barbara Stilwell, senior director of health workforce solutions at the NGO Intrahealth International, served as a discussant, commenting on the conclusions of the Nepal conference. She agreed that programs like CARE’s are important because they “bring in parts of the population that wouldn’t otherwise get in.”Stilwell has evaluated how people enter and exit the health work force, looking for the best ways to improve quality and retention in poor resource settings. She cites a lack of secondary school, particularly for women, as an issue in low- and middle-income countries that prevent workers from qualifying for advanced degrees. People may also be driven away from education because of costs or, if they have the money, migrate abroad to practice instead of staying in the country where they were trained.Stilwell and her colleagues are looking at ways to increase the number of skilled providers by bringing job enrichment to all levels of the workforce. This includes encouraging peer to peer mentoring – not only to expand training capacity but to empower the mentors. “We’ve been involved in India in a mentoring project where some very skilled nurses have been trained to be mentors in Karnataka,” she said. “What we found is that not only have the nurse midwives become much better at giving care, but they’ve also shown [more] initiative.”Connecting health care to a “bigger picture” purpose can give health workers incentive and motivation, Stilwell said, especially when they see data that says quality of care makes a difference in their patients’ lives. Allowing people to master their professions gives them a career ladder and an opportunity to advance their work. According to the 2014 State of the World’s Midwifery Report, midwives could deliver 87 percent of all essential and needed care to mothers and newborns worldwide if given the right training.“In India, nurse midwives do not [do] more than making beds and giving the injections that they are asked to do,” Gupta said. “But that kind of capacity building and empowerment, that would take care of so much more.”Event Resources:Linda Bartlett’s PresentationPallavi Gupta’s PresentationJahangir Hossain’s PresentationBarbara Stilwell’s PresentationPhoto GalleryVideoSources: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, UN Population Fund, World Health Organization.Photo Credit: Midwives wait inside the birthing center in Dhaka, Bangladesh, courtesy of Conor Ashleigh/Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.This post originally appeared at The New Security Beat, the blog of Environmental Change and Security Program at The Wilson Center.Share this:last_img read more

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Midwives on the Edge—Providing Essential Care in Crisis Settings

first_imgPosted on June 26, 2018June 29, 2018By: Kayla McGowan, Project Coordinator, Women and Health Initiative, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public HealthClick to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Sera Bonds, CEO/Founder, Circle of Health InternationalAcross many settings, midwives are key players in the maternal health workforce. The Maternal Health Task Force’s Kayla McGowan recently had the pleasure of interviewing Sera Bonds, Founder/CEO of Circle of Health International, for her insight into successes, challenges and the role of midwifery in crisis settings.KM: Please describe your background and work in maternal health.SB: I have an undergraduate degree in women’s studies. I went to midwifery school, direct entry—I’m not a licensed or practicing midwife, but I have training in midwifery. I have a Masters in Public Health; I went to Boston University where I focused my studies on complex humanitarian emergencies and reproductive health. I founded Circle of Health International in 2004 in response to a gap that we saw in the sector of disaster management and complex humanitarian emergencies—that midwives were not included and prioritized in those responses. That did not make a lot of sense given that outside of the United States, midwives deliver most of the world’s babies. And if you are introduced to communities through the midwives in that community, that introduction is embedded with a level of trust that really can’t be replicated for someone from the outside coming in. Midwives are privy to a lot of information outside of things like the number of pregnancies, how breastfeeding went, that sort of thing. They know [about intimate partner violence], who lives in poverty, whose kids go to bed hungry, they know family histories. When you know those people in a community, you know immediately so much more about their needs than you would if you just came in from the outside or went to the ministry or different folks in the community. We really prioritize midwives—that’s where we started in 2004.KM: Could you talk specifically about your work related to midwifery in crisis settings?SB: Over the last 14 years, the organization has worked in 22 different countries, and the crisis settings have ranged from acute conflicts—we’ve been working in Syria for seven years—to rural Tanzania where they have high rates of teen pregnancy and HIV as well as poverty. We have been working in south Texas on the Mexico border for the last four years supporting a refugee clinic, though most of the folks that come to the clinic are asylees or migrants. The clinic sees people immediately upon their release from border patrol, so we are their first stop.We’ve also been doing a lot of disaster work in America as hurricane seasons pick up and up and up. Our primary responses last year were Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Because of the populations that we work with, we also do some work related to human trafficking.We have been engaged in human trafficking advocacy and training for different social service agencies, medical schools, and clinics to help those who are working in clinical settings in places where there are high instances of human trafficking support survivors. The more you can know about a person—not just their clinical history—the better the care.KM: Can you describe the impact so far?SB: Over the last 14 years, we have reached over three million women and children with services or support either directly or through our local community-based partners. We have trained over 7,000 health care providers—including medical students—and we have provided well over one million dollars in supplies and equipment.We really try to have all of the work we do be informed and led by the people who are directly impacted. As part of our response in Texas after Hurricane Harvey, for example, we hired a local evacuee woman who had been relocated to Austin. She led our evacuee efforts on a short contract and has now become a staff member. We try to pull locally when we can. We try, when possible, to purchase everything locally, too.KM: What are some key takeaways regarding the role of midwifery in these settings?SB: So many of the world’s displaced people are women and children—with the majority of them experiencing some interaction with family planning, menstrual health and hygiene, domestic violence, sexual assault, pregnancy, breastfeeding or raising children, etc. Midwives are uniquely positioned to address and support most of those needs, and they’re cost-effective. A midwife’s scope of work could meet the needs of most women in these displaced settings.We are continually surprised with how little women in any place know about their own bodies. As we’ve grown as an organization, we have learned about all of the intersections we need to be educating about as well, such as sexual consent, menstrual health and hygiene, domestic violence, sexual assault, gender issues in conflict settings and others, so our work has taken on a nuanced hue. Midwives in humanitarian emergencies are unique and significant players that should be supported.KM: Could you talk a bit about the impact of your work on a global scale?SB: The biggest impact we have made on a global scale is the midwifery training work we have done in various settings, from Syria to Nigeria.Within the profession of midwifery globally, we have tried to identify and support local leaders who are trying to grow the profession. For example, we founded a program called Midwives for Peace that was a co-existence project between Israeli and Palestinian midwives, and it has been completely locally driven and locally run. We just helped to get it started. The goal of the project is to help each community support each other and fortify their profession in the context in which they work.KM: If you had an unlimited budget, how would you invest in midwifery?SB: We would double down on education. We have an online training portal, and we would make that available for free, provide scholarships for people to go to midwifery school. We have our first cohort of Nepali midwives graduating, and they’ll be the first professionally trained midwives to go back to their villages. We need more midwives trained, and then we need to support their inclusion in the health care system and work with ministries of health and governments to understand their strength, utility and impact. More local investment in local women.—Learn more about Circle of Health International.Watch a brief documentary about the work of two midwives, one Palestinian and one Israeli, whose project to raise awareness about the importance of skin-to-skin contact between mothers and newborns is an inspiring story of coexistence.—What is your perspective on the role of midwifery in crisis settings? We’d love to hear from you!Share this: ShareEmailPrint To learn more, read:last_img read more

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Cabinet to Receive Proposed Amendments to Laws on Parish Council Operations

first_img Enactment of the Local Government Financing and Financial Management, and Local Government Unified Services and Employment Acts, are also being put forward. Cabinet is expected to receive a draft of proposed amendments to legislation governing parish council operations from Local Government and Community Development Minister, Hon. Noel Arscott, shortly.The Minister, who made the disclosure at a Social Development Commission (SDC) community conference in Mandeville, Manchester, on October 2, said development of the “long awaited” proposed strategic laws for reformed local governance process has been completed.He informed that the reform process being pursued entails proposed amalgamation of the Kingston and St. Andrew, Parish Council, and Municipalities Acts into one legislation – the Local Governance Act.Enactment of the Local Government Financing and Financial Management, and Local Government Unified Services and Employment Acts, are also being put forward.These, the Minister explained, are intended to equip the local authorities with greater autonomy and responsibility to administer their affairs. They are also intended to formalize the involvement of organizations, such as parish and community development committees in the local governance process.Mr. Arscott advised that “consensus” has been reached among all stakeholders with whom the Ministry had consultations, consequent on a review of aspects of the provisions.These, he informed, include: introducing shared services, such as accounting and engineering, “because there is a realization that the capacity for certain technical services does not reside in each (or some) parish council(s).”The Minister explained that once Cabinet approves the submission, drafting instructions will be issued to the Chief Parliamentary Counsel to initiate the enactment process, subject to parliamentary deliberations.While noting that successive administrations have been “working assiduously” on local government reform for upwards of two decades, Mr. Arscott pointed out that it is a “very complex” process relating to all 14 parish councils, and involving “hundreds of laws, dating way back.”Mr. Arscott said in pursuing the local government reform process, the Government, through the Ministry, has been in discussion with South Africa’s Ministry of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs on the matter.Part of this process entailed a visit that country by him earlier this year for discussions with Minister Lechesa Tsenoli, who in turn came to Jamaica last month.“We are trying to partner with them (South Africa), because they are already advanced in terms of their local government reform (process). So, we are now sharing information and looking at best practices, so (that) we can learn from them,” the Minister said.Mr. Arscott said he hopes to have the proposals tabled in Parliament within a few weeks, once they are approved by Cabinet and passed on to the Chief Parliamentary Counsel.The meeting,  held under the theme: ‘The Governance Framework: The Pathway to Local Economic Development’, is the first of 12 community development committee conferences slated to be staged by the Social Development Commission (SDC), between October and November.The conferences are being held to heighten participants’ knowledge of the importance of local governance and its processes; and the link between governance and economic development, among other matters. The National Association of Parish Development Committees (NAPDEC) and National Integrity Action (NIA) have partnered with the SDC to stage the conferences.A major outcome is increased public advocacy for timely passage of the revised local governance legislation through a petition which will be circulated islandwide to facilitate Community Development Committee (CDC) executives signing the document. This is currently being done in Manchester.The petition will be presented to Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, after all stakeholders have signed it. Story Highlights Development of the “long awaited” proposed strategic laws for reformed local governance process has been completed. The Kingston and St. Andrew, Parish Council, and Municipalities Acts are to be joined into one legislation – the Local Governance Act.last_img read more

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