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Category: Research

A World Without Soil


For today’s show, Monday host Patty Peltekos speaks with Jo Handelsman about her new book, A World Without Soil: The Past, Present, and Precarious Future of the Earth Beneath Our Feet.

The Wisconsin Book Festival and the Wisconsin Science Festival are co-presenting a book event with Jo Handelsman this Thursday, October 21 at 6 p.m. in the Discovery Building at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. More information available at the Wisconsin Book Festival website.

Jo Handelsman is the director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, a Vilas Research Professor, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor. She previously served as a science advisor to President Barack Obama as the Associate Director for Science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) from 2014 to 2017. She is the author of A World Without Soil: The Past, Present, and Precarious Future of the Earth Beneath Our Feet (Yale University Press, 2021).

Will eliminating quantitative popularity on Instagram actually make it safe for kids?


Megan Moreno, a principal investigator of the Social Media and Adolescent Health Research Team at the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told Mashable that there’s space to try out what we can to make social media safer. While she thinks the idea of fully eliminating quantitative popularity is “an interesting idea,” she is “not hugely optimistic that it will make a gigantic difference.” That’s because the idea of likes is so engrained in our society already, that the concept will be there if it’s turned off or not. And, she adds, popularity isn’t completely numerical.

The Pay Gap for Women Starts With a Responsibility Gap

Wall Street Journal

In fact, our research and research by others shows conclusively that women do ask for higher salaries as often as men do—sometimes more. They’re just not getting the same results. A 2018 study from the University of Wisconsin examined the propensity to ask for salary bumps among 4,600 employees across 800 Australian workplaces and found no gender difference, but men who asked got raises 20% of the time compared with 15% of women.

Recalibrating COVID Risk Mid-Pandemic


Now nineteen months into pandemic life, many Americans are struggling to recalibrate their COVID risk. How do we balance needed COVID precautions with considerations of mental health and meaningful social interactions? What will it take to reach the “new normal”—and will we even know when we get there?

To help us break this down, Dominique Brossard, professor of life sciences communication, and population health scientist Ajay Sethi join us for a discussion of risk assessment in the post-vaccination stage, how to negotiate a wide range of feelings about the pandemic, and why it’s still okay to not feel okay.

Dominique Brossard is professor and chair in the Department of Life Sciences Communication at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where her teaching and research focus on science and risk communication.

Ajay Sethi is an epidemiologist and associate professor in the Department of Population Health Sciences at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he specializes in the study of infectious diseases.

Why Wisconsin’s Covid Breakthrough Numbers Show the Power of Vaccination

PBS Wisconsin

Quoted: Adjusting disease rates for age is a common practice in epidemiology. The practice is crucial for understanding the impacts that a disease like COVID-19 has on a large and varied population.

“We adjust for factors like age because we identify factors like age as being confounders,” said Ajay Sethi, an epidemiologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Delta ‘opened the door’: Rural deaths from COVID-19 now higher than in urban areas

Wisconsin Public Radio

Noted: COVID-19 vaccination rates tend to be lower in rural communities, and the same goes for rural areas in Wisconsin. The difference between the most and least vaccinated counties in Wisconsin is as much as 40 percent said Dr. Jonathan Temte, an associate dean with the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health who studies vaccine and immunization policy.


City, county groups push back against GOP bills geared toward affordable housing, property assessments

Wisconsin State Journal

A 2019 study by UW-Madison urban and regional planning professor Kurt Paulsen found the number of single-family home permits in the state dropped from more than 30,000 in 2004 to fewer than 12,500 permits authorized in 2017. The report found the lack of enough workforce housing was attributed to a failure to build enough homes to keep up with population growth, increased construction costs and outdated land use regulations driving up the cost of housing.

This Is the Most Obese State in America

24/7 Tempo

Methodology: To determine America’s most obese state, 24/7 Tempo reviewed adult obesity rates from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute joint program’s 2021 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps report.

To Prevent the Next Pandemic, Scientists Seek One Vaccine for Many Coronaviruses

Wall Street Journal

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, an Oslo-based organization that funds development of vaccines for epidemic diseases, is investing $200 million in grants for early-stage development of vaccines that protect broadly against dangerous coronaviruses. The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, whose scientists are studying ways to make coronavirus vaccines, is awarding a further $95 million to other researchers, including $36 million to teams at Duke University, the University of Wisconsin, Madison and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

National Science Foundation Invests $75 Million In Five New Data Science Institutes


Students involved in this research will interact closely with industry partners, creating new career opportunities and strengthening synergies between academia and industry. The institute will include researchers at the University of Washington; the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Duke University; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; the California Institute of Technology; Purdue University; the University of California, San Diego; and the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

This Is America’s Least Obese County

24/7 Wall Street

Methodology: To determine America’s least obese county, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed adult obesity rates from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute joint program’s 2021 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps (CHR) report.

Gain-of-Function Research: All in the Eye of the Beholder

Undadrk Magazine

During the H5N1 research, Ron Fouchier, from Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and Yoshihiro Kawaoka, from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and the University of Tokyo, both virologists, wanted to understand how pandemic flu viruses might evolve.

Virus Research Has Exploded Since Covid-19 Hit. Is It Safe?


The researchers, working independently at the University of Wisconsin and Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands, ignited a storm when they sought to publish their work in science journals. The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, which makes recommendations to the government on potentially risky research, asked journals to hold off while panel members debated the risks of publishing the scientists’ methods, including the risk of providing bad actors with the means to create a bioweapon.

Century of discoveries: Interconnected tale of UW’s most innovative research epiphanies

Badger Herald

Every major breakthrough at UW built off of previous research, and without that collaboration, some of the scientific world’s most significant developments would never have been realized. From the fundamental discovery of vitamins, to collecting images in outer space, and even to the pressing issues of COVID-19 research today, UW has been involved in every facet of the developments which are still affecting our lives today.

Discrimination Persists in Society–but Who Discriminates?

Scientific American

A new study published by social psychologists Mitchell Campbell and Markus Brauer, both then at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, tested these hypotheses through a series of survey studies and field experiments involving 16,600 students at the university. The results overwhelmingly supported the concentrated discrimination account, challenging the view that the main problem is implicit bias.

An Ex-Drinker’s Search for a Sober Buzz

The New Yorker

In the early nineteen-seventies, G. Alan Marlatt, a clinical psychologist then at the University of Wisconsin, published the first account of his now famous “balanced placebo design” experiments, which demonstrated the influence that expectations and setting can have on alcohol’s psychotropic effects.

Major donation launches new building for UW-Madison school on computer and data sciences

Wisconsin State Journal

The recently launched School of Computer, Data and Information Sciences will have a new home at the corner of Orchard Street and University Avenue, officials announced Friday. UW-Madison will demolish two service buildings currently located there to make way for the 300,000-square-foot, seven-story building. The estimated price tag is $225 million, all of which will be privately funded.

The climate crisis is getting worse, but the solutions have improved dramatically

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Written by Gregory Nemet, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s La Follette School of Public Affairs. He is a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 6th Assessment Report, which will be released by the United Nations in spring 2022. He is co-chair of the La Follette School’s Climate Policy Forum on Oct. 6.

As the House gears up for debate federal infrastructure spending to fight climate change, signs of a planetary-scale crisis are everywhere. Intense rainfall and floods, searing heat in normally cool locations, and relentless wildfires of enormous scale raging continuously.

Two UW-Madison researchers have spent 20 years studying how 9/11 is taught in schools. Here’s what they learned.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

As the World Trade Center towers collapsed, Diana Hess wondered if she should cancel class.

It was Sept. 11, 2001.

Hess, then an assistant professor in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Education, started hearing whispers that the entire campus would shut down. She had been preparing for an evening class for social studies student teachers, who were working in area middle schools and high schools.

But now, the world was changing before her eyes — and so was the social studies curriculum.

The Next Chapter for Farm to School: Milling Whole Grains in the Cafeteria

Civil Eats

Last year, researchers at the Center for Integrated Agriculture Systems at the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Agriculture & Life Sciences and the Artisan Grain Collaborative in Madison received a $516,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers’ Market Promotion Program to expand the value chain for Midwest grain growers in institutions over the next three years.

Better Wages, Stronger Benefits Key To Post-Pandemic Economic Recovery, UW-Madison Study Finds

Wisconsin Public Radio

Economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic will depend on providing workers better wages, consistent schedules and stronger benefits, including accessible health care. That’s according to a new report from University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The report from COWS, formerly the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, indicates Wisconsin still has 114,000 fewer jobs available as of July than it did before the onset of COVID-19. Leisure and hospitality in particular have been affected, losing 49,600 jobs. According to the report, that has disproportionately affected women and people of color.

Laura Dresser, the associate director of COWS, said the problems in Wisconsin’s job market came about well before the pandemic.

“Many of the problems that the State of Working Wisconsin has documented for more than two decades were really exposed and exacerbated by the COVID pandemic and its impact on work,” said Dresser. “The very workers that have faced the worst wage trends, faced the hardest conditions in their jobs were the workers who were either unemployed, lost their work through the pandemic, or who faced exposure in their jobs and could not be protected from exposure.”

How Trump devastated Republican trust in the media

NBC News

Over the course of 15 months, study authors Jianing Li and Min-Hsin Su of the University of Wisconsin-Madison found an uptick in the number of tweets that used the words “we” or “our” and “they” or “their” in conjunction with the phrase “fake news.”

Report: For working Wisconsin, ‘new normal’ must mean big changes

Wisconsin Examiner

More jobs, but not a full recovery. Better wages, but fewer unions — and, as a consequence, weaker protections for workers. And gaping inequalities by race and ethnicity.

That’s the picture painted in the 2021 edition of the State of Working Wisconsin, an annual assessment that COWS, a University of Wisconsin research and policy center, has been producing for more than two decades.

COWS Associate Director Laura Dresser acknowledges a widespread urge to get “back to normal” under those conditions.

“But ‘normal’ for low-wage workers has long been unsustainable, leaving too many families struggling to get by,” she writes. “Adding jobs is important, but ensuring strong job quality and supports for low-wage workers is equally important.”

There are pockets of growth, but many parts of rural Wisconsin continue to lose people

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: In a Harris Poll of 2,050 U.S. adults last year, nearly one-third said they considered moving to a less densely populated place because of the pandemic. The age group 18 to 34 was especially interested.

Still, it’s unknown whether the pandemic-related population gains are sustainable, according to David Egan Robertson, a researcher with UW-Madison’s Applied Population Laboratory.

The number of young people in Wisconsin’s metropolitan areas has fallen about 4% over the past 20 years. But it’s down about 13% in the non-metro areas, according to Robertson.

“That’s a real issue for a lot of school districts,” he said.

Smith: Milwaukee River assessment highlights value of fish diversity

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Noted: Identifying fish in Wisconsin is easier than ever thanks to an app that can be dowloaded to smartphones.

The app includes color photographs and information on 174 fish species. It was developed by the University of Wisconsin Center for Limnology, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute.