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Professor Oskar Harmon recently presented on the topic “Using Facebook as a Discussion Board in an Online Class” at the 2nd Annual Online Learning Conference, at Post University, Waterbury CT, April 20, 2012. The theme of this year’s conference was “Driving Innovation in Online Higher Education.” Prof. Harmon organized a panel of instructors teaching online courses at Uconn. The session was titled “Innovative Active Learning Instructional Activities.” The other panel participants were Dan Mercier, Director of the Institute of Teaching and Learning, Andy DePalma, Professor of Continuing Studies, and Roger Travis, Professor of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages.

Professor Harmon was one of 16 invited participants to the Spring Workshop of Starting Point: Teaching and Learning Economics, at Carleton College, MN (March 25-27, 2012).

Starting Point is an NSF funded project that seeks to introduce economists to pedagogical innovations developed witnin and beyond the discipline of economics. The project develops research based instructional strategies to promote student learning in economics. 

The Workshop participants spent an intensive 3 days planning, writing, reviewing, and editing instructional modules. The goal of the project is to create an online open source database of  classroom-tested examples for instructors of core undergraduate economics courses.  Harmon, a new convert of the project, believes it is visionary and in time will become an often consulted, and often used resource.  Both for graduate-student instructors looking for teaching ideas, and to experienced instructors looking for new ideas to try out in their classroom. To read more about the Starting Point Project, click here. To view the current inventory of examples click here.

On February 24, Prof. Richard Langlois delivered a breakfast keynote address, entitled “Design, Institutions, and the Evolution of Platforms,” at George Mason University Law school. The presentation was part of a conference called “The Digital Inventor: How Entrepreneurs Compete on Platforms,” sponsored by the Law School’s Information Economy Project. Other speakers included David Teece from the Haas School of Business at Berkeley and Donald Rosenberg, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Qualcomm. Papers from the conference will appear later this year in a special issue of the Journal of Law, Economics, & Policy.

Today the challenge of economic and social rights fulfillment has never been more pressing. Despite global growth and rising per capita GDP, malnutrition, deaths from preventable disease and other forms of socioeconomic exclusion remain endemic: in 2010, the worst performing countries met less than 40% of their economic and social rights obligations.

Countries are bound under international law to respect, protect, and fulfill economic and social rights—but there are few viable tools to hold States accountable for meeting these human rights obligations. We are therefore pleased to announce the launch of a new website and online database for the Economic & Social Rights Empowerment Initiative.

At the core of the Initiative is the Index of Social and Economic Rights Fulfillment (SERF Index), which allows rigorous analysis regarding economic and social rights guaranteed under international law: the right to adequate food, right to education, the right to the highest attainable standard of health, the right to adequate housing, the right to decent work, and the right to social security. SERF Index innovations permit cross-country comparisons in rights fulfillment, and objective assessment of whether the situation in a country is improving or deteriorating; consider countries’ available resources in determining rights obligations, as required by the legal principle of progressive realization; and provide a methodology to examine disparities in rights fulfillment between population sub-groups. These innovations create a powerful tool for civil society to hold governments accountable for fulfilling rights guaranteed under international law.

Please visit www.serfindex.org to learn more about the Initiative, access SERF Index cross-country data, and read associated research papers. The Economic & Social Rights Empowerment Initiative is a project initiated jointly by Prof. Susan Randolph at the University of Connecticut and her collaborators at the New School, Sakiko Fukuda-Parr and Terra Lawson-Remer, and is undertaken collaboratively with the Social Science Research Council.

IDEAS, a website using bibliographic data collected by the RePEc project and hosted at UConn by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, now features information about over one million articles, working papers, books, book chapters and software components in Economics. IDEAS is maintained by Prof. Zimmermann.

For more details, see the RePEc blog.

Prof. Dennis Heffley recently participated in a keynote session at the 6th Pan-Hellenic Congress on Health Management, Economics, and Policy (Athens, Greece, December 15-18, 2010). The session, chaired by John Kyriopoulos (Professor and Director, Department of Health Economics, National School of Public Health, Athens), focused on efficiency in health care. Professor Heffley’s paper on “Location Choices of Health Care Providers” presented a theoretical framework for understanding the factors that potentially affect providers’ location decisions, as well as an empirical analysis of the distribution of general care dentists and dental specialists across Connecticut’s 169 townships. Other session participants included Tryfon Beazoglou (Professor, School of Dental Medicine, University of Connecticut Health Center), Nurhan Davutyan (Professor, Department of Economics and Department of Industrial Engineering, Marmara University, Istanbul), and Gareth Goddier (Chief Executive, Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge, England).

Professor Kathleen Segerson has just finished serving on a panel of the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) charged with reviewing the Obama Administration’s draft revision of the federal “Principles and Guidelines” for water resources management. The Principles and Guidelines provide guidance to federal agencies involved in water project evaluation and planning and restoration. The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2007 mandated that these guidelines be revised to reflect current concerns, priorities and methods, and required that the proposed revisions be reviewed by the NAS. The revisions are intended, among other things, to ensure that the principles and guidelines embody the use of “best available economic principles and analytical techniques”. The Obama Administration issued a draft revision of the P&G document in December of 2009. A 13-member interdisciplinary panel was appointed by the NRC to review that draft and make recommendations for improvements. Segerson served as one of three economists on the panel. The panel’s report, which recommends significant changes to the proposed new guidelines as they relate to economic analysis, will be sent to the Obama Administration and released to the public on December 2.

The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco announces a call for papers for a conference that will explore how job loss, the onset of health limitations, and changes in household structure affect individual and household well-being over the life course. Proceedings of the conference, as well as discussions from invited discussants, will be published by Stanford University Press as a book edited by Kenneth Couch, University of Connecticut, Mary C. Daly, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and Julie Zissimopoulos, RAND.

The goal of the conference and the subsequent book will be to provide a systematic empirical analysis of the incidence of these life course shocks and their impact on economic and non-economic welfare of individuals and households. To facilitate a cohesive discussion and book the Editors have agreed on four areas of analysis that will be commonly addressed for each of the three identified life events: job loss, disability, and changes in family structure.

For more details, see the call for papers at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

Prof. Zimmermann has been invited to speak next month at the annual meeting of the Latin American and Caribbean Economic Association (LACEA) in Medellín (Colombia). LACEA has about 1000 members and its annual meetings are a large gathering where several prominent economists are invited to present the state of the art in their field.

Prof. Zimmermann will have a full session to discuss RePEc, the large bibliographic initiative in Economics he is helping lead. This project is particularly popular in Latin America, as it allows to access without subscription a bibliographic database, which also carries a large proportion of research that is freely available. In particular, Colombia has its own portal that allows journals and working paper coordinators to index their works in RePEc: DotEc.

Professor Kathy Segerson is a member of the Chartered Board of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board (SAB), which meets regularly to provide EPA with scientific and technical advice about proposed regulatory changes, research and budget priorities, and other Agency activities. The SAB is an interdisciplinary board comprised primarily of academics, but also includes individuals who work for state governments or in the private sector. While most members have expertise in the biological, physical and health sciences, the Board also includes social scientists, reflecting EPA’s increasingly recognition of the important role that economic and social factors play in advancing its mission. Professor Segerson is currently in her second 3-year term on the Board. Among her most notable contributions while serving on the Board is her leadership as Vice-Chair of the Committee on Valuing the Protection of Ecological Systems and Services, which prepared a comprehensive report (pdf) for EPA that provides advice to the Agency on how it can improve valuation of the ecological effects of its various decisions and programs.

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