Colby College is carving out space in the liberal arts canon for artificial intelligence. Thanks to a $30 million gift from an alumnus, the small, selective college in Maine is establishing the Davis Institute for Artificial Intelligence, which aims to integrate machine learning, natural language processing and big data into instruction and research across the college. "We want to be sure we're preparing students well for their futures: lives and careers of meaning and purpose," says Margaret McFadden, provost and dean of faculty at Colby. "Well-educated people have to understand AI, what these tools are and how to use them." Artificial intelligence has homes at other U.S. higher ed institutions, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Georgia, Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, and Stanford University.
Though police have been using facial recognition technology for the last two decades to try to identify unknown people in their investigations, the practice of putting the majority of Americans into a perpetual photo lineup has gotten surprisingly little attention from lawmakers and regulators. Lawmakers, civil liberties advocates and police chiefs have debated whether and how to use the technology because of concerns about both privacy and accuracy. But figuring out how to regulate it is tricky. So far, that has meant an all-or-nothing approach. City Councils in Oakland, Portland, San Francisco, Minneapolis and elsewhere have banned police use of the technology, largely because of bias in how it works.
What if a new treatment for Alzheimer's disease exists today among existing U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drugs? A new peer-reviewed study published last week in Nature Communications by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital shows how an AI machine learning framework combined with genomics can help predict drug repurposing candidates for Alzheimer's disease. There are an estimated 50 million people living with Alzheimer's disease, a neurodegenerative disorder, and other forms of dementia globally according to the World Alzheimer Report 2018. In the United States, 5.8 million people are affected by Alzheimer's disease--two-thirds of whom are women. There are over 16 million people in the U.S. caring for those with Alzheimer's according to an article published today in Time by Maria Shriver, founder of the Women's Alzheimer's Movement, and George Vradenburg, co-founder of UsAgainstAlzheimer's.
With health metrics improving and mitigation measures in place across Massachusetts schools, Elementary and Secondary Commissioner Jeff Riley said Tuesday it's time to begin the process of getting more students back into classrooms. Riley, who is set to join Gov. Charlie Baker and Education Secretary James Peyser for a 2 p.m. press conference on education and COVID-19, told Board of Elementary and Secondary Education members that he plans to ask them in March to give him the authority to determine when hybrid and remote school models no longer count for learning hours, as part of a broader plan to return more students to physical school buildings. Riley said he would take a "phased approach to returning students into the classrooms, working closely with state health officials and medical experts." He said his plan would focus on elementary school students first, with the initial goal of having them learning in-person five days a week this April. "At some point, as health metrics continue to improve, we will need to take the remote and hybrid learning models off the table and return to a traditional school format," Riley said.
David Cox, the head of a prestigious artificial intelligence lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was scanning an online computer science bibliography in December when he noticed something odd--his name listed as an author alongside three researchers in China whom he didn't know on two papers he didn't recognize. At first, he didn't think much of it. The name Cox isn't uncommon, so he figured there must be another David Cox doing AI research. "Then I opened up the PDF and saw my own picture looking back at me," Cox says. It isn't clear how prevalent this kind of academic fraud may be, or why someone would list as a coauthor someone not involved in the research.
After two introductory tutorials, its time to build our first neural network! The network we are building solves a simple regression problem. Regression is a process where a model learns to predict a continuous value output for a given input data, e.g. Our objective is to build prediction model that predicts housing prices from a set of house features. We will use the Boston Housing dataset, which is collected by the U.S Census Service concerning housing in the area of Boston Mass.
One important characteristic of coronavirus epidemiology is the occurrence of superspreading events. These are marked by a disproportionate number of cases originating from often-times asymptomatic individuals. Using a rich sequence dataset from the early stages of the Boston outbreak, Lemieux et al. identified superspreading events in specific settings and analyzed them phylogenetically (see the Perspective by Alizon). Using ancestral trait inference, the authors identified several importation events, further investigated the context and contribution of particular superspreading events to the establishment of local and wider SARS-CoV-2 transmission, and used viral phylogenies to describe sustained transmission. Science , this issue p. [eabe3261]; see also p.  ### INTRODUCTION We used genomic epidemiology to investigate the introduction and spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in the Boston area across the first wave of the pandemic, from March through May 2020, including high-density sampling early in this period. Our analysis provides a window into the amplification of transmission in an urban setting, including the impact of superspreading events on local, national, and international spread. ### RATIONALE Superspreading is recognized as an important driver of SARS-CoV-2 transmission, but the determinants of superspreading—why apparently similar circumstances can lead to very different outcomes—are poorly understood. The broader impact of such events, both on local transmission and on the overall trajectory of the pandemic, can also be difficult to determine. Our dataset includes hundreds of cases that resulted from superspreading events with different epidemiological features, which allowed us to investigate the nature and effect of superspreading events in the first wave of the pandemic in the Boston area and to track their broader impact. ### RESULTS Our data suggest that there were more than 120 introductions of SARS-CoV-2 into the Boston area, but that only a few of these were responsible for most local transmission: 29% of the introductions accounted for 85% of the cases. At least some of this variation results from superspreading events amplifying some lineages and not others. Analysis of two superspreading events in our dataset illustrate how some introductions can be amplified by superspreading. One occurred in a skilled nursing facility, where multiple introductions of SARS-CoV-2 were detected in a short time period. Only one of these led to rapid and extensive spread within the facility, and significant mortality in this vulnerable population, but there was little onward transmission. A second superspreading event, at an international business conference, led to sustained community transmission, including outbreaks in homeless and other higher-risk communities, and was exported domestically and internationally, ultimately resulting in hundreds of thousands of cases. The two events also differed substantially in the genetic variation they generated, possibly suggesting varying transmission dynamics in superspreading events. Our results also show how genomic data can be used to support cluster investigations in real time—in this case, ruling out connections between contemporaneous cases at Massachusetts General Hospital, where nosocomial transmission was suspected. ### CONCLUSION Our results provide powerful evidence of the importance of superspreading events in shaping the course of this pandemic and illustrate how some introductions, when amplified under unfortunate circumstances, can have an outsized effect with devastating consequences that extend far beyond the initial events themselves. Our findings further highlight the close relationships between seemingly disconnected groups and populations during a pandemic: Viruses introduced at an international business conference seeded major outbreaks among individuals experiencing homelessness; spread throughout the Boston area, including to other higher-risk communities; and were exported extensively to other domestic and international sites. They also illustrate an important reality: Although superspreading among vulnerable populations has a larger immediate impact on mortality, the cost to society is greater for superspreading events that involve younger, healthier, and more mobile populations because of the increased risk of subsequent transmission. This is relevant to ongoing efforts to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2, particularly if vaccines prove to be more effective at preventing disease than blocking transmission. ![Figure] Schematic outline of this genomic epidemiology study. Illustrated are the numerous introductions of SARS-CoV-2 into the Boston area; the minimal spread of most introductions; and the local, national, and international impact of the amplification of one introduction by a large superspreading event. Analysis of 772 complete severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) genomes from early in the Boston-area epidemic revealed numerous introductions of the virus, a small number of which led to most cases. The data revealed two superspreading events. One, in a skilled nursing facility, led to rapid transmission and significant mortality in this vulnerable population but little broader spread, whereas other introductions into the facility had little effect. The second, at an international business conference, produced sustained community transmission and was exported, resulting in extensive regional, national, and international spread. The two events also differed substantially in the genetic variation they generated, suggesting varying transmission dynamics in superspreading events. Our results show how genomic epidemiology can help to understand the link between individual clusters and wider community spread. : /lookup/doi/10.1126/science.abe3261 : /lookup/doi/10.1126/science.abg0100 : pending:yes
Days before President Joe Biden was sworn in on 20 January, he took steps to fulfill a campaign promise to draw on the best scientific evidence in making policy. He picked a science team of prominent researchers who have extensive knowledge of the federal government. Biden also signaled that science will play an elevated role in his administration by announcing that his science adviser, for the first time, will also hold a seat in the Cabinet. At a 16 January press conference, Biden formally introduced mathematician and geneticist Eric Lander to be both director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and his science adviser. If the Senate confirms Lander as OSTP director, he will be the first life scientist to hold the posts. Biden also released a letter that asks Lander to focus on five grand challenges facing the country, including applying lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic to improve public health, dealing more aggressively with climate change, and creating new industries from emerging technologies such as quantum information science and artificial intelligence. Lander, who will take leave as founding director of the Broad Institute run jointly by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is well-versed in those issues and other policies affecting research. He spent the entirety of the Obama administration as co-chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), a blue-ribbon group of outside experts, and years earlier helped lead the government's team that sequenced the human genome. Biden also introduced sociologist Alondra Nelson, who will fill the new position of OSTP deputy director for science and society. Nelson's title and appointment, which does not require Senate confirmation, appear to reflect Biden's interest in using the federal research machinery to address social inequality. “The benefits of science and technology remain unevenly distributed across racial, gender, economic, and geographic lines,” Biden wrote in his 15 January letter to Lander. “How can we guarantee that the fruits of science and technology are fully shared across America and among all Americans?” Nelson, a faculty member at the Institute for Advanced Study, has spent her academic career wrestling with the societal impacts of technology on marginalized groups. And although she hasn't been a White House insider, she has been interviewing former OSTP staffers for an upcoming book on former President Barack Obama's major science initiatives, including the Cancer Moonshot that Biden personally led as vice president. Biden also chose Nobel Prize–winning chemist Frances Arnold and pioneering astrophysicist Maria Zuber to lead PCAST. The selection of two women is a first for the panel, which was moribund for most of former President Donald Trump's tenure, but has played a key role in incubating policy initiatives under previous presidents. Some observers are disappointed Biden didn't pick a scientist of color or a woman to lead his science team. But science advocacy groups generally applaud Biden's moves, viewing him as a desperately needed antidote to his predecessor. “These excellent picks … recognize that science is interwoven into all aspects of federal policy and critical to fueling economic growth and job creation,” says Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. As a Cabinet member, Lander will have an easier time providing Biden and his team with the latest scientific findings, believes physicist Neal Lane, who led OSTP and served as science adviser under former President Bill Clinton. “It's the difference between sitting silently along the back wall of the room and engaging the principals in real time,” Lane says. He attended Cabinet meetings, he says, but “I never remember being asked to comment during the meeting.” Lane also thinks Lander, as a Cabinet member, will have greater leverage in seeking more staff and a larger budget. (OSTP was seen as too lean under his predecessor, Kelvin Droegemeier, who filled a spot that Trump had left vacant for 2 years.) But Harvard's John Holdren, who was Obama's science adviser, doesn't see the need for the elevated status. “It wouldn't have made any difference when I was at OSTP,” says Holdren, a physicist who has specialized in environmental policy. “I had access to the president whenever I needed it.” Nelson's newly created position, meanwhile, “is the best news I've heard this year,” says Dorothy Roberts, a legal scholar and social scientist at the University of Pennsylvania who has interacted with Nelson over the years, and regards her as “a former mentee who has far surpassed me in prominence.” At the press conference, Nelson gave a glimpse of what she expects to tackle. “Science is a social activity,” she said. “When we design and carry out experiments, we are making human choices. It matters who makes those choices. And as a Black woman researcher, I'm keenly aware of who has been missing from the room.” Nelson has backed efforts by Roberts and other scholars to push the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other government agencies to end their use of race as a biological category. But Nelson is no enemy of bench science, Roberts notes. “She is excited by the possibilities that flow from innovation,” Roberts says, “but she understands that it also imbeds inequities.” Nelson's research has also highlighted the scientific contributions of activists working with marginalized groups. Her 2011 book examining community health programs run by the Black Panthers “shattered the myth that Black [people] don't believe science is important,” Roberts says. In his letter to Lander, Biden emphasizes the vital role of science in a thriving democracy and mentions a similar letter former President Franklin Roosevelt sent to his science adviser, Vannevar Bush. Bush's response—a 1945 report titled Science: The Endless Frontier —became the blueprint for how the U.S. government supports academic research. But Bush's vision fell short in one crucial aspect that Biden is trying to address, says physicist Rush Holt, a former member of Congress (and former CEO of AAAS, which publishes Science ). “In the belief that scientific progress ultimately relies on the freedom of scientists to pursue basic research without thought of practical ends, [Bush] promoted a system that has also had the effect of distancing science from the public, and vice versa,” Holt writes in a foreword to a new, 75-year-anniversary edition of the report. That separation has resulted in distrust, as well as policies and practices that have failed “to give citizens some important things they need,” Holt says, including more effective U.S. responses to the pandemic and climate change. Biden has already named teams that are expected to work toward closing that gap as they tackle climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. It's not yet clear how Lander and Nelson will interact with those efforts and, as Science went to press, Biden had not announced other key science appointees, including the heads of NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. But he is retaining at least one familiar face: Francis Collins will continue his tenure as NIH director, working under his third president since taking the job in 2009.
When Covid came to Massachusetts, it forced Constance Lehman to change how Massachusetts General Hospital screens women for breast cancer. Many people were skipping regular checkups and scans due to worries about the virus. So the center Lehman codirects began using an artificial intelligence algorithm to predict who is at most risk of developing cancer. Since the outbreak began, Lehman says, around 20,000 women have skipped routine screening. Normally five of every 1,000 women screened shows signs of cancer.
Back in May of last year I wrote that the pandemic would set the tone for a new autonomous food and grocery delivery paradigm. With a funding announcement and news of expansion from one of the dominant players in the space, that's very much coming to pass. Starship Technologies, which makes a six-wheel delivery robot and has innovated a novel adoption strategy targeting college campuses and other controlled environments, just announced $17M in new funding (bringing the company's total funding to over $100M). Starship is also expanding its delivery services to two new campuses: UCLA and Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts. "Completing one million deliveries is a milestone that everyone at Starship is celebrating," says Ahti Heinla, Co-founder and CEO of Starship Technologies.