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UNL News Blog

Archive for March, 2011

What we’ve been up to

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Nearly the end of the month again, and it’s about time for our monthly roundup of national news appearances involving UNL faculty, staff and students. Here are some recent ones worth mentioning:

Wheeler Winston Dixon, UNL professor of film studies, was quoted extensively by Gannett News Service’s chief film critic, Bill Goodykoontz, on Saturday about film noir. This is one of Dixon’s specialties, and Goodykoontz produced a well-researched and accurate article on Wheeler’s thoughts on the matter.

The Associated Press picked up on coverage of Chancellor Perlman’s discussion with faculty about UNL’s new recruiting opportunities now that it’ll be a member of the Big Ten in the fall.

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s staff pointed to a study by UNL political scientis Michael Wagner, who examined overall turnout in four federal elections from 2000 to 2006. They concluded that requirement of photo IDs and other restrictions at the state level have no significant effect on turnout. The Des Moines Register

Feral cat study alert! The (in)famous UNL work about how to deal with feral cat colonies was cited recently in a story on the critters in The Washington Post.

Song Feng’s study on the effects of climate change on Arctic climates got great regional play in a number of Canadian and Alaskan news outlets.

Study: Insurance industry’s impact on Nebraska economy is $10.3 billion

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Nebraska’s insurance industry produces high-wage workers, contributes to a “brain gain” for the state and had an overall impact of $10.3 billion on the state’s economy last year, a new study shows.

The research by University of Nebraska-Lincoln economist Eric Thompson and Ernie Goss of Creighton University also found that on average, employees of the state’s insurance businesses earned $383 more a week than Nebraska’s other private-sector workers.

The study underscores the importance of the insurance industry to the state’s economy and in retaining highly skilled young Nebraska workers, Thompson said.

“The bottom line is that the insurance industry is a key basic industry for the Nebraska economy that contributes to brain gain in the state,” the UNL economist said.

Only in Connecticut and Iowa does the insurance industry exert more of an economic force than in Nebraska, the report shows. An estimated $413.2 million in state and local taxes and fees are generated from the industry, which supported 56,405 jobs with a payroll of about $2.6 billion in 2010. Insurance employment makes up about 3.5 percent of the state’s workforce.

Thompson said insurance premiums bring significant new dollars to the state every year. In 2009, the state’s insurance industry sold $8.3 billion in insurance premiums.

Also according to the report:

* Every $1 million in additional Nebraska insurance premiums creates about $1.8 million in overall economic activity, $450,000 in wages and salaries, $38,000 in self-employment income, $71,000 in state and local taxes and 9.7 jobs.

* Every 10 new jobs added in insurance firms in Nebraska results in another 7.6 jobs added in non-insurance firms in the state.

* In 2009, Nebraska insurance companies paid more than $93.9 million in taxes and fees to the Nebraska Insurance Department alone.

* In 2010, the insurance industry added an estimated $112 million to the food services industry and $111 million to the real estate industry.

Want to know more about how the insurance industry affects the state? Eric Thompson, associate professor of economics, is at (402) 472-3318 or

In the wake of the quake: Hustle leads to local, national coverage

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Early Friday, an 8.9-magnitude earthquake just off the coast of Japan spawned deadly tsunamis that killed thousands, devastated several areas of the country and rocked buildings hundreds of miles inland. The tragedy, of course, continues to play out this week, and there are years if not decades of reconstruction efforts ahead for the Japanese.

Back here at University Communications, we found ourselves in an interesting position after manager of news Kelly Bartling learned that UNL assistant economics professor Carlos Asarta (above) was in the 1,100-foot Tokyo Tower at the time of the quake. Asarta, who was in Japan for a seminar, had the presence of mind to capture this video of the world rocking and swaying, people hitting the floor, and others screaming as the shockwaves hammered the tower.

By the end of the day, Asarta’s videos had made the local media rounds, landing on local newspaper websites and TV broadcasts, then leaped up to and the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. This week, the videos continue to draw thousands of viewers.

This all happened because of a lot of quick work. Prof. Asarta thought fast and captured some amazing video of the quake, and then, importantly, was in e-mail contact with us back in Lincoln. It also happened because David Fitzgibbon, UNL’s director of broadcast news services, worked with Asarta on Friday morning to get the quake video and then, wisely, to have Asarta shoot this short first-person recollection of the moments after the quake. Once the videos were loaded onto UNL’s Media Hub and its YouTube channel, “Fitz” and others in UComm began getting the word out via e-mail and social media. The rest is history.

It was fast, quality work from our broadcast news team, who also whipped out two other videos Friday that helped explain the quake, the tsunami and its effect on Japan. First, Asarta’s fellow UNL economist Scott Fuess — an expert on the Japanese economy — ably discusses what the devastation may mean economically for the country. That led to a few local interviews for Fuess. Second, UNL engineering professor David Admiraal gives a quick explainer about how a tsunami occurs. After seeing our tweets about that video, a colleague at Universe Today included Admiraal’s comments in this story, which was also distributed to a number of other online media outlets over the weekend and early this week.

When there’s a devastating natural disaster in another part of the world, it’s a certainty that local, regional and national media will instantly be looking for sources — either on the ground in the area in question or those back home with specialized knowledge — who can help them explain what’s happening half a world away. On Friday, UNL had both kinds. And because of some good hustle, our content got out very quickly and very broadly.

In The Frame, The Glory

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

On Wednesday, most of the University Communications staff enjoyed a daylong workshop by the National Science Foundation about how to communicate science in a changing media landscape. I’d attended a similar gathering last February at the AAAS annual meeting in San Diego, but was interested to hear what this particular panel of expert presenters had to say to Wednesday’s captive audience of researchers from UNL (and other area colleges and universities) about how to effectively get the word out about their work.

I was also glad to hear a lot of discussion about framing from science and political journalist Chris Mooney, a commentator and author of three books including The Republican War on Science. Mooney also writes the Intersection blog for Discover Magazine, as well. In essence, his point to scientists was to think about their work as the general public would — What practical benefits can come from it? Why is it relevant in my life? Why should I care? Framing is something that, as campus communicators, we do almost as second nature when evaluating how to promote UNL research and get it into the run of play in the national conversation. But the workshop compelled researchers to walk through the steps, one by one, to come up with the distilled, thin-sliced, 20-words-or-less message about what it is their research does for the world.

Then many of them got to go live with their work, and put their newfound framing skills into action. In an afternoon session on new media, several UNL (and other) researchers were tapped as guest bloggers on Chris’ Intersection blog. Check the guest posts out:

Managing Earth Wind & Fire by computer science and engineering’s Shant Karakashian, who used an environmental and economic frame for his blog.

ANDRILL investigates climate history of Antarctica by Frank Rack, ANDRILL’s executive director. He, too, uses an environmental frame, with the world’s history of climate change as an important element in that frame.

Nanohybrid materials: small is powerful by chemistry’s Patrick Dussault. He presented his research from a practical-use angle.

Never roam alone by Keith Rodenhausen and Stefan Schoche approached their blog entry from the perspective of a trend in academia.

Twins with and without wings? by Jenn Brisson, Cassia Oliveira and Neetha NV of the School of Biological Sciences. They essentially frame their work in the form of a question.

The brain in action: windows into the mysteries of language disorders by Autum McIlraith, special education & communications disorders project coordinator. She basically framed her research as solutions-based and life-improving.

Hungry for solutions: science and feeding the world by Vicki Miller of UNL’s Office of Research and Economic Development. The frame here, again, is problem-solving.

Not bad, eh? Looks like we’ve got some budding bloggers on our hands.

Thanks to all of the NSF representatives and presenters, and to Nebraska ESPCoR for organizing the conference. It was an informative and festive time. Come back anytime.