On July 31, 2013, more than 160 university leaders including Brown University president Christina Paxson called for Congress and the President to support federal research funding. Today, one year later, they renewed that call.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — On the first anniversary of a campaign to urge Congress and the President to close the nation’s “innovation deficit,” a group of prominent university, scientific, and business organizations including Brown University renewed their call for increased federal investments in research to build a strong long-term economy, improve medical treatments, and strengthen national security.

Last year as the campaign among more than 160 universities launched Brown University President Christina Paxson noted the national and local benefits of federal research funding. Now more than 200 have signed on.

“Cities and towns across the country understand that federal investment in research and higher education is an important driver of local economies,” Paxson said. “Innovation-driven economic opportunities attract and retain new generations of talented leaders and a highly skilled workforce, building economies and improving opportunity for everyone.”

Despite the currently constrained funding climate, Brown University researchers and their collaborators have continued to win grants, such as $11 million in support from the National Institutes of Health for brain science research, and a $255,000 National Science Foundation grant to study Brazil's agricultural expansion, and to demonstrate results and benefits from their federal research support.

What follows are some research highlights accomplished with support from a wide variety of federal sources over the past year (funding agencies are in parentheses).

Physical sciences

Researchers discover boron “buckyball”

The discovery of buckyballs — soccer-ball-shaped molecules of carbon — helped usher in the nanotechnology era. Now, Lai-Sheng Wang’s research group and colleagues from China have shown that boron, carbon’s neighbor on the periodic table, can form a cage-like molecule similar to the buckyball. Until now, such a boron structure had only been a theoretical speculation. The researchers dubbed their newfound nanostructure “borospherene.” (NSF)

A potentially habitable environment on Martian volcano

Heat from a volcano erupting beneath an immense glacier would have created large lakes of liquid water on Mars in the relatively recent past. And where there’s water, there is also the possibility of life. A recent paper by Brown University researchers calculates how much water may have been present near the Arsia Mons volcano and how long it may have remained. (NASA)

First results from LUX dark matter detector 

The first 90-day run of the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment showed the detector to be the most sensitive in the world. The experiment did not detect dark matter particles during its initial run, but it has ruled out “possible” findings elsewhere. The research team will fine-tune the detector’s sensitivity and begin a 300-day run in 2014. (DOE)

Social Sciences

Returning vets face ‘warring identities’ distress 

Soldiers returning home from war may find themselves engaged in an even tougher conflict. A paper published in Society and Mental Health examines the “warring identities” many veterans confront when transitioning from soldier to civilian life. (NIH)

Health and life sciences

R.I. lead law effective, often ignored 

Only one in five properties in Central Falls, Pawtucket, Providence, and Woonsocket that are covered by Rhode Island’s lead hazard mitigation law were in compliance with the statute more than four years after it took effect, according to a study by a local team of academic, government, and nonprofit researchers. Many exempt dwellings also seem likely to harbor hazards. But where landlords have complied, the data show that children have benefitted. (HUD to the Providence Plan)

A promising protein discovery in malaria 

In the May 23 edition of Science, a team of researchers from Brown University and Rhode Island Hospital and the National Institutes of Health reports identifying a protein of key consequence for the course of malaria in children. Tested in a vaccine for mice, the protein led to significant protection against a particularly virulent strain of the parasitic disease. (NIH)

Fewer cold snaps: Mangroves head north 

Climate change appears to have paved the way for a northward march of mangrove forest along Florida’s Atlantic coast, but not because mean temperatures are rising. Instead a new analysis of satellite images and other data over a 28-year span attributes the dramatic expansion of mangrove to a decline in frequency of days where the temperature dips below minus 4 C (25 F). (NASA, NSF)