Featured Works

Two Harvard professors, Dr. Walter Willett and Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, featured on NPR

Dr. Walter Willett, Chairman of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, was recently featured on a NPR segment regarding the effectiveness and health outcomes of low-fat diet fads in the 1990s. Experts at that time recommend diets low in fat to prevent heart disease, which led to people replacing fats with carbohydrates. Dr. Willett’s research countered the health benefits of a low-fat diet; Willett stated during the segment that “the high-carb, low-fat approach might not lead to fewer heart attacks and strokes.” Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, an epidemiologist from the Harvard Medical School, also weighed in during the segment: “The thinking that it’s OK to swap saturated fats for these refined carbs ‘has not been useful advice.’”

DASH contains more than 40 works by Dr. Willett, starting with his 1995 article “Diet, nutrition, and avoidable cancer” and by Dr. Mozaffarian, an example being his 2013 article “Do healthier foods and diet patterns cost more than less healthy options? A systematic review and meta-analysis.”

The Year in Elections, 2013

In many countries, polling day ends with disputes about ballot-box fraud, corruption, and flawed registers. Which claims are legitimate? And which are false complaints from sore losers?” These are the questions asked by Pippa Norris, Director of The Electoral Integrity Project and McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, and her co-authors Richard W. Frank and Ferran Martinez i Coma in The Year in Elections, 2013: The World’s Flawed and Failed Contests. This report “aims to evaluate the quality of elections held around the world,” and covers 73 national parliamentary and presidential contests in 66 countries over 18 months (from July 2012 to the end of 2013). One striking highlight of this report is that “the United States ranks 26th out of 73 elections worldwide, the lowest score among Western nations.”

The Electoral Integrity Project’s The Year in Elections, 2013: The World’s Flawed and Failed Contests is openly available in DASH.

Suber's Open Access honored as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2013

PS headshotOpen Access (MIT Press, 2012) by Peter Suber, Director of the Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication and Harvard Open Access Project, has been named an Outstanding Academic Title for 2013 by Choice.  Published by the American Library Association, Choice is read by over 22,000 librarians and scholars who make collection development and scholarly research decisions for academic libraries.  The designation of Outstanding Academic Titles recognizes works that show importance within a discipline, originality or uniqueness, and overall excellence in presentation and scholarship.  In his preface to Open Access, Suber describes his book as “a succinct introduction to the basics, long enough to cover the major topics in reasonable detail and short enough for busy people to read.”

Peter Suber’s book, Open Access, is openly available in DASH.  Suber’s home page for the book includes updates and supplements as well as links to reviews, translations, and open-access editions: http://bit.ly/oa-book

Does Music Make You Smarter?

Sam MehrIn a recent New York Times article, published December 22, 2013, Samuel Mehr, a doctoral candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, summarized his recent work on the cognitive benefits of music education. “Does music make you smarter?” he asks. Mehr, along with his colleagues conducted two new randomized trials with preschoolers and parents at Harvard’s Laboratory for Developmental Studies.  Their conclusion? “We found no evidence that a brief series of parent-child music classes improved preschoolers’ cognitive skills,” states Mehr. However, Mehr goes on to say that “even if future studies fail to support the existence of music’s cognitive benefits, this should not deter parents from providing their children with music lessons.” 

Samuel Mehr’s paper (written with Adena Schachner, Rachel Katz, and Elizabeth Spelke) “Two Randomized Trials Provide No Consistent Evidence for Nonmusical Cognitive Benefits of Brief Preschool Music Enrichment” is available in DASH.

Photo by Gerry Szymanski

Making (Up) an Archive

Women's Worlds in Qajar Iran textile

In a paper given at the 2013 conference of the Digital Islamic Humanities Project, Harvard professor Afsaneh Najmabadi outlines the disciplinary and theoretical considerations of establishing a multi-genre digital archive to document a historically underrepresented group in established archives: women of Iran’s Qajar dynasty (1796-1925).  The Women’s Worlds in Qajar Iran is a digital repository that, as of April 2013, provides access to 33,000 images, 43 private family collections, and ten institutional collections.  Professor Najmabadi, Principal Investigator on this project, emphasizes the scholastic advantages of “pull[ing] together disparate archival threads” by gathering personal and family objects, photographs, and oral histories on a digital platform. “[This] has produced a fabric that is not simply the sum total of the separate threads.  The resulting fabric generates connections that facilitate doing richer histories,” states Najmabadi.  

Professor Najmabadi’s paper, “Making (Up) an Archive: What Could Writing History Look Like in a Digital Age?” is available in DASH.

Studying Suicide and Self-Harm

File photo by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

A recent feature in The New York Times describes Harvard Professor of Psychology Matthew K. Nock as “one of the most original and influential suicide researchers in the world.”

In his article “Future Directions for the Study of Suicide and Self-Injury,” Prof. Nock calls for standard definitions of such terms as “suicide plan” and “suicide attempt;” use of technological advances to measure thoughts of self-harm; and a better understanding of risk factors, their relation to one another, and their correlation to actual instances of self-harm. “Whatever the specific directions we take,” Nock argues, “it is imperative that we act quickly, strongly, creatively, and comprehensively so that we can begin to decrease the tragic injury and loss of life due to suicide and self-injury.”

You can find a list of Prof. Nock’s works in DASH here.

The Future of Special Collections

John OverholtIn his article “Five Theses on the Future of Special Collections,” John Overholt argues that the stewards of special collections must embrace openness, unmediated access, and the changing profiles of users. “We are privileged to be working,” he states, “at the dawn of an era in which special collections will become the raw materials upon which the creative energies of the world can be exercised.”

Overholt is Curator of the Donald and Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Samuel Johnson and of Early Modern Books and Manuscripts.

Blind Spots

Mahzarin Banaji. Photo by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff PhotographerResearch shows that even “good people,” those who make an earnest effort to make unbiased judgments and act only on their best intentions, still bear unconscious prejudices against certain social groups. In their book Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald examine how membership in social groups can influence our deepest feelings about others based on such factors as age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, social class, sexuality, disability status, and nationality.

Banaji, Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics, has written extensively on these mental blindspots in relation to crime alerts, trustworthiness, and those considered to be lucky or unlucky.

2013 Sloan Research Fellows

Five Harvard researchers have been awarded fellowships by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The Sloan Research Fellowships recognize distinguished performance by early-career scientists and the researchers’ unique potential to make substantial contributions to their fields.

Three of the Harvard recipients have made works publicly available in DASH: Krzysztof Gajos, Assistant Professor of Computer Science; David T. Johnston, Assistant Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences; and Xi Yin, Assoicate Professor of Physics.

No Longer Gage: Neuroimaging A 19th-Century Brain

Portrait of Phineas Gage

In 1848, railroad foreman Phineas Gage was packing explosive powder into a hole with an iron tamping rod. The powder ignited and the blast drove the rod–over three and a half feet in length–into the man’s cheek. It rammed through his brain and skull and then landed yards away. Miraculously, Gage survived.

However, according to the account of his physician, John Martyn Harlow, the man was no longer himself. Contrary to his previous character and demeanor, Gage appeared to Harlow to be “fitful, irreverent, indulging at times in the grossest profanity.” He became “capricious and vacillating,” impertinent, and unwilling to take advice.

In their article, “Mapping Connectivity Damage in the Case of Phineas Gage,” Harvard Medical School Professor of Radiology Ron Kilkinis and his colleagues use modern neuroimaging techniques to take a fresh look at Gage’s case. Gage’s skull, along with the tamping iron responsible for his injury, can be found on display in the Warren Anatomical Museum of Harvard’s Countway Library of Medicine.