These experts from the UW-Madison faculty and staff have agreed to comment on breaking news, ongoing developments and trends in their areas of expertise. If you need help arranging interviews, email University Communications.
Experts on today’s news
Line Roald on: Utilities failing in winter storms
Millions of households were still without electricity or gas service in Texas and neighboring states Wednesday after days of unusual freezing weather. "It is often assumed that it is so unlikely that the temperature gets very low that we don’t really need to plan for it — which leaves us very unprepared, and causes a very large impact," says Roald, an expert in risk assessment for electric grids. "Some of our ongoing research is incorporating the effects of such events into planning for the future."
John Gross on: Vaccinating prisoners
John Gross, director of the Public Defender Project and a clinical associate professor of law, is available to comment on the ongoing debate over the status of prisoners in the prioritization list for COVID-19 vaccines. Gross recently wrote an opinion piece about the issue.
In the piece, Gross says, "The rapid transmission of COVID-19 in prisons means that anyone who enters a prison is at increased risk of contracting the virus and then spreading it to communities outside the prison walls."
J. Michael Collins on: Wisconsin's retirement crisis
J. Michael Collins, an expert on consumer decision-making in the financial marketplace, can discuss what has been called "a looming crisis in retirement savings in Wisconsin." Collins is a member of a bipartisan task force that looked at the issue and recommended way to improve the outlook.
"The ideas in this bipartisan report would help thousands of Wisconsin citizens who don’t have the ability to save for retirement at work to build financial security," Collins says. "La Follette School students played a key role doing background research."
The task force report cites a University of Wisconsin study that showed more than 400,000 senior citizens in Wisconsin will be living in poverty by 2030, resulting in the state spending an additional $3.5 billion on public assistance programs. Additionally, more than 900,000 adults between the ages of 18 and 64 don’t have access to retirement savings plans through their work, according to AARP. Between 2015 and 2030, the number of people over age 65 in Wisconsin will increase by nearly 60%, or 529,400 people.
Adrian Treves on: Wisconsin wolf hunt
A judge ordered Wisconsin to open a wolf hunting season before February ends. Treves, who studies carnivore ecology and wolf policy, followed much of the court proceedings and wolf developments for years — including serving as an official peer reviewer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and publishing peer-reviewed studies on what he calls "the errors and obsolete science in the 1999 state wolf management plan and its 2007 addendum."
Lennon Rodgers on: Mask fitters
The Badger Seal mask fitter is a DIY mask fitter designed by UW-Madison engineers. With readily available materials, such as elastic cord, foam wire, or pipe cleaners, the fitter is easy to make at home in minutes. In tests, UW-Madison researchers found the Badger Seal reduced particle leakage when used with a regular disposable face mask. Lennon Rodgers, director of the Grainger Engineering Design and Innovation Laboratory where the Seal was created, says the design allows for people to quickly build their own fitters in accordance with updated CDC guidelines.
“It’s very clear that there’s a need for mask fitters, and the Badger Seal has always been intended to be a cheap, open-source solution,” Rodgers says. “You only need tools that are available in your house, and the needed materials are all available in large quantities. You don’t need a 3-D printer or anything like that, and people can make them locally and distribute them to friends and family.”
David O'Connor on: Genomic sequencing of COVID-19
David O'Connor, Thomas Friedrich, and Shelby O'Connor, from UW-Madison's AIDS Vaccine Research Laboratory, are available for interviews about their work doing genomic sequencing of COVID-19. Their genetic surveillance work is helping a broader scientific effort to track any developing mutations of the virus.
Read more about their work here.
Timothy Smeeding on: New policy ideas about financial help for parents
Timothy Smeeding is an expert on poverty and income inequality and a professor of public affairs and economics. He's available to discuss new policy proposals under consideration to send parents financial aid in the form of a monthly child allowance.
"A monthly child allowance treats children treats children as public good — not as just a private responsibility for parents alone, and makes all kids deserving of unqualified public income support, regardless of work status or family income."
Anuj Desai on: Freedom of speech issues in Trump's impeachment trial
Anuj Desai, a law professor and expert on freedom of speech, is available to discuss the free speech issues involved in former President Trump's impeachment trial.
Former President Trump claims that the House of Representatives’ impeachment charge of “incitement of insurrection” violates his free-speech rights. If he had been charged in a criminal court, the question of whether the First Amendment protected his speech would be difficult. But because impeachment is not a criminal proceeding, the First Amendment standard is different. Impeachment is more analogous to an employer firing an employee for inappropriate speech.
Tiffany Green on: Reintroduction of Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2020
Tiffany Green is an assistant professor in the Departments of Population Health Sciences and Obstetrics and Gynecology and an expert in on the causes/consequences of racial/ethnic disparties in reprodutive health. She is availble for interviews about the reintroduction of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2020 and why her research shows implicit bias training is not an effective use of resources for reducing Black-white maternal health inequalities.
Lucas Graves on: Trump was de-platformed. Is deplatforming the solution for misinformation?
Lucas Graves is an expert on fact-checking in journalism and politics. He is available for interviews on the question of whether de-platforming is a viable solution for misinformation.
Graves says, "While deplatforming is a tempting solution it’s a dangerous one in a pluralistic society. We need clear rules, consistently applied, that lean toward qualifying speech rather than suppressing it."