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March 11, 2017



President Trump's first budget "stands little chance of full adoption," in the view of Government Executive. But its expected deep cuts in climate science "would be applauded by key GOP lawmakers," reports USA Today. Besides previously noted plans to slash the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration by 17 percent, cuts expected to be unveiled Thursday may target "EPA science funding, including half the money for studies of the agency’s Air, Climate, and Energy Research Program," and "NASA programs coordinating the launch of satellites that monitor changes in sea level, carbon levels and air temperatures that help provide the justification for climate change rules." E&E News says cuts also "would fall particularly heavily on the Energy Department," including "clean energy, energy efficiency and smart grid technology programs" favored by the Obama administration.

OVERHAUL OF AGENCIES PLANNED: A White House executive order now in the works "asks federal departments and agencies to come up with plans to restructure their operations and streamline programs . . . to deliver government services in a more efficient and effective way, eliminate duplicative spending and potentially reduce the cost of programs," CQ reports. The order would ask agencies to submit reorganization plans to the Office of Management and Budget within 90 days.

THE SKY ISN'T FALLING: Matt Hourihan, budget expert at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, expects House and Senate appropriators to resist draconian cuts to nondefense research agencies for FY 2018. We're likely to see "mostly flat funding - nothing to write home about but not a reason to panic," he told the Engineering Research Council. The safest agencies are National Institutes of Health and NASA. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's climate research is a point of controversy and there may be debate over the National Institute of Standards and Technology's manufacturing research role. Hourihan's fellow panelist, Bill Shute, vice chancellor for federal relations for the University of Texas System, said "we're on high alert." He noted that the only cabinet nominee to express strong support for basic science during confirmation was Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

A VIRTUAL OPERATING ROOM is one of the features of a new app, "Surgery of the Future," highlighting research - imaging tools, robotics, biomaterials - funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB).

A TRILLION HERE, A TRILLION THERE . . . pretty soon you're talking real money, as the late Sen. Everett Dirksen (R-Ill.) might put it. The nation's infrastructure requires $4.6 trillion over the next 10 years, the American Society of Civil Engineers says in its latest report card. President Trump has pledged to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure over 10 years. Assigning an overall D+, ASCE says grades declined for parks, solid waste, and transit. Hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, ports, rail, schools, and wastewater "saw slight improvements." Six categories remain unchanged from its last report in 2013: aviation, bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, and roads.


ROTATOR SCRUTINY: Allison Lerner, left, the National Science Foundation's inspector general, says her office expects to release a report in the next few weeks "assessing NSF's controls over rotators' COIs (conflicts of interest)." A second report, also coming soon, will give "results of our survey of institutions' efforts to implement Responsible Conduct of Research training required by the America COMPETES Act of 2007." Lerner testified alongside Director France Córdova before the House Science Research and Technology Subcommittee. Read the prepared testimony and watch an archived video here

KEEN ON ENGINEERING: Four hearings by House Energy and Commerce subcommittees next week focus on engineering innovations: On March 15, the Energy subcommittee looks at “Modernizing Energy Infrastructure: Challenges and Opportunities to Expanding Hydropower Generation.” That same day, the Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection subcommittee will hear about "Advanced materials and Production," as part of its "disrupter" series. On March 16, an Environment subcommittee is entitled “Reinvestment and Rehabilitation of Our Nation’s Safe Drinking Water Delivery Systems.” Simultaneously, the Digital Commerce panel has another in its "disrupter" series on "Smart Communities." The hearings will be webcast.

HIKES AND CUTS IN FY 2017 DEFENSE SPENDING BILL: The measure passed by the House this week includes increases for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the National Defense Education Program (NDEP). But, as noted by the Association of American Universities, the appropriation for basic research falls below the current funding level. 

RIGHT AND LEFT PRESS 'SCIENTIFIC INTEGRITY': Republican lawmakers "have advanced several measures to reform federal rulemaking processes," the American Institute of Physics FYI bulletin reports. "Two examples specific to agency consideration of scientific findings are the 'Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment (HONEST) Act' and the 'EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act.'” Democrats in both chambers have introduced similar versions of the “Scientific Integrity Act,” which would enshrine in law the policies developed by some 20 agencies during the Obama years. 


From a March 8, 2017 presentation by Matt Hourihan to the ASEE Energy Research Council. Copyright © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science.


A MAJOR BOOST TO BRITISH R&D: Science reports that "the new £4.7 billion over 4 years that the government pledged last November" includes "£270 million largely for research and development on electric vehicle batteries; drug manufacturing technology; and artificial intelligence and robots for work in space, offshore energy, nuclear power plants, and mining." 

EDUCATION INNOVATOR: Stanford’s new engineering dean is longtime computer science and electrical engineering professor Jennifer Widom, 56. The distinguished data-management researcher taught one of the university’s first massive open online courses (MOOCs) – Introduction to Databases – in the fall of 2011. This past year, she’s been traveling the world on a sabbatical dubbed Professor Widom’s Odyssey, teaching short courses and conducting workshops on big data and design thinking in developing countries – most recently in Peru. - Mary Lord


ENVIRONMENTAL GRAND CHALLENGES: A new National Academies panel will identify "high priority societal challenges for the next several decades that will require the expertise of environmental engineering and science to resolve or manage." The panel, which is calling for ideas from the public and scientific and engineering communities, is led by Domenico Grasso, provost at the University of Delaware. It includes, among others, University of Virginia engineering dean Craig Benson and former Smithsonian secretary and Georgia Tech president Wayne Clough. 

NEW INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION: The world is undergoing a ground shift in emerging technologies that will disrupt both the social and economic futures of the world. In October 2016, the National Academies held a meeting to understand the implications of this change. "The Fourth Industrial Revolution" is a report on the presentations and discussions from that meeting. Read more.

EXPRESS YOURSELF: Science and communication are too often considered mutually exclusive fields. As science progresses and infiltrates everyday life, however, it is becoming vitally important to be able to disseminate scientific knowledge and research to a broad audience—and to do so quickly. "Communicating Science Effectively" provides "a research agenda for science communicators and researchers seeking to apply this research and fill gaps in knowledge about how to communicate effectively about science, focusing in particular on issues that are contentious in the public sphere.” Read more


ABET SPEAKERS LINE-UP: One plenary session at ABET's April 20-21 sympsoium in Baltimore will envision "life in the megacities of the future" with speakers Ian Waitz, dean of engineering at MIT; Janice Perlman, founder and president of the Mega-Cities Project; John Tolva, co-founder of CityFi Advisors; and Michael Milligan, ABET's CEO. A second session will examine how universities can make an impact on their local communities. Speakers include Ron Daniels, president of Johns Hopkins; Michael Cryor, chair of OneBaltimore; and Darryll Pines, engineerijng dean at the University of Maryland. Learn more.

LIBERAL STUDIES IN ENGINEERING: Founded by Harvard University and MIT in 2012, edX is an online learning destination and MOOC provider, offering high-quality courses from the world’s best universities and institutions to learners everywhere. With NSF and Teagle Foundation support, Professor Louis Bucciarelli, MIT, has posted four Liberal Studies in Engineering modules on the edX Edge platform, which can be accessed here.

ASEE hosts a number of case studies on this topic, a project also supported by Teagle. View them here.

PUBLIC POLICY COLLOQUIUM PRESENTATIONS NOW ONLINE: Click here for all materials from the two-day meeting of engineering deans.


The annual ASEE Engineering Deans Institute (EDI) provides an opportunity for engineering deans- and only deans- to gather and discuss the crucial issues facing their schools, colleges, and profession. For a few days, a single-stream program fosters dialogue between deans, industry leaders, and those in important roles in research and government. Deans share best practices, learn about career prospects for their graduates, and develop a voice for engineering education and the role of engineering in society. Social activities and plenty of time for conversation encourage the cultivation of relationships and an intensely rewarding experience. Click here for more information.

PRISM PODCASTS: Listen to the podcasts here.

Prize-winning eGFI:  Get teens fired up about engineering with eGFI (Engineering, Go For It), ASEE's magazine for middle and high school students. Winner of the APEX Grand Award for Publication Excellence, eGFI combines engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers. Click here to purchase copies, For bulk purchases or other inquiries, contact eGFI@asee.org or call 202-331-3500.