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                                 February 9, 2019



Responding to an inquiry from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), at right, the National Institutes of Health inspector general says he is reviewing 12 cases that "appear to primarily involve principal investigators on NIH grants conducting medical research at U.S. universities who allegedly have failed to disclose foreign affiliations on their grant applications." In the previous five years, the IG's office had only conducted one investigation involving failure to disclose foreign government funding. Grassley, known for doggedly exposing what he considers problematic behavior by universities, says: “I intend to continue scrutinizing this area so taxpayers get their money’s worth when funding this research and foreign actors can’t pilfer the good work done by legitimate researchers.”

DOE SEEKS TO CURB FOREIGN 'TALENT RECRUITMENT': Foreign governments target "individuals who are leaders in their respective fields and have top-level access to and research capabilities in technological fields of interest to the foreign government. As an incentive, potential recruits are offered lucrative and prestigious positions at premier foreign research institutes, labs, or universities," says a memorandum from Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette. The memo goes on to prohibit Department of Energy employees from participating "in foreign talent recruitment programs of countries determined sensitive by DOE while employed by DOE, or performing work within the scope of a DOE contract. These limitations also will apply to recipients of financial assistance ( e.g., grants or cooperative agreements)." The American Institute of Physics' FYI Bulletin reports: "Although the memo does not mention any country specifically, U.S. intelligence officials have asserted the Chinese government uses the various recruitment programs it operates to appropriate research and intellectual property from the U.S." 

CLOSE TO A DEAL ON SPENDING IS CLOSE: House-Senate conferees remain "several days away" from a deal to avoid another government shutdown at the end of next week, Politico reports. "The current negotiations have narrowed to the most difficult of issues, with Democrats seeking to limit the number of detention beds for undocumented immigrants while Republicans are pushing for the highest funding level for barriers they can get." According to The Hill, "Republican negotiators are pushing for $2 billion or more in funding, while Democrats say they hope the figure will not go above $1.6 billion." Neither sum comes close to the $5.7 billion President Trump demanded. In an encouraging sign, both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have indicated they will support whatever deal the negotiators reach, CQ reports.

DEFENSE BUDGET WATCH: Amid reports that the Pentagon will seek $750 billion for FY 2020, up 4.7 percent from the $716 billion level in FY 2019, "thought leaders" will be assessing what the budget means for U.S. competitiveness,  Lewis-Burke Associates reports. Kathleen Hicks, who directs the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, "is looking for proof DOD is investing in new areas to counter China (and) specifically at overall Science & Technology (S&T) spending levels for basic research, applied research, and advanced technology development in areas like materials sciences, biosciences, information technology, computing, and quantum computing that indicate the U.S. takes this challenge set seriously. Hicks also said she is looking for investments that show the DOD is 'institutionalizing a culture of innovation' . . . ." House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.), meanwhile, "has expressed skepticism for what he considers overspending by DOD and is expected to scrutinize the Department’s initiatives, including the Administration’s plan to modernize the U.S. nuclear stockpile." Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), chair of the Emerging Threats Subcommittee, which oversees R&D, is said to be "interested in cybersecurity issues and in identifying ways to increase engagement between academia and DOD laboratories," according to Lewis-Burke.

RENEWED FOCUS ON CLIMATE: Cornell engineering professor and atmospheric scientist Natalie M. Mahowald, a lead author of the “Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius” from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is among witnesses February 12 at a Science, Space, and Technology Committee hearing, "The State of Climate Science and Why it Matters." Meanwhile, CQ reports that the House Natural Resources Committee "has stacked February with climate hearings. Some are on the oceans, others on public lands, indigenous people and minerals." Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), who chairs the Energy and Water appropriations subcommittee, has called for "robust, stable federal support for energy R&D at the DOE" and added: "Fortunately, a sustainable energy supply and clean energy vision combines perfectly with the need to address the climate crisis."

Among Democrats named to a new House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis is freshman Sean Casten of Illinois, a biochemical engineer. Separately, progressives, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), are pushing a Green New Deal that so far is short on specifics.

ALEXANDER'S HEA PRIORITIES: Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) hopes to have a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act ready for committee action this spring, followed by consideration by the full Senate in the summer, and a final conference with House by the end of the year, Lewis-Burke Associates reports. His own priorities for the legislation include: simplifying the FAFSA – reducing the current form down to around two dozen questions and allowing for earlier awareness of aid eligibility for students; simplifying the loan repayment program – reducing the current loan repayment plans down to two options, an income-based repayment option set at 10 percent of discretionary income with 20-year loan forgiveness and a standard 10-year repayment plan; and developing a new accountability system for institutions of higher education – determining accountability by student loan repayment that would apply to all programs and degrees at all institutions of higher education.


HIGH-LEVEL MEDICAL RESEARCH: Two Engineering divisions at the National Science Foundation "are partnering with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to solicit research projects in the general fields of tissue engineering and mechanobiology that can utilize the International Space Station (ISS) National Lab to conduct research that will benefit life on Earth. U.S. entities including academic investigators, non-profit independent research laboratories and academic-commercial teams are eligible to apply." See the solicitation.

KEEPING UP WITH CYBER: NSF's Cyberinfrastructure for Sustained Scientific Innovation (CSSI) umbrella program "seeks to enable funding opportunities that are flexible and responsive to the evolving and emerging needs in cyberinfrastructure. (It emphasizes) integrated cyberinfrastructure services, quantitative metrics with targets for delivery and usage of these services, and community creation." CSSI anticipates four classes of awards: Find out more.

FIVE TOPICS OF THE DATA REVOLUTION: NSF's Harnessing the Data Revolution (HDR) Big Idea "is realized through an interrelated set of efforts in: foundations of data science; algorithms and systems for data science; data-intensive science and engineering; data cyberinfrastructure; and education and workforce development. Learn more.

ATTENTION, WOMEN VETERANS: "NSF will consider supplemental funding requests for traineeships and conference proposals that support efforts aimed at enhancing the science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) knowledge base, skillset, leadership and management capacities, and/or contributions to the STEM enterprise of women following a career break. Women veterans' entry or re-entry into the STEM workforce is of particular interest." Learn more.

CYBERSECURITY AND ENERGY-EFFICIENT MANUFACTURING are combined in an anticipated funding opportunity from the Department of Energy. A new Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institute "focuses on Cybersecurity in Manufacturing – understanding the evolving cybersecurity threats to greater energy efficiency in manufacturing industries, developing new cybersecurity technologies and methods, and sharing information and expertise to the broader community of U.S. manufacturers."

A BONUS FOR ETHICS: NSF's Computing in Undergraduate Education (IUSE: CUE) program "will support teams of Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) in re-envisioning the role of computing in interdisciplinary collaboration within their institutions. In addition, NSF will encourage partnering IHEs to use this opportunity to integrate the study of ethics into their curricula, both within core CS courses and across the relevant interdisciplinary application areas. . . . Proposals that do not include an ethics component may request a maximum budget of $300,000 over 18 months; and proposals that do include an ethics component may request a maximum budget of $350,000 over 18 months." Learn more.

JASON STUDY BACKS FUSION RESEARCH: DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy commissioned  JASON, an independent advisory group, to examine prospects for low cost fusion development. The Federation of American Scientists obtained the study,  which found that "Magneto-Inertial  Fusion  (MIF)  is  a  physically  plausible  approach  to  studying  controlled  thermonuclear  fusion  in  a  region  of  parameter  space  that  is  less  explored  than  Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) or Magnetic Confinement Fusion (MCF). . . . MIF experiments  have  made  rapid  progress  in  recent  years  toward  break-even  conditions,  and  some (e.g. MagLIF) are within a factor of 10 of ‘scientific break-even’. MIF activities should be supported by an investment in basic research to:•study plasma instabilities and transport under MIF conditions, and •study plasma-liner interactions. The  National  Laboratories  should  contribute  their  unclassified  state-of-the-art  simulation  codes  to  collaborations  with  academic  and  commercial  efforts. . . "

DIA's ACADEMIC CENTERS: The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) announced a funding opportunity for its Intelligence Community Centers for Academic Excellence (IC CAE) program for FY 2019. The program will support curriculum development, research and professional development, and study abroad opportunities, and support student and faculty participation in seminars, workshops, and conferences.  Proposals are due by February 24, 2019 at 11:59 PM EST.  DIA anticipates funding eight awards of up to $1.5 million for a total of $12 million.

DARPA's SEARCH FOR IDEAS: The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency "seeks revolutionary research ideas for topics not being addressed by ongoing MTO programs or other published solicitations." Learn more.

RAPID RESEARCH: "The Defense Sciences Office (DSO) at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is seeking participants for a pilot program designed to utilize modern connectivity to rapidly develop promising basic research pathways and then efficiently develop basic research proposals. DSO's intent is to fund research proposals resulting from this pilot program." The initiative aims to achieve "efficiency gains that arise from collaborative activities focused on rigorous evidence collection and hypothesis generation, both of which are facilitated by online conversation." Learn more.

DOE's ATLANTIS PROGRAM "seeks to develop new technical pathways for the design of economically competitive Floating Offshore Wind Turbines (FOWT)." Find out more.


SHARP DROP IN INTERNATIONAL APPLICATIONS: Overseas applications for graduate study at U.S. engineering programs fell 16 percent between the Fall of 2017 and the Fall of 2018, the Council of Graduate Schools reports. This follows a 10 percent drop between 2016 and 2017. In contrast, mathematics and computer science showed a 6 percent increase for the period after dropping 2 percent between 2016 and 2017. Engineering was tied with mathematics and computer sciences in having the highest proportion of international graduate applications in 2018 (25 percent), Engineering drew 26 percent of master's and certificate applicants and 24 percent of doctoral applicants.

REASONS? POLICY AND ECONOMICS: "Uncertainty  over  U.S.  visa  policies,  political rhetoric  regarding  immigration,  and  strained relations with China have emerged as potential impediments  to  the  continued  free  flow  of international scholars and graduate students," CGS says. "In addition,  changing  economies  in  countries  of origin  and  preferences  for  specific  types  of universities  and  fields  of  study  also  influence international   enrollment   trends."  

Data Sourrce: 2018 CGS International Graduate Admissions Survey: Final Applications, Admissions, and Enrollment, and Okahana, H., & Zhou, E. (2018). International graduate applications and enrollment: Fall 2017. Washington, DC: Council of Graduate Schools. NOTE: Not all responding institutions provided valid data for country/region of origin, field of study, or degree objectives.

Source: China AI Development Report.


SEXUAL HARASSMENT STUDY: Susan Fortney, an ethics expert at the Texas A&M University Law School, will lead a $371,000 National Science Foundation-sponsored two-year pan-disciplinary study of sexual harassment. She will be joined by, among others, Debjyoti Banerjee, professor of both mechanical and petroleum engineering. "The project will examine formal systems and informal influences, as well as the culture and climate related to sexual harassment in STEM fields," the university says.

A LESS THAN SOLID FOUNDATION: That's among the conclusions of a report assessing China's Ariticial Intelligence development put out by the China  Institute  for  Science  and  Technology  Policy  (CISTP)  at  Tsinghua  University. "[A]s  far  as  the  quality  of  development  is  concerned,  . . .  China’s strengths are mainly shown in AI applications  and  it  is  still  weak  on  the  front  of  core  technologies of AI, such as hardware and algorithm, pointing  to  its  not  entirely  solid  foundation  of  AI  development.  Furthermore,  although  China’s  AI  talents  are  next  to  the  United  States’  in  number,  if  only  top-tier  talents  are  considered,  there  is  still  a  significant  gap  with  the  United  States,  the  United  Kingdom  and  Germany." 



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