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                                                          February 17, 2018         



Congressional appropriators are reworking current-year spending bills with the new, higher amounts contained in the Bipartisan Budget Act. "We are currently negotiating with our Senate counterparts with the goal of completing these long-overdue bills before the March 23rd deadline," House committee chair Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), near right, says in a statement, citing the date when the latest stopgap spending measure expires. His Senate counterpart, Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), adds that once the March goal is met, his panel will "then embark on a schedule to draft and approve all 12 of the annual spending bills for FY2019." Both men promise a careful review of President Trump's FY 2019 budget request, but CNBC's John Harwood reports the White House plans "will receive minimal consideration" on Capitol Hill. He quotes Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), an appropriations subcommittee chair, as saying: "Let's be generous and say the president's budget is no more irrelevant than any other president's budget." Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), top Democrat on the Senate appropriations panel, dismissed Trump's blueprint as "divorced from reality."

'HOPING FOR A REPLAY': Advocates for government research funding "are placing their faith in Congress to ignore the Trump administration's spending blueprint and to act on its own to bump up agency budgets," Science reports. Many of the administration's proposed cuts are the same as those contained in its 2018 request, "and Congress has so far rejected most." ASEE's partners at Lewis-Burke Associates, in a lengthy and detailed analysis, say "Congress . . . is expected to use the higher caps to increase many (civilian research agency) budgets in the final FY 2018 appropriations bill."  

'TRAIN WRECK': That's how CQ sums up this week's debate on immigration. Prospects for legislation that would legalize so-called Dreamers and increase border security "are slimmer than ever." President Trump opposed measures that did not end family reunification (dubbed "chain migration" by critics) and the diversity visa lottery, which gives citizens of countries with low immigration rates a chance to come here. He has rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order as of March 5, meaning hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants could face deportation. However, "two federal courts have issued injunctions ordering the Trump administration to keep DACA in place for those already receiving its protections," the New York Times reports. The Justice Department has asked the Supreme Court to intervene.

A COMPETITIVE WORKFORCE: Wichita State is "systematically working" to prepare STEM graduates for jobs in the region with "broader partnerships with business, the focus on applied R&D relevant to the region, and increasing support for entrepreneurship and innovation," says its president, John Bardo (near left). He was among witnesses at a House hearing entitled “Mentoring, Training, and Apprenticeships for STEM Education and Careers.” The university's strategic plan calls for all students to have applied learning experiences, and WSU offers a Master in Innovation Design (MID) merging arts, science, and technology curricula. "Perhaps it is time for 'Bayh-Dole 2.0' that incentivizes strong STEM doctoral programs that are based in applied R&D partnerships with businesses," he says. Victor R. McCrary, vice president for research and economic development and professor of chemistry at Morgan State (far left), gave a comprehensive rundown of work by the National Science Board's Task Force on the Skilled Technical Workforce, which he chairs. "There is a stigma associated with community colleges, technical schools, and vocational training in the minds of students, parents, businesses – and yes, academics" that the NSB wants to change, he says. Also, "we must identify multipliers. We must make our public investments do more for us."


LAST-MINUTE REVERSALS: With extra money from the two-year bipartisan budget deal, the Trump administration "rescinded its original plan for deep cuts at many major research agencies" and opted "to maintain level funding for some of those agencies," ScienceInsider reports. The budget deal "will allow lawmakers to spend about $150 billion more than the caps allowed in the 2019 fiscal year that begins 1 October." The original White House plan would have slashed 30 percent from the National Science Foundation. But a supplemental document "restores the entire $2.2 billion cut and would leave NSF’s 2019 budget at its current, 2017 level" of $7.5 billion. At NIH and the Department of Energy, research budgets "are roughly flat at 2017 levels: $34.8 billion for NIH . . . and $5.4 billion for DOE’s science programs." The administration request also drops the idea of cutting overhead payments for NIH grants by two-thirds, which Congress blocked. Research funding at the Department of Defense "would be the clear winner, including a 19 percent requested increase for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)," says Lewis-Burke Associates. 

NIST STILL FACES CUT: "Although a last-minute addendum to the latest budget request spared other science agencies from similarly deep cuts, it did not provide any extra resources" for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), according to the American Institute of Physics' FYI newsletter. The administration "proposes to cut the agency’s budget from its fiscal year 2017 enacted level of $954 million to $629 million, a 34 percent decrease. All the agency’s main accounts would see significant reductions, ranging from a 15 percent cut to laboratory programs to a 63 percent cut to research facility construction and a 90 percent cut to industrial technology services."

STAFF SHRINKAGE: While Congress controls the purse-strings, the executive branch can hire and fire. The budget calls for "further agency streamlining, reorganizations, and staff reductions," Lewis-Burke reports. "These changes reflect a multi-month process by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to shrink the size of the federal government and trim the number of personnel and offices required to conduct oversight or manage programs. Some of these staff reductions have already begun to occur, through accelerated 'buy outs' of personnel, restructuring of offices, or staff attrition."

NEW FRONTIERS: The National Science Foundation's  Strategic Plan (2018-2022) points to seemingly limitless opportunities for the nation's research enterprise. Here are just a few: "CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing techniques, coupled with greater understanding of molecular biological processes and design principles from engineering, open up a whole new realm of synthetic biology where both molecular machines and novel organisms can be constructed (and) make possible the development of a new bio-industry that ranges from novel sensors for environmental chemicals to new ways of manufacturing pharmaceuticals. . . .Today we are on the threshold of another quantum revolution . . . An example of a high-impact, potential research activity is the development of a state-of-the-art, Pan-Arctic observing system . . . [E]electromagnetic radiation, high-energy astrophysical particles, and gravitational waves . . . each provide a different view of the universe. . . Looking through these different windows, we will understand matter, energy, and the cosmos in fundamentally new ways. . . . Access to the next level of discovery relies on translating complex data from observations, experiments, and simulations into knowledge."

CARBON CAPTURE: The Department of Energy has awarded $6 million to the the University of North Dakota to design and determine the cost of installing a post-combustion CO2 capture system at a station owned by Minnkota Power Cooperative. 

ADVANCED MANUFACTURING TRAINING: DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is providing nearly $4 million for the University of Connecticut at Storrs and the Georgia Tech Research Corporation to lead a traineeship program "in the early-stage technology area of advanced materials and process technologies in energy-related manufacturing." The schools "will implement masters-level training programs designed to train a new generation of advanced manufacturing engineers to fill workforce needs across industry, national labs, and universities."

DRINQS ON US: The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is soliciting "innovative research proposals in the area of driven and nonequilibrium quantum systems. The DRINQS program aims to demonstrate that the gains in coherence times that can be achieved in such systems can be exploited to improve the capabilities of quantum sensors and devices of importance to national security." Learn more.


Graphic by Jennifer Pocock based on documents courtesy of ASME and Lewis-Burke Associates

Source: Lewis Burke Associates, Analysis of the President’s FY 2019 Budget Request for Federal Research, Healthcare, and Higher Education Programs 


'HACKATHON FOR THE HOMELESS': In a podcast, the National Academy of Engineering's Randy Atkins talks to Catholic University engineering dean John Judge, right, about an event to engineer solutions for homeless in the Washington, D.C. area, and beyond. Using open source data from the D.C. Department of Human Services, teams took on specific assigned challenges. 

Jennifer Pocock explored problems facing the homeless in a recent issue of Prism. 

Read NAE President C. Dan Mote's op-ed in the Hill, "Highlighting the ‘E’ in STEM education."


ANNUAL SALARY SURVEY: Help ASEE create quality national benchmarks of engineering faculty salaries!
ASEE conducts an annual engineering faulty salary survey, and we need your school’s faculty salaries to create quality national benchmarks. The survey can be accessed at https://salarysurvey.asee.org. The survey will run until March 23, 2018. This online survey of tenured and tenure-track faculty is free of charge to participate.  Schools that opt to pay $500 will receive access to our peer-group creation tool which allows schools to create aggregate salary reports based on groups of peer schools they select.  Please direct any questions to Brian Yoder at b.yoder@asee.org or 202-331-3535.

ELATE at Drexel - 2018-19 Application Deadline Extended – February 23
The Executive Leadership in Academic Technology and Engineering (ELATE at Drexel®) program will accept online applications for the 2018-2019 Fellowship Year until February 23, 2018. Through ELATE, women faculty in STEM advance knowledge and skills in strategic finance and management, personal and professional leadership effectiveness, and academic organizational dynamics.

ASEE IS CO-HOSTING the First Annual CoNECD (Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity - pronounced “connected”) Conference next April 29 to May 1. It will be a forum on enhancing diversity and inclusion of underrepresented groups in engineering and computing. CoNECD will encompass many diverse groups, including those based on gender (including gender identity and gender expression), race and ethnicity, disability, veterans, LGBTQ+, 1st generation and socio-economic status. It's a collaboration of ASEE's Minorities in Engineering and Women in Engineering divisions and several outside groups. Registration is now open. Find out more.

ASEE Board Reorganization - Feedback Needed

ASEE ED Norman Fortenberry presents the rationale for a proposed reorganization of the ASEE Board of Directors. Watch a video and  leave your feedback (ASEE member login required; Firefox works best.).

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