Facebook icon Twitter icon Forward icon

                                                                  April 25, 2020  



Much of the new money in Stimulus 3.5 will replenish small business loan funds authorized in the $1.8 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that were swiftly depleted. But at Democrats' insistence, it also contains $75 billion for financially drained medical centers and $25 billion for testing. Now, lawmakers are sparring over spending hundreds of billions of dollars more for states and cities hit hard by the pandemic--"assistance that Democrats see as a critical piece" of the next stimulus bill, the Wall Street Journal reports. Besides "robust" state and local aid, Democrats' wish lists include infrastructure, housing, election security, a “heroes fund” for frontline workers and first responders, a postal service rescue, extention of enhanced unemployment insurance benefits past July 31, and another round of tax rebate checks. It will be "expensive," says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). 

President Trump has called for aid to state and local governments, infrastructure spending, a payroll tax cut and tax breaks for restaurants, sports and entertainment interests, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) "intends to pump the brakes" on major new spending, CQ reports. He drew  a furious response suggesting that states declare bankruptcy instead of seeking more money from the feds. Image: Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) on the House floor this week.

MOUNTING DEBT: The Congressional Budget Office projects the fiscal 2020 deficit will reach $3.7 trillion. Debt held by the public will equal the nation's GDP, due to fall 12 percent in the second quarter. The office also projects a 14 percent jobless rate. According to the Associated Press, there is "no agreement on what levels of debt and deficits are sustainable, and the number of deficit doves has swelled over the past decade."

STATES QUICK TO CUT PUBLIC COLLEGE BUDGETS: "Some public colleges and universities are starting to see their budgets cut with surprising speed, as states reckon with the economic fallout of the pandemic.The cuts are deep and swift, and taking effect immediately," (See below for more effects on college finances.) 

'NO RISK-FREE PATHS HERE': That's the argument advanced by Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.), a physicist and stalwart Congressional supporter of science, for "intentionally infecting volunteers with the virus that causes COVID-19 in order to test experimental vaccines,"ScienceInsider reports. Foster and Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.) spearheaded a letter to the Food and Drug Administration by 35 House members urging agencies to adopt a more risk-tolerant approach. “This is designed as much as anything to give the FDA political cover” says Foster. 


NINE-MONTH INTERNATIONAL SCIENCE CHALLENGE: The Office of Naval Research's Global-X challenge, worth up to $750,000, "is designed to stimulate new, high-risk, multidisciplinary research ideas with both military and commercial value, to solve present and future U.S. Navy and Marine Corps technology needs. "ONR Global is interested in receiving white papers and proposals on tailored material and manufacturing; multifunctional maritime films for persistent and survivable platforms and warfighters; and object detection and identification in any medium (air, water, sand, earth). Multinational research teams from academia and industry are asked to participate. Learn more here and here.

EXEMPT FROM THE NEW IMMIGRATION BAN: President Trump's April 22 proclamation suspends entry for 60 days for certain new immigrants who do not already have an approved immigrant visa, Lewis-Burke Associates reports. "The proclamation exempts several categories of people including essential employees such as health care workers and individuals conducting medical research or other research intended to combat the spread of COVID-19 and their family members. . . . Of note, the proclamation does not impact applicants for adjustment of status to permanent residence, or nonimmigrants, such as students, exchange visitors, H-1B workers, etc.  Unfortunately for foreign students and scholars, routine visa and consular services at U.S. embassies and consulates remain suspended, as per the Department of State announcement on March 20, 2020."  

SUPPLEMENTS FOR UNDERGRAD RESEARCH: The National Science Foundation's Computer and Information Science and Engineering directorate is making two exceptions to its prior guidance (NSF 20-016) on Research Experiences for Undergraduates supplemental funding for grantees: "(i) CISE will accept REU supplemental funding requests to active CISE awards through July 1, 2020; and (ii) CISE will also consider requests for an additional number of students per active project beyond the limitations specified in NSF 20-016, at a funding level of $8,000 per REU student. For example, for single-investigator projects, CISE will consider requests in excess of two students per project for this summer. Proposers who received REU supplements earlier this year are also eligible to apply for additional supplements if they are able to identify opportunities to mentor additional REU students. CISE will prioritize REU supplemental funding requests most responsive to the mitigation of adverse undergraduate employment and education circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic."

LETTERS OF INTENT: They are no longer required for NSF's Program on Fairness in Artificial Intelligence in Collaboration with Amazon. The partnership supports "computational research focused on fairness in AI, with the goal of contributing to trustworthy AI systems that are readily accepted and deployed to tackle grand challenges facing society." Topics of interest include transparency, explainability, accountability, potential adverse biases and effects, mitigation strategies, algorithmic advances, fairness objectives, validation of fairness, and advances in broad accessibility and utility. Learn more

COMING SOON: The Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office intends to issue a funding opportunity "to stimulate technology innovation, improve the energy productivity of American manufacturing, and enable the manufacturing of cutting-edge products." It's interested in next-generation manufacturing processes that improve energy efficiency in energy-intensive and energy-dependent industries, including steel manufacturing; modular, hybrid, and/or catalytic processes to improve energy efficiency in chemical manufacturing; connected, flexible, and efficient manufacturing facilities, products and energy systems, including the integration of direct air capture at industrial facilities. See the Notice of Intent and submission instructions.

Also, tune in for the first Facebook Live broadcast by Daniel R Simmons, assistant secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, April 29, 2020 at 1 p.m. ET.

HIGH-PERFORMANCE COMPUTING PROJECTS that improve manufacturing processes, address products’ lifecycle energy consumption, and increase the efficiency of energy conversion and storage technologies are the focus of another planned DOE solicitation. Learn more.

STUDENT COMPETITION: DOE's Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office, in collaboration with the International Partnership for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in the Economy (IPHE), is launching the IPHE's Student Infographic Challenge: "a call for students around the world to apply their creative and research skills to showcase how hydrogen and fuel cells can help create a more sustainable, clean, and resilient energy future."

SENSING THE EARTH: NASA's Advanced Component Technology (ACT) program "seeks proposals for technology development leading to new component as well as subsystem-level space-borne and/or airborne measurement techniques to be developed in support of the Science Mission Directorate's Earth Science Division." These would: "Enable or dramatically enhance Earth observation remote sensing measurements in new, innovative ways"; and "reduce the size, weight, power requirements, risks, cost, and development time of Earth science remote sensing observation systems." Find out more.

STUDENTS' AERONAUTICS IDEAS are sought in NASA's University Student Research Challenge (solicitation NNH19ZEA001N-USRC). USRC will provide students, from U.S. colleges and universities grants for their projects, but students will raise "a modest amount of cost share funds through crowdfunding platform. The process of creating and preparing a crowdfunding campaign acts as a teaching accelerator - requiring students to act like entrepreneurs." USRC topics: Advancing the design, developing technology or capabilities supporting  aviation, by demonstrating a novel concept, or enabling advancement of aeronautics-related technologies. Three-page proposals are due June 24, 2020.

NEW RESEARCH INITIATIVES AT DOE's OFFICE OF SCIENCE: As spelled out in a presentation by Deputy Director J. Stephen Binkley, they include:

•Integrated Computational and Data Infrastructure for Scientific Discovery: Design and deploy a flexible multi-tiers data and computational management architecture that enables a diverse array of on-demand scientific workflows and simulations for SC mission research.

•Next Generation Biology Initiative: Support research in areas of neuromorphic computing, programmable biomaterials and biocatalysts, and next-generation tools for characterization of biological, biomaterials, and biohybrid systems

.•Rare Earth/Separation Science Initiative: Understanding the fundamentals of rare earth properties; enhancing separations and chemical processing for rare earths.

•Revolutionizing Polymer Upcycling: Elucidating the chemical and biological pathways for transforming polymers and synthesizing high-value chemicals or new polymers.

•Strategic Accelerator Technology Initiative: Support investments in accelerator technologies, advanced magnet Revolutionary Light Sources.

•Data and Computational Collaboration with NIH: Support DOE laboratories in partnership with NIH to expand the capabilities of DOE’s tools and address NIH’s rapidly growing data and computational challenges.

See other presentations

BUILDING BLOCKS FOR A QUANTUM INTERNET: These constitute Priority One emerging from a Quantum Internet Blueprint Workshop. Questions: What are they, "and what performance parameters do they need to satisfy? "These new devices will need to satisfy suitable requirements for reliability, scalability, and maintenance. Potential network devices may include space-to-ground connections; high-speed, low-loss quantum switches; multiplexing technologies and transducers for quantum sources; as well as transduction from optical and telecommunications regimes to quantum computer-relevant domains, including microwaves."


NSF PI Funding Rates for Research Grants

Source: NSF’s Merit Review Process: FY 2018 Digest

"A large number of potentially fundable proposals are declined each year. As shown in Figure 17, approximately $1.5 billion was requested for 1835 declined proposals that received ratings at least as high as the average rating (4.1 out of 5.0) for all awarded proposals. Approximately $3.4 billion was requested for declined proposals that were rated Very Good or higher in the merit review process (about 5440 declined proposals received ratings of 4.0 or greater)."

Cumulative Requested Amounts for Declined Proposals by Average Reviewer Rating for FY 2018 (NSF)

Percentage of Awards to Academic Institutions (By Amount Received)

Source: NSF’s Merit Review Process: FY 2018 Digest


FISCAL CLIFF: Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Johns Hopkins University projected a surplus of $72 million in its $6.5 billion budget, President Ronald J. Daniels writes. Now, "we are projecting a net loss of more than $100 million for FY 2020. Even more distressing, depending on when the university resumes normal operations, and again absent significant near-term mitigation efforts, we are now projecting net losses of as much as $375 million for the next fiscal year (through June 2021), instead of a previously expected positive margin of $80 million." He notes: "Many of our peers are grappling with similar challenges." Indeed they are. Another elite school, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, "has begun notifying 280 employees they will be furloughed effective May 1 through July 31," the Albany Times Union reports. "The first wave of federal stimulus funds is only expected to cover a fraction of the losses."

The Washington Post reports that at colleges across the country, "there are no dates yet for the next academic year. Just scenarios. And that unprecedented uncertainty is ­fueling a second wave of crisis for schools already plunged into financial distress."



Registering for the conference will allow you to:

Have the opportunity to see any presentation made by an author, distinguished lectures, or plenaries 24/7 during the week of the conference;
Attend Q&A sessions, so you can interact with the presenters;
Attend workshops, business meetings, and the different orientations that usually happen at the annual meeting;
Attend/participate in the recognition and highlighting of our national award winners, and our incoming fellows, and our outgoing and incoming board members; and
Participate in our interactive exhibit hall as well as sponsor/tech demos. There will be exclusive exhibit hall times to interact with sponsors and exhibitors.

Check the website for updates.

WORKING ONLINE WITH PROJECT TEAMS: Purdue University's William Oakes, a Fellow of ASEE and a co-recipient of the National Academy of Engineering's Gordon Prize, presented a webinar this week addressing the challenge of conducting project-based courses online. "While physical building with teams is not possible in an online and dispersed setting, productive learning and project progress is possible," he says. See the webinar, one of a series hosted by Krishna Vedula of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell and presented by the International Federation of Engineering Education Societies. The whole series can be found here​. The next one is "Online Classroom – Need of the Hour," with Keith R Fernandes of St Joseph Engineering College, Mangaluru, India. Register here.