Facebook icon Twitter icon Forward icon

July 24, 2015



House Speaker John Boehner says Congress will avoid a government shutdown and a credit default, Politico reports. The Ohio Republican also predicts the House will need to pass a continuing resolution in September that maintains current funding levels into the FY 2016 fiscal year. How long that stopgap measure lasts -- and whether a shutdown can in fact be avoided -- depends on a budget deal and an end to the political impasse over appropriations. CQ reports that "Republican leaders are starting to face up to the reality that some sort of bipartisan deal on sequestration is inevitable. House Democrats are rebelling against sequester caps, while Senate Democrats have filibustered consideration of any appropriations bill on their chamber floor. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has threatened vetoes of every spending measure that adheres to the lower spending levels."

TRANSIT RESEARCH COORDINATION: The Senate is now debating a six-year transportation bill, with supporters and opponents on both sides of the aisle. The House has only passed an extension of current law to December.  With a slew of amendments to be considered, no one knows what the Senate bill will look like. The current version has a number of research provisions, according to committee summary: Research would be coordinated by the Office of the Secretary of Transportation to avoid duplication; the secretary would produce an annual report and also a 5-year research strategic plan; subagencies (modal administrations) would submit annual research plans; the secretary's report would show "multimodal applications of projects contained within the report, and coordination between the modal agencies to maximize the usefulness of research . . . ." An ombudsman would hear complaints about study design, sample composition, assumptions or bias, and conflict of interest. Also, 402 grant funds could be used for R&D. Research would aim to prevent hyper- and hypothermia deaths of unattended children, including alert mechanisms. Internatioal R&D collaboration would be authorized.

'COMPETES' SKEPTICISM: Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.), working on a COMPETES successor, are consulting with, among others, Norman Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed Martin, and Dan Arvizu, (left) National Science Board chairman and director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. But these luminaries' presence hasn't dispelled gloom about the whole effort. Research community reps aren't aware of any legislative drafting underway, apart from Sen. Lamar Alexander's bill on COMPETES energy provisions. And even if the Senate were to pass a bill that the community could support, it would have to be merged in a conference with the widely disliked House version. That would pit Gardner and Peters against Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), a match-up some see as favoring Smith.

ENERGY BILLS INTRODUCED: Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chair and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, plan a markup next week of the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015. The bipartisan measure, they say, reflects "common ground on energy efficiency, infrastructure, supply, accountability, and land conservation." Murkowski offers hints on her strategy.

AN UNUSUAL LINE-UP: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and former House Speaker New Gingrich (R-Ga.) will headline a forum Monday at 3 p.m. "on the importance of strengthening federal investments in scientific research to grow our economy and create jobs." So reports a Warren aide in an email. The event will be live-streamed

CYBERWATCH: A Congressional Research Service report lists numerous cybersecurity bills now before Congress.



They're not all the same.

Source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics; graphics by Jennifer Pocock


EN GARDE: Disability-related research in neuroengineering and rehabilitation robotics.is of particular interest to the National Science Foundation's General & Age Related Disabilities Engineering program. GARDE supports fundamental engineering research that will lead to the development of new technologies, devices, or software that improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities. Typical awards are awards generally is one to three years. The typical award size is approximately $100,000 per year for up to three years. Learn more.

PHOTONICS FRONTIERS: NSF's biophotonics program seeks advances in "nanophotonics, optogenetics, contrast and targeting agents, ultra-thin probes, wide field imaging, and rapid biomarker screening." Goals are "low cost and minimally invasive medical diagnostics and therapies." See also nano-biosensing.

A NEW STEM STRATEGY is in the works at the Pentagon, with a target completion date on or before Sept. 30, 2015. It's expected to cover K-12 programs, as the White House is no longer actively pushing to have these shifted to NSF, the Education Department, and the Smithsonian.

MAKER-POWER: The Department of Energy's Advanced Manufacturing Office has $10 million to establish 5-year graduate-level university-led DOE Traineeship(s) in Power Engineering (leveraging emerging Wide Bandgap Semiconductor Power Electronics capabilities). "The traineeship(s) will be implemented beginning in the Fall 2016 school year and are concentrated on advanced power electronic equipment engineering, design and manufacturing." Learn more.

WIN UP TO $25,000 in the Materials Science and Engineering Data Challenge, a contest sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and National Science Foundation. The goal is "innovative approaches to using publicly available digital data to discover or model new material properties." Submissions will be accepted until March 31, 2016.

CHECK OUT PRESENTATIONS from the July 14 meeting of the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology. Topics: Human Space Exploration; the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program; and Technology and Aging.


REVISIONS TO ABET CRITERIA 3 AND 5: An Accreditation Alert reports: "On July 16, 2015, the Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) Criteria Committee recommended selected changes to the November 2014 criteria proposal. These proposed changes were subsequently approved by the ABET Engineering Accreditation Commission. Now, this work will be sent to the ABET Board of Delegates to perform the first reading in October. If approved, the proposed changes will be released for public review and comment." General comments on the prior proposal may be made here. Ten days before the July 16 meeting, ABET responded to an Inside Higher Ed article ("Watered-Down Gen Ed for Engineers?") saying that "while we welcome the vigorous discussions prompted by the article, conversations about potential changes to our Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) criteria are only in the very early stages."

NEW STRESS ON MENTORING: Criteria changes are also being advanced at Purdue -- regarding tenure. Inside Higher Ed reports they include "an expectation that faculty members are active mentors to undergraduates, especially to at-risk students. And teaching evaluations will feature two new measures: commitment to involving undergraduates in research and to pedagogical innovation."

'INSIDIOUS POLITICS': That's what a pair of Brookings researchers fear will play out in the federal R&D arena. "With the size of the pie fixed or shrinking, requests for R&D funding increases will trigger an inter-agency zero-sum game that will play out as pointless comparisons of agencies’ merit, or worse, as a contest to attract the favor of Congress or the White House. . . . In this environment, calls for doubling any agency’s R&D budget in a short period of time, however well-intentioned, are misguided." 

NOT JUST FOR THE IVIES: "[P]hilanthropic support has become just as important to Illinois as it is to the Harvards of the world. Without new levels of philanthropy and new investment models, the American public research university, the world's golden goose, will not be able to deliver on its goal to ensure there are enough top-flight problem solvers available to advance our civilization and to look after our future." Read the full commentary in Inside Higher Ed. See also Repositioning the Polytechnic University.


BUCKNELL BECKONS: The ASEE Middle Atlantic 2015 Fall Conference will be held at Bucknell University September 18-19.  This timing is a change from previous years, in order to take advantage of the fall colors and the availability of facilities. "You can participate by: attending the conference, attending the workshops, submitting an abstract for presentation and/or for a poster.  In addition, we want to gather educators together to foster collegiality and enhance the conditions for exchange of ideas and future collaborations." See the conference website

THE NEXT MACGYVER contest (National Academy of Engineering) is covered by the Chronicle of Higher Education, quoting University of Southern California dean Yannis Yortsos. Five winners will be announced July 28.

See the program for the Global Grand Challenges Summit in Beijing.

A FELLOWSHIP OPPORTUNITY in advanced manufacturing is offered by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers at the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute in Chicago. Learn more,

Advertise in ASEE Newsletters

Contact Bill Spilman: ads@asee.org