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                                September 15, 2018



In a week that saw a bipartsan congressional deal to fund the government into December and avoid a shutdown, the House, in a veto-proof 377-20 vote, sent a spending measure that funds the Department of Energy to President Trump for his signature. Also, House-Senate conferees approved an $855 billion measure to fund the Pentagon and departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (including the National Institutes of Health) and Education.

In negotiations over defense research and development (see tables below), conferees generally appeared to split the difference between House and Senate numbers. One exception was Air Force R&D, which emerged with a higher total than either chamber had offered.

BRAIN TRAUMA STILL A CONCERN: Defense bill conferees want further study of the effect of blast exposure on the brain at the cellular level. Researchers should "increase efforts to develop a predictive traumatic brain injury model for blast. Such research may help reveal the cellular response to blast impulses and the interaction of the human brain and protective equipment related to blast exposure."

HYPERSONICS AT UNIVERSITIES: Backing "partnerships between the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the military services," conferees "understand that the development of hypersonic weapons will require a long-term vision, beyond the Services' current mission needs and capabilities." They urge DoD "to consider establishing a partnership with one or more universities focused on hypersonics research and education with the mission of developing next-generation hypersonics capabilities and building a highly-skilled, technically-trained workforce." 

ENERGY SPENDING BILL APPLAUDED: The measure cleared by Congress this week provides $6.59 billion for the Office of Science, of $325 million--five percent--above the FY 2018 enacted level, and also funds the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. The Energy Sciences Coalition had hoped for slightly more, but notes that "the Office of Science has grown 21 percent in less than two years and is at historic levels." The increase, ESC says, "supports all of our priorities—growing research budgets, investing in world-class science facilities, and advancing important initiatives including exascale computing, quantum information science and an Artificial Intelligence/Big Data initiative. The bill also fully supports funding mechanisms with broad participation—Energy Frontier Research Centers, computational chemical and materials science centers, Energy Innovation Hubs, and Bioenergy Research Centers."

HIKES FOR HEALTH RESEARCH: The conference agreement on National Institutes of Health spending (part of a giant bill that includes the Pentagon appropriation) includes a whopping $2.3 billion (up by $423 million) for Alzheimer's research. Also due for increases are precision medicine; the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative; the Cancer Moonshot; the Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI); and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB).

A NO-SHUTDOWN DEAL: House and Senate negotiators have agreed to a short-term spending bill to fund agencies covered by spending bills that are unlikely to get passed by the start of FY 2019 on October 1. This would avert a shutdown fight weeks before the midterm elections in November, NPR reports. "The funding would extend through Dec. 7. Both chambers are expected to vote on the measure before the Sept. 30 deadline." 

BRING BACK EARMARKS: That's the wish of the Senate Appropriations Committee's top Democrat, Patrick Leahy, who says there's "no question" such a move would help provide an orderly, timely process for annual appropriations bills, CQ reports. The practice of earmarks was "banned in 2011 after several years of scandals and negative publicity," according to CQ. Leahy says if Democrats re-take control and revive earmarks, members of Congress would have to "affix their name to specific projects in spending bills."

HOUSE PASSES QUANTUM, NUCLEAR, AND ENERGY R&D BILLS: The three measures approved with rare unanimity are, as described by the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee: 

The National Quantum Initiative Act (H.R. 6227), is "designed to create a unified national quantum strategy to ensure that the U.S. continues leading breakthroughs in quantum information science (QIS)";

The Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (S.97), which "authorizes the Department of Energy to enable the American nuclear power industry to conduct civilian nuclear energy research and development"; and

The Department of Energy Research and Innovation Act (H.R. 589), which "facilitates government-industry partnerships, streamlines national lab management, and establishes research priorities for the Office of Science." (The Energy Sciences Coaltion provides a section-by-section description. Find it here.)


NSF FUNDS INCLUDES ALLIANCES & A HUB: Laying out $57 million, the National Science Foundation has made what Science magazine calls its first "major investment" in Director France Córdova's signature initiative, Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES). "The five Alliances, as NSF calls them, will allow STEM educators to scale up existing diversity efforts by partnering with like-minded businesses, schools, nonprofit organizations, and local and state governments." A $10 million award to SRI International is to "coordinate activities and carry out research across all the alliances." See NSF's press release.

UPDATE ON HARASSMENT POLICY: Córdova will hold a media call September 20 to describe steps "to reduce or eliminate harassment . . . wherever NSF-supported science and engineering are conducted." 

MENTORING IN ERC AND EFRI: Awards from the Research Experience and Mentoring (REM) Program are available as supplements "to active Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) research awards and active Engineering Research Center (ERC) awards." Learn more

SUGGESTION BOX: NSF seeks "suggestions for Topic Ideas to be considered for the FY 2020 Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) Program Solicitation." 500-word descriptions of "potentially transformative research and innovation" may be submitted at this survey site.

ENERGY DEPT. GRAD STUDENT RESEARCH: The Department of Energy's Office of Science has granted 47 awards to students at 36 schools to "carry out part of their doctoral dissertation/thesis research in 14 DOE national laboratories/facilities." See the awardees.




CHINA'S QUANTUM LEAP FORWARD: As of now, "China has some serious advantages," the news site Axios reports, "A new report from the Center for a New American Security says "China has made substantial advances in some areas of quantum research, putting it in a position to overtake the U.S. in the science. Chinese advantages include a national vision for technological research, significant investments, and tight bonds between the private sector and the military. By comparison, the U.S. has yet to enact a quantum policy, though the White House recently added a quantum expert to its tech-policy staff." 

PREEMPTING THE END OF DACA: Losing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program "would have a profound impact on the program’s nearly 704,000 current recipients," says the Center for American Progress. "However, there are ways that states could help protect DACA recipients and provide some sense of normalcy in their daily lives should the program come to an end. A dozen states have already implemented common-sense solutions to ensure that their unauthorized immigrant residents can receive driver’s licenses. Students in many states have access to affordable higher education regardless of their immigration status. And a few states allow unauthorized immigrant professionals to obtain professional and occupational licenses." 


ABSTRACT SUBMISSIONS OPEN SEPT. 4 for ASEE's 126th Annual Conference & Exposition at the Tampa Convention Center, Tampa, Fla., June 15 - 19, 2019. See the Call for Papers (you may need to log on to the website as a member).

2019 CoNECD ABSTRACT DEADLINE: The second Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity (CoNECD) conference will be April 14 - 17, 2019 at the Marriott CrystalGateway outside Washington D.C. The Deadline to Submit your Abstract is  October 1, 2018 at 23:59 EDT. See the Call for Papers, and Authors' Kit. To submit an abstract, you'll need to be logged in to ASEE. See presentations from the 2018 conference.

ASEE AT 125 VIDEO CONTEST: One of the activities planned to mark ASEE‘s 125th anniversary is EEin25, the first-ever ASEE video contest. Undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral students may submit a 90-second video on where engineering education will be in 25 years at ASEE‘s 150th Anniversary in 2043. Click here to find out more. Click here to learn about other activities commemorating 125 Years at the Heart of Engineering Education.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE ACCELERATOR: ASEE's free monthly newsletter for undergraduate and graduate students has a wide array of resources: scholarship and internship/co-op listings, student news and essays, podcasts, professional development resources (e.g., advice on how to get an internship and how to make the most of it), and academic advice - plus entertaining engineering videos. Tell your students! Click here to subscribe. Send content to Jennifer Pocock at j.pocock@asee.org.

FIRE UP THE FUTURE WITH eGFI: Filled with engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers, the latest edition of ASEE's award-winning Engineering, Go For It is sure to get your students excited about learning - and doing - engineering!

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