Facebook icon Twitter icon Forward icon

February 25, 2017


'WE MUST DO A LOT MORE WITH LESS . . . and look for every last dollar of savings," President Trump said as he opened a budget meeting Wednesday. Two days later, he carved out a notable exception, according to excerpts published by the Washington Post.: "[W]e will be substantially upgrading all of our military, all of our military, offensive, defensive, everything, bigger and better and stronger than ever before. . . It will be one of the greatest military build-ups in American history."

HOW MUCH FOR R&D? That's still a mystery, with key positions at the Office of Management and Budget unfilled and the Office of Science and Technology Policy expected to have a diminished role compared with its prominence during the Obama administration. Science agencies were not among those cited by the New York Times recently as targets for elimination. Nonetheless, buzz within the science community suggests deep cuts are in store for certain National Science Foundation directorates unpopular with conservatives: Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences; Geosciences; and possibly Education and Human Resources. 

KEY BUDGET DATES COMING UP: On March 13, the White House will announce what agencies it proposes to eliminate. The following day, it will release its fiscal 2018 budget outline. April 28, the current government funding bill expires, and May 1, the Pentagon will give the White House its FY 2018 budget request. 

REGS REVIEW: A new Trump executive order directs each agency to form a task force to "identify and recommend changes to 'unnecessary, burdensome and harmful' rules,” CQ reports. A previous executive order requires agencies to eliminate two regulations for every new one they finalize. OMB has since issued  further guidance

Trump delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress February 28.  

DOUBT CAST ON TRAVEL BAN: A memo from Department of Homeland Security intelligence analysts says citizenship is "unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity." Relatively few citizens of the seven nations named in the now-frozen executive order - Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and Sudan - actually travel to the United States. While terror groups in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen pose a threat of attacks in the United States, those in the other four "remain regionally focused." DHS tells the Washington Post that the memo, first reported by the Associated Press, "is an incomplete product” that had not undergone extensive review and didn't include data from other intelligence community sources.

BORDER WALL PROTOTYPES SOUGHT: "A formal solicitation notice will be issued on or about March 6, seeking ideas to design and build several prototype wall structures near the U.S. border with Mexico," CQ reports. Vendors will submit a concept of their prototype by March 10, "following which an initial selection decision will be made by March 20. . . . A draft DHS report estimated the costs of a wall and fencing along the southern border could reach as much as $21.6 billion over several years."

'BLUE COLLAR STEM': A presentation to the National Science Board proposes to "pinpoint NSF's niche" in preparing workers with less than a four-year degree for millions of STEM-related jobs as lab and equipment managers, technicians, and testers. Victor R. McCrary, vice president for research and economic development at Morgan State University, told fellow board members these jobs offer opportunities for workers hard hit by the changing domestic and global economy. 

POINTS SOUTH: A proposed strategy for NSF in the Antarctic and Southern Ocean calls for addressing three questions: How fast and by how much will sea level rise? How do Antarctic biota evolve and adapt to the changing environment? and How did our universe begin and what are the underlying physical laws that govern its evolution and ultimate fate? All of this won't come cheap. While the National Academies committee behind the strategy didn't estimate costs, "they did suggest that the Changing Ice Initiative may require resources . . . equivalent to much of the total ANT research budget." Further, "there is strong rationale for NSF to seek to significantly augment the funding available" for research on sea level rise. See all the presentations

'INCLUDES' EXAMPLES: NSF Director France Córdova highlights a handful of projects to improve STEM access for  African Americans.


'MORE WORK TO BE DONE': So declares House Science Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R, Texas), once again citing examples of NSF-funded projects that he says "detract from investments into groundbreaking research that crosses biology, physics, computer science and engineering." His op-ed in USA Today also says "NSF must help increase public trust in science (by) leading the charge towards finding solutions to improving reproducibility and replication."

APPROPRIATORS HEAR FROM MEMBERS: House members will pitch favored programs for inclusion in the 12 annual appropriations measures during a series of Members Day hearings lasting through March 9. Some have already occurred. The subcommittees and their upcoming dates are: Commerce, Justice, and Science – February 28 (webcast); Interior – February 28; Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education – March 1; Homeland Security – March 1; Energy and Water – March 8; Financial Services – March 8; Defense – March 9; Transportation, Housing and Urban Development – March 9; Agriculture – March 9.  

INFRASTRUCTURE INACTION: Hill Republicans "have been reluctant to comment on – or even work on – legislation to deliver on President Donald Trump’s pledge to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure over 10 years," CQ reports. They're waiting for the administration to provide details. Trump advisers have proposed using about $167 billion in private-equity capital - encouraged by tax changes to repatriate profits parked abroad.


Graphic by Jennifer Pocock. Click here for a larger version.


WORDS OF CAUTION ON BIG DATA: We are lucky in this age of information to have access to untold reams of data that are ripe for interpretation. How do we best use it? “Without careful consideration of the suitability of both available data and the statistical models applied, analysis of big data may result in misleading correlations and false discoveries, which can potentially undermine confidence in scientific research if the results are not reproducible.” Last June, the National Academies convened a workshop to discuss the challenges and opportunities of data analysis. Read more here.


LIBERAL STUDIES IN ENGINEERING: Founded by Harvard University and MIT in 2012, edX is an online learning destination and MOOC provider, offering high-quality courses from the world’s best universities and institutions to learners everywhere. With NSF and Teagle Foundation support, Professor Louis Bucciarelli, MIT, has posted four Liberal Studies in Engineering modules on the edX Edge platform, which can be accessed here.

ASEE hosts a number of case studies on this topic, a project also supported by Teagle. View them here.

PUBLIC POLICY COLLOQUIUM PRESENTATIONS NOW ONLINE: Click here for all materials from the two-day meeting of engineering deans.


The annual ASEE Engineering Deans Institute (EDI) provides an opportunity for engineering deans- and only deans- to gather and discuss the crucial issues facing their schools, colleges, and profession. For a few days, a single-stream program fosters dialogue between deans, industry leaders, and those in important roles in research and government. Deans share best practices, learn about career prospects for their graduates, and develop a voice for engineering education and the role of engineering in society. Social activities and plenty of time for conversation encourage the cultivation of relationships and an intensely rewarding experience.

Early registration rates end March 10, 2017. Click here for more information.

PRISM PODCASTS: Listen to the podcasts here.

Prize-winning eGFI:  Get teens fired up about engineering with eGFI (Engineering, Go For It), ASEE's magazine for middle and high school students. Winner of the APEX Grand Award for Publication Excellence, eGFI combines engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers. Click here to purchase copies, For bulk purchases or other inquiries, contact eGFI@asee.org or call 202-331-3500.