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October 17, 2015



The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's draft would fund five National Transportation Centers, with each consortium getting $2 million to $4 million a year, which it would have to match. In addition, there would be 10 regional university transportation centers, each receiving $1.5 million to $3 million with a 100 percent local match, and 20 Tier 1university transportation centers, which would receive grants of $1 million to $2 million but have to provide a 50 percent match. 

The previously enacted Highway Research and Development Program would get $125 million a year through 2021. Technology and Innovation Deployment would receive $67 million in FY 2016 and bump up to $67.5 million each of the next five years.

NEW -- A NATIONAL TRANSIT INSTITUTE: A public college or university would, under the committee's draft, receive $5 million a year to provide training and educational programs for public transportation employees. Areas include planning, management, environmental factors, engineering and architectural design, workplace safety, and security. 

FLAT FUNDING: The six-year House authorization bill provides $325 billion, allowing inflation-only increases, CQ reports. "Roughly $261 billion would go to highways, $55 billion would fund transit and the remaining would go to bus and truck safety programs through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration." 

BIENNIAL DRAMA: R&D budget watchers at the American Association for the Advancement of Science cite growing support for a two-year appropriations cycle as opposed to the current one-year process. A bill to make the shift "currently counts a majority of the House of Representatives as co-sponsors . . . and similar legislation in the Senate has 25 co-sponsors. Some have argued a two-year cycle would help to provide fiscal stability. "

RESISTANCE TO THE FAR RIGHT: Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), left, "has built an impressive firewall" against hard-line conservatives hoping to wield the same influence in the Senate that they have demonstrated in the House, according to CQ. The Senate majority leader has won the support of "a cadre of veteran senators" and is "maneuvering carefully to court freshman Republicans." McConnell is "eager to prove, ahead of the 2016 election, that the GOP is competent to govern." 


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


UPHOLDING STANDARDS: The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has awarded seven grants totaling about $490,000 to universities in five states to "integrate instruction related to standards and standardization" into undergraduate and graduate curricula. Awards went to Carnegie Mellon, Jackson State, Michigan State and the universites of Hartford, Houston, and Pennsylvania (which got two grants).

NUCLEAR AMBITIONS: The 2015 Long Range Plan for Nuclear Science fairly radiates optimism about discoveries waiting to happen. The facilities and instruments needed will demand serious engineering as well as physics. "[T]he centerpiece of U.S. capabilities for research on nuclear structure and nuclear astrophysics" will be the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams currently under construction at Michigan State University, says the Department of Energy-National Science Foundation document. "FRIB will accelerate beams of nuclei as heavy as uranium in a high power superconducting linear accelerator and allow those beams to interact with thin production targets." (Some FRIB equipment is pictured above right.) The next highest priority for construction is a high-energy high-luminosity polarized electron ion collider (EIC) "providing unprecedented precision and versatility." Also recommended: "development and deployment of a U.S.-led ton-scale neutrinoless double beta decay experiment."

BRAINSTORM: Also thinking big are the people who inspired the Obama administration's Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative. As explained by AAAS's Eurekalert, they're calling for creation of a national network of neurotechnology centers -- "brain observatories" -- that "would enhance and accelerate the BRAIN Initiative by leveraging the success and creativity of individual laboratories to develop novel neurotechnologies."

AVOID 'RETURNED WITHOUT REVIEW': The National Science Foundation is holding a webinar October 29 that may cut down on those dreaded yet unnecessary rejection notices. It will brief researchers on "significant changes" to the  Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) for proposals submitted or due on or after January 25, 2016. Registration is required. Learn more. Read the new Grant Proposal Guide.

ATTENTION, GRAD STUDENTS: NSF's Research Traineeship Program has two tracks: The Traineeship Track trains STEM graduate students in high priority interdisciplinary research areas. For FY2016, these are:  Data-Enabled Science and Engineering (DESE), Understanding the Brain (UtB), Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems (INFEWS), and "any other interdisciplinary research theme of national priority." The second track, Innovations in Graduate Education, "focuses on test-bed projects aimed at piloting, testing, and validating innovative and potentially transformative approaches to graduate education."

'MAJOR CHANGES' FOR NEW I/UCRCs: These are intended to simplify funding models for new industry-university cooperative research centers - partnerships of academe, business, and government. NSF expects to make two to eight center awards and provide four to six planning grants annually. Anticipated funding, including support for existing centers, is $20.5 million.


RESEARCH BY UNDERGRADS: The Association of American Universities has collected a series of stories and videos of undergraduate engineers.

INCULCATING INNOVATION: Purdue provost Deba Dutta writes in Inside Higher Ed that this can be done by "focusing on the interplay of the skills, experiences and environments of successful innovators." They tend to be risk takers who don't fear failure, are good at selling ideas, and have benefited from industrial or other real-world experiences and interdisciplinary teamwork. Environments can help: "labs, buildings and centers structured around themes, rather than skills."


FEDERAL RESEARCH ON GLOBAL CHANGED FOUND TO BE INADEQUATE: As defined in a new report from the Academies, global change means more than human-induced climate change. It stands for "changes in the global environment (including alterations in climate, land productivity, oceans or other water resources, atmospheric chemistry, and ecological systems) that may alter the capacity of the Earth to sustain life." The 13 federal agencies now responsible for research are "not adequate for addressing the breadth of the challenges that the United States faces." They need to link up with other entities conducting important research and improve connections with efforts to inform decisions - such as steps to prevent disease outbreaks. 



• The deadline to submit your abstract is October 19, 2015.
Calls for Papers are Available:
• The Call for Papers for the various divisions are available on our website at http://www.asee.org/conferences-and-events/conferences/annual-conference/2016/papers-management/call-for-papers

eGFI IS HERE: Help inspire the next generation of innovators with the all-new 6th edition of ASEE's prize-winning magazine for middle and high school students: eGFI (Engineering, Go For It). Filled with engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers, eGFI aims to get teens fired up about learning - and doing - engineering. To purchase copies, go to http://store.asee.org/  For bulk purchases or other inquiries, contact eGFI@asee.org or call 202-331-3500.

THE TECHCONNECT WORLD INNOVATION CONFERENCE will be held next May 22-25 at the Gaylord Convention Center outside Washington. Abstracts are due December 11. Learn more.