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                                   July 20, 2019

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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, far right, has reached a tentative deal with congressional leaders on spending limits for fiscal 2020 and fiscal 2021 and a two-year debt limit, CQ reports. But acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney is reportedly demanding that spending increases be offset by at least $150 billion in other cuts over time. Options for these "offsets" have been culled from the president's budget. CQ doesn't detail specifics, but notes that "Trump's budgets have included substantial cuts to Medicare provider reimbursements as well as Medicaid and the 2010 health care law. There have also been cuts to student loan subsidies, farm price supports and more . . . ." The Heritage Foundation, which wields influence with the White House, has come up with $383 billion in suggested cuts, stretched over 10 years. Mnuchin "seems to have the trust of both Republican and Democratic lawmakers," according to CQ. Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) says President Trump "should listen to the secretary. ... I think he has been a voice of reason." 

THINKING BIG: Legislation reauthorizing the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy calls for ramping up its funding from $428 million in fiscal 2020--as proposed by House appropriators--to $1 billion in FY 2024, according to a memo from the Energy Sciences Coalition. The new bill updates a version Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.), chair of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, introduced in the last Congress. That measure won a host of endorsements, including from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Council for Capital Formation, the American Petroleum Institute (API), the American Gas Association, and the Alliance to Save Energy. In a February statement, Johnson noted: "Thus far, 71 ARPA-E projects have led to the formation of new companies; 109 have partnered with other government agencies for further development; and 136 have attracted over $2.6 billion in private sector follow-on funding." While the Trump administration has tried to kill the agency, ARPA-E enjoys bipartisan congressional support. 

BLURRY COST OUTLOOK: Revived enthusiasm for planting the Stars and Stripes once again on the moon, as in 1969, haven't dispelled questions about the administration's plan to land there in 2024. "The administrator has said the program could cost $20-30 billion over the next five years – by my math, that calls on the Congress to appropriate $4-6 billion in extra funding each year," Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), who chairs the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee," said in opening a hearing. "Congress needs more details on the funding requirements" and wants to ensure that "critical programs are not undermined." In his own statement NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine cited some hoped-for research gains, including: "Long-duration life support systems with greater reliability and fewer consumables; Improved environmental monitoring technologies that operate autonomously with no sample return to Earth; Advanced fire safety equipment that can detect, suppress, and extinguish large-scale fires; Next-generation spacesuit technologies that will be incorporated into spacesuits for the Moon and Mars; In-space additive manufacturing and other technologies with the potential to reduce logistical requirements; and Next-generation radiation sensors and radiation monitoring approaches."

MISSING IN THE PICTURE: The Commerce Committee's ranking Democrat, Maria Cantwell of Washington, said: “I hope that in this next mission we can use whatever tools we have to call on America’s brightest women engineers to participate in this process. . . . We don’t see a lot of women in those control rooms, we don’t see a lot of women in those pictures.” 


SPECTER OF A NEW 'RED SCARE': Yiguang Ju, left, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton, is quoted by the Washington Post as saying he senses “increasing fear of a new McCarthyism” if conflicts with China intensify. Ju, who holds degrees from Tsinghua University in China and Japan's Tohoku University, says questions about foreign influence in academe leave many faculty members frustrated. “This is the tough part: Where do you draw the line between foreign influence and academic exchange?” He was a panelist June 27 at an event sponsored by the China Institute in New York entitled "The New Normal: The perils of being a Chinese scientist in the U.S." (See a video.) The front-page Post article explores recent federal scrutiny--most notably by the National Institutes of Health--of U.S.-based researchers with ties to China.

'ONE OF THE MOST CHALLENGING ISSUES OF OUR TIME': National Science Board Chair Diane L. Souvaine, professor of computer science at Tufts (shown at right), moderated an unusually vigorous board discussion this week on science and security. The over-arching question: How to get the right balance between the openness to international collaboration that helps the United States remain a global research leader and protecting the integrity and fruits of that research. The session followed recent release of a NSF research protection policy that, among other things, bars NSF personnel and rotators from participating in foreign government talent recruitment programs.

NO MAGIC FORMULA: NSB member Maria Zuber, vice president for research at MIT, said more work needs to be done to identify technologies that don't individually pose a security risk but that might have military applications when bundled with others. But her main point was that the government needs to have "clear, consistent, and well-targeted policies governing universities" as opposed to sending different signals and creating an atmosphere that discourages foreign students from coming. She invoked a longstanding policy that research should be open unless it can't be--in which case it's classified. Security agencies, like the FBI, tend to cite "the same handful of case studies," so universities don't know whether problematic activity is limited or widespread. The government should invest in key areas of research, create incentives for more students to pursue STEM fields, and encourage foreign students to stay and join "our research ecosystem."

PLAYING DEFENSE IS NOT ENOUGH: The Association of American Universities and Association of Public and Land-grant Universities have compiled and disseminated best practices for protecting security. They also encourage training for researchers and students, and maintain dialogue with security agencies. But AAU's Tobin Smith noted that a lot of what's coming from Congress is defensive. When responding to a country "with a very proactive stand," the U.S. needs to figure out "what our proactive strategy is." Just as Sputnik spurred the National Defense Education Act in 1958, we may be at "another inflection point."

PLUGGING LEAKS OR MAINTAINING LEADERSHIP: The U.S. response to China so far has been more of the former, contended NSB member Arthur Bienenstock of Stanford. The latter requires effective funding of the best scientists, finding the best collaborators, participating in national and international meetings, and building a strong STEM workforce..International collaboration, including with Chinese researchers, leads to better science. Any restriction should be "on a grant-by-grant basis." The high proportion of Chinese grad students remaining in the United States represent a "bargain," since their undergraduate expenses were incurred in China. One way to stay competitive is reverse the decline in state funding for public universities.

TURN THE PAGE: Research Security is one of four key topics of a recently formed interagency Joint Committee on Research Environments (JCORE), which operates under the National Science and Technology Council.  The others are Safe and Inclusive Research Environments; Rigor and Integrity in Research; and Reducing Administrative Burdens. "We have to start working toward a set of solutions," said Kelvin Droegemeier (at right), director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. He promised a strong communication and outreach effort with the multi-pronged research community as well as within government. New guidance, "created by all of us for all of us" will stress harmonization of rules of the road. 

BETTER VIEW OF THE BRAIN: A National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) funding opportunity "aims to support full development of entirely new or next generation noninvasive human brain imaging tools and methods that will lead to transformative advances in our understanding of the human brain. The FOA seeks innovative applications that are ready for full-scale development of breakthrough technologies with the intention of delivering working tools." Learn more.

CHIPS INNOVATION: The Department of Energy's Office of Science (DOE-SC) "is considering the launch of a multi-program basic research initiative in support of microelectronics and semiconductor sectors. The participating program offices in DOE-SC invite interested parties to provide input on the topical areas, innovation mechanisms, impact, and potential collaborations, including public-private partnerships, that could be implemented under this initiative. DOE-SC is particularly interested in ways in which unique DOE facilities, expertise and capabilities can be leveraged to support U.S. continued global innovation and leadership in this field." Learn more

PUBLIC YET SECRET: The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency "aims to develop computer science theory and software that can generate mathematically verifiable statements that can be shared publically without giving sensitive information away. Under the program, researchers will explore the creation of verifiable public statements about software, general computations, as well as social-technical interactions." Read on.

QUICK ASSESSMENTS: DARPA's Microsystems Exploration program "will constitute a series of short-term investments into high-risk, high-reward research" and leverage "streamlined contracting and funding approaches." The agency hopes it will provide a way "to assess whether or not a concept could evolve into a full program without requiring the use of more significant resources.” Find out more.


Source: Caren A. Arbeit, Christopher Davies, and Michael Yamaner, "Differences in Master's and Doctoral Enrollment in Science, Engineering, and Health in 2017," National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NSF) 


A NEW MANUFACTURING PARADIGM: A National Academies workshop examining 21st century performance and design metrics found recurring themes among speakers: • Adoption of new design tools--"Many of the speakers introduced different tools and methods that can be used to improve the balance of cost, performance, schedule, and adaptability metrics." • Digitization of data--"A central theme of the workshop consisted of the notion that data should be converted to digital form so as to be more widely and efficiently used." • Collaboration of diverse communities--"Materials and manufacturing communities, for example, use different processes and languages in their fields. However, these communities will need to be able to communicate and work together to advance model-based engineering." • Integration and empowerment of the person in the design process--"[A] number of the speakers emphasized that people and the tools they have access to are essential components in both design and manufacturing. Because of this, newly developed  models should be empowering to people." • Use of adaptable systems--"[A]n important question arises: Can new technologies simply be inserted into existing platforms?" • Characterization of materials--"In light of model-based engineering objectives, a few of the speakers focused on the attention that should be paid to the characterization of materials." Read the proceedings.


Sept. 2019 Webinar – Insights on Building your Female Leadership Pool
How can you build your college’s female leadership pool? On Sept. 11 at 11:00 AM, ET, University of Michigan’s Alec Gallimore (Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering) and Jennifer Linderman (Director of the ADVANCE Program) will explore four key approaches used at Michigan Engineering to build the female leadership pool, where women now occupy half of the top faculty-leadership roles. Don’t miss out – register today at http://bit.ly/30y42Ub

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