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November 6, 2015



While the two-year budget deal signed into law by President Obama raises domestic discretionary spending, it cuts $5 billion from what Congress previously approved for the Department of Defense. Obama vetoed that legislation on October 22. This week, the House and Senate armed services panels incorporated the budget deal figures into a revised National Defense Authorization Act for 2016, which the House passed Thursday, 370-58. The new bill reduces basic research accounts for the Army by $20 million; for the Navy by $27.5 million; and for the Air Force by $22.5 million. (See the list of adjustments.) In addition, the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP), which funds research equipment costing from $50,000 to $1 million, is trimmed by $9 million. The STARBASE program, which seeks to interest elementary-school kids from underrepresented minorities in STEM subjects, is cut by $10 million. The online Breaking Defense publication calculates that these cuts, in each case, represent a reduction from the original NDAA of 1 percent or less. The House scrapped plans to attempt an override of the Obama veto, but mustered a veto-proof majority for the revision. The Senate is due to vote Tuesday.

GET YOUR MONEY IN FY '16: That's the message for U.S. scientists buried in the two-year budget accord, Jeff Mervis reports in ScienceInsider. The $30 billion increase touted for 2017 is the amount above "the spending levels laid down in the 2011 budget law. It is NOT the amount added to the 2016 spending level." Using the higher 2016 baseline, the following year will bring “basically flat funding," says AAAS budget analyst Matthew Hourihan.

HIGHWAY BILL PICKS UP SPEED: The six-year surface transportation measure is headed for a House-Senate conference following House passage of its $325 billion version. An earlier draft contained various R&D provisions. It's not certain which ones will end up in the final bill. The measure may produce more revenue than expected by putting a Federal Reserve surplus account into the general fund, CQ reports.

STILL AROUND: ResearchAmer!ca, an advocacy group focused on medical research, reports that the budget deal may mean a new lease on life for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which the House had sought to terminate and the Senate intended to cut. "The additional nondefense discretionary funding should translate into a FY16 funding level for AHRQ that allows the agency to continue its vital mission," the group says. The agency funds a wide range of health systems R&D.

'NO CHILD' ENDGAME: With the House and Senate having passed different versions of a Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization, the STEM Education Coalition is worried that a key provision could be left out of the final bill. "The Senate bill contains a program . . . to provide each state with dedicated funding to support improvements in the STEM subjects, with a strong focus on improving access and quality for high-need student populations," says the advocacy group. The program represents the only direct formula-based funding "for the exclusive purpose of supporting STEM-related learning."  The House bill "does not place any priority on STEM-related activities or provide any form of dedicated funding for STEM activities."



PACIFIC OVERTURE: The White House has put out the text and a detailed, if subjective, summary of the Trans-Pacitic Partnership trade deal, which many in President Obama's own party oppose. See sections on rules of origin for manufactured and other goods; intellectual property; and the environment.

'BIG DATA BRAIN TRUST': That's how the White House describes the National Science Foundation's Big Data Regional Innovation Hubs (BD Hubs) across the nation. The hubs, awarded a total of $5 million, cover 50 states and include "commitments from universities and cities to foundations and Fortune 500 corporations." They will "conceive, plan, and support big data partnerships and activities to address regional and national challenges." Schools involved include Georgia Tech, the University of North Carolina, Columbia, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of California, San Diego, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Washington. NSF is also establishing "spokes" to advance big-data applications.

EPSCoR PRIORITIES: The National Science Foundation's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research -- designed to benefit states lacking a big research capacity -- has a Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) component and a collaboration component, which "builds interjurisdictional collaborative teams of EPSCoR investigators in scientific focus areas consistent with NSF priorities." For FY 2016, the program invites proposals on Understanding the Brain; and Sustainable Food, Energy, and Water Systems.

EFRI BODY READY? NSF's Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation program (EFRI) is soliciting proposals in 1) Advancing Communication Quantum Information Research in Engineering (ACQUIRE), and 2) New Light and Acoustic Wave Propagation: Breaking Reciprocity and Time-Reversal Symmetry.  Also: EFRI-supported researchers are encouraged "to create carefully mentored research opportunities for people who may not otherwise become engaged in a research project . . . ." Learn more.


AMAZON TO FUND RESEARCH: The online merchanizing behemoth has launched Amazon Catalyst, debuting at the University of Washington, "to fund research into ideas in complex and vexing areas such as climate change and immigration. And the company is keen to put money toward 'early-stage ideas' that might not otherwise get grant money." Individual grants will run up to $100,000, the Seattle Times reports.


TWO-YEAR, FOUR-YEAR TRANSFERS: The National Academy of Engineering and ASEE cosponsored a workshop to explore and catalyze efforts to document and disseminate proven approaches to support transfer students from two-year to four-year undergraduate institutions. Read a brief report.



Session Requests Are Open:
• Sunday Workshop and Distinguished Lecture Applications are also available between September 1st and November 2, 2015. •
Author's Kits are Available:
• The 2016 Annual Conference Author's Kit -- available on the website -- contains extremely important information regarding the submission process as well as all relevant deadline dates.

LinkEngineering: A Collaborative K-12 Educator Community is a new online portal that connects engineering educators "to share pedagogy, lesson plans, advice and more." It plans a Town Hall Google Hangout on November 18. Click here to register.

THE ST. LAWRENCE SECTION CONFERENCE will be held at Cornel University, Ithaca, N.Y.,  April 8-9, 2016. This year the conference will include several workshops. The calls for papers, presentations, posters and workshops as well as  information about the Conference Program, Registration, and Hotel information is available on http://stl.asee.org/conference_2016.html.

CONGRATULATIONS TO Sarah Rajala, engineering dean at  Iowa State and a past ASEE president, who received the 2015 Harriett B. Rigas Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Education Society. The award "recognizes outstanding female faculty for exceptional contributions to electrical and computer engineering education and the global engineering community through student and faculty development, transformational and inclusive institutional and professional leadership, and engineering accreditation service."

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.