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                                    May 11, 2019



Mae Jemison, engineer, physician, and astronaut (far left, above), didn't hide her frustration in testimony prepared for a hearing on​ women and minorities in the STEM workforce: "I am disappointed that we are still having this conversation despite the fact that the many barriers facing these groups in science are very well researched and well understood, as are the strategies for improving the recruitment, retention, and advancement." She leads a National Academies study, which has so far found that women face "bias in recruitment; unequal allocation of resources and pay; less access to mentoring; hgher teaching loads; bias in teaching evaluations; bias in authorship credit; bias in peer review; fewer speaking invitations; higher service expectations; uncivil treatment"; as well as assault. Women of color, she added, are caught in a discriminatory "double bind."

In a sign of how long such problems have persisted,  "Double Bind" was the title of a 1976 report co-authored by Shirley Malcom of AAAS (second from left), who also testified. Remedies exist. She told the panel that "we have seen what happens when programs and departments are transformed" to remove impediments to minority success, but "but there has not been widespread systematic adoption" of needed changes. Addressing legislation that prompted the hearing, Malcom said that for some efforts it describes, "there is no need to start from scratch" but instead to tweak or scale up proven programs.  Lorelle Espinosa, center, co-chair of the National Academies' Committee on Minority Serving Institutions, said "MSIs have developed ways to offer a rich set of academic and social support systems for students that help them thrive academically and prepare for meaningful and sustained contributions."  

Ohio State's James L. Moore III (second from right), who has studied African American males in STEM, cited research--some decades old--showing what works, including higher education partnerships with school districts; early intervention programs; student-faculty interactions focused on out-of-class research; mentoring; role models; and implicit-bias training for screening panels. See additional testimony by Barbara Whye, (far right) chief diversity and inclusion officer at Intel, and  coverage by Diverse Issues in Higher Education. 

'A COLLEGE COMPLETION CRISIS': America once led the world in college degrees, but now a dozen countries are surging ahead of us, University of Michigan professor Susan Dynarski told a House Education and Labor subcommittee. "While college attendance has risen steadily for decades, the share of young people earning a BA has stagnated at about 30 percent. Among children from low-income families, only one in 10 earns a BA." In her prepared testimony, Dynarski said, "At hundreds of schools only one out of five students will graduate. At 300 colleges, students are more likely to default on their student loans than they are to earn a degree." The hearing was one of a series held by the committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee as they work toward reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. The Senate panel has looked at how to improve upon the current institutional accountability structure to ensure students’ and federal taxpayers’ investments in higher education programs are well-spent, Read Lewis-Burke Associates' newsletter on higher education policy. 

'TURBULENCE AHEAD': That's CQ's outlook for spending bills, now that the House Appropriations Committee, led by Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), far right photo, has divvied up the $1.3 trillion in discretionary spending--4 percent above the current year--that it is allowed in a House-passed "deeming resolution."The 30-22 party-line vote assigns a less than 4 percent increase to the Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee, which funds the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The Pentagon would rise less than 3 percent, Homeland Security less than 1 percent. The panel's top Republican, Kay Granger of Texas, noted the numbers "do not reflect a bipartisan agreement . . . are opposed by House Republicans, are not likely to be adopted by the Senate, are not supported by the White House and do not stop sequestration."

BRING BACK THE EXPERTS: The House Appropriations Committee has voted 28-22 to fund a revived Office of Technology Assessment--a congressional science and engineering shop--to the tune of $6 million, CQ reports. Lawmakers have been "stung by criticism of their oversight of the high-tech industry and concerned about mounting cyber attacks against their own offices." The OTA was shut down 25 years ago in a move pushed by then-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). He still doesn't think it's needed, and many current GOP House members evidently agree. 

'FLYING BLIND': "At present, we have a White House directive to land humans on the Moon in five years, but no plan or no budget details on how to do so, and no integrated Human Exploration Roadmap laying out how we can best achieve the horizon goal—Mars," complained Rep.Kendra Horn (D-Okla.) opening a hearing of her Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee on NASA's exploration plans. For the space agency, Associate Administrator William Gerstenmaier defended the moon-first idea: "The Moon is a treasure chest of science and knowledge we can acquire with a sustained human and robotic presence. . .  We believe the poles of the Moon hold millions of tons of water ice. The farther humans venture into space, the more important it becomes to manufacture materials and products with local resources." He also said: "Exploration is critical to the continuation of our species. Humanity must build a pathway to enable settlements beyond Earth, and the Moon is a testbed for Mars."


'CONFIRMATION IS LIKELY': Patrick Shanahan, whom President Trump has nominated as secretary of defense, will first have to undergo tough questioning from senators "about Boeing and more," says CQ. The longtime aerospace executive was recently cleared by the Pentagon's inspector general following a probe into whether he sought preferential treatment for former employer Boeing. Shanahan, who has been acting secretary since the departure of James Mattis, holds degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington and MIT as well as an MBA from MIT's Sloan School. He would be the first engineer secdef since Clinton appointee William Perry (whose degrees were in mathematics). 

ADVANCED COMPUTING ARCHITECTURE: This, along with algorithms and "brain-inspired processing called neuromorphic computing" is among research areas of interest to the Air Force Research Laboratory, according to Lewis-Burke Associates. See the solicitation on the FedBizOpps website. L-B also notes a proposers' day (May 29) announcement by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) for the Space-Based Machine Automated Recognition Technique (SMART) Program. The agency, the R&D arm of the intelligence community, says SMART's primary objective is to "develop tools and techniques to automatically and dynamically execute broad-area search (BAS) over diverse environments to detect construction and other anthropogenic activities (e.g., heavy building and highway construction) using time-series spectral imagery." 

FUTURE CONVERGENCE: The National Science Foundation seeks information on future convergence accelerator tracks. These could be within two of NSF's Big Ideas--Harnessing the Data Revolution and the Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier--but they also could be "within other Big Ideas, or on other topics that may not relate directly to a Big Idea but that may have national impact." Learn more.

U.S.-EUROPE PARTNERSHIP: NSF is extending for another year an opportunity for U.S.-based scientists and engineers with NSF-funded CAREER awards and Postdoctoral Research Fellowships to pursue research collaboration with European colleagues supported through EU-funded European Research Council (ERC) grants. Find out more.

MERIT-BASED IMMIGRATION: White House adviser Jared Kushner's plan would "ensure a significantly larger proportion is set aside for immigrants based on their professional skills and education backgrounds, rather than on family ties," the Washington Post reports..It wouldn't change the overall number of green cards issued per year. Nor would it address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, according to the Hill. 



The National Science Foundation's Science and Engineering State Profiles allow viewers to compare states according to a variety of  measures. Below is a generated graphic comparing, at random, Colorado, Georgia, and North Carolina. 

Source: Sean O’Connor, U.S.-China : How Chinese Companies Facilitate TechnologyTransfer from the United States (U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission)


A BIG IDEA FOR THE U.S.-MEXICO BORDER: In a Washington Post op-ed, Mitch Daniels, president of Purdue, hails "an ecumenical concept" proposed by "some wildly imaginative researchers" at  his school as well as Texas A&M, Arizona State, and Cal Tech. They envision "a chain of green-energy installations, powering seawater desalination that could make the desert bloom Israel-style, ease water-shortage concerns in several southwestern states and trigger enormous economic possibilities in both the United States and Mexico. And, oh yes, provide through its necessary, concomitant protective features a major new physical barrier to illegal immigration."


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