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September 30, 2017



The Budget Committee's 89-page draft resolution would allow Republicans to try to pass a tax overhaul with 51 votes using the so-called reconciliation process, CQ reports. The Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees could "increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion during the next decade." The document sets "topline discretionary spending in fiscal 2018, which begins on Oct. 1, at $549 billion for defense and $516 billion for nondefense discretionary spending. Those numbers align with the spending caps required under the 2011 Budget Control Act" but differ from the $621.5 billion for defense and $511 billion for nondefense discretionary spending in the House budget resolution. See a summary. (The drawing at right is from a video released by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) entitled "America's Broken Budget Process.")

PHYSICAL AND CYBER THREATS to electricity - and how to mitigate them - will be among the topics at a House Science, Space, and Technology Committee hearing October 3 entitled "Resiliency: The Electric Grid’s Only Hope." Among witnesses will be William Sanders, left, who heads the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois."This hearing will also highlight the Department of Energy’s lead agency status for critical infrastructure in the energy sector, and the impact of early-stage applied research on the development of resilient grid technology, infrastructure, and operational strategies." 

RENEWED PUSH FOR ENERGY BILL: Having failed last year to reach agreement with the House on sweeping energy legislation, Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) are trying again. A partial list of research and development provisions in their new 891-page bill includes: cybersecurity; grid storage; geothermal energy; vehicle fuel efficiency; current, tidal, and  wave power; critical minerals; carbon conversion, use, and storage; coal technology; and advanced nuclear energy technology. There are many more. See a section-by-section description. The two senators, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee's chair and ranking Democrat, will lead a hearing Tuesday on "the status of energy storage technologies, reviewing today’s technologies and understanding innovation in tomorrow’s technologies." 

RUSSIAN ENERGY PLOT? In light of reports that Russian entities have used social media in a bid to influence public opinion in the U.S., Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), Science Committee chair, is looking for evidence that Russians may be behind "anti-fracking or any anti-fossil fuel advertisements or promotions.” In letters to Alphabet, Twitter, and Facebook, Smith writes that such attempted manipulation could be "an effort to safeguard the influence of the Russian oil and gas sector." He contends that "divisive social and political messages conveyed through social media have negatively affected certain energy sectors, which can depress research and development in the fossil-fuel sector and the expanding potential for natural gas." Bloomberg reports that Smith also seeks "information on the source of ads 'advocating for so-called green initiatives.'"

SELF-DRIVING VEHICLE SAFETY is among the features touted by sponsors of bipartisan Senate legislation due to be marked up October 4. The bill, introduced by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) would have manufacturers submit reports to the Secretary of Transportation with information addressing . . . safety, crashworthiness, and cybersecurity through documented testing, validation, and assessment." It maintains the status quo for trucks and buses, allowing new self-driving technologies only for vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less. See a summary


PRICE REPLACED BY PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICIAL: President Trump tapped Don Wright to serve as acting secretary of Health and Human Services. CNN reports that Wright had been serving as acting assistant secretary for health, in charge of developing "HHS-wide public health policy recommendations" and overseeing "12 core public health offices -- including the Office of the Surgeon General -- and 11 advisory committees." Tom Price, left, may be remembered in academe less for the charter flights that led to his resignation than for justifying $5.8 billion in proposed budget cuts at the National Institutes of Health. He told Congress: “About 30 percent of the grant money that goes out is used for indirect expenses, which as you know means that money goes for something other than the research that's being done,” according to Science.

$200 MILLION FOR COMPUTER SCIENCE: In a move spearheaded by Ivanka Trump, the Department of Education set a goal of providing $200 million in grants to, in President Trump's words, "explore ways to add or increase computer science to existing K-12 and post-secondary education programs."  The private sector, through the Internet Association, committed another $300 million over five years, with Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Salesforce each pledging $50 million. NSF has a similar effort. See below.

NSF CHIDED ON OVERHEAD: The Government Accountability Office says the National Science Foundation has not "consistently implemented" its internal guidance for setting indirect cost rates. NSF "has not yet required" staff to use "a documentation checklist . . . to verify that an awardee’s ICR proposal package is complete"; "did not include details on supervisory activities, such as the criteria to be used by the supervisor of the ICR process for assessing an ICR proposal’s risk level and mitigating risks at each level"; and "did not include certain procedures, such as for implementing new provisions of federal guidance on setting ICRs." NSF concurred with GAO's recommendations. 

LEAP TOGETHER: NSF's Leading Engineering for America's Prosperity, Health, and Infrastructure (LEAP HI) program "challenges the engineering research community to take a leadership role in addressing demanding, urgent, and consequential challenges for advancing America's prosperity, health and infrastructure." Projects "require sustained and coordinated effort from interdisciplinary research teams" and "may lead to disruptive technologies and methods, lay the foundation for new and strengthened industries, enable notable improvements in quality of life, or re-imagine and revitalize the built environment." Learn more.

COMPUTING + STEM: NSF is encouraging "proposals studying the integration of computing and/or computational thinking within disciplinary STEM learning and teaching in formal STEM education." It will support "six types of projects: (1) Exploratory, (2) Design and Development, (3) Impact, (4) Implementation and Improvement, (5) Syntheses, and (6) Conferences." Find out more.

DIAL IN TO LISTEN: The National Science Board's Committee on Strategy will hold a teleconference October 4 from 4:00 – 4:30 p.m. EDT to discuss "activities through May 2018" and the NSB's November meeting agenda. To get the audio link, e-mail nationalsciencebrd@nsf.gov at least 24 hours in advance.

DISASTER ZONES: An NSF realignment has produced a new program name: Humans, Disasters and the Built Environment (HDBE). It "supports fundamental, multidisciplinary research on the interactions between humans and the built environment within and among communities exposed to natural, technological and other types of hazards and disasters." Learn more.

MERGERS AND ACQUISITIONS: In other changes at the agency, three programs have been replaced by a single Engineering for Civil Infrastructure (ECI) program. Three others have merged into by Engineering Design and Systems Engineering (EDSE).

FUEL CELL WEBINARS: The Department of Energy has collected slides and recordings from a number of recent sessions on hydrogen fuel cells. See their archive. See presentations from a Better Buildings Summit.

CHEAPER DESALINATION THROUGH SOLAR: DOE's Solar Energy Technologies Office expects to make $15 million available to "explore early-stage technologies with the prospect of significantly reducing the cost of desalination through solar thermal energy. . . . The projects will be awarded as cooperative agreements, and will require between 20 to 50% cost share." Learn more


Source of all 3 graphics: STEM Jobs: 2017 Update, U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, Office of the Chief Economist


DEEP POCKETS: Britain is committing $88 million and scientific talent to the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory's Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF) and Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), becoming the biggest non-U.S. contributor among the more than 30 nations involved. The project aims to answer "some of the most important questions in science and advance our understanding of the origin and structure of the universe," according to a joint statement. It will "send a beam of ghostly particles called neutrinos 800 miles through Earth to a massive detector that will be built a mile below the surface at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in South Dakota."

CAMPUS VITALITY THREATENED: Scholars at Risk, a group that monitors threats to academic freedom around the world, says President Trump's travel ban, if upheld by the courts, "could have severe impacts on higher education, undermining the vitality of U.S. campuses as places of open and diverse cultural and intellectual exchange." See a report summary.

GAINS FROM DUAL ENROLLMENT: A new study finds that the number of high school students taking community college courses has "increased dramatically in the last decade," Inside Higher Ed reports. These students are more likely to graduate from high school, attend college and earn degrees than their peers. "The study found that 88 percent of dual-enrollment students (who took community college courses in high school) continued in college after high school, and most achieved a degree or transferred within six years." 

IMPROVING FACULTY DIVERSITY: Inside Higher Ed describes how the University of California, Riverside, and Boston College did it "without relying on hard numerical targets or costly initiatives." 


THE GOFLY PRIZE is a $2 million Boeing-sponsored challenge "to create a personal flying machine that is useful, safe, and thrilling," capable of carrying a single person 20 miles. Advances in propulsion, energy, light-weight materials, and control and stability systems have made the dream of pure human flight achievable. In partnership with GoFly, ASEE is calling on the world’s greatest thinkers, designers, engineers, and builders to challenge themselves and change the future. Registration for the competition is now open and all details are available here

SUBMIT YOUR ABSTRACTS: ASEE is co-hosting the First Annual CoNECD (Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity - pronounced “connected”) Conference next April 29 to May 1. It will be a forum on enhancing diversity and inclusion of underrepresented groups in engineering and computing. CoNECD will encompass many diverse groups, including those based on gender (including gender identity and gender expression), race and ethnicity, disability, veterans, LGBTQ+, 1st generation and socio-economic status. It's a collaboration of ASEE's Minorities in Engineering and Women in Engineering divisions and several outside groups. ASEE members can submit an abstract here (login required.) 

ASEE Board Reorganization - Feedback Needed

ASEE ED Norman Fortenberry presents rationale on a proposed reorganization of the ASEE Board of Directors. Watch a video and  leave your feedback (ASEE member login required; Firefox works best.).

STREAMLINED COURSE DESIGN: Next month, ASEE is launching a live, four-part online program to help faculty streamline their course design process and design more effective courses. The program will be led by course design experts Dr. Karl Smith and Dr. Ruth Streveler and will take place in four (4) two-and-a-half-hour sessions over the course of eight weeks. Learn more about this program here – and sign up for a free info session on September 15. Questions? Email education@asee.org.

THE ACCELERATOR RETURNS: Beginning in October, ASEE's free monthly newsletter for undergraduate and graduate students will resume publication with a wide array of resources:  scholarship and internship/co-op listings, student news and essays, podcasts, professional development resources (e.g., advice on how to get an internship and how to make the most of it), and academic advice - plus entertaining engineering videos. Tell your students! Click here to sign up. Click here to advertise. Send content to Jennifer Pocock at j.pocock@asee.org.


The Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program (NREIP) provides an opportunity for college students to participate in research at a Department of Navy laboratory during the summer. The online application process closes on October 31, 2017. Learn more here.

NOMINATE A YOUNG SUPERSTAR: Prism magazine plans a repeat of its widely read "20 Under 40" issue, highlighting especially talented engineering and engineering technology teachers and researchers. Please send your nominations and a brief description of the nominees' achievements to m.matthews@asee.org with "20 under 40" in the message line. Note: Choices will be based on both accomplishments and variety.

FIRE UP THE FUTURE WITH eGFI: Filled with engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers, the latest edition of ASEE's award-winning Engineering, Go For It is sure to get your students excited about learning - and doing - engineering!

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