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                                                                June 27, 2020  

Note to readers: Capitol Shorts will not be published in July and August.



While increasing the Pentagon's overall R&D budget by four percent, the Senate Armed Services Committee cut science and technology accounts by 1.3 percent compared with the current year's spending levels, Lewis-Burke Associates reports, allowing just a slight increase in applied research. Basic research would be funded at $2.4 billion, applied research would be funded at $5.6 billion, and advanced technology development would be funded at $6.4 billion. Senators hope to pass their version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets policy for the military, before the July 4 holiday. The House Armed Services Committee faces "a contentious debate" when it takes votes on its version in the coming week, CQ reports. Final spending decisions will be made by appropriators.

FLASHPOINT - CHINESE RECRUITMENT OF RESEARCHERS: The Senate Committee wants the National Academies to compare "methods for recruiting and retaining technology researchers, including financial incentives and academic opportunities, currently used by the U.S. and Chinese governments." The study would look at how Chinese incentives used to draw researchers from American academic and government laboratories "diverge from those offered by the United States."

CURRICULA AND FELLOWSHIPS: Senators want the Pentagon "to partner with research universities to develop undergraduate and graduate curricula and research fellowship opportunities" focused on threat identification and mitigation for artificial intelligence- and machine learning-enabled systems, Lewis-Burke reports. Their bill also calls on DoD to "nvestigate application of AI to the physiological, cognitive, and emotional needs of the warfighter" and assess potential threats and risks posed by quantum computing, including codebreaking capabilities." The senators urge creation of "a university consortium with well-established education and research programs in cybersecurity and critical infrastructure protection for national cybersecurity education, training, and workforce development efforts," as well as a program for providing part-time or term employment for faculty or students from institutions of higher education at DoD laboratories.

SPACE WORKFORCE: The new Space Force, due to emerge from the current Space Development Agency, should “develop partnerships with academic research institutions in different geographic regions and with different military and intellectual assets in order to establish critical research infrastructure and to develop the necessary workforce of the future.” 

IMPATIENT ON HYPERSONICS: Such weaponry represents "an area of intense technological competition between the United States, People's Republic of China, and Russian Federation," senators say. They're concerned about "a lack of focus on airlaunched and air-breathing hypersonic capability" and "a lack of adequate coordination on hypersonic prototyping efforts among the various stakeholders and service components." The Senate panel also "expects an assessment" of efforts by government agencies, academia, and industry to develop emerging biotechnology capabilities. 

RUSTING VESSELS: The Senate committee "urges the Office of Naval Research to pursue lightweight, nanotechnology-based capabilities that provide high corrosion resistance and other performance properties to decrease the cost of corrosion and increase the operational availability of military equipment and infrastructure." Senators also want more work done by researchers on diagnostic tools for traumatic brain injury, citing only "limited progress" so far.

MINORITY-SERVING SCHOOLS: The Senate panel would increase research funding for historically black colleges and universities. At Hispanic-serving land-grant institutions, it would like to see "a talent development program that provides experiential learning through internship and co-op programs within the military departments and other DOD components."

$26 BILLION RESEARCH STIMULUS: A measure long sought by the university research community --  $26 billion for federal research agencies to ameliorate the disruption caused by the pandemic -- has finally taken shape in the bipartisan Research Investment to Spark the Economy Act (RISE Act). ASEE has joined a long list of organizations endorsing the bill.

Source: Lewis-Burke Associates


PENTAGON LOSES 2 TOP ENGINEERS: Michael Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, and his deputy, Lisa Porter, are both quitting on July 10. In an email to staff, they said: “A private-sector opportunity has presented itself to us, offering an opportunity we have decided to pursue together." They didn't elaborate. A professional engineer, Griffin is a former NASA administrator and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Porter holds degrees in nuclear engineering and applied physics. Both previously held top jobs at In-Q-Tel, the intelligence community's venture-capital firm. At a conference last year, Porter said, "We simply must run faster, and be better, than our competitors. We clearly need to take punitive action against IP theft. But the day that no one is trying to steal from us is the day that we should truly be concerned."

'WIDESPREAD AND SYSTEMIC': A new document from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy poses the question: How widespread are behaviors that threaten research security and integrity? Answer: "Data are incomplete but suggest widespread and systemic activity across geographic location and research discipline. Incidents of concern are not unique to any one background, ethnicity, or nationality. Other countries have identified similar behaviors in their research enterprises . . . " The National Institutes of Health "identified concerns regarding more than 189 scientists." The National Science Foundation’s inspector general has reported a 20 percent increase in caseload in the last year.

$6.5 BILLION: That's the amount of "previously undisclosed foreign funding" at institutions of higher education identified by the Department of Education, the OSTP document says. ED has also found "$1 billion in funding for unknown objectives from anonymous sources in China, Russia, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia." The agency has opened 10 civil compliance investigations of U.S. universities for failing to disclose their financial relationship with foreign sources. DoD set up a Research Protection Initiative to establish consistent standards for the reporting of conflicts, detect incidents of problematic behavior, and work with academic institutions to limit undue foreign influence in research awards, OSTP says. 

A BLOW TO COMPETITIVENESS: President Trump's executive action to suspend several employment-based visas through the end of the year "will harm our nation’s economic and scientific competitiveness while failing to achieve any of the president’s stated goals in issuing it," says Mary Sue Coleman, president of the Association of American Universities. "The H1-B and H-4 visa programs that today’s executive order curtails have long allowed bright, hard-working individuals to . . . contribute to our nation’s educational endeavors and scientific innovation." See the proclamation

OPEN FOR BUSINESS: Daniel Simmons, assistant secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) at the Department of Energy, plans a Facebook Live broadcast June 30 at 3:30 p.m. ET.

CENTER OF ATTRACTION: At left is the first of six modules that will be stacked to form the 17-meter-tall solenoid--the largest stacked pulsed superconducting magnet ever built--in the center of ITER (formerly the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor). The photo was included in a presentation by James Van Dam, associate  director for fusion energy, to the Department of Energy's Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee. Mark J. Kushner of the University of Michigan and Gary Zank of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, briefed the committee on a National Academies report  See other presentations. See also: DOE's 76 Early Career Research Program awardees. 

CIVIC ENGAGEMENT: The National Science Foundation has broadened support for the Civic Innovation Challenge, a "research and action competition" it says is appropriate for research on pandemics. "NSF launched CIVIC earlier this spring with the goals of (i) flipping the community-university dynamic, with communities identifying civic priorities ripe for innovation and then partnering with researchers to address those priorities; (ii) accelerating the impact of S&CC research; and (iii) deepening cooperation and information sharing across sectors and regions in the smart and connected communities (S&CC) domain." Learn more.

ROTATOR'S FAILURE TO DISCLOSE: The National Science Foundation's inspector general says a professor,failed to  disclose his foreign affiliations and funding both in multiple grant proposals to NSF and while serving as a rotator. "As a program director, he recommended actions on an award even though he had a conflict of interest. Additionally, he endorsed another applicant’s proposal during the same timeframe the applicant submitted a recommendation for the professor’s membership in a professional society." See the full IG report.


Source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics tables, "Science and Engineering Degrees, by Race and Ethnicity of Recipients: 2008–18."


A 'TIPPING POINT' FOR THE GRE: Some academic departments are at least temporarily dropping the requirement that post-graduate applicants take the graduate record exam. They cite "burdensome requirements of the at-home test" prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Other departments have decided to forgo the GRE for good, according to Science Careers, a AAAS publication.

COLLEGES' PLANS FOR REOPENING: The Chronicle of Higher Education is keeping track.  


WHAT TO DO WITH ALL THAT DATA: "Biomedical research data sets are becoming larger and more complex, and computing capabilities are expanding to enable transformative scientific results," the National Acadmies says in introducing a workshop report . It includes tools and practices that National Library of Medicine could use to help researchers and funders better integrate risk management practices and considerations into data preservation, archiving, and accessing decisions; as well as burdens on academic researchers and industry staff.


AN ALL-HANDS-ON-DECK MOMENT: "As engineers, we like to think our objectivity shields us from history, our culture, and current events, but this is not the case," ASEE's 2020-21 President Sheryl Sorby declared in a speech that opened: "Let  me begin by saying Black lives matter. Black engineers matter." Citing 50 years of diversity efforts that have yielded only marginal progress, she said, "I think it’s time we looked in a mirror and faced the facts—since we are not part of the solution, we are a large part of the problem." Change is urgently needed: "if we do not transform our programs, we will become outmoded and may cease to exist."

See a video recording or read the speech.


Systemic and systematic racism and the novel coronavirus pandemic carry significant implications for engineering education. ASEE is surveying members on both issues.

ASEE is actively investigating and planning activities to support the academic engineering community’s response to the murder of George Floyd and the unjust loss of many other Black lives. A short survey requests more information about your current and planned activities to eliminate systemic and systematic racism. 

The National Science Foundation is funding ASEE to collect your stories about how COVID-19 first impacted and is currently impacting your life and your work. Open-ended questions in this survey ask for your experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.The results will provide a historical understanding of how the higher education community, specifically within engineering, responded to the pandemic, and help develop best practices for similar situations.  

Both surveys should only take a few minutes. Participation is voluntary, and we are not asking for any identifiable information. All responses will be anonymized before any data is shared. 


ASEE announces our system for recognizing professional development (PD) opportunities for PreK-12 educators that align strongly with the 2014 Standards for Preparation and Professional Development of Teachers of Engineering. We believe programs meeting these standards prepare PreK-12 students for either the collegiate study of engineering, or for being informed citizens in an increasingly technological world. 

“Drawing upon ASEE’s Standards for the Preparation and Professional Development of Teachers of Engineering and its accompanying matrix, the creation of a way to describe engineering teaching professional development objectively is a real boon to educators and administrators everywhere,” said Stacy Klein-Gardner, Adjunct Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Vanderbilt University and Chair of the ASEE Commission on P12 Engineering Education and Lead Reviewer for ETPDE. “Individual educators, schools, and districts can now find the exact type of professional development that they need. Finding the seal of ASEE endorsement assures them they are getting the PD just as the provider advertises. PD providers will also have a way to improve their own offerings in targeted and meaningful ways.” 

TeachEngineering is ASEE's first endorsed program. Endorsed programs will receive a badge that may be displayed on marketing material and website; endorsements are valid for three years. To learn more visit https://etpde.asee.org or contact the Program Manager at etpde@asee.org.


This is a foundational, instructor-led, online program preparing new engineering faculty members to successfully launch their careers. They will learn how to navigate their role as a new faculty member and the teaching, scholarship, and service responsibilities of their university and discipline. By the end of this program, they will have the knowledge and tools to positively launch their career, while effectively preparing engineering leaders of tomorrow. This program takes place in four, two-hour-long sessions. Each session will have extensive facilitator-participant and participant-participant interaction, with ample time for questions and discussions.

August 5, 12, 19, and 26, 2020
11:00 PM – 1:00 PM, ET
ASEE Members: $750; Non-members: $850

Please forward this message to your appropriate faculty members. Details are here.


Emerging Insights on Remote Instruction: July 8 at 1 PM, ET: This free webinar will share strategies for navigating remote instruction, including insights on synchronous instruction, remote assessments, and managing student projects and collaboration remotely. Register at https://bit.ly/3hi3Xx5

Emerging Insights on Remote Student Support: July 22 at 2 PM, ET: This free webinar will discuss strategies for supporting students remotely, sharing insights on virtual office hours, empathetic syllabi and in-class icebreakers, instructional techniques to support students in class, and additional ways that faculty, staff, and peers can interact to support student success. Register at https://bit.ly/37mWBno

REGISTER FOR CONECD: The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity holds its next conference January 24-27, 2021 in the Washington, DC region, CoNECD provides a forum for exploring research and practices enhancing diversity and inclusion of all underrepresented groups in the engineering and computing professions. Transformation of our engineering workforce will not be the result of a singular focus. CoNECD will encompass the diverse groups comprising our community, including groups based on gender (including gender identity and gender expression), race and ethnicity, disability, veterans, LGBTQ+, 1st generation, and socio-economic status. Registration is now open.  The deadline to upload your abstract is June 29, 2020.

STUDENT COLUMNIST SOUGHT: ASEE's award-winning  Prism magazine seeks a new student columnist, as our excellent Alice Dai is graduating. If you know students who have a passion for writing and strong opinions on the state of engineering education, please encourage them to send a resume, cover letter, and 2-3 writing samples (preferably published) to Prism Associate Editor Jennifer Pocock at j.pocock@asee.org. They should use the subject line "Student Columnist Application." The columnist will receive an honorarium.