Facebook icon Twitter icon Forward icon

October 21, 2017



A bill proposed by Rand Paul (R-Ky) "would fundamentally alter how grant proposals are reviewed at every federal agency by adding public members with no expertise in the research being vetted," Science magazine reports. It would also replace the National Science Foundation's inspector general with "an entity that would randomly examine proposals chosen for funding to make sure the research will “deliver value to the taxpayer.” The legislation also calls for all federal grant applications to be made public. Paul, who chairs the Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management, published the Waste Report last year. He told a hearing: "If you like the gravy train I recommend that we fix it, so we aren't funding really crummy research." The panel's ranking Democrat, Gary Peters of Michigan, co-sponsored the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, now law, which drew support from the research community. Paul's legislation is not given a good chance of passing in its current form and pro-NSF advocates are keeping their powder dry for the time being. See the American Institute of Physics' FYI report on the bill.

SENATE BUDGET WOULD HIKE DEFICIT: The nonbinding measure, approved 51-49, is supposed to set the stage for tax overhaul, including major business tax cuts. The Associated Press reports that it "calls for $473 billion in cuts from Medicare over 10 years and more than $1 trillion from Medicaid. All told, Senate Republicans would cut spending by more than $5 trillion over a decade, though they don't attempt to spell out where the cuts would come from. Even so, the measure doesn't promise to balance the budget, projecting deficits that would never drop below $400 billion. Republicans vow that the tax plan would result in a burst of economic growth that will add enough tax revenue to make up for the ambitious rate cuts. Most experts dismiss such promises, however, and Congress' official scorekeepers agree with them." 

UNIVERSITY LEADERS APPEAL TO SAVE DACA: "Nearly 800 college and university presidents and chancellors sent a letter to members of the U.S. Congress urging them to protect students in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program," the Chronicle of Higher Education reports. Their letter says the so-called Dreamers "have made incredible contributions to our country and its economy and security. They should continue to be able to do so.”

AT ODDS OVER A SPACE CORPS: House and Senate negotiators enter a conference on the defense authorization bill with "several looming points of contention,"The Hill reports. Among them: "The House version authorizes a new Space Corps, which would be focused on addressing threats from such countries as Russia and China to U.S. assets in space, such as satellites. The Senate's bill, meanwhile, blocks the creation of a space service. Instead, Senate lawmakers only want a new position created that reports directly to the defense secretary and heads all cyber and space warfare policy. Several high-ranking officials have come out against the plan for a Space Corps, including Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and even the White House."

QUANTUM COMPUTING RACE: A House hearing Oct. 24 "will identify where the U.S. currently stands in the international race to the development of commercially available quantum-based technologies, particularly quantum computing," along with "research and development currently supported by both the government and private sector." The hearing will also "provide feedback on what more can be done to improve efforts in quantum information science and engineering, how to effectively train a workforce to prepare for this next generation of technology, and how to successfully compete with other countries." Witnesses include Supratik Guha, far left, director of the Nanoscience and Technology Division, Argonne National Laboratory, and a professor at the Institute for Molecular Engineering, University of Chicago; and Christopher Monroe, Bice Zorn Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Maryland and founder and chief scientist of IonQ, Inc. Prism quoted Monroe in an article on quantum research.

WHAT'S UP? The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will hold a hearing with live video Oct. 25 on the commercial satellite industry, looking at "next-generation satellite services affecting consumers." 


20% SUCCESS RATE: Of all National Science Foundation directorates, Engineering funded the smallest proportion of proposals in 2016, according to the latest report on the merit review process. "The general picture presented by the data is one of a period of relative stability in the rate of proposal submissions and awards since FY 2012, when averaged across NSF as a whole." In other data, "the proportion of proposals from PIs who identified themselves as female was 27%. The proportion of proposals from under-represented racial or ethnic minorities was 8.3% and the proportion from PIs with a disability was 1.4%." While fewer proposals are received from women than men, the success rate for female PIs is slightly higher than that for male PIs. The proportion of research awards going to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges and Universities increased from 2.4% in FY 2010 to 7.3% in FY 2016. Half of new research projects have a single principal investigator and half are collaborations among multiple investigators.

ADVISORY PANEL TO MEET: NSF's Engineering Advisory Committee, chaired by ASEE Immediate Past President Louis Martin-Vega, meets Oct. 24 and 25. The agenda includes: Intelligent Cognitive Assistants ("platforms which augment human capabilities"); Convergent Research to Address Grand Challenges; and the Future of Multidisciplinary Engineering Research Centers.

TRAVEL BAN'S IMPACT ON ACADEME: Potential injury to the University of Hawaii figured prominently in the state attorney general's arguments against President Trump's revised travel ban. U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson on Friday imposed a preliminary injunction against the ban. In court papers, the state claimed the ban would prevent the University of Hawaii from recruiting and retaining qualified individuals by making it difficult, if not impossible, to hire people from the countries affected. The ban would also "negatively affect the university’s ability to recruit and enroll new students. . . Prospective students will therefore be deterred from applying to or enrolling" at the school.

PCAST EXISTS - AT LEAST ON PAPER: "President Trump issued an executive order on Sept. 29 renewing the charter of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), alongside the charters of 31 other federal advisory committees," ASME's Capitol Update reports. However, PCAST in the recent past was co-chaired by the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. That position has not been filled. ASME reports that "a large portion  of PCAST’s budget has previously come from the Department of Energy’s Office of Science," which has been targeted for cuts.

U.S. WITHDRAWAL FROM UNESCO: "The United States will withdraw from UNESCO at the end of next year" so as to "stop accumulating unpaid dues" and make a stand on what the State Department says is anti-Israel bias at the U.N.’s educational, science and cultural organization, The Washington Post reports. The U.S. would like "non-member observer" status. UNESCO's engineering related activities include a 2010 report and an Engineering Initiative, launched in 2011, that addresses "increasing concern that declining enrolment in engineering studies will have consequences for future development." UNESCO partners with professional engineering societies, including those with an educational focus, as well as industry, and civil society groups.


Don't Count on Industry to Fill the Gap if Government Shrinks Support for R&D 

That's the thrust of a recent paper by Matt Hourihan, budget expert at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He writes that "the balance of evidence suggests one should use caution in assuming a robust industry response to fill gaps. . . . [T]he general tendency in industry is to go for safe bets over riskier due to market pressures and uncertainty."   

DECLINE IN ENERGY R&D: An International Energy Agency commentary reports that "public and private investment into energy R&D has been declining. Preliminary data for 2016 show that the total public RD&D budget of IEA member countries was $16.6 billion. While these funding levels are among the highest since 1974, accounting for inflation and relative purchasing power, this represents the fourth straight year of decline. Companies are also spending less than they were three years ago. This is cause for concern." 

Click here and put your cursor on the graphic to see actual per-year numbers. 



ASEE is offering two two-week courses in the spring of 2018 for researchers and innovators who want to take their STEM education vision to the next level. The application period opens October 25.  For more information click here.

GOFLY COMPETITION: In partnership with Boeing, 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

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.).

THE ACCELERATOR RETURNS: Beginning this month, 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.

2018 SYMPOSIUM: ABET is accepting abstracts for four focus areas: Accreditation; Program Assessment; Sustainability; and Diversity & Inclusion. Programs of all sizes and housed in all types of higher education institutions (liberal arts colleges, community colleges, research institutions) inside or outside the U.S. are strongly encouraged to submit proposals to one or multiple focus areas. Learn more.


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!

Order Your Copies