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December 9, 2017



Congressional negotiators are discussing adding substantial sums to both defense and nondefense discretionary spending as part of a two-year budget deal, CQ reports. An initial GOP offer would have raised defense by $54 billion and nondefense by $37 billion, in both fiscal 2018 and 2019. Democrats countered that defense and nondefense should both get a $54 billion hike. By now, the talks "have moved well north of $200 billion," CQ says. “We’ve agreed to where we should be on defense spending. We’ve not yet agreed on the nondefense spending angle,” White House legislative liaison Marc Short tells MSNBC. Negotiators have a bit more time, with President Trump having signed a two-week stopgap spending bill. CQ quotes House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as saying "we will not leave here" for the Christmas holiday without a fix for young undocumented immigrants enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. See below for drama within the House Appropriations Committee. 

HOUSE PANEL TAKES UP HIGHER-ED OVERHAUL: The House Education and the Workforce Committee plans to mark up its proposed reauthorization of the Higher Education Act on Tuesday, December 12, according to Lewis-Burke Associates. "This bill has been primarily a Republican bill and will likely pass along a party-line vote. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) anticipates developing their own HEA reauthorization. The HELP committee has indicated its interest in pursuing a bipartisan approach and will begin that work in early 2018." The House bill would "significantly alter financial aid programs and regulations governing higher education, including the roll back of regulations covering the for-profit education sector. There is also an increased emphasis and federal funding to bolster workforce development and career alignment. Support for different modes of education delivery, such expanding federal aid to shorter term education programs and clarifying rules around competency-based education are also notable modifications to higher education policy." Read the Lewis-Burke policy update.

LATE SUPPORT FOR GRAD STUDENTS: The website of Rep. Pete Session (R-Tex.) touts his support for the GOP's "pro-growth, bold" tax bill. But this week, the lawmaker sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to remove a provision from the bill that would subject graduate students' waived tuition to taxation. "Taxing graduate tuition waivers would not only harm students but also adversely impact the United States' technological position," the letter states. "In 2011- 12, 57% percent of waiver recipients were graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and math. A policy that increases students' costs would discourage our nation's brightest minds from developing greater expertise in their area of study and engaging in leading-edge research." Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.) has circulated a similar letter, noting that, for example, "the University of Illinois estimates that its graduate students receiving tuition waivers would see their taxable income increase by $19,000 on average." See a ScienceInsider account of a grad students' Capitol Hill demonstration, which ended with some being led away in handcuffs.

APPROPRIATIONS CHAIR IN THE CROSS-HAIRS: Leaders of the conservative Republican Study Committee have reached a consensus that Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) should be ousted as Appropriations chairman, and have so informed House Speaker Paul Ryan, The Hill newspaper reports, The RSC leaders cited Frelinghuysen’s “no” vote on the tax-cuts bill last month and his waffling over Obamacare repeal (which he ultimately voted for).

$250 MILLION: That's the amount of seed capital raised by 450 start-ups developed from Innovation Corps (I-Corps) teams. Launched by former National Science Foundation director Subra Suresh and continued by his successor, France Córdova, the program is expanding, NSF Director for Engineering Dawn Tilbury (left) told a House Science panel  hearing this week. The I-Corps for Phase 0 pilot supports "non-academic teams of very early startups or pre-startups that are developing game-changing technologies. These Phase 0 Teams will receive national I-Corps training as well as participate in a follow-on curriculum called “I-Corps Go” that addresses some of the more common issues in startup formation, including incorporation, licensing and negotiation of intellectual property, and fundraising." Hearing chair Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) signaled strong support for I-Corps, saying such programs "boost our economy, enhance our national security, strengthen our cybersecurity infrastructure and create a STEM-job ready workforce." 


RULINGS NEAR ON LATEST TRUMP TRAVEL BAN: The Supreme Court has allowed the Trump administration to fully enforce the latest travel ban, meaning the Trump administration will be able to enforce the restrictions until the legal challenges have been settled — even if that takes another trip to the high court, CQ reports, noting that "the Trump administration has the upper hand in the court battle at this time." The two appeals courts that heard arguments this week in separate cases, the 4th Circuit and the 9th Circuit, are expected quickly to issue rulings on the legality of the latest ban on travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen. Hear the December 8 Fourth Circuit oral arguments.

NOTHING BUT BLUE SKIES: Abstracts are invited for the second David Dornfeld Manufacturing Vision Award and Blue Sky Competition, funded by the National Science Foundation. It  will be held during the ASME/SME 2018 North American Manufacturing Research Conference/Manufacturing Science and Engineering Conference (NAMRC/MSEC) from June 18-22, 2018 in College Station, Tex. Organizers say: "The aim of this competition is to seek visionary ideas, long-term challenges, and opportunities in research and education that are outside of the current mainstream of manufacturing research and education. Such ideas are often described as radical thinking, outrageous, transformational, nonconventional, and breakthrough." Submit abstracts at this link.  

BIG THINKING: The Division of Civil, Mechanical, and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI) of NSF's Engineering Directorate invites proposals relevant to these Big Ideas: Work at the Human-Technology Frontier: Shaping the Future; Navigating the New Arctic; Harnessing the Data Revolution for 21st Century Science and Engineering; and Understanding the Rules of Life: Predicting Phenotype. Learn more.


Doctorate recipients' primary source of financial support, by broad field of study, sex, citizenship status, ethnicity, and race: 2016

Source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NSF)


LEED FOR DIVERSITY: ASME's Capitol Update reports that the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is promoting "a type of voluntary assessment to examine the diversity of the faculty and students and developing a certification method similar to how buildings obtain LEED Green building certification." The idea was broached during a recent workshop on Women of Color in STEM, where AAAS was represented by Shirley Malcom (left, shown giving a TEDx talk), head of education and human resources programs. A second panel at the workshop included engineering academics Akua Asa-Awuku, associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park, and Gilda Barabino, dean of engineering at City College of New York. "Panelists noted that many types of mentors are needed for women to move up in their careers and that they have developed personal relationships with each other to drive the creation of a supportive environment for women of color in particular, as these women are often alone within their institutions. Merely having institutional policy and practices is not enough to promote diversity, and how they are implemented is critical."

HOW COLLEGES DEEPEN INEQUALITY is the subject of an op-ed in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Richard Reeves of the Brookings Institution, who has also put out this paper.

MAJOR SWITCHING: Overall, about 30 percent of undergraduates change majors within three years of enrolling in a four-year or community college program, Inside Higher Ed reports, citing the National Center for Education Statistics. Math majors, who do well in the job market, set the curve at 52 percent. Natural science majors were second, at 40 percent. Engineering and ET majors actually were near average, at 32 percent.


'SWIFTLY ERODING': That's how the American Institute of Physics' FYI newsletter characterizes America's position when it comes to high-intensity ultrafast laser research. Europeans are gaining ground fast, making "large, well-coordinated investments," FYI says, citing a National Academies report. The report recommends that the Department of Energy "create a broad national network, including universities, industry, and government laboratories, in coordination with the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the research arms of the Department of Defense, National Science Foundation, and other federal research organizations, as the cornerstone of a national strategy to support science, applications, and technology of intense and ultrafast lasers." Also: DOE, NSF, DoD and others "should engage the scientific stakeholders within the network to define what facilities and laser parameters will best serve research needs."

THAT WAS THEN: More than 1,500 scientists, engineers, and medical professionals from about 120 institutions in the United States and Iran participated in National Academies-sponsored exchanges from 2000 to 2016. "About one-half of the interested scientists participated in events from 2010 to 2016." Frequent discussions between staff members of the National Academies and senior U.S. and Iranian government officials served to promote "a common objective of the two governments, namely to support constructive science diplomacy." However, by 2017 the political conditions for science-engagement had become much starker than in earlier years . . . ." Read the report.


Engineering Education Summit at NIWeek 2018

Join fellow leaders in education, industry, and research to discuss impactful trends and best practices that are affecting how students learn and how we can best prepare them to tackle the engineering challenges of tomorrow.  The Engineering Education Summit at NIWeek 2018 in Austin, Texas is a unique event that brings together a global audience of educators and researchers, alongside engineers from leading companies. Interactive panels and sessions ensure that you can learn how new teaching methodologies are enabling the hands-on, active learning in areas such as wireless communications, IoT and mechatronics. Learn more about this event and see highlights from 2017.


Applications are now being accepted for the first-of-its-kind GEM-ASEE Doctoral Engineering Research Showcase sponsored by The National GEM Consortium (GEM) and the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) January 22-23, 2018, at the Mayflower Hotel, Washington, DC.  Doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows, and new faculty are invited to display their leading-edge technical research and connect with potential agency sponsors and academic employers.Registration fees: $50 for doctoral students and postdocs; $150 for new faculty. The deadline for applications is Friday, November 17. Find out more. Watch a video.

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: ASEE's free monthly newsletter for undergraduate and graduate students has resumed 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 subscribe. Click here to advertise. Send content to Jennifer Pocock at j.pocock@asee.org.


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 is now open.  For more information click here.

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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