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January 14, 2017



The current stopgap spending bill that's funding the government expires April 28. Looking to the remainder of FY 2017, House appropriators are discussing several options, according to CQ. One is to pass the defense appropriations bill soon after President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration and nondefense bills soon thereafter. The defense measure passed the House during the last Congress, when Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) chaired the defense appropriations subcommittee. He now chairs the full committee and has tapped Kay Granger (R-Tex.), right, to lead the defense panel. 

RETURN OF THE MINIBUS: This could happen with fiscal 2017 spending bills, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), left, tells CQ. So-called minibuses are packages of several appropriations measures that would be voted on together. Simpson now chairs the Energy and Water appropriations subcommittee, in charge of spending bills for the Department of Energy and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Meanwhile, the House followed in the Senate in adopting a budget resolution aimed at repealing the 2010 health care law, according to CQ.

DESPERATE NEED FOR EXPERTS: Universities need to step up and fill the knowledge gap created when Congress slashed funding for its own staffs of trained technical specialists. So argues Sridhar Kota, professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan, where he also directs the Compliant Systems Design Laboratory. An op-ed that Kota co-authored in Wired says institutions of higher ed "should think about augmenting Congress’ technical capacity," by, for instance, "making leading experts available for office hours with legislators and senior staff. Members of Congress need real-time access to objective information, and the Congressional Research Service doesn’t quite have the capacity. In the run-up to decisions like a new infrastructure bill or the response to Russian meddling in the US election, universities could work to make leading professors in fields like public finance or computer science available . . . to tutor congresspeople and senior staff. " Read more.


LIMITED ABILITY TO PREDICT: Secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson believes “the risk of climate change does exist, and the consequences could be serious enough that action should be taken.” His views formed “over about 20 years as an engineer and a scientist, understanding the evolution of the science,” according to the Washington Post. But in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the former ExxonMobil chief executive said: “Our ability to predict that effect is very limited,” and precisely what actions nations should take “seems to be the largest area of debate existing in the public discourse.” He also says the United States should keep its "seat at the table" in implementing the Paris climate accord.  See a video. Science magazine has compiled what Trump nominees are saying about science and climate. 

H1-B REVAMP? "Possibilities for reforming the distribution of H-1B visas, which are used largely by the tech industry, were discussed at a meeting last month" at Trump Tower between chief executives of tech companies and members of the president-elect's transition team, Reuters reports. "Trump senior policy adviser Stephen Miller proposed scrapping the existing lottery system used to award the visas." 


TIPTOEING INTO GEOENGINEERING: "A White House road map for federally funded climate research has for the first time recommended research into geoengineering, the concept of intervening in nature to slow or reverse global warming," the New York Times reports. The document "calls for studies related to the two most-discussed approaches to geoengineering: distributing chemicals in the atmosphere to reflect more heat-producing sunlight away from the earth, and removing carbon dioxide from the air so the atmosphere traps less heat." Read the strategy.

A BOOST FOR SCIENTIFIC INTEGRITY: Such may be the result of new Energy Department guidelines, according to the Christian Science Monitor. They grant scientists "expanded freedom to share their views with the press and publish in peer-reviewed journals. Scientists can review documents about their findings, and even correct errors in released documents if they don’t feel that DOE documents accurately represent the science. The guidelines also have an expanded reach: unlike the last scientific integrity policy, released in 2012, they apply not only to employees but also to contractors and grant recipients." Read the policy. Also see DOE's first report on the state of the National Laboratories. The Daily Energy Insider says the report concludes that "increased investments in the National Labs and efforts to improve relationships between the labs and DOE have boosted the labs’ effectiveness."

MORE NANO-INSPIRED GRAND CHALLENGES: In 2015, the White House endorsed a plan for transformational computing capabilities combining innovations in multiple disciplines: "Create a new type of computer that can proactively interpret and learn from data, solve unfamiliar problems using what it has learned, and operate with the energy and efficiency of the human brain." The President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology says in a letter report that "this effort is off to a commendable start." And so it recommends that two more such challenges be announced in the next few years.

'COMPETES' SIGNED: President Obama on January 6 signed S. 3084, the "American Innovation and Competitiveness Act," the latest reauthorization of the landmark 2007 America COMPETES legislation. It "amends and establishes new authorities for various programs at the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, as well as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education authorities."

EASY YET SECURE COMMUNICATION: This is the aim of a new program by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, reports Nextgov. "DARPA hopes to create a system that allows for the secure exchange of information at varying classification levels, using unsecured commercial networks including Wi-Fi and cellular, through a mix of devices such as tactical radios, laptops and handheld devices." A proposer's day is set for January 31 for the program, called Secure Handhelds on Assured Resilient networks at the tactical Edge program, or SHARE. Learn more.  

LEFT OUT OF MANUFACTURING INITIATIVE: The Department of Energy has found "six geographic gaps" in its Industrial  Assessment Center (IAC) program and wants to fill them. The IAC "is a manufacturing efficiency and workforce development initiative of the Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) based in the engineering departments of colleges nationwide. IACs conduct assessments and provide site-specific recommendations to small & medium size manufacturers on opportunities to improve productivity, reduce waste and save energy. The program also provides engineering students with critical hands-on experience in energy engineering and energy management." DOE is "only interested in receiving applications from colleges physically located within one of the six underserved areas." Learn more.

PECASE WINNERS: President Obama named 102 recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), "the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers." Included are two ASEE members, Shawn Jordan, an assistant professor of engineering in the College of Technology and Innovation at Arizona State University (one of Prism's "20 Under 40"), and Randy Ewoldt, assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. See the full list.

OVERSEAS OPPORTUNITIES WEBINAR: The American Institute of Biological Sciences hosted experts who offered "details about programs that enable researchers from the U.S. to collaborate internationally." Panelists included: Rebecca Keiser, Head of the Office of International Science and Engineering, National Science Foundation; Max Vögler, Director, North America DC Office, German Research Foundation; Peter VanDerwater, Director of Outreach, Fulbright Scholar Program. See the video


Graphic by Jennifer Pocock; Source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. Click here for a larger version. 


ETHICS INFUSION: The National Academy of Engineering held a workshop in the past week on "important challenges to infusing ethics into engineering and strategies for overcoming them." Current and emerging leaders in ethics and engineering were asked to "share their work, experiences, and lessons learned; discuss strategies for overcoming institutional and cultural challenges; and develop plans and collaborations for advancing efforts to infuse ethics into the development of engineers." ASEE Executive Director Norman Fortenberry attended and, along with two NSF program directors, offered integrative summary remarks and recommended a possible path forward. Some background on the challenges can be found in this article.



Early registration rates end January 20, 2017 for the 2017 Public Policy Colloquium (February 6-8, 2017 at The Fairmont Hotel, Washington, D.C.).

The Colloquium has a dual role: to strengthen the discussion of engineering education and research issues between the deans of engineering and key public policy makers, and to enable the deans to refine their public policy agenda. Since the Public Policy Colloquium will focus on the activities of the Engineering Deans Council, we ask that you come yourself and do not send your associate dean. Click here for more information.

2017 Engineering Deans Institute (April 2-5, 2017 at The Biltmore, Coral Gables, FL.) 

The annual ASEE Engineering Deans Institute (EDI) provides an opportunity for engineering deans- and only deans- to gather and discuss the crucial issues facing their schools, colleges, and profession. For a few days, a single-stream program fosters dialogue between deans, industry leaders, and those in important roles in research and government. Deans share best practices, learn about career prospects for their graduates, and develop a voice for engineering education and the role of engineering in society. Social activities and plenty of time for conversation encourage the cultivation of relationships and an intensely rewarding experience.

Early registration rates end March 10, 2017. Click here for more information.

FELLOWSHIPS WEBINAR: ASEE administers a number of fellowship and research opportunities with funding provided by federal agencies. In this webinar, learn more about the importance of fellowships and the application process, and explore several fellowships offered by ASEE. January 25, 2017, 1 - 2 PM, ET. Learn more

INTRODUCING PRISM PODCASTS: This new feature, produced by Nathan Kahl, debuted with a report on the Mobile Virtual Player, developed by students at Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering. Listen to this and subsequent podcasts here.

ASEE Mid-Atlantic Spring Conference: Members are invited to submit papers and attend the event April 8-9, 2017, at Morgan State University in Baltimore. Full paper submission deadline is February 10, 2017.

Prize-winning eGFI:  Get teens fired up about engineering with eGFI (Engineering, Go For It), ASEE's magazine for middle and high school students. Winner of the APEX Grand Award for Publication Excellence, eGFI combines engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers. Click here to purchase copies, For bulk purchases or other inquiries, contact eGFI@asee.org or call 202-331-3500.