Facebook icon Twitter icon Forward icon

                                October 27, 2018



The White House has ordered the Pentagon to come in with a  $700 billion budget--$33 billion below previous plans. The U.S. Naval Institute's USNI News quotes Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan (right) as saying that while certain expenses "are for all intents and purposes fixed," there are "other investments we can make in science and technology and procurement, we have knobs we can turn in terms of the timing. The exercise that we’re going through is, there’s prioritization we can make. So for example, this is probably a good way to think about it: we have a number of options going on with hypersonic missiles. And these projects, we can choose either to do them or to defer them.” Shanahan, a mechanical engineer, also said the speed at which U.S. forces modernize "is probably the biggest knob that we have to turn.” Both the $700 billion tab and the original $733 billion budget will be provided to Defense Secretary James Mattis. See a video.

'CONDUCIVE TO CREATIVITY': The American research environment must be one "in which the free exchange of ideas is a vital component,” the National Science Board says in a statement committing itself to openness and collaboration in basic research. The NSB, currently chaired by Tufts computer science professor Diane Souvaine (left) says: "While there are domains where openness can be detrimental to national competitiveness or security," it "strongly reaffirms" the principles cited by Ronald Reagan's National Security Directive 189 and subsequent statements by Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser and secretary of state under George W. Bush, and  Ashton Carter, secretary of defense under Barack Obama. Reagan directed: "No restrictions may be placed upon the conduct or reporting of federally-funded fundamental research that has not received national security classification, except as provided in applicable U.S. Statutes." The NSB adds that the "commitment to freedom of inquiry, innovation, and the marketplace of ideas has helped the U.S. grow, attract, and retain our world-class science and engineering workforce." The statement comes in the wake of various Trump administration and congressional statements highlighting foreign threats to U.S. R&D security. (The White House, for example, in June issued a report entitled  "How China’s Economic Aggression Threatens the Technologies and Intellectual Property of the United States and the World.") See below for a statement by the Association of American Universities. 

WEAK RESPONSE FROM ENGINEERS: The National Science Foundation got 192 responses to its request for suggestions on midscale research infrastructure. One of NSF's 10 Big Ideas, midscale infrastructure projects of $20 million to $70 million, are intended to fill the gap between major research facilities and smaller experiments. This void "results in missed opportunities that leave essential science undone," NSF says. The responses altogether contained ideas that would cost $10 billion to implement. There were 27 engineering ideas, but of these, only five were deemed to be "high impact." But another chance is coming: This fall, NSF will announce funding opportunities "intended to encompass research infrastructure broadly defined, from the creation of mid-scale disciplinary instrumentation to the implementation (including acquisition and construction) of mid-scale facilities, cyberinfrastructure and other infrastructure that are demonstrated to be necessary to support specific science." See an account by the American Institute of Physics' FYI Bulletin

'GRAND ENSEMBLES': These represent the high end of infrastructure projects to be funded by NSF's Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) directorate, which will also fund "medium" ensembles and planning. The infrastructure is intended to "support diverse communities of CISE researchers pursuing focused research agendas (and) developing the accompanying user services and engagement needed to attract, nurture, and grow a robust research community that is actively involved in determining directions for the infrastructure as well as management of the infrastructure." Learn more.

GRAD SCHOOLS AND TECHNICAL ED: Lewis-Burke Associates reports that NSF is seriously following up on the National Academies' recent examination of STEM graduate education, with multiple directorates engaged in the effort. An Academies synopsis noted that "recent surveys of employers and graduates and studies of graduate education suggest that many graduate programs do not adequately prepare students to translate their knowledge into impact in multiple careers." NSF also remains keen on improving educational opportunities for a skilled technical workforce. Priorities include securing better data, convening stakeholders, partnerships with industry, and getting the word out. See a National Science Board policy brief.

HIGH SCHOOL ENGINEERING: As an NSF-funded pilot gets under way to develop an advanced high school engineering course, a workshop is planned for December 10 to 12 at the University of Maryland, Lewis-Burke has learned. 

ENHANCED DEEPWATER OIL WELLS: ASME's Capitol Update newsletter reports that the Department of Energy wants to "strengthen the ability of deepwater enhanced oil recovery" and "advance promising low technology readiness level (TRL) offshore operations and sensing technologies such as, but not limited to, those that DOE/FE previously initiated with industry under its Ultra-Deepwater Offshore Program." Look for an official funding opportunity announcement in early 2019. See the Notice of Intent.


ENGINEERS ON THE BALLOT: Of the 18 remaining candidates for Congress with a background in science, six are engineers, according to bio sketches published by Science magazine. Four who appear to have a reasonable shot, all Democrats, are, from the left, Chrissy Houlahan, 50, of Pennsylvania, in a district that leans her way; Elaine Luria, 43, in a GOP-leaning Virginia district but whose opponent seems vulnerable; Sean Casten, 46, considered a toss-up in Illinois; and Joe Cunningham, 36, an ocean engineer-turned-environmental lawyer running for an open South Carolina seat. Two other engineer candidates are TJ Cox (D), 56, in Califoriia; and Joseph Kopser (D), 47, in Texas.



The Government Accountability Office reports: "Students in relatively poor and small schools had less access to high school courses that help prepare them for college, according to GAO's analysis of Department of Education (Education) data for school year 2015-16 (the most recent available). While most public high schools, regardless of poverty level, offered courses like algebra and biology, disparities in access were associated with school poverty level for more advanced courses like calculus, physics, and those that may allow students to earn college credit, like Advanced Placement courses."


SECURITY AND OPENNESS: The Assocation of American Universities addresses both in a statement asserting that its members are "committed to protecting America’s national security and fostering its economic prosperity. U.S. universities, the federal government, and the private sector have a shared responsibility to ensure that our scientific enterprise and intellectual property are secure from foreign threats. Every year, thousands of the world’s best and brightest come to our nation to learn, teach, share, research, work, and innovate. We must keep our doors open to all those who have contributed – and will contribute – to expanding our economy, upholding American ideals, and improving our way of life."

CHINA'S PURSUIT OF IoT DOMINANCE: This "constitutes a significant challenge to U.S. economic and national security interests," warns a report put out by the U.S.-China Economic and Seurity Review Commission. The Internet of Things, the "interconnection of physical and virtual things via information and communication technologies," is expected to "expand exponentially  over  the  next  few  years,  ultimately  involving  billions  of  connected  devices  and dozens or more vertical markets around the world."


NEW WEBINAR: Ask Better Questions with the Question Formulation Technique - Tune in Dec. 5 at 1:00 PM, ET for a free webinar with the Right Question Institute to learn how the Question Formulation Technique can help researchers create better research questions and help faculty teach students to develop their question formulation skills. Register now

ADVANCED BLOCKCHAIN LIVE: A Two-Part Virtual Event from IEEE - As blockchain technology rapidly expands into nearly every industry, professionals require training that goes beyond the basic blockchain definitions and theories. Explore technical differentiation, benefits and enterprise-level use cases of blockchain in-depth in two interactive, 1-hour sessions on Dec. 4 and 5. Save $50 on your registration with promo code 18ABASEE.Register and save your spot

ASEE AT 125 VIDEO CONTEST: One of the activities planned to mark ASEE‘s 125th anniversary is EEin25, the first-ever ASEE video contest. Undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral students may submit a 90-second video on where engineering education will be in 25 years at ASEE‘s 150th Anniversary in 2043. Click here to find out more. Click here to learn about other activities commemorating 125 Years at the Heart of Engineering Education.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE ACCELERATOR: ASEE's free monthly newsletter for undergraduate and graduate students has 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. Send content to Jennifer Pocock at j.pocock@asee.org.

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