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April 23, 2016



The $7.5 billion provided by the Senate Appropriations Committee for the National Science Foundation includes $6.03 billion for research and $880 million for education and training. (See the GOP and Democratic press releases.) The $46 million added above the current level appears to be eaten up by $159 million for three research vessels instead of the two proposed by NSF. In other provisions of the Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill, senators increase the National Institute of Standards and Technology by $10 million, to $974 million, allowing $25 million for the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). NASA would get $19.3 billion, $21 million over the FY2016 enacted level. Increases go to the Space Launch System, Orion crewed spacecraft, and Space Science.

CITY FARMING:  House appropriators say support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture "is lacking" for urban agriculture. They demand a report from USDA on how to advance it. The panel is also interested in greenhouse technology and how it can "address the energy and water challenges inherent in four-season production systems." Lawmakers encourage the Agricultural Research Service to link up with the Department of Energy's national labs in pursuit of "affordable, deployable, and energy- and water-efficient food production platforms for undernourished regions of the country." Appropriators are "concerned about the continued trend towards reductions in on-the-ground agriculture research through proposed cutbacks and consolidations . . ."

SLIGHT BOOST FOR AIR FORCE R&D: It took just nine minutes for the House Armed Services Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee to OK its portion of the defense authorization bill for 2017, CQ reports. The research, development, test, and evaluation numbers show trims for the Army and Navy but increases for the Air Force and Defense-wide R&D: Army, $7.51 billion (current year $7.56 billion); Navy, $17.27 billion (current year $18,11 billion); Air Force Air Force, $28.11 billion (current year $25.21 billion); Defense-wide $18.3 billion (current year $18.69 billion).

'LOADED WITH SCIENCE PROVISIONS': That's the American Institute of Physics' description of the big energy policy bill that finally passed the Senate this week. In a FYI newsletter, Michael Henry gives a rundown.   

ZERO-SUM GAME: The House Small Business Committee wants to increase the percentage of money that research agencies have to set aside for the Small Business Innovation Research and Technology Transfer programs. The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology and other research groups fear that this would reduce money available for university research. They're trying to get the House Science Committee, which also has jurisdiction, to weigh in against the set-aside boost. Under Small Business panel's legislation (HR 4783), FASEB says, "the SBIR set-aside would increase from the current rate of 3.2% (in FY 2017) to 4.5% in FY 2022. The STTR set-aside would grow from 0.45% to 0.60% during that same 5 year period." 


Graphic by Jennifer Pocock. To see a larger interactive version, click here.

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


'FLAT IS THE NEW UP': Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Stephen Welby says of Pentagon R&D: "We’ve been able to protect ourselves from a decline, and that’s really all we can ask for." Welby has degrees in chemical engineering (Cooper Union); business administration (Texas A&M at Texarkana), and computer science and applied mathematics (Johns Hopkins). He tells Paul Basken of the Chronicle of Higher Education he doesn't think the budget categories of basic research, applied research, and development fit 21st century R&D: "In many of the areas we’re interested in, interesting things pop out of basic research and quickly become applied. Some things have to stew for a longer time, with more fundamental discovery, and then rapidly move into application. Some things have to dwell in the application space for a while because they’re real hard problems to be able to solve."

Welby's priorities: "The whole big-data problem is one that we have in spades. . . There’s a strong push in the department to think about the future of communications, and in particular thinking about ways to be much more agile in our use of the electromagnetic spectrum. There’s a growing interest in robotics technology in general. That includes not just things walking around but things that fly, things that operate in the ocean, things that operate under the surface of the ocean, things that operate in space. . . One thing that we don’t quite know what to make of yet is the whole topic of synthetic biology, which all of us are kind of watching as an enormously productive area at the moment that has no obvious military application."

THIRD OFFSET STRATEGY: A PowerPoint by Melissa Flagg, deputy assistant secretary of defense for research, explains this term, which is getting buzz on the Hill: An offset "is some means of asymmetrically compensating for a disadvantage, particularly in a military competition. Rather than match an opponent in an unfavorable competition, changing the competition to more favorable footing enables the application of strengths to a problem that is otherwise either unwinnable or winnable only at unacceptable cost. An offset strategy consequently seeks to deliberately change an unattractive competition to one more advantageous for the implementer. In this way, an offset strategy is a type of competitive strategy that seeks to maintain advantage over potential adversaries over long periods of time while preserving peace where possible."

First offset strategy: nuclear deterrence to avoid the large increase in defense expenditures necessary to conventionally deter Warsaw Pact forces during the 1950s. Second OS: Following the Vietnam War, DoD sought technology to “offset” the 3-to-1 troop advantage the  Warsaw Pact held over NATO forces in Europe.

The current, third offset strategy calls for: • Autonomous Learning Systems, delegating decisions to machines in applications that require faster-than-human reaction times
(e.g., Cyber Defense, Electronic Warfare, Missile Defense); • Human-Machine Collaborative Decision Making, exploiting the advantages of both humans and machines for better and faster human decisions (e.g., “Human strategic guidance combined with the tactical acuity of a computer”); • Assisted Human Operations, helping humans perform better in combat; • Advanced Manned-Unmanned System Operations, employing innovative cooperative operations between manned and unmanned platforms (e.g., “Smart swarm” operations and tactics); • Network-enabled, autonomous weapons hardened to operate in a future Cyber/EW Environment, allowing for cooperative weapon concepts in communications-denied environments."

HOW WE 'DECAPITATED' THE DoD'S ECOSYSTEM: "We won the Cold War because we harnessed the creativity of American science and business to produce weapons that could defeat numerically superior Soviet forces," writes John Hamre, president and CEO of the Center for Strategic & International Studies and chairman of the Defense Policy Board. Though unintended, the powerful post of director of defense research and engineering "was greatly diminished by the Packard Commission recommendations that were adopted in the Defense Authorization Act of 1986. We didn’t appreciate it at the time, but we effectively decapitated DOD’s innovation ecosystem by elevating the mechanics of defense procurement over the imperative of defense innovation. In essence, we made gunsmithing superior to marksmanship."

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT FOR GRADUATE STUDENTS: The National Science Foundation has funding available in FY 2016 and FY 2017 to support science and engineering doctoral students so that they can acquire the knowledge, experience, and skills needed for highly productive careers, inside and outside of academe." Opportunities across NSF "explore approaches that will position NSF-funded graduate students for success in the 21st century Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) workforce." Find out more.


INEQUALITY IN WEALTH AND EDUCATION: There's still a correlation between the two, according to a new study released from the Pell Institute this week. Wealthier students are still far more likely to receive bachelor’s degrees--a level that has remained constant since 1970. “The top two family income quartiles accounted for 72 percent of the total number of bachelor's degrees earned that year -- and 77 percent of bachelor's degrees earned in 2014,” says Inside Higher Education.

Meanwhile, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that minority and low-income students who do make it to college may be disproportionately disadvantaged at schools that receive performance-based funding. “What we found the clearest evidence of is colleges making small but significant changes to the amount of grant aid they gave out at the four-year level,” said Robert Kelchen, author of a newly released study in the Journal of Education Finance.


SEA DRONES: “At the request of the former Chief of Naval Operations, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine appointed an expert committee to assess the potential of unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs) in enhancing future U.S. naval operations.” Read the report.

THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT: The electric grid in its current state will not pass the test of time, according to a new publication by the National Academies. While fossil fuels are not yet at an end, they say, now is the time to plan for a more complicated, flexible, and resilient system. “The grid of the future will need to accommodate a wider mix of more intermittent generating sources such as wind and distributed solar photovoltaics.”

MEDICAL PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT:: Regulatory science is an emerging field using data science to foster collaborations and facilitate connections between disciplines. A workshop was recently convened to discuss the “ways in which information can be best generated, analyzed, integrated, and shared across regulatory science applications.” Read the summary.


APPLYING EVIDENCE-BASED TEACHING PRACTICES in Computing Education - A New Half-Day Online Training Workshop, June 1, 2016, 1 - 4 PM, ET. Cost: $50. Computers are now as important to research as telescopes and test tubes, but most researchers in STEM are still not taught the equivalent of basic lab skills for computing. In this interactive 3-hour online workshop, Software Carpentry co-founder Greg Wilson will introduce several evidence-based teaching practices and show how they can be used when teaching graduate and undergraduate STEM students. https://docs.asee.org/public/Webinars/2016ComputingWorkshopFlyer.pdf.

NETI WORKSHOP IN WASHINGTON: An Advanced National Effective Teaching Institute (NETI-2) workshop will be held June 1-2, 2016 at the Dupont Circle Hotel in Washington, D.C. Faculty familiar with NETI-1 and who have more teaching experience will benefit from this advanced teaching workshop led by Drs. Susan Lord, Matt Ohland, and Michael Prince. You may obtain additional information about the workshop by going to https://www.asee.org/conferences-and-events/conferences/neti. Participants in NETI-2 will include a maximum of 50 faculty members from all branches of engineering and engineering technology. The registration fee of $950 covers organization and presentation costs, participant notebooks, breakfasts, lunches, and breaks. Attendees' institutions are expected to cover the participants' expenses for transportation, lodging, and one meal per day.

PRESENTATIONS delivered at ASEE's Public Policy Colloquium and Engineering Research Council meeting are now online. Find them on the ASEE PEER archive.

'ENGINEERING-ENHANCED' LIBERAL EDUCATION: ASEE, with financial support from the Teagle Foundation and expert guidance by leading education consultant Sheila Tobias, has launched a website highlighting case studies that examine the benefits of greater integration between the liberal arts and engineering. Find out more.


'ARE ENGINEERS AUTHORITARIAN? A Dialogue on Engineering Education and a Terrorist Mindset' is the title of a panel discussion at the upcoming Annual Conference that "will explore questions relating to engineering mindsets" and "the finding that engineers are over-represented in extremist groups." That finding is the topic of a recent book, Engineers of Jihad. For other highlights, check out the conference website.

Engineering & Engineering Technology Chairs Conclave

Join us at the ASEE Annual Conference in New Orleans, LA on June 26, 2016 for the inaugural Chairs Conclave, an exclusive forum for Engineering and Engineering Technology Chairs to exchange ideas, share experiences, talk through challenges, and build working relationships. This full day event, designed by Chairs, for Chairs, includes presentations on relevant topics including financial development and managing external connections, and facilitated opportunities for group discussion and brainstorming.  Register today – space is limited! Learn more and view the full agenda.

New Navigation Section - Papers Management:

The new section contains upcoming deadlines, guidelines, call for papers, and kits for authors, program chairs, reviewers, and moderators.

Author's Kits are Available:
• The 2016 Annual Conference Author's Kit -- available on the website -- contains extremely important information regarding the submission process as well as all relevant deadline dates.

eGFI Summer Reading: Is your school hosting an engineering camp, bridge program, or professional development session for K-12 teachers this summer? Jump-start the learning with eGFI (Engineering, Go For It), ASEE's award-winning magazine for middle and high school students. Filled with engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers, eGFI aims to get teens fired up about engineering. To purchase copies, go to http://store.asee.org/  For bulk purchases or other inquiries, contact eGFI@asee.org or call 202-331-3500.