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September 23, 2017



With Senate passage of the FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, the armed services committees of both chambers will work to reconcile their different versions by the sometime in December. 

University representatives have identified provisions in each bill they think will be good for research. The Senate measure includes "special acquisition authority" for DOD to access universities' technical expertise and use of "other transactions authority and experimental procurement authority" to reach research agreements with industry and academia.

Sections of interest in the House bill include: $15 million to establish "a Hacking for Defense Program, which seeks to build a network of innovators and entrepreneurs to develop and commercialize DOD technology"; a pilot program with DOD labs and DOE labs to facilitate tech transfer and commercialization with private entities; a provision that allows non-profit research institutions to enter into prototype projects without cost sharing requirements; and a requirement that DOD identify STEM jobs needed to support future mission work, and determine a STEM jobs shortfall.

House and Senate versions both call for non-monetary - as well as cash - prizes for outstanding achievements in basic, advanced, applied, technology development, and prototype research. 

ENGINEERING, WOMEN, AND HBCUs: The Senate NDAA  applauds the Pentagon's Manufacturing Engineering Education Program and authorizes $20 million more than was requested, noting: "Manufacturing engineering education suffered in proportion to the collapse of manufacturing employment in the last decade, and needs to be revitalized." Senators also urge DOD to engage historically black colleges and universities in supporting the education of minority women STEM fields, "particularly through research funding, fellowships, and internships and cooperative work experiences at Defense laboratories." 

THREAT TO DOD MEDICAL RESEARCH: Besides the National Institutes of Health, congressionally directed medical research funded through the Pentagon is a popular source of R&D money for universities. It's also controversial. Several provisions of the Senate NDAA take aim at these projects. It's not clear at this point whether they all made it into the final version as passed. But according to the committee's report, one of them prohibits "certain medical research and development projects" unless the secretary or service secretaries certify that they're designed "to protect, enhance, or restore the health and safety of members of the Armed Forces." Another would bar the obligation of money for medical research programs prior to an audit by the Defense Contract Audit Agency. A third would apparently expand the government's rights to technical data from the research.

WHOSE INVENTION? An "item of special interest" in the Senate Armed Services Committee report "directs the Department of Defense (DOD) to exercise its rights under [the Bayh-Dole Act]  to authorize third parties to use inventions that benefited from DOD funding whenever the price of a drug, vaccine, or other medical technology is higher in the United States than the median price charged in the seven largest economies that have a per capita income at least half the per capita income of the United States." The provision is seen as an attempt to control the spiraling cost of drugs and medical devices. However laudable that goal, university reps say it would have a chilling effect on R&D by scaring away potential licensees. A note on the provision by the legal powerhouse Covington and Burling says "the DoD lacks the proper policy foundation and statutory authority to implement the Committee’s directive." However, the note says "contractors would be well advised to monitor continued attempts to influence pricing through the Bayh-Dole Act." 

EYES IN THE SKY: The Senate Intelligence Committee says the National Reconnaissance Office, which is in charge of spy satellites, should work with university based researchers more on satellite survivability and resiliency. In a report accompanying the FY 2018 intelligence authorization bill, the panel directs NRO to report on "strategies to engage with university partners that are strategically located, host secure information facilities, and offer a strong engineering curriculum, with a particular focus on space survivability and resiliency. This report should provide a summary of NRO’s current and planned university engagement programs, levels of funding, and program research and workforce objectives and metrics. The report should also include an assessment of the strategic utility of chartering a University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) in this domain." The precise requirements suggest that the committee has one or more universities in mind for this work.

Source: Coalition for National Security Research

KEEPING THE LIGHTS ON: The sixth hearing in the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Powering America series will explore Technology’s Role in Empowering Consumers. The panel is looking at "electricity markets, electricity generation, distribution, consumption, and the resiliency of the electric grid" and ways to "strengthen the grid and . . . provide greater value to American consumers both now and in the future."

BROAD SPECTRUM TESTING: The Government Accountability Office notes that "recent advances in science and technology are making it possible to simultaneously test for multiple infections at the same time." The congressional watchdog agency examined multiplex point-of-care technologies offered by eight developers ranging in price from $25,000 to $530,000, and $20 to $200 per test. "Potential benefits of MPOCTs include improved patient health care and management, more appropriate use of antibiotics, improved ability to limit the spread of disease, and health care cost savings. However, developers and users disagreed on the strength of evidence showing the extent of MPOCT improvement on patient outcomes." Read the report.

DACA ENGINEERS (CONT'D): More anecdotal accounts are appearing in media outlets of engineering students awaiting their fate under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive order. President Trump has rescinded the order but given Congress six months to come up with legislation to protect undocumented young people brought to the U.S. as children. "Brito is now taking a pre-engineering course through Lake Michigan College in the hopes of becoming an aerospace engineer," reports the Herald Palladium, a southwest Michigan paper. "However, her DACA protection expires in September 2018. . . . The plan after earning her associate degree at LMC is to transfer to the University of Michigan. But with DACA in flux, those plans may have to be put on hold." Carlos Lopez, who arrived here when he was seven, is a mechanical engineering sophomore at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, the station WANE reports. He says: "[W]e are here to make a difference in the United States and hopefully show that through DACA we’re progressing. We were given an opportunity and we took advantage of it.” Volunteer attorneys are helping students like him submit paperwork to renew their permits. The Hill reports that a poll by Harvard’s Center for American Political Studies and Harris Insights and Analytics shows that about "two-thirds of Republicans support a pathway to citizenship" for DACA immigrants.


TRUMP REVISES TRAVEL BAN: The president plans to impose "severe restrictions on visitors from nations he has determined do too little to protect against terrorists and criminals coming into the United States," officials tell the New York Times. "They will go into effect as soon as Sunday," when a temporary ban expires. There's no word yet on which countries will be affected. The current ban applies to travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

NIST NOMINEE TO FOCUS ON CYBERSECURITY: President Trump has nominated Walter Copan, 63, an expert in technology transfer, to be the director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). "He says his top priority for the agency is to implement the Cybersecurity Framework, a NIST-led effort to improve network security across federal agencies as well as industry. . . . He also wants to make sure security improvements benefit not just federal agencies and large corporations, but also smaller companies that can’t afford teams of information technology professionals," ScienceInsider reports.

SEIZE EFRI OPPORTUNITY: The National Science Foundation's engineering directorate is offering supplements from its Research Experience and Mentoring (REM) Program to  active Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) research awards and active Engineering Research Center (ERC) awards. REM funding, aimed at broadening participation, "will support costs associated with bringing Research Participants (RPs) into the laboratory over the summer to participate in mentored activities and research aligned with the EFRI-supported research goals." Learn more.

'A HARSH AND DYNAMIC PLACE': That would be the seafloor and sub-seafloor, which "remain largely unexplored and poorly understood," NSF says. "Developing a better understanding of this vast and mainly unexplored undersea region of Earth requires future sensor devices to be intelligent, autonomous, agile, and have the capability of communicating with each other and land-based laboratories in real time. . . . Enhanced partnerships between the Engineering and the Marine Geology and Geophysics (MG&G) research communities are needed to advance sensing capabilities. To stimulate these partnerships, NSF requests proposals to support conferences that focus on appropriate engineering and marine science challenges and stimulate debate, discussion, visioning, and collaboration between the two research communities." Learn more.

STORM CHASERS: NSF has so-called RAPID money available for research on Hurricane Irma. It seeks proposals "focusing on projects with severe urgency with regard to availability of, or access to, data, facilities or specialized equipment, including quick-response research on natural disasters. RAPID proposal project descriptions are expected to be brief and may not exceed 5 pages, with a maximum request of $200K for one year, although many are much smaller. Learn more. The agency is also offering longer-term EAGER awards as well as supplements. See a video on the "largest-ever known deployment of UAVs for disaster response." 

GROUP DYNAMICS: The National Institute of General Medical Sciences will support "highly integrated research teams of three to six PD/PIs to address ambitious and challenging research questions that are important for the mission of NIGMS and are beyond the scope of one or two investigators. Collaborative program teams are expected to accomplish goals that require considerable synergy and managed team interactions. Project goals should not be achievable with a collection of individual efforts or projects. Teams are encouraged to consider far-reaching objectives that will produce major advances in their fields. Learn more

CARBON CAPTURE 2.0: The Department of Energy "is investigating transformational, low-cost technology solutions that allow competitive operation of our nation's fossil-based power generation infrastructure in a low-carbon future." DOE is making $36 million available. Read on. Meanwhile, the Energy Information Administration reports that "renewable energy will make up nearly a third of the world's electricity generation output by 2040, putting it on equal footing with coal power." See a video discussion. 


PIAAC stands for Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, a multi-domain adult skills assessment with an extensive background questionnaire, conducted in 2012 by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Source: U.S. Department of Education Stats in Brief, "Adult Education Attainment and Assessment Scores: A Cross-National Comparison" (Sept. 2017)


STRUCTURAL ENGINEERING FOR RESILIENCE is the topic of a workshop by the National Academies' Board on Infrastructure and the Constructed Environment. Register for a webcast.

IMPACT OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT: A National Academies panel is examining "the extent to which women in the fields of science, engineering, and medicine experience sexual harassment in academic settings; existing information on the extent to which sexual harassment in academia negatively impacts the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women pursuing careers in these fields; and the policies, strategies, and practices that have been the most successful in preventing and addressing sexual harassment in these settings." The next meeting will be October 4 in Cambridge, Mass. 


SUBMIT YOUR ABSRACTS: 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.).

STREAMLINED COURSE DESIGN: Next month, ASEE is launching a live, four-part online program to help faculty streamline their course design process and design more effective courses. The program will be led by course design experts Dr. Karl Smith and Dr. Ruth Streveler and will take place in four (4) two-and-a-half-hour sessions over the course of eight weeks. Learn more about this program here – and sign up for a free info session on September 15. Questions? Email education@asee.org.


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!

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