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                                    May 4, 2019



Appropriators bounded from the starting gate this week with a $189.8 billion FY 2020 Labor-HHS-Education spending bill containing $41.1 billion for the National Institutes of Health--$2 billion above the current enacted level. The White House had sought to slash $6.9.billion from the agency. Saying the president's proposals "do not reflect the values of this country," Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), subcommittee chair (right photo), said the Labor-HHS measure builds on bipartisan collaboration over the previous two years, when the panel was chaired by Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.). The NIH portion provides a nearly 5 percent increase for each institute as well as $500 million for precision medicine research and $411 million for the BRAIN initiative, both areas of interest to engineers.

For higher education, the bill increases the maximum Pell Grant award by $150, provides $917 million for colleges and universities that primarily serve communities of color, and contains "a new $150 million investment in our community colleges and other four-year college partners to help train workers for in-demand industries;" DeLauro said. The full Appropriations Committee takes up the measure May 8, when it is also expected to approve 302(b) suballocations for all 12 spending bills, CQ has reported.. See a summary.  

GOP CAUTION: Rep. Kay Granger (R-Tex.), top Republican on Appropriations, backed the subcommittee's NIH spending levels, but sounded a warning as the overall FY 2020 appropriations process moves forward: The topline funding number "does not reflect bipartisan consensus," and spending bills that have emerged so far "are inconsistent with the budget caps for next year. Without new legislation, passing these bills could lead to a presidential veto, a government shutdown, and devastating cuts to programs that support our nation’s security,” she said. GOP lawmakers have repeatedly parted ways with  White House budget cutters on appropriations, but until a bipartisan budget deal is reached, the prospect of sequestration hangs over the whole process. A Bloomberg Hill Watch report  notes: "The White House doesn’t appear to want an early caps deal, preferring to wait until the Sept. 30 funding deadline approaches."

GETTING ALONG: The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee "has maintained a consistent pace of hearings and legislation related to environmental research," Lewis-Burke Associates reports, citing a "notable" air of bipartisanship between chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.) and ranking member Frank Lucas (R-Okla.). In the past couple of weeks, the panel "approved six bills, including one focused on advancing the energy-water nexus at the Department of Energy, as well as coastal acidification research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Looking ahead, the committee is expected to work on a bipartisan reauthorization bill for the National Science Foundation, as well as legislation focused on artificial intelligence, water research, and synthetic biology." 

HOME MADE The network of 14 Manufacturing USA institutes would be expanded  to "include more of the small and medium manufacturers that are the lifeblood of our economy" under bipartisan legislation introduced in the House Science Research and Technology Subcommittee: The American Manufacturing Leadership Act’ authorizes ongoing funding for institutes that were due to be phased out--provided they're cleared by a merit-review process. It encourages the program office, located in the National Institute of Standards and Technology, "to develop pilot programs and identify and disseminate best practices in education and workforce training." A hearing was held in March. The bill is backed by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, which says the network of institutes has "learned  to more efficiently  and effectively accomplish the goal of promoting U.S. global leadership in advanced manufacturing." 

'WE EXPECT RECIPROCITY': So states the National Science Foundation in reference to international collaboration, which the agency says must "expand knowledge in science, engineering, and learning." The benefit of cooperation "must be clearly demonstrable, and results should be shared equitably," it says. NSF was responding to queries from Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who "has been leading a chorus of lawmakers who believe the large number of foreign-born scientists working in the United States—in particular those from China—pose a potential threat to the nation’s research enterprise," Jeff Mervis reports in Science. NSF referred several sensitive security-related questions to its inspector general.  

DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION BEGINS SOON: The Senate Armed Services Committee starts marking up its version at the subcommittee level May 21. House Armed Services  subcommittee markups start June 4.

SKEPTICAL REACTION TO A SPACE FORCE: Lewis-Burke Associates reports that "members of House and Senate Armed Services Committees "voiced bipartisan concern about the redundancy of the proposed U.S. Space Force with existing national security space programs" during separate hearings in April on fiscal year 2020 budget priorities.


CHINESE LEVERAGE: "China’s  defense-industrial complex continues to adapt and reorganize," forging closer ties between military theory and science and technology development, the Pentagon says. Its overall  strategy last year advanced  initiatives in  President Xi Jinping’s  address  to  the 19th  Party Congress, The country "leverages foreign investments, commercial joint ventures, mergers and  acquisitions  (M&A), academic  exchanges, the experience that Chinese students and researchers gain from studying in foreign nations, state-sponsored industrial and technical  espionage, and  the  manipulation  of  export controls for the illicit diversion of dual-use technologies to increase the   level of  technologies and expertise available to support military research, development, and acquisition." At the same time, China is pursuing psychological warfare, public opinion warfare, and legal warfare. The Defense Department's annual report on the Chinese military nevertheless continues to argue in favor of regular high-level U.S.-Chinese exchanges as well as "reciprocal  academic  exchanges  –  including  between functional officers, rising leaders, and institutions of professional military education." Read Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2019

'INTENT ON MOVING THE NEEDLE': Kelvin Droegemeier, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, "wants to 'unleash scientists' and remove obstacles to their greater productivity—especially bureaucratic red tape," Jeffrey Mervis reports in Science. In a separate interview with the American Institute of Physics, he notes that the time faculty spend on non-research compliance-related activities is "still on the order of 42 to 44 percent." One approach,  Mervis writes, are "alpha institutes," which would bring together smart people and turn them loose. As Droegemeier put it to a National Academies panel, these institutes would be told, "We’ll unencumber you as much as possible.” See the AIP transcript.

ENGINEERS TAPPED FOR DOD FELLOWSHIPS: The 2019 Class of Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellows, the Pentagon's "flagship single investigator award for basic research," include five engineering or computer science faculty, from left: Jian Cao of Norhwestern; Paul Sajda of Columbia, Richard James of the University of Minnesota, Siddharth Ramachandran of Boston University, and Jon Kleinberg of Cornell. See their topics and the others named here.

ETHICAL AI: The Defense Innovation Board held a public listening session April 25 in Stanford, Cal. on its efforts "to create principles for ethical and responsible use of artificial intelligence at the Department of Defense, Lewis-Burke Associates reports. "The Board said it would not shy away from hearing from AI skeptics, DOD critics, and non-traditional DOD partners as it wants to engage all stakeholders to build public trust in DOD’s use of AI." Additional comments may be submitted.  

AI GEARED TO SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH: The Department of Energy's Office of Science has $13 million available for new research aimed at improving artificial intelligence as a tool of scientific investigation and prediction. "Of this $13 million, $11 million is bookmarked for the development of new AI algorithms and software adapted to specific scientific problems, or sets of problems." Learn more.

ADVANCED CONSTRUCTION: A Department of Energy funding offer "aims to develop deep energy retrofit and new construction technologies that tackle a combination of envelope, heating, cooling, water heating, and ventilation issues." Learn more.



Drawing on Bureau of Economic Analysis, data, an Infobrief from the National Center of Science and Engineering Statistics at NSF looks at "R&D investment and software investment and examines NCSES total R&D expenditures and business software R&D expenditures."


Sources: BEA R&D investment from NIPA tables are available at https://apps.bea.gov/iTable/index_nipa.cfm, accessed 25 August 2018. R&D expenditures are from the National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, National Patterns of R&D Resources (annual series).




SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING: Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, University of Michigan engineering dean Alec Gallimore (left) says being an accomplished engineer is no longer sufficient for a top administrative role at his school. "Our leaders also need to be able to see and articulate biases in the organization and propose ways to counter them." In the latest round of hiring, women performed better on these measures. That, in turn, "has transformed our leadership. Women now occupy 13 of the 25 top faculty-leadership roles — department chairs, associate deans, and executive-committee members." 

A GOP HIGHER ED AGENDA: "The goals of Republicans should be to drive down college costs by reining in the federal subsidies for universities and to empower Americans who prefer to take a different route such as pursuing a trade or an apprenticeship," Tim Chapman, executive director of Heritage Action for America, writes on The Hill news site. "Working class Americans wishing to pursue a trade should be put on par with those who desire a college degree."


RESULTS WORTH CHEERING: In the latest “nation’s report card,” more students reported taking at least one class related to engineering and technology—57 percent versus 53 percent in 2014—with 68 percent learning about designing or creating something to solve a problem “at least sometimes” in school, our colleague Mary Lord writes. And 29 percent reported that they had taken something apart to fix it or see how it worked more than five times outside of school. Both activities correlated with higher scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in Technology and Engineering Literacy. The test was administered last year to a representative sample of about 15,400 eighth graders from some 600 public and private schools across the country. Average scores in all content areas and practices rose 2 points over 2014, when the assessment first was administered. Almost half of the students (46 percent) scored at or above proficiency, compared with 43 percent on the inaugural NAEP. Learn more.



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