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                                                                 June 13, 2020  



Besides this higher number for science and technology, the Senate Armed Services Committee's FY 2021 defense authorization bill seeks to strengthen Defense Department efforts in emerging technologies, "including by requiring: an assessment of U.S. efforts to develop biotechnologies compared to our adversaries; development of artificial intelligence use-cases for reform efforts; enhancements to the quantum information science research and development program; and a demonstration of innovative 5G commercial technologies," according to a committee summary. The measure also "directs the Space Force to continue working with research institutions to establish critical research infrastructure and develop the future workforce"; and authorizes $44 million for vaccine and biotechnology research supported by DoD. Calling for a shift to a National Security Innovation Base, the bill "encourages DoD to study broad factors that shape the industrial base and engage with outside stakeholders and interests." It also "safeguards proprietarytechnology, intellectual property, and other defense-sensitive data from being infiltrated by the government of China." See the committee's press release. The House Armed Services Committee will consider various sections of its version at the subcommittee level, starting June 22 with Emerging Threats and Capabilities, the panel that handles research and development. A committee vote on the whole bill is expected July 1.

INFRASTRUCTURE DRAFT EXPANDS RESEARCH: Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) has released the draft text of the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America Act (INVEST Act). Lewis-Burked Associates reports that the bill "would authorize and fund existing and new surface transportation programs at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for fiscal years (FY) 2022 through FY 2025," an increased University Transportation Centers (UTC) program, a new “unsolicited research initiative,” and "other new programs focused on emerging transportation technologies and their deployment." See L-B's analysis of the measure here.

HOW TO DO BETTER NEXT TIME: A white paper by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Preparing for the Next Pandemic,” Lewis-Burke Associates reports. The documents groups recommendations and questions according to these topics:

1. “Tests, Treatments, and Vaccines – Accelerate Research and Development
2. Disease Surveillance – Expand Ability to Detect, Identify, Model, and Track Emerging Infectious Diseases
3. Stockpiles, Distribution, and Surges – Rebuild and Maintain Federal and State Stockpiles and Improve Medical Supply Surge Capacity and Distribution
4. Public Health Capabilities – Improve State and Local Capacity to Respond
5. Who Is on the Flagpole? – Improve Coordination of Federal Agencies During a Public Health Emergency”

Alexander, who chairs the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, asks that responses be submitted by June 26, 2020. See his press release


ADMINISTRATION WEIGHS HOLDUP ON VISAS: President Trump is considering a series of legal immigration limits that he could impose by executive action, the Wall Street Journal reports. Among them is "a proposal to suspend a slate of employment-based immigration visas, including the coveted H-1B high-skilled visa." This could bar "any new H-1B holder outside the country from coming to work until the suspension is lifted, though visa holders already in the country are unlikely to be affected." Also under consideration: scaling back the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program that allows international students to work while holding student visas. "The proposal would repeal an Obama-era extension allowing students with science or engineering degrees to work for three years, rather than the one year permitted all other students, and limit work permits only to those graduating at the top of their class." A letter from 21 Republican House members urges the administration to keep the OPT program intact. Capitol Shorts stated incorrectly last week that the letter was bipartisan. In fact, it was deliberately GOP-only, since the signers thought that would carry more weight with the administration. Four Republican senators--Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and Josh Hawley of Missouri, have urged that OPT be suspended. 

COVID RELIEF BLOCKED: The New York Times reports that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has issued an emergency rule barring colleges from granting virus relief funds provided under the CARES Act to foreign and undocumented students, including tens of thousands protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, or DACA.

TOOLS SOUGHT AGAINST PANDEMIC: The  Intelligence  Advanced  Research  Projects  Activity  (IARPA) says COVID-19 has focused attention on the need for technologies to assist with: detection and sensing; supply chain management and integrity; geo-spatio-temporal monitoring and mapping, with privacy protection; information reliability and collaboration tools; and modeling, simulation, and predictive analytics. Learn more.

INEQUITIES EXPOSED BY COVID-19: Minority-serving colleges and universities face particular difficulties in trying to  deliver high-quality virtual instruction, the National Science Foundation's Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering was told this week. Students have insufficient access to technology, broadband, workspaces, and are coping with loss of income and internships. Ann Q. Gates (above left),  computer science professor at Hispanic-serving University of Texas at El Paso, cited challenges in the transition to virtual high impact practices; virtual community building (faculty, staff, students); offering "humanized online teaching"; and the need for "knowledgeable contacts who can explain processes to students." 

Students at historically black colleges and universities--especially first-generation students and those with modest family incomes--have limited access to the Internet, no laptop or home computer, and also shoulder family responsibilities. As a result, these students are "falling further behind during the distance learning period," according to Loretta Moore (above right), head of NSF's Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). Tribal colleges need an estimated $140 million to update outdated IT infrastructure, implement the learning management systems needed to teach online, secure professional development for faculty (some of whom have never taught online), and, most important, install community-based internet access points, said University of Michigan Professor Bob Megginson (center).

US-ISRAEL COLLABORATION: The National Science Foundation is offering an opportunity for U.S. and Israeli researchers to submit a single collaborative proposal that will undergo a single review process at NSF, which will be the lead agency. Learn more.

JOIN THE AIR FORCE RESEARCH ECOSYSTEM: "At this half day webinar, university researchers and administrators will learn how do business with the Air Force Research Laboratory --- from basic to applied. The event will feature speakers from: Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR); OUSD R&E Basic Research Office; Academic Partnership Engagement Experiment (APEX); Doolittle Institute; and Adranos, Inc. Learn more

'SOBERING' DATA: That was the reaction of National Institutes Director Francis Collins to the results so far of an ongoing investigation into NIH-funded scientists who failed to disclose financial ties to foreign governments, Science magazine reports. Michael Lauer, head of extramural research, told an advisory panel that some 54 scientists have resigned or been fired. The hidden funding came from China in 93 percent of cases. Of those caught, Science reports, "some 82 percent are men, and their median age is 56 . . . Slightly more than one-half had been an NIH peer reviewer in the past 2 years, and 41 percent of those under investigation (77 scientists) have been banned from further participation" in the vetting of proposals. 


NIH Probe of Foreign Influences on Research Integrity - Results to Date

Source: National Institutes of Health, ACD Working Group on Foreign Influences on Research Integrity Update by Michael S. Lauer, Deputy Director for Extramural Research, June 12, 2020


NOSE-DIVE IN DONATIONS: College fundraising will take at least as much of a hit over the next several years as it did after the Great Recession, according to a survey of 110 development leaders. The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that "more than four in 10 fund raisers said they expected giving to drop by at least 10 percent in the 2020 fiscal year, which closes on June 30. A slightly higher share said they expected that level of decline to continue in 2021, with a big proportion of the drop coming from an expected loss of multimillion-dollar contributions. And one in five said they expected dips of 20 percent or more.

RESEARCH SECURITY DIGEST: The Association of American Universities has gathered a trove of documents from government agencies, think tanks, and media. Find it here.   



The ASEE Commission on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion calls members to action. With support provided by the A. James and Alice B. Clark Foundation, ASEE will:

  • Increase participation by HBCU deans in 2021 ASEE activities such as EDI, PPC, and the Annual Conference.
  • Hold 50% of the slots for faculty from Minority Institutions (including HBCUs) to participate in ASEE's new DELTA Institutes for junior faculty, new chairs/heads, and aspiring deans.
  • The live ASEE General Body Meeting to be held on Monday, June 22 from 4∶00 PM to 4∶30 PM (Eastern) will be an open forum for discussion of further actions that can be taken by ASEE as an organization and by our individual and institutional members.

In addition, via the ASEE Diversity Recognition Program, ASEE member institutions have committed to:

  • Increase the recruitment, retention, and progression of URM (including African American) students.
  • Increase the recruitment, retention, and movement into leadership positions of URM (including African American) and women (including African American women) faculty.

Via the Engineering Deans Gender Equity (EDGE) Initiative, ASEE HQ is working directly with member institutions to enhance the retention and promotion into leadership positions of women (including African American women) faculty.

With support from the National Science Foundation’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Directorate, ASEE HQ is working to increase the participation of URM faculty (including African Americans) as well as faculty from minority serving institutions (including HBCUs) in CISE programs. We hope to be able to engage in similar activity with a NASA directorate.

ASEE WEBINAR ON ANTI-RACISM: On Tuesday, June 16, at 2:00 PM (Eastern) we will have a virtual panel on anti-racism in engineering education, moderated by ASEE Past President Bev Watford and featuring esteemed panelists from K-12 to higher education. Click here to register.

Read ASEE's policy statement on the death of George Floyd and a joint statement with SEFI on diversity. 

See also the National Science Board's statement on racism and  "Seeking Justice and Hosting Dialogue" from the Association of American Universities.

DELTA INSTITUTE FOR NEW FACULTY: This is a foundational, instructor-led, online program preparing new engineering faculty members to successfully launch their careers. They will learn how to navigate their role as a new faculty member and the teaching, scholarship, and service responsibilities of their university and discipline. By the end of this program, they will have the knowledge and tools to positively launch their career, while effectively preparing engineering leaders of tomorrow. This program takes place in four, two-hour-long sessions. Each session will have extensive facilitator-participant and participant-participant interaction, with ample time for questions and discussions.

August 5, 12, 19, and 26, 2020
11:00 PM – 1:00 PM, ET
ASEE Members: $750; Non-members: $850

Please forward this message to your appropriate faculty members. Details are here.


Emerging Insights on Remote Instruction: July 8 at 1 PM, ET: This free webinar will share strategies for navigating remote instruction, including insights on synchronous instruction, remote assessments, and managing student projects and collaboration remotely. Register at https://bit.ly/3hi3Xx5

Emerging Insights on Remote Student Support: July 22 at 2 PM, ET: This free webinar will discuss strategies for supporting students remotely, sharing insights on virtual office hours, empathetic syllabi and in-class icebreakers, instructional techniques to support students in class, and additional ways that faculty, staff, and peers can interact to support student success. Register at https://bit.ly/37mWBno

REGISTER FOR CONECD: The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity holds its next conference January 24-27, 2021 in the Washington, DC region, CoNECD provides a forum for exploring research and practices enhancing diversity and inclusion of all underrepresented groups in the engineering and computing professions. Transformation of our engineering workforce will not be the result of a singular focus. CoNECD will encompass the diverse groups comprising our community, including groups based on gender (including gender identity and gender expression), race and ethnicity, disability, veterans, LGBTQ+, 1st generation, and socio-economic status. Registration is now open.  The deadline to upload your abstract is June 29, 2020.

STUDENT COLUMNIST SOUGHT: ASEE's award-winning  Prism magazine seeks a new student columnist, as our excellent Alice Dai is graduating. If you know students who have a passion for writing and strong opinions on the state of engineering education, please encourage them to send a resume, cover letter, and 2-3 writing samples (preferably published) to Prism Associate Editor Jennifer Pocock at j.pocock@asee.org. They should use the subject line "Student Columnist Application." The columnist will receive an honorarium.  


Registering for the June 22-26 conference will allow you to:

Have the opportunity to see any presentation made by an author, distinguished lectures, or plenaries 24/7 during the week of the conference;
Attend Q&A sessions, so you can interact with the presenters;
Attend workshops, business meetings, and the different orientations that usually happen at the annual meeting;
Attend/participate in the recognition and highlighting of our national award winners, and our incoming fellows, and our outgoing and incoming board members; and
Participate in our interactive exhibit hall as well as sponsor/tech demos. There will be exclusive exhibit hall times to interact with sponsors and exhibitors.

Check the website for updates.