Facebook icon Twitter icon Forward icon


                                                         January 20, 2018         



The government was officially closed Saturday morning following the Senate's failure to muster the votes needed to pass a stopgap funding measure already approved by the House. However, "Congress is in session for continued efforts to fund the government," CQ reports. President Trump met Friday with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York (right). White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has suggested that a deal could be reached over the weekend. 

The House-passed continuing resolution would fund the government for a month, allowing negotiations to continue over appropriations for the remainder of the year. After the measure failed in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) proposed a three-week duration. According to CQ, "senators have reached a tentative agreement . . . to vote on immigration legislation that could help gather enough Democratic support to pass a stopgap spending bill this weekend and reopen the government. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) told reporters that McConnell has agreed to hold a vote within the next three weeks on a legislative fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program."

MAIN STICKING POINT - DACA: Most Democrats have refused to back any stopgap funding measure unless they're assured of protection for so-called Dreamers - undocumented immigrants brought here as children. Many are students. Trump has halted his predecessor's DACA executive order as of March. A federal judge has ordered the Department of Homeland Security to continue accepting DACA renewal applications, but the Justice  Department plans to ask the Supreme Court to overrule the judge. 

A shutdown "could scramble research projects and meetings, delay grants, and complicate hiring and training," at government agencies, ScienceInsider reports.

Please note: With government websites shut down, many of the links below may not work. 

GAO PROBE SOUGHT ON SEXUAL HARASSMENT: Rep. Lamar Smith, who chairs the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, is frequently at odds with the panel's ranking Democrat and fellow Texan, Eddie Bernice Johnson. But they're united in wanting to know if science funding agencies are doing enough to prevent sexual harassment. Their joint letter instructs GAO to query the National Science Foundation, NASA, National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy, and U.S. Department of Agriculture on, among other things: How many cases of sexual assault or harassment are currently before each of these agencies? Does each of these agencies have a clear policy regarding sexual harassment by grantees? How are agency policies and procedures on sexual harassment communicated to grant recipients? Do grant-making agencies demand that they be informed of any allegations of sexual harassment, gender discrimination, or related issues?

HOW MUCH OF A BURDEN? The Food and Drug Administration "is required to use a 'least burdensome' approach in its review of medical devices," but "hasn't developed performance metrics to evaluate" the approaches, according to the GAO. "We recommended that FDA develop metrics to evaluate whether it consistently applies a least burdensome approach in reviews. A recent New York Times essay suggests the FDA needs to be more burdensome. 



CHINA'S 'EXCEPTIONAL' R&D GROWTH: "Although emerging economies start at a lower base and therefore tend to grow much more rapidly, China’s growth rate is exceptional," the National Science Board states in releasing its 2018 Science & Engineering Indicators. Since 2000, Chinese R&D spending has grown "at an average of 18% annually." China last year attracted 26 percent of global venture capital. The United States got "slightly more than half." 

FRESHMEN AND STEM: The Indicators reports: "In 2016 about 45% of freshmen indicated they planned to major in an S&E field (up from about 8% in 2000); about 16% in the biological and agricultural sciences; 11% in engineering; 10% in the social and behavioral sciences; 6% in mathematics, statistics, or computer sciences; and 3% in the physical sciences."

Other Highlights: "Between 2012 and 2015, the number of S&E associate’s degrees continued to increase despite a decline in the number of associate’s degrees awarded in computer sciences."

"The number of associate’s degrees in S&E technologies, not included in S&E degree totals because of their applied focus, grew by 72% since 2000. In 2015, about 144,000 associate’s degrees were awarded in S&E technologies, down from 166,000 in 2012. . . . The proportion of associate’s degrees in engineering technologies . . . has declined from 48% of all S&E technologies degrees in 2000 to 24% in 2015 (or from 7% of all associate’s degrees to 3%), whereas the proportion of associate’s degrees in health technologies has increased from 50% in 2000 to 73% in 2013 (or from 7% of all associate’s degrees to 10%)."

INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS: According to the Indicators, "The total number of S&E bachelor’s degrees awarded to students on temporary visas increased from about 15,000 in 2000 to about 19,000 in 2004, then declined to less than 17,000 by 2008, but it has increased continuously since then, peaking at almost 33,000 in 2015." At the graduate level: "The highest enrollment growth was recorded in computer sciences, mathematics and statistics, medical sciences, and engineering."

DROP IN FOREIGN GRAD STUDENTS: "Most recently, data from SEVIS show an overall 6% decline in international graduate students from fall 2016 to fall 2017. . . . In 2017, 62% of all international students in graduate programs at U.S. institutions were enrolled in S&E fields. Between fall 2016 and fall 2017, the number of international graduate students enrolled in S&E fields decreased most in computer sciences (from 70,600 to 61,500) and engineering (from 96,300 to 89,000). The number of international students enrolled in mathematics increased (from 15,800 to 18,100) and remained at fairly similar levels in other S&E fields."

"The top sending locations in 2017 continued to be India and China, accounting for 69% of the international S&E graduate students in the United States, followed by Iran, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Taiwan . . . ."  

PUBLIC CONCERN ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT: "Americans recently have become more concerned about a wide range of environmental issues," according to the Indicators. "With regard to concern, a single question . . . about climate change suggests that 55% of Americans think that a rise in the world’s temperature caused by the greenhouse effect—an earlier term used in discussions of climate change that is used here to preserve comparability over time—is either 'extremely dangerous or very dangerous' . . .” 

ENERGY INNOVATION: "The number of U.S. Patent and Trade Office patents granted in sustainable energy technologies doubled between 2009 and 2015. Six technologies—solar, hybrid and electric vehicles, smart grid, fuel cell, battery, capture and storage of carbon and other greenhouse gases—have led growth of these patents," the Indicators report. "U.S. inventors received the largest share of sustainable energy patents in 2016 (43%), followed by Japan (20%), and the EU (16%). Patenting by U.S. inventors has been led by four technologies—hybrid and electric vehicles, solar, smart grid, and energy storage," 

"Patents granted to South Korea more than quadrupled between 2009 and 2016, led by growth in energy storage, solar, hybrid/electric, and battery technologies."

"Overall, the United States is the largest producer of high-technology manufacturing output with China being the largest global producer in the ICT manufacturing industries."

FEWER SCIENCE EXPERTS: Since President Trump took office, "expert panels that provide key federal agencies with science advice have had fewer members and met less often than at any time since 1997, when the government started tracking such numbers," Science reports. "At least some of the decline appears to be attributable to a deliberate effort by the Trump administration to exclude scientists from the policymaking process, argues Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’s (UCS’s) Center for Science and Democracy."

WIDER USE OF BRAIN IMAGING: The National Institutes of Health notes that It is often difficult for new or even established investigators wishing to incorporate brain imaging in their research program to obtain independent funding. So an NIH funding opportunity "invites applications for the Imaging - Science Track Award for Research Transition (I/START) program, a continuing program developed by the National Institute of Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering to foster the entry of investigators into the areas of brain imaging and drug abuse research. Learn more.

DIVERSITY FUNDING: NIH and the Centers for Disease Control are offering "administrative supplements to improve the diversity of the research workforce by recruiting and supporting students, postdoctorates, and eligible investigators from groups that have been shown to be underrepresented in health-related research. This supplement opportunity is also available to PD(s)/PI(s) of research grants who are or become disabled and need additional support to accommodate their disability in order to continue to work on the research project.  Administrative supplements must support work within the scope of the original project." Find out more.

THE PENTAGON'S RESEARCH AND WORKFORCE NEEDS: The first new National Defense Strategy in a decade, unveiled Friday by Secretary Jim Mattis (right) states: "The drive to develop new technologies is relentless, expanding to more actors with lower barriers of entry, and moving at accelerating speed. New technologies include advanced computing, 'big data' analytics, artificial intelligence, autonomy, robotics, directed energy, hypersonics, and biotechnology—the very technologies that ensure we will be able to fight and win the wars of the future. . . A modern, agile, information-advantaged Department requires a motivated, diverse, and highly skilled civilian workforce. We will emphasize new skills and complement our current workforce with information experts, data scientists, computer programmers, and basic science researchers and engineers—to use information, not simply manage it. The Department will also continue to explore streamlined, non-traditional pathways to bring critical skills into service, expanding access to outside expertise, and devising new public-private partnerships to work with small companies, start-ups, and universities."

DOD AND ENGINEERING R&D: According to data collected by the Coalition for National Security Research, the Defense Department is the largest funder of university R&D in: computer and Information sciences; materials science; aerospace, aeronautical, and astronautical engineering; electrical, electronic, and communications engineering; industrial and manufacturing engineering; mechanical engineering; and materials engineering. 


Source: National Science Board, 2018 S&E Indicators Digest:​ "Despite accounting for one-half of the college-educated workforce, women in 2015 accounted for less than one-third of S&E employment. Although the number of women in S&E jobs has risen significantly in the past 2 decades (from 755,000 in 1993 to 1,818,000 in 2015), the disparity has narrowed only modestly. Similarly, underrepresented minorities—blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians or Alaska Natives—have made substantial strides in S&E employment, increasing from 217,000 S&E workers in 1993 to 705,000 in 2015. However, their representation in S&E jobs (11%) remains below their share of the population (27%)."

Source: National Science Board, S&E Indicators Digest 

Public Policy and Higher Ed

HIGH COURT TO WEIGH TRAVEL BAN: According to an Association of American Universities' Weekly Wrap-up newsletter, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will consider the legality of the revised travel ban policy issued in September 2017. "Issued by proclamation, the policy restricts travel to the U.S. by citizens from eight countries: Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen. Oral arguments are set to begin in April, with an expected decision as early as June."


GOLDEN GOOSE AWARD NOMINATIONS: "The Golden Goose Award honors federally funded research that may be odd, obscure or serendipitous but ends up having a major impact on society." You can nominate "colleagues, collaborators and role models" by following this link.  


The first-of-its-kind GEM-ASEE Doctoral Engineering Research Showcase, sponsored by The National GEM Consortium (GEM) and ASEE, will be held January 22-23, 2018, at the Mayflower Hotel, Washington, DC.  Doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows, and new faculty will display their leading-edge technical research and connect with potential agency sponsors and academic employers. Find out more. Watch a video.

NREWC/ASEE is searching for a candidate to support a three-year proposal focused on investigating and characterizing chemical, thermodynamic and physical characteristics of laboratory prepared and actual bilgewater samples. The purpose of this work is to advance the current understanding of bilgewater emulsion stabilization to guide wastewater treatment research and develop preventative solutions. Therefore, the candidate must have experience in colloidal and emulsion systems. This can include applicable research in Chemistry, Biology, Food Science, Chemical Engineering, Materials Science or other related fields. Please visit nrewc.asee.org/current_opportunities for the complete job description.

GOFLY COMPETITION: In partnership with Boeing, ASEE is calling on the world’s greatest thinkers, designers, engineers, and builders to challenge themselves and change the future. Registration for the competition is now open and all details are available here

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 the rationale for a proposed reorganization of the ASEE Board of Directors. Watch a video and  leave your feedback (ASEE member login required; Firefox works best.).

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. Click here to advertise. 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