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August 7, 2015



As senators began their August recess, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stated, "I can tell you without fear of contradiction there will be no government shutdown," according to CQ. Some in the GOP are prepared to use that tactic to end funding for Planned Parenthood. McConnell said previous shutdown fights "always had the same ending: that the focus is on the fact that the government is shut down, not on what the underlying issue that is being protested is.” Not surprisingly, he also said there would be no attempt at an immigration overhaul during the current Congress. He blamed President Obama for eroding trust with his executive actions last November.

RESEARCH 'IN THE NATIONAL INTEREST': The National Science Foundation has pretty much acquiesced to demands by House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) that NSF justify research on grounds of national interest. The House-passed COMPETES reauthorization (HR 1806) would enshrine that requirement in law. But with the fate of COMPETES uncertain, Smith has introduced the "national interest" passage as a stand-alone bill. The House may act on it following its August recess. So far, two Democrats, Dan Lipinski of Illinois and Alan Grayson of Florida, have signed on as co-sponsors, even though other Democrats criticize the provision as an attempt by Smith to impose a "political review" on the grant-making process. The new bill defines national interest as "having the potential to achieve" increased economic competitiveness; advancement of the health and welfare of the American public; development of an American STEM workforce that is globally competitive; increased public scientific literacy and public engagement with science and technology in the United States; increased partnerships between academia and industry in the United States; support for the national defense of the United States; or promotion of the progress of science for the United States. See Jeff Mervis's account in ScienceInsider. 



Source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NSF); graphic by Jennifer Pocock


GRANTS CONFERENCE 'A MUST': The Natioal Science Foundation's Nov. 2-3 grants conference in Arlington, Va. will include key officials from each directorate, office of general counsel and the inspector general's office. NSF says: "The conference is considered a must, particularly for new faculty, researchers, educators and administrators who want to gain insight into a wide range of important and timely issues at NSF including: the state of current funding; the proposal and award process; and current and recently updated policies and procedures." Learn more.

SCIENCE BOARD TO MEET: NSF's policymaking body meets Wednesday and Thursday of next week, Aug. 12-13. See the agenda and register for the webcast

WHAT'S AHEAD FOR ERCs? NSF's Engineering Research Centers have proven to be a good model for 30 years, but Assistant Director for Engineering Pramod Khargonekar, says,  "Now we are thinking of the next 30 years, and how to ensure that our center-scale investments , , , continue to create innovators and catalyze new technologies and industries . . ." The National Academy of Engineering and the Academies' Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences have a grant to study the question.

MAKING WAVES: Universities, companies, and other organizations will share $7.4 million from the Department of Energy to pursue R&D on wave, tidal and ocean-current power. DOE is looking for "water power component technologies, designed for manufacturability and built specifically for marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) systems." Universities involved are the University of Michigan; UC Berkeley, Virginia Tech, Oregon State, and Penn State.


DEANS' DIVERSITY INITIATIVE DRAWS WHITE HOUSE ATTENTION: A pledge by more than 100 engineering deans to provide increased opportunity to women and other underrepresented groups was among commitments cited by the White House in connection with a "demo day" spotlighting entrepreneurship. Each engineering school represented will develop a diversity plan with help from national groups; have at least one K-12 or community college pipeline activity aimed at increasing student diversity; form a partnership with minority-serving institutions; and adopt a proactive strategy to increase women and underrepresented minority faculty. The deans' letter was presented to the White House by University of Southern California dean Yannis Yortsos (right).

HIGHER EDUCATION AS A 'PUBLIC GOOD': That notion is increasingly accepted overseas, both in developed and developing countries, says former University of Michigan President James Duderstadt. In the United States, it was accepted by the post-World War II generation, as evidenced by the start of NSF, the rise of research universities, and the California Master Plan. Now, however, we're headed "in just the other direction," regarding education as a private benefit and R&D as the responsibility of the corporate sector. It's important to come to grips with why that's happening. Duderstadt addressed the National Science Board after receiving the 2015 Vannevar Bush Award. See an archived webcast of his talk.

OPEN BOOK: "Dozens of education, interest, library and technology groups" want the Obama administration to make federally funded instructional and training materials available as open educational resources, Inside Higher Ed reports. The materials "should be reusable, adaptable and made available online." See their letter.

CRITERIA 3 & 5 UPDATE: ABET's Catalyst newsletter for August reports: "At the 2015 July Commission Meeting held July 14-19, our Accreditation Council met to consider the valuable feedback that we received on the pre-proposed changes to EAC Criteria 3 and 5. Based on that feedback and the discussion that it generated, the Council has begun working on the next draft of pre-proposed changes to EAC Criteria 3 and 5. That revised copy will be posted to our Accreditation Alerts page following the October Board of Directors meeting along with a link to submit comments and feedback on the updated pre-proposed changes."


A CPS EDUCATION: Cyber-physical systems "are smart, networked systems with embedded sensors, computer processors, and actuators that sense and interact with the physical world (including people); support real-time, guaranteed performance; and are often found in critical applications." How do you teach it? Experts at National Research Council workshop provided examples of ways to create a CPS course or build CPS curricula. See the report. 


COMING SOON: An all-new 6th edition of eGFI (Engineering, Go For It), ASEE's award-winning magazine for middle and high school students. To purchase copies, go to https://store.asee.org/products/egfi-magazine. For bulk purchases or other inquiries, contact eGFI@asee.org or call 202-331-3500.