Facebook icon Twitter icon Forward icon

November 24, 2016




Betsy DeVos, whom Donald Trump plans to nominate as education secretary, is a former Michigan GOP chair who "has spent her career promoting a market-based, privatized vision of public education," New York Times reports. A strong advocate of vouchers, which allow families to pay for private school with public funds, she has "often focused on making charter schools as private as possible. . . . The DeVos family donated more than $1 million to Republican lawmakers earlier this year during a successful effort to oppose new oversight of charters." She is the wife of Amway heir Dick DeVos, daughter of auto parts industrialist Edgar Prince, and sister of Erik Prince, founder of the Blackwater security firm. Betsy DeVos is chair of The Windquest Group, a "privately held enterprise and investment management firm," and a board member of Excellence in Education, source of the photo at left, to which her family foundation gave $50,000 or more in 2015. Chaired by Jeb Bush, that board also includes Condoleezza Rice, Stanford professor and former secretary of state. At the time of the GOP convention, DeVos had declined to endorse Trump. 

“Betsy DeVos is an excellent choice,'' Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said in a statement quoted by CQ. "The Senate’s education committee will move swiftly in January to consider her nomination.  I also look forward to working with her on the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, giving us an opportunity to clear out the jungle of red tape that makes it more difficult for students to obtain financial aid and for administrators to manage America’s 6000 colleges and universities.”

MIXED MESSAGE ON CLIMATE: Questioned by Tom Friedman during a New York Times interview on whether he would pull out of the Paris climate accords, Trump said, “I’m looking at it very closely. I have an open mind to it.” He added: "My uncle was for 35 years a professor at M.I.T. He was a great engineer, scientist. He was a great guy. And he was … a long time ago, he had feelings — this was a long time ago — he had feelings on this subject. It’s a very complex subject. I’m not sure anybody is ever going to really know. I know we have, they say they have science on one side but then they also have those horrible emails that were sent between the scientists. Where was that, in Geneva or wherever five years ago? Terrible. Where they got caught, you know, so you see that and you say, what’s this all about. I absolutely have an open mind. I will tell you this: Clean air is vitally important. Clean water, crystal clean water is vitally important. Safety is vitally important."

Now the Guardian reports that  "NASA’s Earth science division is set to be stripped of funding in favor of exploration of deep space, with the president-elect having set a goal during the campaign to explore the entire solar system by the end of the century." It cites former Rep. Bob Walker (R-Pa.), a Trump adviser on space policy. A framework presented by Walker Oct.  26 included plans to “redirect NASA budgets towards deep space achievements rather than Earth-centric climate change spending.”

“NASA should be focused primarily on deep space activities rather than Earth-centric work that is better handled by other agencies,” Walker and Peter Navarro, another campaign adviser, wrote in an Oct. 19 commentary, saying that NASA has been “reduced” since the Apollo era into an agency that focuses on space station operations and “politically correct environmental monitoring.”

SCIENCE GROUPS PRESS THEIR CASE: The Coalition for National Science Funding, an advocacy group for the National Science Foundation, is finalizing a document for the Trump transition urging robust funding for the agency. Meanwhile, the Union of Concerned Scientists is gathering signatures on a statement stressing that "America should continue to be a global leader in science and innovation," that "we can strengthen American democracy by advancing the essential role of science, evidence-based decision making, and constructive debate as a means to improve the lives of all people; and all scientists should be free to conduct and speak out about their research without fear of retribution or censorship."


OCEANS STRATEGY: A subcommittee of the White House-based National Science Technology Council (NSTC)  is coming out soon with a 10-Year Ocean Research Plan (the Plan), describing "the most pressing research questions and most promising areas of opportunity within the ocean science and technology (S&T) enterprise" and providing "up-to-date, cohesive, and strategic guidance . . .  informed by and in alignment with the ocean S&T community and science-based information needs of resource managers, policy-makers, educators, and stakeholders." Find out more here and here, and plan to join a webinar Dec. 8 from 11 a.m. to noon EST. 


POST-ELECTION PELOSI SHIFT: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who faces a leadership challenge from Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, has agreed to expand the elected leadership of the Democratic caucus and reserve positions for junior members, CQ reports. Also among the changes: "Create a vice ranking member position on committees — or vice chair if Democrats regain the majority — that would be filled by members who have served on the panel for four terms or less. . . . This proposal appears to come in lieu of term limits for Democratic committee leaders."


BY THE NUMBERS: Additive manufacturing has "great potential for promoting transformative research in many fields across the vast spectrum of engineering and materials science," a National Academies report says. A workshop "uniquely focused on theoretical and computational approaches and involved areas such as simulation-based engineering and science, integrated computational materials engineering, mechanics, materials science, manufacturing processes, and other specialized areas." Read the report.

SUSTAINING CITIES: A recent report "offers a road map and recommendations to help U.S. cities work toward sustainability, measurably improving their residents’ economic, social, and environmental well-being," says an Academies press release. It draws on lessons learned from Los Angeles; New York City; Vancouver, B.C.; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and Grand Rapids and Flint, Michigan. Linda Katehi, former chancellor of the University of California-Davis, chaired the committee.


APPLICATION DEADLINES LOOM: The application period for these ASEE-managed scholarship programs closes Nov. 30, 2016:

NAVAL RESEARCH ENTERPRISE INTERNSHIP PROGRAM (NREIP) - This is a a 10-week summer research opportunity for undergraduate Juniors & Seniors, and Graduate students. Link to application:  https://nreip.asee.org/apply

SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAM (SEAP): This is intended for high school students who have completed at least Grade 9. SEAP is an eight week summer research opportunity at participating Office of Naval Research laboratories. Link to application: https://seap.asee.org/apply

ATTENTION, WOMEN POST-DOCS: The L’Oréal USA For Women In Science fellowship program awards five post‐doctoral women scientists annually with grants of $60,000 each. Applicants are selected from a variety of fields, including the life and physical/material sciences, technology (including computer science), engineering, and mathematics. Applications will open on November 28, 2016 and are due by February 3, 2017. The application and more information about the L’Oréal USA For Women in Science program can be found at www.lorealusa.com/forwomeninscience.

SAFE ZONE ALLY TRAINING WEBINAR SERIES – Level 2: Take part in creating a positive and inclusive environment for LGBTQ individuals in STEM by joining ASEE for three free Level 2 Safe Zone Ally Training webinars. Building upon the Level 1 webinars presented in Spring 2016, ASEE is offering a  one-hour “deep dive” on LGBTQ and engineering culture December 6. Register today. Missed Level 1? View the slides and recording-on-demand here.

CALL FOR PARTICIPATION: WORKSHOP ON BUILDING RESEARCH CAPACITY FOR STEM FACULTY DEVELOPMENT: Building Research Capacity for STEM Faculty Development is an NSF-sponsored working conference that brings together experts from around the country to develop a national research agenda focused on faculty development in the STEM disciplines. February 16-18, 2017 at Clemson University. Apply here

Prize-winning eGFI:  Get teens fired up about engineering with eGFI (Engineering, Go For It), ASEE's magazine for middle and high school students. Winner of the APEX Grand Award for Publication Excellence, eGFI combines engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers. Click here to purchase copies, For bulk purchases or other inquiries, contact eGFI@asee.org or call 202-331-3500.