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                                                         February 1, 2020  



With a budget deal already in place, House and Senate appropriators are likely to advance most, if not all, of the 12 individual fiscal 2021 spending bills quickly this year, Lewis-Burke Associates reports. However, final passage will probably require a stopgap continuing resolution extending past the November elections. The process will begin Feb. 10, when the White House plans to release the president’s budget request. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has said  all 12 spending bills will move through the House Appropriations Committee by June and pass the full House that month. Each of the 12 bills would receive their proportional share of either the $2.5 billion increase in defense spending or the $2.5 billion increase in non-defense spending.allowed by the budget deal.

See Lewis-Burke's comprehensive 2020 Congressional Outlook.

PUSH FOR A NEW DEFENSE EDUCATION ACT: Higher education lobbyists see potenttial for Congress to update and reauthorize the National Defense Education Act (NDEA). The law dates from 1958, when the Soviets' launch of Sputnik prompted a U.S. move to foster technological advancement and workforce education. "As the U.S. again faces increasing global economic competition from other nations . . . Congress has grappled with addressing workforce capacity shortfalls, relatively flat investments in science and technology, and the resulting gaps among critical technologies and defense education," Lewis-Burke reports. The firm sees "bipartisan support for strengthening STEM education efforts at DOD."

NEW NSF PRIORITIES? Both the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee intend to draft National Science Foundation reauthorization legislation this year, according to Lewis-Burke, amid an intensified congressional focus on NSF’s role in critical technologies. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has called for structural change at NSF to enable a new focus on AI and other research priorities. "Lewis-Burke has also been working with a bipartisan group of senators to create a new NSF critical technology fund similar to what the 21st Century Cures Act created for the National Institutes of Health."

MORE RESEARCH FUNDING, SCHOLARSHIPS, AND 'GLOBAL EXPERTISE': All three are needed, says former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. "If we do not make serious investments now, we stand to lose our global leadership position in critical technology areas by the end of this new decade, with significant consequences for our country’s prosperity and security." At a House Science, Space., and Technology Committee hearing, he called for "expanding  the  existing  STEM scholarship programs and designing new ones." He added: "Students all over the world want to study here, and we should make it easier for them to stay." National Science Board chair Diane Souvaine noted that NSF’s funding rate for research grants has fallen from 33 percent in 2000 to 21 percent, leaving "$1.6 billion in great proposals unfunded.  When that happens, a researcher may leave the country to pursue his/her work, submit the proposal elsewhere, perhaps to one of our international competitors, or the idea may die in the intellectual dustbin." Chaouki T. Abdallah, executive vice president for research at George Tech, worries about "a reduction in our ability to create new industries," a costly game of playing catch-up, and "dwindling attractiveness to the best and brightest minds from around the world."

'AMERICA'S SEED FUND': Dawn Tilbury, assistant NSF director for engineering, will testify February 5 before the House Science Subcommittee on Research and Technology in what is billed as a review of the Small Business Innovative Research and Technology Transfer programs run by NSF and several other agencies. Also testifying will be Maryann Feldman, public policy professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Nicholas Cucinelli, CEO of Endectra LLC; and Johnny Park, CEO of the Wabash Heartland Innovation Network.

GOP BACKS DOUBLING OF R&D OVER A DECADE: With backing from House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) has introduced  the Securing American Leadership in Science and Technology Act -- the GOP's entry in the science investment debate. The bill authorizes a doubling of basic research funding over the next 10 years at the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as "infrastructure needed to maintain world-class research facilities," and "an increase in key programs to grow the American pipeline of STEM-capable workers."

'COLLISION COURSE': Lewis-Burke analyzes the clash between House and Senate visions for NASA. Find it here.


MONEY FOR NEW FACULTY 'CLUSTERS': A few years ago, the National Science Foundation launched the Revolutionizing Engineering Departments (RED) program, which seeks to foster organizational and cultural change in engineering schools, involving students, faculty, staff, and industry. The National Institutes of Health is going a step further, with a $241 million  Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation (FIRST) intiative that would "help each of roughly a dozen universities and medical schools support a cluster of 10 or more newly hired young faculty members," ScienceInsider reports. "A growing number of institutions are using cluster hiring to accelerate their capacity to do research in an emerging area, such as computational biology or nanofabrication, and a few of them have also used it to improve faculty diversity."

NOT QUITE STAGNANT: Despite the lament of the National Science Board and others (see above) that competitor countries are outpacing the United States in R&D, the latest figures from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics show some improvement in recent years. "Federal obligations for research increased 6.7% to $74.6 billion in FY 2018, while experimental development increased 11.7% to $54.8 billion. Obligations for R&D plant increased 45.3% to $3.9 billion during the same period. Preliminary estimates for FY 2019 obligations indicate further increases in R&D to an estimated $141.5 billion, an increase of 9.3%, with $83.4 billion for research and $58.1 billion for experimental development." Read the Infobrief.

ACCELERATORS FOR MEDICINE AND INDUSTRY: The Department of Energy plans to spend up to $10 million to help "ttransform sophisticated accelerator technology used primarily for scientific research into an effective tool of medicine and industry—with special emphasis on the development of novel 'compact' accelerator technologies for cancer treatment and other applications." Applications will be open to universities, DOE national laboratories, nonprofits, and private firms. Funding is expected to be in the form of one- to three-year awards ranging from $75,000 to $1,000,000 per year, beginning this fiscal year. Learn more.

GEOTHERMAL-POWERED MANUFACTURING: The Department of  Energy's $3.25 million American-Made Geothermal Manufacturing Prize.is designed to spur innovation and address manufacturing challenges fundamental to operating in harsh geothermal environments. This prize further supports the ability of the geothermal industry to reach the target of 60 Gigawatts electric of geothermal capacity by 2050. Learn more.

DEEP LEARNING THEORY: The theoretical understanding of Deep Learning "remains an important emerging research field," the National Science Foundation says, and "a convergent effort from mathematicians, statisticians, electrical engineers, and theoretical computer scientists is needed." So the agency is teaming up with the Simons Foundation Division of Mathematics and Physical Sciences to sponsor new research collaborations in "the general area of Mathematical and Scientific Foundations of Deep Learning." NSF estimates that $10,000,000 will be available to support two projects of five years duration each. Find out more.


Full-time graduate students in science, engineering, and health primarily supported by federal sources, by agency: 1995–2017

Source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. Click here for more detail

Representation of racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. population and among S&E degree recipients: 2017

Source: NCSES; click here for more detail

Percent of U.S. S&E Workers who are Foreign-Born

Source: NSB Chair Diane Souvaine's prepared House testimony.  

Gross Expenditures on R&D for the U.S. and China

Source: NSB Chair Diane Souvaine's prepared House testimony.


POST-BREXIT RESEARCH WORRIES: United Kingdom and European Union researchers are hoping for a deal whereby the Brits can participate in the €90 billion Horizon Europe program, which will run from 2021 to 2027. Some 16 non-EU countries, including Switzerland, Norway, and Israel, pay for access to the current Europe-wide research endeavor, Science reports. However, "European politicians may use it as a bargaining chip in trickier negotiations, such as over border arrangements, says James Wilsdon, a science policy specialist at the University of Sheffield." EU research commissioner, Mariya Gabriel, "indicated in an interview this month that the European Union would not offer a separate deal on research." Prime Minister Boris Johnson, meanwhile, announced a Global Talent visa program to provide a fast track for international scientists seeking to join the UK scientific workforce. 

AN INTENDED JOLT: The spectacle of Harvard superstar Charles M. Lieber being brought into court in handcuffs was meant by federal authorities "to shock America’s research institutions into greater vigilance about collaborations with Chinese counterparts," the Economist reports. Lieber's arrest on charges of lying to investigators about his work for the Thousand Talents program and lucrative affiliation with Wuhan University "is expected to have a chilling effect on research partnerships between America and China after a decade in which they have flourished. Certainly, the Trump administration would not view that as a bad thing." A chemist who holds the distinguished title of University Professor, Lieber is part of both the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, See the afffidavit on which the arrest was based.

PROVEN INJURY: Former White House Attorney Don McGahn is the lead analyst of a recent decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that found "copious expert evidence" establishing the harms of climate change. Defendants proved "concrete and particularized injuries—for example, by being forced to leave their homes because of water security or flooding. The court further held the causation requirement was satisfied because the injuries were caused by carbon emissions from fossil fuel production, extraction, and transportation. And the court reasoned that there was at least a genuine factual dispute as to whether the government's policies, from subsidizing fossil fuel production to offering drilling permits, constituted a substantial factor in causing the carbon emissions, which, in turn, caused the plaintiffs' injuries." But the plaintiffs were unable to persuade the court "that enjoining the government's activities—i.e., subsidies, leases, or pro-carbon fuel plans—would 'suffice to stop catastrophic climate change or even ameliorate [the plaintiffs'] injuries.'"

Hear several Center for Strategic and International Studies CSIS podcasts explaining why climate change has risen to the top of the global agenda.


2019 FRONTIERS OF ENGINEERING: "At the annual 2 1/2-day event, 100 of this country's best and brightest early-career engineers - from academia, industry, and government and a variety of engineering disciplines - learn from their peers about pioneering work in different areas of engineering." See the report. 

FORMER NAS PRESIDENT DIES: Geophysicist Frank Press, 95, National Academy of Sciences President Emeritus, science adviser to President Jimmy Carter, and National Medal of Science recipient, died Jan. 29. See his obituary in the Washington Post.


WEBINAR: Demystifying Evaluation – Promising Practices to Maximize Your DEI Efforts: Evaluation is critical for diversity, equity, & inclusion (DEI) focused projects. On March 10 at 1 PM, ET, join us for a free webinar that will help develop the capacity of researchers to work with evaluators on their DEI projects. Led by Liz Litzler and Cara Margherio (University of Washington Center for Evaluation & Research for STEM Equity), this webinar will share promising practices for working with evaluators, developing program evaluation language using a logic model, & interpreting evaluation results. This webinar is free for ASEE members & non-members. Click here for full details.

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!

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