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November 18, 2017



"The assault on higher education" is how a Washington Post editorial describes the House-passed tax bill provision that would treat waived graduate school tuition as income, thereby imposing a tax increase on teaching and research assistants. "Many graduate students, who might receive only $20,000 in actual cash per year, could not cope if they suddenly had to pay income taxes on $50,000 of waived tuition. The best international students would no doubt look to attend graduate school outside the United States." The New York Times website carries an op-ed from Erin Rousseau, a Ph.D. Student in the Harvard-M.I.T. Program in Health Sciences and Technology, who writes that "M.I.T. graduate students would be responsible for paying taxes on an $80,000 annual salary, when we actually earn $33,000 a year. That’s an increase of our tax burden by at least $10,000 annually . . . barring all but the wealthiest students from pursuing a Ph.D. The students who will be hit hardest — many of whom will almost certainly have to leave academia entirely — are those from communities that are already underrepresented in higher education." Ars Technica reports: "Universities could conceivably have the option of . . . allowing research-focused programs to charge a minimal tuition. But many graduate programs aren't structured to allow that, meaning that the university would have to completely reorganize its departmental structure in order to remedy such a situation." Read a letter signed by numerous organizations, including ASEE.  

$71 BILLION OVER A DECADE: That's what the House-passed tax bill would cost students and families, according to an analysis by the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation. The Washington Post reports that the panel calculated specific individual scores of the bill's education provisions at the request of Sen. Patty Murray D-Wash.), who blasted the GOP for "trying to jam through a plan that will take money from students and families who are trying to send their kids to college - all to pay for a massive tax cut for corporations and the richest among us." Besides the grad-student tax hike, the Post reports that a "hotly contested House proposal involves the elimination of the student loan interest deduction, which lets people repaying their student loans reduce their tax burden by as much as $2,500. Getting rid of the deduction would cost borrowers more than $21 billion in the next 10 years." 

TAX ON RESEARCH INCOME: The Journal of Accountancy reports: "The act would amend the (tax code) to provide that income from research is exempt from the (unrelated business income tax) only if the results are freely made available to the public." The New York Times says this provision could generate $700 million in revenue over 10 years.

GEOENGINEERING 'WORTH EXPLORING': House Republicans have been notably skeptical toward the link between fossil fuel combustion and climate change. But that didn't prevent a Science, Space and Technology subcommittee hearing on geoengineering, which would leapfrog widely accepted responses - curbing carbon emissions - and seek to reverse climate change technologically. "Geoengineering’s potential is worth exploring," declared Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), who chairs the full committee. He cited such "intriguing ideas" as reducing the amount of sunlight that reaches and warms the earth, noting that "some scientists believe it could achieve substantial environmental benefits at a cheaper cost than regulations." Currently, "funding for research in the field is less than $10 million globally, concentrated in computer modeling and policy research, " tech entrepreneur Kelly Wanser, top left, told the panel. Other witnesses were (left to right, above) Philip Rasch, chief scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; Joseph Majkut of the Niskanen Center; and Douglas MacMartin, a researcher in engineering and climate science at Caltech and Cornell. The American Institute of Physics's FYI Bulletin reports that Democrats at the hearing supported research but emphasized that geoengineering "should not be viewed as a substitute for emissions reductions or other approaches for combating climate change."

VULNERABLE MILITARY SITES: The Pentagon would have to identify “vulnerabilities to military installations and combatant commander requirements resulting from climate change over the next 20 years,” based on the effects of rising sea tides, increased flooding, drought, desertification, wildfires, thawing permafrost, and other factors. Science magazine analyzes this and other R&D provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act awaiting final congressional passage. 

BROADENING PARTICIPATION - WHAT WORKS? The National Science Foundation would be directed to report to Congress "on the effectiveness of all" its research and education programs for broadening the participation of women and other historically underrepresented  individuals under a bipartisan bill that cleared the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. The report would include information on dropout rates, enrollment in graduate programs, internships or apprenticeships, and employment, and identify gaps in evaluating effectiveness and outcomes. The bill also directs NSF to collect information from all science agencies on R&D grant applicants, "including demographics and funding outcomes." Other bills approved promotion of the Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program and National Aeronautics and Space Administration internship and fellowship opportunities to women; encouraging veterans in STEM education, computer science, and research; and pressing for research on early childhood STEM education at NSF.


GO FOR IT: The National Science Foundation's Leading Engineering for America's Prosperity, Health, and Infrastructure (LEAP HI) projects confront "engineering problems that are too complex to yield to the efforts of a single investigator --- problems that require sustained and coordinated effort from interdisciplinary research teams, with goals that are not achievable through a series of smaller, short-term projects." They "perform fundamental research that may lead to disruptive technologies and methods, lay the foundation for new and strengthened industries, enable notable improvements in quality of life, or reimagine and revitalize the built environment." Learn morePhoto by Austin Schmid - Unsplash

NODE THE WAY: "The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded supplements to six Innovation Corps (I-Corps™) nodes to launch a pilot “Phase Zero” I-Corps program." Each node "will support non-academic teams to help determine the commercial readiness of their technology concept and identify the key obstacles they must overcome to launch their product. Eight to 10 teams at each node will get training to prepare a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) proposal. This new initiative is a collaboration between the NSF I-Corps and NSF SBIR/STTR programs." Learn more.

REGENERATIVE MEDICINE INNOVATION: The National Institutes of Health has launched a Regenerative Medicine Innovation Project "to accelerate the field by supporting clinical research on adult stem cells while promoting the highest standards for carrying out scientific research and protecting patient safety." Learn about a workshop December 6 & 7. It aims to "identify critical gaps that must be addressed to enable significant innovation and rapid advancement of RM approaches and will explore issues related to product development and standards, regulatory science, and clinical applications." 


Source of both graphics: Matt Hourihan, American Association for the Advancement of Science, The Federal R&D Budget Process 101


COSTLY APPRENTICESHIPS: Tomorrow’s manufacturing jobs may require very different and more digital skills, McKinsey Global Institute says. "Education systems alone cannot be expected to solve all the potential mismatches beyond providing basic math and digital skills. Workforce apprenticeships are gaining traction in the United States, but now these efforts need to happen on a much larger scale and with a system of established, transferable credentials. MGI estimates that ramping up a program to apprentice roughly one million workers annually might cost $40 billion a year." Federal programs, such as the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and SelectUSA, "generally have smaller budgets, less certainty of ongoing funding, and more constraints on their mandates than comparable programs in other countries."

CLIMATE'S IMPACT ON MANUFACTURING: A paper published by the National Bureau for Economic Research estimates the effect of temperature on production at a half million Chinese manufacturing plants over a decade. "By mid 21st century, if no additional adaptation were to occur, we project that climate change will reduce Chinese manufacturing output annually by 12 percent, equivalent to a loss of $39.5 billion in 2007 dollars. This implies substantial local and global economic consequences as the Chinese manufacturing sector produces 32 percent of national GDP and supplies 12 percent of global exports."


CRITERIA UPDATE: The Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) General Criteria 3 & 5 for Baccalaureate Level Programs has been approved for implementation in the 2019 – 2020 Cycle. The changed sections are: the Introduction and definitions that apply to all parts of the criteria; Criteria 3, Student Outcomes; Criteria 5, Curriculum. "All general reviews conducted in the 2019 – 2020 Cycle and beyond will be evaluated relative to these new criteria. Programs scheduled for a general review in 2019 -2020 may begin the transition as soon as possible. Programs scheduled for review in the 2018 – 2019 cycle should not begin transitioning prior to that review." Learn more.


Applications are now being accepted for the first-of-its-kind GEM-ASEE Doctoral Engineering Research Showcase sponsored by The National GEM Consortium (GEM) and the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) January 22-23, 2018, at the Mayflower Hotel, Washington, DC.  Doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows, and new faculty are invited to display their leading-edge technical research and connect with potential agency sponsors and academic employers.Registration fees: $50 for doctoral students and postdocs; $150 for new faculty. The deadline for applications is Friday, November 17. Find out more. Watch a video.

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

THE ACCELERATOR RETURNS: Beginning this month, ASEE's free monthly newsletter for undergraduate and graduate students will resume publication with 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 sign up. Click here to advertise. Send content to Jennifer Pocock at j.pocock@asee.org.


ASEE is offering two two-week courses in the spring of 2018 for researchers and innovators who want to take their STEM education vision to the next level. The application period is now open.  For more information click here.

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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