Facebook icon Twitter icon Forward icon

                                                         January 4, 2020    




President Trump has signed bipartisan legislation instructing the National Science Foundation "to improve the focus of research and development on early childhood education." According to a summary,  the Building Blocks of STEM Act also "specifies that NSF grants to increase the participation of underrepresented populations in STEM fields may be used for research into various subjects regarding female students in prekindergarten through elementary school, including the role of teachers and caregivers in encouraging or discouraging participation by such students in STEM activities, and the types of STEM activities that encourage greater participation by such students." Grants for research on computer science education may be used to develop various tools and models, including gender-inclusive  enrichment and acquainting girls in prekindergarten through elementary school with careers in computer science. The measure was needed, lawmakers found, because "the majority of current research focuses on increasing STEM opportunities for middle school-aged children and older" and the disparity that leaves women underrepresented in the STEM workforce "extends down through all levels of education."

IMPROVED DATA STANDARDS: This is the stated intent of the newly signed Grant Reporting Efficiency and Agreements Transparency (GREAT) Act. The Office of Management and Budget "will work with the department that doles out the most federal grants every year to establish government-wide standards for information submitted by recipients and create guidance for other agencies on applying those standards," the  Federal Times reports. Sponsored by Reps. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., and Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., the measure "requires that data collected from recipients across all agencies be published on a single, public-facing website." Gomez says it will make grant reporting "more equitable, efficient, and accessible." See a congressional report on the legislation

APPROPRIATIONS RUNDOWN: See a comprehensive report by Lewis-Burke Associates on two packages enacted in late December containing all 12 spending bills. 

'DREAMERS' PROVISION SCRAPPED: In final negotiations on Congress’s year-end spending legislation, Democrats backed away from including language that would have allowed House members to hire immigrants protected under former President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) order, the Washington Post reports. The provision was ."one of just a handful of measures that senior Trump administration officials identified as completely unacceptable." 


'EROSION OF SCIENCE' UNDER TRUMP: The administration has "shut down government studies, reduced the influence of scientists over regulatory decisions," pressured researchers not to speak publicly, challenged findings related to the environment and public health opposed by industry, and impeded research around human-caused climate change, the New York Times reports. According to E&E News, the Environmental Protection Agency's Science Advisory Board says in a “commentary” that proposed rollbacks of Clean Water Act protections depart from “EPA recognized science.” The SAB "is now mostly made up of members named either by current EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler or his predecessor, Scott Pruitt." 

REMOVING A STUMBLING BLOCK: The 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act requires agencies "to analyze the extent to which proposed federal actions affect everything from endangered species to water quality to greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change," says the Washington Post. Now, in "a sweeping overhaul" of regulations implementing the law, the administration "will instruct federal agencies to no longer take climate change into account when measuring the impact of major infrastructure projects, according to two senior administration officials."

BIO-BASED BOTTLES: The Department of Energy's Bioenergy Technologies Office and Advanced Manufacturing Office "will support high-impact research and development [of] new bio-based plastics" capable of efficient recyclability," as well as "improved recycling strategies that can break down existing plastics into chemical building blocks that can be used to make higher-value products." The Bio-Optimized Technologies to Keep Thermoplastics out of Landfills and the Environment (BOTTLE) is part of DOE's Plastics Innovation Challenge. Learn more.

MENTORING SERVICES CURBED: In renewing the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN), the National Institutes of Health "decided to spend most of the money on the science of mentoring, that is, testing different approaches to mentoring with a small, carefully chosen population. Barely 10% of NIH’s $50 million investment in phase two of NRMN is going to the type of services, including an online portal that provides one-stop shopping for a cornucopia of mentoring activities, that characterized first phase," Jeff Mervis reports in ScienceInsider.

U.S. STEM STRATEGY EXPLAINED: Jeff Weld, who led production of the White House strategy for STEM education, will moderate a webinar this coming Wednesday from 7 to 8 p.m. EST entitled “America’s Strategy for STEM Education: Why it’s relevant to STEM teacher leaders.” The panelists will discuss four parts of the strategy: 1) Increasing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in STEM,  2) Engaging Students where Disciplines Converge, 3) Promoting Computational Literacy and 4) Building STEM Ecosystems and Strategic Partnerships." In a blog written for the STEM Teacher Leadership Network, Weld notes that in developing the congressionally mandated document, he "hosted hundreds of meetings of leading STEM stakeholders," including ASEE.

BIOTECH CENTERS: The National Institute of General Medical Sciences intends to publish, this coming spring, a funding opportunity to support Biomedical Technology Development and Dissemination (BTDD) Centers "in any of the basic or clinical biomedical research areas within the mission of NIGMS. The BTDD program will support development of technologies once their feasibility has been established, as well as the dissemination of these technologies to the wider biomedical research community. Learn more.

NEW APPLICANTS SOUGHT: The National Science Foundation's (NSF's) Division of Undergraduate Education "encourages the submission of proposals to the Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE: EHR) Program from institutions that have not had prior funding from the IUSE: Proposers are encouraged to consider submission to Level 1 of the Engaged Student Learning track of the IUSE: EHR Program. Proposals "focus directly on students or serve students through faculty professional development and related activities. Engaged Student Learning projects can contribute to developing the STEM and STEM-related workforce, advancing a disciplinary STEM field, broadening participation in STEM, educating a STEM-literate public, improving K-12 STEM education through undergraduate preservice STEM teacher preparation, encouraging life-long learning, and/or building STEM capacity in higher education. See the Dear Colleague letter.

PRIMER ON NIH GRANTS: At a regional seminar in Baltimore April 20-22, over 75 National Institutes of Health and Health and Human Services presenters will provide over 40 different topics designed for research administrators, new investigators and others working with NIH grants. Learn more.

A BROAD SWATH OF QUANTUM TECHNOLOGIES, and the enabling components that underpin them, offer "the most persistent advantage" to the Pentagon and ought to be "the most urgent focus" of quantum technology applications, a Defense Science Board task force says. DSB Chairman Craig Fields writes: "It is crucial that . . . DoD, along with our allies and partners, maintain the leading edge in understanding advances in these technologies. Industry and academia also play a vital role in the development of quantum technologies, and their collaboration with DoD could reap benefits for all parties."

CHECK OUT an Air Force website on R&D funding opportunities.as well as the service's science and technology strategy.


Source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. Click here for a larger interactive version showing numbers. 

Source: NCSES. Click here for a larger, interactive version showing numbers. (Figure 5A-2)


A CRISIS APPEAL TO FACULTY: in a recent essay in Inside Higher Ed, engineering deans Steven W. McLaughlin of Georgia Tech, Alec D. Gallimore of the University of Michigan, and Robert D. Braun of the University of Colorado write that “our three colleges are in the midst of a student mental health crisis.” They’ve each known students who have taken their own lives and note that deans regularly discuss ways to help depressed students. While many universities have expanded counseling services and even placed counselors inside academic programs, it’s not enough, they say. Faculty members should get more involved, since they may be first to spot rising absenteeism, declining performance, and other signs that a student is struggling. To prepare faculty for this new role, Michigan publishes online advice that covers a dozen different mental-health scenarios and how to handle them. And last fall, Georgia Tech sent all faculty members a guide to identifying and dealing with a distressed student.

A PRODUCTIVITY BOOST: "Increases in government-funded R&D for an industry or a firm result in significant increases in private sector R&D in that industry or firm. A 10% increase in government-financed R&D generates 4.3% additional privately funded R&D. An analysis of wages and employment suggests that the increase in private R&D expenditure reflects actual increases in R&D employment, not just higher labor costs." So write the authors of a recent National Bureau of Economist Research paper


TACTICAL TRANSIT: This term describes projects that can be implemented within one to two years; use impermanent or low-cost materials; cost much less than a typical capital project (usually less than $100,000); seek to build upon the design of infrastructure; are of short duration, but part of a larger or longer-term effort; are  used to accelerate implementation of transportation infrastructure; or "all of the above." A National Academies report documents the current state of the practice of such quick-build projects.

DEEP DECARBONIZATION: A National Academies workshop scoped out "the major technical, operational, financial, societal, and political challenges and opportunities of deploying decarbonization technologies in the U.S. economy." Read the report.


GLOBAL DEANS' DIVERSITY AWARD: After receiving 48 entries from 18 countries around the world - the highest number of eligible entries in the history of the award - we are thrilled to announce the 14 exceptional projects shortlisted for the 2019 Airbus GEDC Diversity Award! Find details on this video.

A QUICK START FOR NEW FACULTY: "With the proper guidance, new faculty members can be turned into quick starters," states the promo for a webinar featuring Rebecca Brent of Education Designs, Inc. and Richard Felder of North Carolina State University. It "briefly outlines measures that engineering deans, department heads, and senior faculty members can take to help new engineering faculty members reach quick-starter status, and points to on-line resources that provide details on the design and implementation of the measures. Register here.

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. 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