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                                     March 31 2018



National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, near right, has reason to expect a friendly hearing April 11 before the House appropriations panel chaired by Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a strong NIH supporter. In carving up the FY 2019 budget, lawmakers will be dealing with the second year of a two-year bipartisan deal that lifted previous caps on discretionary spending and gave science agencies their biggest boost in years. Against this generous backdrop, however, warning signs are appearing about the impact of tax cuts, spending hikes, and rising interest rates on the national debt and the overall economy. The Congressional Budget Office reports that the federal budget deficit was $392 billion for the first five months of fiscal year 2018, $42 billion (or nearly 12 percent) more than the shortfall recorded during the same period last year. Over the full year, the Trump administration projects the deficit will be 30 percent higher than last year. In the Washington Post, five Hoover Institution fiscal experts, including George Shultz and Michael Boskin, warn: "Rising interest rates and increasing deficits threaten to build upon each other to send public debt spiraling upward even faster." They write that "a debt crisis does not come slowly and visibly like a rising tide. It comes without warning, like an earthquake . . . ."

FEDERAL POLICY TOWARD AI: A forum convened by the Government Accountability Office suggests Congress take a close look at the rapidly advancing field. GAO's report cites "the need for policymakers to explore ways to" incentivize data sharing, improve safety and security, update the regulatory approach that will affect AI, and "assess acceptable levels of risk and ethical considerations." Further research is warranted on "establishing regulatory sandboxes; developing high-quality labeled data; understanding the implications of AI on training and education for jobs of the future; and "exploring computational ethics and explainable AI, whereby systems can reason without being told explicitly what to do."

CoSTEM GETS AN INCOMPLETE: A GAO study faults the White House-based Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM) for not fully meeting its responsibilities to assess the federal STEM education portfolio. Specifically, "the Committee has not reviewed programs' performance assessments . . . nor has it documented those assessments in its inventory . . . In addition, the Committee has not reported the participation rates of underrepresented groups in federal STEM education programs, as required by law. By reporting this information, the Committee could better assess whether programs are broadening access to groups historically underrepresented in STEM fields."


WEAPONS, PEOPLE, AND DRUGS: The National Science Foundation (NSF) invites proposals on "operational methods to detect, disrupt and disable illicit supply networks." Such networks, the agency says, "traffic enslaved people, illegal weapons, drugs (including opioids), nuclear material, looted antiquities, exotic animal products, and other contraband," and "funnel illicit profits back to criminal organizations." Projects "must focus on fundamental research that advances the scientific understanding of the operations of illicit supply networks and methods for their disruption," and must "be framed in the context of one or more distinct illicit trafficking environment(s)." NSF sponsored a workshop led by researchers at the University of Texas, Austin last December. 

ERC PLANNING GRANTS WEBINAR: "In conjunction with the release of the Planning Grants for Engineering Research Centers (ERC) solicitation . . . program directors in the NSF Division of Engineering Education and Centers will conduct a live Q&A webinar" April 16 from 1-3 p.m. Find out more.

ATTENTION, EARLY CAREER RESEARCHERS: To encourage research independence "immediately upon obtaining one's first academic position," NSF's Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) directorate will award grants to "support untenured faculty or research scientists (or equivalent) in their first three years in a primary academic position after the Ph.D." Find out more

DEFENSE RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES: Through the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the Pentagon recently released two  broad agency announcements, or BAAs. One requests proposals under the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP) for FY 2019. A second BAA  requests proposals under the Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) program for FY 2019.


Budget experts at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), source of these graphics, analyze the FY 2018 defense research budget here. "Navy basic research was increased by 10.5 percent. . . . Military-university research and infrastucture partnerships were increased across all three military branches. Aggregate funding rose to $384 million, a 12.7 percent increase above FY 2017, and included additional funding for the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program. DARPA's 6.3 percent increase included boosts for basic science, electronics, space, biotech, and other fields. Army applied research also received a sizable increase, with funding added for materials science, small satellites, advanced munitions, and many other topics. National Defense Education Program funding surpassed $100 million, 30.2 percent above FY 2017." 

© 2018 AAAS


CHINA'S R&D STRATEGY: "The Chinese government provides significant R&D funding to strategic sectors. From 2005 to 2015, total government R&D spending grew more than 350 percent to reach $44.5 billion. China’s R&D expenditures are rapidly catching up to the United States, with China’s total R&D spending (public and private) increasing from 26.5 percent of total U.S. R&D expenditures in 2005 to 75.1 percent in 2015." So states a new report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, underscoring other recent findings. "The Made in China 2025 targets ten key sectors: (1) energy saving and new energy vehicles, (2) next-generation IT, (3) biotechnology, (4) new materials, (5) aerospace, (6) ocean engineering and high-tech ships, (7) railway, (8) robotics, (9) power equipment, and (10) agricultural machinery." 


AT LEAST A SHORTTERM BOOM: A new report from the National Academies says computer science degree production "will increase sharply for at least the next few years, in light of the rapid and significant increases in enrollments in the major, in the absence of enrollment limits. Beyond that time the picture is necessarily less clear." Powerful CS tools and software systems "are used by and affect every discipline, giving rise to exciting subfields, such as computational biology, computational economics, computational chemistry, and digital humanities, with more emerging." Several institutions now have degree programs "that fuse curricula and formal requirements of CS with those for one of a range of disciplines (referred to as 'X+CS')." Also, CS "is one of the least diverse disciplines in terms of the representation of women and underrepresented minorities, both in higher education and in the workforce." 

See two other new reports: Human-Automation Interaction Considerations for Unmanned Aerial System Integration into the National Airspace System, and

Counter-Unmanned Aircraft System (CUAS) Capability for Battalion-and-Below Operations


The International Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences (CAETS)  2018 Conference will take place in Montevideo, Uruguay hosted by the National Academy of Engineering of Uruguay (ANIU), from September 11 to 14, 2018 and aims to present the state of the art of engineering and agriculture and forestry sustainability and, at the same time, offers wide opportunities for debate and discussion on how innovations will contribute to the advancement of the agriculture and forestry products chain in a sustainable manner. Further information as well as the call for papers, schedule, and registration information are available at this link: http://caets2018.aniu.org.uy/

ASEE IS CO-HOSTING the First Annual CoNECD (Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity - pronounced “connected”) Conference April 29 to May 2. 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. Registration is now open. Find out more.

LETTER SUPPORTING SCHOLARLY RESEARCH ON DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION IN STEM: Over the past year, there has been a proliferation of targeted attacks on scholarly work that addresses diversity and inclusion in STEM education, including work in engineering education specifically. Many of these attacks have appeared on conservative outlets and in broader alt-right media and social media networks. When specific faculty members are targeted, they and their colleagues are often subject to harassing and threatening calls, emails, tweets, and more. ASEE supports our members and all academic researchers in the face of these attacks on academic freedom. Read the full statement here.

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