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                                                         January 18, 2020  



That was a key recommendation to the House Armed Services Committee from Michèle Flournoy (near right) at a hearing entitled "DOD’s Role in Competing with China." The former  undersecretary of defense for policy identified those drivers as "science and technology, research and development, using federal funding to incent private sector investment in key technology areas, STEM education, broader access to higher education, and 21st century infrastructure like 5G. We also need a smart immigration policy. We should welcome foreign-born talent that pose no risks to our national security and encourage them to stay and build innovative companies here in America. We should also do a better job of protecting the crown jewels that are essential to our security while maintaining the open system that drives our prosperity. Andrew Hunter (center), of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the defense acquisition system will need "highly capable, expensive systems . . . such as nuclear weapon systems and long-endurance undersea systems," plus "the capability to pioneer breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, directed energy, and hypersonic systems where . . . fundamental challenges that relate directly to defense requirements remain." Rear Adm. (USN ret.) Michael McDevitt of CNA (formerly the Center for Naval Analyses) said China's concept of “military civil fusion” aims to "spur innovation that capitalizes on artificial intelligence, new materials, and new energy" and link them to military modernization. "The goal is to eliminate barriers between the commercial and defense sectors."

SEATS AT RISK: Two engineers elected in 2018, Reps. Elaine Luria of Virginia and Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, are among the "most endangered Democrats in the House," CQ reports. They and four other vulnerable Democrats had voted in July to stop President Trump from making war on Iran without further congressional approval. But they bucked their party in the most recent Democratic-led effort to curb Trump's war-making power following his decision to kill Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Jan.2. In an op-ed in The New York Times, Luria and Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.) said the January resolution was “a symbolic vote that did more to distract than to fix the real challenges we face.” Cunningham, in a statement, said "we should avoid sending the message that Congress is not behind the Commander-in-Chief as he tries to prevent further escalation with Iran."

NO NEW SECURITY STEPS - FOR NOW: The Department of Energy is taking a breather before imposing new measures to prevent China from stealing U.S. secrets and intellectual property. DOE has already barred employees from joining foreign talent recruitment programs and established a technology risk matrix -- procedures that restrict international collaboration on technologies important to the U.S. and national security. Now, says Office of Science Director Chris Fall, the department is "pausing a little bit to see what the effect is." Ultimately, "I think we all understand that China is a science and technology juggernaut and in the long term we're not going to be able to just close the doors and shut  the windows. We're going to have to find a way to modify behavior and work together in some areas with the Chinese." The pause will "allow the interagency to take a breath and figure out what we've all done." In the meantime, the department is "largely looking inward at our employees and our laboratories and not yet imposing policies on the extramurual community that we fund at universities."

'AMAZING GROWTH' OF FUSION STARTUPS: DOE is "extremely excited" about the community of startup companies pursuing the idea that "you don't need to build something as big" as ITER or the National Ignition Facility to succeed with fusion energy, Fall says. While continuing to fund the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, under construction in France, the department is "working very hard to stimulate" domestic fusion. Fall spoke of new mechanisms--"using our labs as resources that these companies can access" and public-private partnerships.  For more on startups, see "Power Hitters" in the January Prism. Also, see Fall's prepared testimony before the House Space, Science, and Technology Subcommittee on Energy.

FUTURE INDUSTRIES: Bipartisan Senate legislation calls on the Trump administration to come up with a plan to double current spending on artificial  intelligence  and  quantum  information science by fiscal year 2022. In addition, the bill  seeks a detailed  plan  to  increase  investments in "industries  of  the  future" to $10 billion per year by fiscal 2025. Those industries include artificial  intelligence,  quantum  information  science,  biotechnology, next- generation  wireless  networks  and  infrastructure, advanced manufacturing, and synthetic biology.


PENTAGON WATCHDOG TO STUDY FOREIGN INFLUENCE: A Jan. 6 memo says the  Inspector General seeks to determine whether the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering [headed by Michael Griffin, right] "is monitoring and mitigating foreign influence into the DoD’s research and development programs." The review, starting this month, will be performed at "the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Missile Defense Agency, Defense Innovation Unit, and selected Federally Funded Research and Development Centers; as well as the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence." Additional locations may be identified, the memo says. The online news site Inside Defense reports that the assessment comes "as officials worry about the extent of China's reach into U.S. universities, laboratories and companies." R&D efforts "in areas like hypersonic weapons, fifth-generation wireless technologies, and artificial intelligence are largely driven by what defense officials describe as a rapidly advancing Chinese military." Image: Hudson Institute, C-Span

IDEAL DATA REPOSITORIES: The White House Office of Science and Technology policy has published a draft set of "desirable characteristics of repositories for managing and sharing data resulting from federally funded or supported research." Among them: "broad, equitable, and maximally open access to datasets . . . consistent with legal and ethical limits required to maintain privacy and confidentiality"; "free & easy to access and reuse"; "enables tracking of data reuse"; and "provides documentation of meeting accepted criteria for security." Comments are invited.

A LESS DOMINANT ROLE: "Increasingly, the United States is seen globally as an important leader rather than the uncontested leader.," the National Science Board reports in The State of U.S. Science and Engineering 2020. The latest installment of the NSB's biennial Science and Engineering Indicators notes that the U.S. "continues to lead globally in R&D expenditures, S&E doctoral-level degree awards, and production of highly cited research publications. At the same time, other nations, particularly China, are rapidly developing their S&E capacity. As a result, the United States has seen its relative share of global S&T activity flatten or shrink, even as its absolute activity levels kept rising. As more countries around the world develop R&D and human capital infrastructure to sustain and compete in a knowledge-oriented economy, the United States is playing a less dominant role in many areas of S&E activity." The report also says "U.S. eighth graders continue to rank in the middle of advanced economies in international mathematics and science assessments. Similarly, U.S. national assessments of mathematics show little to no growth in scores over the past decade."

FFRDCs TOPPED $21 BILLION IN 2018: Spending at the 42 federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs) showed "an annual increase of almost 6 percent in current dollars," according to the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics at the National Science Foundation. 

DOING WELL WHILE DOING GOOD: The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office program Patents for Humanity awards "show that humanitarian engagement is compatible with business interests and strong patent rights, and that companies can effectively contribute to global good while maintaining commercial markets," USPTO says. Besides public recognition,  winners receive an acceleration certificate to expedite select proceedings at the USPTO. Applications for 2020 are being accepted until February 15. Learn more.


Source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics.  Click here for more detail. Note: Utility patents are an internationally comparable indicator of invention. However, they are an incomplete indicator because not all inventions are protected by patents. Many inventions are patented in multiple international jurisdictions as inventors operate and seek patent protection in these markets. Data on patent families provide a broad unduplicated measure of such global inventions. Based on these data, inventors in China accounted for about half (49%) of such patent families in 2018. Electrical and mechanical engineering-related patents made up more than half (56%) of these patent families in 2018, including those granted to inventors in the United States, the EU, South Korea, Japan, and China.

Source: NCSES. Click here for more detail.


CONCEALMENT OF CHINA TIES ALLEGED: A superceding indictment charges Feng "Franklin" Tao with two counts of wire fraud and one count of program fraud for failing to disclose on conflict-of-interest forms the work he was doing for China while employed full time as an associate professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Kansas, the Associated Press reports. Born in China, Tao came to the United States in 2002 to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry at Princeton. He held a postdoc at Berkeley and was an assistent professor at Notre Dame before joining Kansas's Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis in Lawrence, according to the school's website. The center conducts research on sustainable technology to conserve natural resources and energy, the AP says. Prosecutors said some of his research was funded by the Department of Energy. His attorney "said in an email that Tao denies the charges and will vigorously contest them in court, and that Tao looks forward to clearing his name." 

PROBE WIDENS IN FLORIDA: "Four faculty members from the University of Florida have left the school amid a widening investigation into foreign exploitation of American-funded medical research," the Tampa Bay Times reports. "Three researchers resigned and one was terminated after the university received a letter from the National Institutes of Health regarding questionable foreign meddling in grant research and funding. The terminated employee worked part time for the university’s College of Medicine. Two were from the College of Engineering and one was from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences." 


A RESPONSIBILITY TO SPEAK UP: The National Academies "cannot simply take public trust in science for granted," write Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences  (left) and Michael M. Crow, president of Arizona State University. NAS, "in particular, has an obligation to ensure that science is worthy of the public’s trust by leading efforts to improve the culture and practice of science, and the integrity of the research enterprise. We also need to communicate to the public how the norms of science allow researchers to build confidence in their findings, and ultimately to help the public develop better capacity to discern which results are trustworthy. In addition, the Academies have a responsibility to speak up and defend science when it is being politicized, ignored, or maligned.".


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