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                                                                 May 30, 2020  



The Assoiation of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities issued statements of support for the $100 billion measure to create a new advanced-technology directorate within the National Science Foundation. Praise came as well from MIT President Rafael Reif, who tells Science's Jeff Mervis: “The legislation would provide the visible, focused, and sustained funding and approach that the U.S. urgently needs to meet the challenge posed by China’s increasing capabilities.” The lone critic to emerge in press accounts so far is engineer Arden Bement, NSF director from 2004 to 2010, who says it would "be a mistake for a technology directorate at NSF to serve as an offset to private funding for commercial innovation and entrepreneurship.” Applied technology R&D should be funded by mission agencies, he says. But his view is not shared by France Córdova, who led the agency until March 31. “I look at it as just the opposite,” she tells the American Institute of Physics's FYI bulletin. There's now “more seamless integration of the very basic fundamental research and what people have called the use-inspired and more applied research.”

Called the Endless Frontier Act, recalling the landmark 1945 report by presidential science adviser Vannevar Bush, the bill is sponsored in the Senate by Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) and in the House by Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.). Most commentary cited competition from China. As the red line in the graphic above shows, China's share of global R&D is on track to overtake that of the United States. Image: Congressional Research Service

NOMINEE ADVANCES: On June 3, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee will take up the nomination of Sethuraman "Panch" Panchanathan to be director of NSF. But it won't be a hearing, contrary to what Capitol Shorts stated last week. Instead, it will be a closed session to vote on a series of Trump administration appointments. There's no official word yet on when the full Senate will vote.

WHEN AND HOW TO OPEN UP: Two university presidents--Mitch Daniels of Purdue and Christina Paxson of Brown--will testify June 4 alongside Logan Hampton, president of Lane College in Tennessee. and Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, at the first of two scheduled HELP Committee hearings entitled, "COVID-19: Going Back to School Safely." The American Council on Education (ACE,) has called on Congress to provide "temporary and targeted" protection from liability for universities. 

HOUSE SEEKS SPENDING BILL, NDAA WRAP-UP BY AUGUST: "House Democrats want to quickly ramp up the coronavirus-delayed fiscal 2021 appropriations process, with a goal of marking up all dozen bills by the end of July," CQ reports. The House Armed Services Committee has a similar timetable in mind for the National Defense Authorization Act. It plans to get a defense authorization bill on the floor by early July so that it can pass the chamber by August. Subcommittees could mark up their portions of the measure during the week of June 22, with the full committee potentially acting the following week, according to CQ.

OVERRIDE ATTEMPT PLANNED: The White House isn't saying whether President Trump will veto a resolution passed by the House and Senate to undo U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s borrower-defense rule. The rule "would make it harder for students who have been defrauded by colleges to have their student loans forgiven," CQ reports. But if there is a veto, House Democrats intend to hold a vote to override it. 

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EXPULSION THREAT AGAINST CHINESE GRAD STUDENTS: "The Trump administration plans to cancel the visas of Chinese graduate students and researchers in the United States who have direct ties to universities affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army," the New York Times reports, citing unnamed officials. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (left) "discussed the visa plans with President Trump on Tuesday in a White House meeting." The move could affect at least 3,000 of the approximately 360,000 Chinese students in the United States. The PLA "has ties to military institutions and defense research schools, as well as to seven more traditional universities, many of them prestigious colleges in China with well-funded science and technology programs."  

OPT CURBS EYED: The White House continues to discuss elimination or restriction of the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, which allows international students to work in the U.S. after graduation. Lewis-Burke Associates reports that the proposed restrictions "are framed as a way to assist U.S. citizens looking for work during a time of significant labor dislocations caused by the pandemic." While the OPT has been an administration target for several years, the business community has pushed back. 

MULTILATERAL EXPORT CONTROLS: These are considered more effective than single-country curbs, Therefore, they are what the Commerce Department' is aiming for as it develops new export controls for both “emerging” and “foundational” technologies, AIP's FYI bulletin reports. The new controls are required by the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act. An advisory committee, which includes several univeristy engineers, held its first meeting May 19.

'NOVEL DIGITAL HEALTH SOLUTIONS': The website Nextgov reports that the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering and the National Cancer Institute are looking to leverage new technical tools against the novel coronavirus—and they would like to incorporate the de-identified data and other digital assets those solutions generate into an NIH-supported central data hub for researchers, According to a request for information, "there is an urgent need to protect individuals from coronavirus exposure while allowing society to return to normal function as quickly as possible. At present, we have only the blunt tools of social distancing and quarantine to contain the epidemic . . . Novel digital health solutions have the potential to improve care, understanding of health outcomes, and risk factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

ARCHER AND PIZ DAINT JOIN CORONAVIRUS FIGHT: They are, respectively, British and Swiss supercomputers that have been brought into the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium. With 60 active projects, the HPCC is a government-industry-academic initiative that lets researchers run "very large numbers of calculations in epidemiology, bioinformatics, and molecular modeling to advance the pace of scientific discovery to accelerate treatments and ultimately a cure." Learn more.

U.S-GERMAN PARTNERSHIPS IN ADVANCED MANUFACTURING: As a result of a research cooperation agreement between the National Science Foundation and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), U.S. and German researchers can submit joint proposals in the areas described on the web pages for NSF's Advanced Manufacturing Program and DFG's review board 401 Production Technology. Collaborative proposals will each undergo a single review process "while allowing funding organizations to maintain budgetary control over their awards." See the Dear Colleague letter.

RENDER UNTO CESER: The National Science Foundation's Cyberinfrastructure for Emerging Science and Engineering Research (CESER) program encourages "pilot projects that bring together researchers and CI experts to develop the means of combining existing community data resources and shared data-focused CI into new integrative and highly performing data-intensive discovery workflows that empower new scientific pathways. Find out more

HEATHER WILSON TAPPED FOR SCIENCE BOARD: The University of Texas at El Paso president, former Air Force secretary and Republican congresswoman is also a former president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. She has been appointed to a six-year term on the National Science Board, the policymaking arm of NSF.  

HYDROPOWER R&D: Over the last year, the Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) has developed foundational framing materials that could underpin a long-term research strategy. In April 2019, WPTO also launched HydroWIRES (Hydro and Water Innovation for a Resilient Electricity System). Now the WPTO "is seeking strategic and technical feedback on both the foundational framing materials for the long-term Hydropower Program R&D strategy, and the detailed research roadmap for the new HydroWIRES initiative. "Input is greatly desired from stakeholders across the hydropower community and other relevant sectors, such as those focused on renewable energy, power system operations, and environmental issues." Learn more.


Federal obligations for science and engineering to universities and colleges, by agency: FY 2018

Source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NSF).

Federal science and engineering obligations to the 20 universities and colleges receiving the largest amounts, by type of activity: FY 2018
(Millions of dollars)

Federal science and engineering obligations to the 20 HBCUs receiving the largest amounts, by type of activity: FY 2018
(Thousands of dollars)


'AN URGENT REDESIGN': A quadrennial review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which coordinates nano-related R&D across federal agencies, says the NNI "should be restructured to (1) improve its alignment with the stated national priorities for R&D, (2) broaden its work to accelerate technology transfer to relevant markets, (3) strengthen state-of-the-art enabling R&D infrastructure, and (4) expand domestic workforce education and training." The review says other nations such as "China, Japan, and Europe have also made large investments in nanoscience and nanotechnology, resulting in an accelerating pace of education and workforce training and translational research and development (R&D) efforts related to nanoscience and nanotechnology. In some cases, these are outpacing and outperforming U.S. federal government investments." The National Academies will hold a webinar June 9.


STUDENT COLUMNIST SOUGHT: ASEE's award-winning  Prism magazine seeks a new student columnist, as our excellent Alice Dai is graduating. If you know students who have a passion for writing and strong opinions on the state of engineering education, please encourage them to send a resume, cover letter, and 2-3 writing samples (preferably published) to Prism Associate Editor Jennifer Pocock at j.pocock@asee.org. They should use the subject line "Student Columnist Application." 


Registering for the June 22-26 conference will allow you to:

Have the opportunity to see any presentation made by an author, distinguished lectures, or plenaries 24/7 during the week of the conference;
Attend Q&A sessions, so you can interact with the presenters;
Attend workshops, business meetings, and the different orientations that usually happen at the annual meeting;
Attend/participate in the recognition and highlighting of our national award winners, and our incoming fellows, and our outgoing and incoming board members; and
Participate in our interactive exhibit hall as well as sponsor/tech demos. There will be exclusive exhibit hall times to interact with sponsors and exhibitors.

Check the website for updates.