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April 14, 2017



White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told a North Carolina radio host: “If Congress has different ideas about how to accomplish these goals, we are more than happy to talk about that. If they ignore them completely, then they have to face the fact that the president has to sign spending bills.” He met with appropriators of both chambers and told them "the president gets to have his say" on spending priorities. His warning followed reports that appropriators are nearing a bipartisan deal on funding the government after current authority expires April 28. Most signs indicate they'll disregard the deep cuts Mulvaney proposed in non-defense, non-discretionary spending, the category that includes major research agencies. In a separate interview on MSNBC, Mulvaney suggested Trump's $1 trillion infrastructure program would be a public-provate split costing taxpayers $200 million. "It's a little less important to me if infrastructure adds to the deficit."

AND IF MULVANEY IGNORES CONGRESS? While Congress has yet to act on Trump's fiscal 2018 budget, Mulvaney is telling federal agencies to "[b]egin taking immediate actions to achieve near-term workforce reductions and cost savings, including planning for funding levels in the President's Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Budget Blueprint." The final White House budget "will propose decreasing or eliminating funding for many programs across the Federal government, and in some cases redefining agency missions," Mulvaney writes. Is this unstoppable? Some recent history is relevant: When the Obama White House in 2013 sought to overhaul the government's numerous STEM education programs, appropriators blocked the move. They included language in their report specifically stating that the FY 2014 omnibus spending bill "does not adopt the reorganization."

THERE'S STILL WIND IN THEIR SAILS: The White House has taken a dim view of clean-energy programs popular during the Obama administration, but that hasn't stopped the Department of Energy from moving ahead with the Collegiate Wind Competition. Twelve undergraduate teams have been picked "to design and build a model wind turbine based on market research and siting considerations, develop a business plan to market the products, and test the turbines against a set of rigorous performance criteria judged by a panel of wind industry leaders."  See the winning teams.  

LIVING WITH 'BOTS: Cynthia Breazeal, an associate professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT, guides her audience through use of robots as personal weight coaches, as support in pediatric treatment, and as household helpers in a National Science Foundation lecture. According to a summary: "We develop social robots and apply them as a new kind of scientific tool to understand human behavior. We then use these insights to design and develop social robots that engage people over repeated encounters to enhance quality of life outcomes." Check out the video

BUILDING A QUANTUM COMPUTER: This "remains a Grand Challenge," says the National Science Foundation. Advances "are needed in several domains, including device fabrication, quantum control, new physical-level architectures, implementation of error correction and decoherence-avoiding strategies, compilation of quantum programs, programming of quantum computers, software to operate quantum computers, and quantum algorithm design." An NSF-sponsored Ideas Lab will focus on the Practical Fully-Connected Quantum Computer (PFCQC) challenge. The ultimate aim of this Ideas Lab is to facilitate the development and operation of a practical-scale quantum computer. Learn more.


A BIT TOO ISOLATED: A Government Accountability Office treats the Manufacturing USA network of R&D institutes pretty gently, but says the Commerce Department, which is in charge, isn't including other government agencies as it should. For instance, the Department of Labor—"which administers discretionary grant programs that can help increase the number of skilled workers in advanced manufacturing"—wasn't brought into the governance system, nor was expertise at non-sponsoring agencies tapped. Read the report

MAKING SENSE OF IT ALL: The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's AIDA is not the Ethiopian princess of Verdi's opera. It stands for Active Interpretation of Disparate Alternatives, and it's an effort to gain a better grasp of situations "where there are noisy, conflicting, and potentially deceptive" sources of  information." Often, information from each medium is analyzed independently, resulting in only one interpretation, with alternatives being eliminated due to lack of evidence. When analyses are combined, "the result can be a single apparent consensus view that does not reflect a true consensus." DARPA wants "a multihypothesis semantic engine that generates explicit alternative interpretations of events, situations, and trends from a variety of unstructured sources, for use in noisy, conflicting, and potentially deceptive information environments." Sound like machines replacing intelligence analysts? Find out more


Source: National Student Clearinghouse Research Center Snapshot Report - Science and Engineering Degree Completion by Gender

Proportion of tenured faculty drops as share of parttimers grows

Source of graphic immediately above and below: American Association of University Professors, Visualizing Change: The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession 2016-17


'WE MUST KEEP AMERICA FIRST': Those are the closing words of a letter from Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo)., pictured on the right, and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) asking appropriators to support a four-percent increase in funding for FY2018 for the National Science Foundation and National Institute of Standards and Technology. They're the bipartisan duo behind the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, the latest version of America COMPETES, which became law in January, They warn that "The United States is facing fierce international competition: China invests more than $335 billion annually on research and development initiatives, making them the second largest investor in the world and putting them on track to eclipse U.S. investments soon." 


HELPING HANDS: Issuing its Survey of Global Investment and Innovation Incentives, Deloitte notes that "In most countries and industry sectors, an elaborate system of financial incentives is available to fuel R&D, innovation, capital expansion, energy sustainability, employment, and training. . . . Some governments are making their incentives more generous to foster growth, whereas others focus on targeting their incentives to specific sectors to address narrow policy goals. The effectiveness of government incentives is always being evaluated—resulting in constant change, sun-setting laws, transition rules, complex enforcement policies . . . " Find the report here.


KEEPING TABS ON THE LAB:: This month, National Academies released its 2015-2016 Army Research Laboratory Technical Assistance Board (ARLTAB) report. It contains the biennial assessment of the army research lab’s scientific and technical quality in their research, development, and analysis programs. Get the report here.

THE NEW WORLD OF WORK:  As technology advances, it changes how we do business, from what software we use, to how we allocate jobs. Information Technology and the U.S. Workforce: Where are we and where do we go from here? is a new publication from the National Academies that explores “the interactions between technological, economic, and societal trends and identifies possible near-term developments for work.” Read more here.

RESPONSIBLE RESEARCH:: Twenty-five years ago, the National Academies published a report called Responsible Science: Ensuring the Integrity of the Research, evaluating issues related to research integrity. Since 1992, many different issues relating to scientific misconduct have come to light and the old report needed an upgrade. Fostering Scientific Integrity is an update on the old work, containing “best practices in research and recommends practical options for discouraging and addressing research misconduct and detrimental research practices.” Get the report here.


OPENING TO CUBA: Following this week's Engineering Deans Institute in Coral Gables, Fla. a small group of attendees made a quick trip to meet with educators in Havana. Posing with a well-preserved 1954 Chevy are, from left, David Ferro, Dean of Applied Science & Technology, Weber State University; Ranu Jung, Interim Dean of Engineering and Computing, Florida International University; Hans Hoyer, Secretary General of the International Federation for Engineering Education Societies and Executive Secretary of the Global Engineering Deans Council; J.B. Holston, Dean of Engineering and Computer Science, University of Denver Julia Ross, Dean of the College of Engineering and Information Technology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (and soon to become Dean of Engineering at Virginia Tech); and Ken Ball, Dean of Engineering, George Mason University. Photo courtesy of ASEE's Nathan Kahl.

THE SIXTH ANNUAL ASEE INTERNATIONAL FORUM will be held on Wednesday, June 28th, 2017 on the final day of ASEE’s Annual Conference in Columbus, OH. The International Forum brings together engineering professionals from academia and industry from around the globe who are engaged in novel engineering education initiatives to share information on successful models, experiences and best practices. The keynote speaker will be Dr. Martin E. Vigild, president of the European Society for Engineering Education. Click here for more information.

THE SECOND ANNUAL CHAIRS CONCLAVE at the 2017 ASEE Annual Conference. The ASEE Chairs Conclave, held in conjunction with the ASEE Annual Conference, is an exclusive forum for engineering and engineering technology chairs to exchange ideas, talk through challenges, and build working relationships. This year’s Conclave, on June 25, 2017, is focused on supporting faculty success. Topics addressed include: a) developing leadership skills, b) conducting research evaluations, c) having difficult conversations, and d) acclimating new faculty. Don’t miss out on this unique professional development and networking opportunity. Registration for this full-day event is $200. More detailed information can be found here.

PRISM PODCASTS: Click here to listen.

Prize-winning eGFI:  Get teens fired up about engineering with eGFI (Engineering, Go For It), ASEE's magazine for middle and high school students. Winner of the APEX Grand Award for Publication Excellence, eGFI combines engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers. Click here to purchase copies, For bulk purchases or other inquiries, contact eGFI@asee.org or call 202-331-3500.