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May 26, 2017



That's the outlook for research funding in the Trump administration's fiscal 2018 budget, write Matt Hourihan and David Parkes of the American Association for the Advancement of Science: "White House budget data indicates both basic and applied research would be cut by around 17 percent below estimates of R&D in the 2017 omnibus bill passed a few weeks ago." CQ quotes Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) as saying President Trump's spending plan “doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell of passing.” Appearing before the House Budget Committee, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney (left) drew gentle criticism from Tom Cole (R-Okla.) - who also chairs an appropriations panel - for being "penny wise and pound foolish" toward the National Institutes of Health. Still, Republicans on the panel generally praised Mulvaney for pointing the budget toward balance in 10 years and increasing defense spending. Given the sheer number of domestic cuts and eliminations under the White House plan, defenders of science and engineering R&D have their work cut out focusing lawmakers' attention on their narrow slice of the pie. See additional budget coverage by the American Institute of Physics and Association of American Universities. 

COPING WITH CUTS: The White House's proposed 11 percent reduction would bring some National Science Foundation programs "closer to the levels you would have seen in NSF's budget a decade ago," says Director France Córdova. "We understand and appreciate the apprehension felt by many, particularly in the research community, caused by the potential effects of adjusted funding levels." Never before had a president proposed giving NSF less than its current budget, reports Jeff Mervis in ScienceInsider. In working out how to respond, NSF set priorities, including "maintaining capacity across all six research directorates and NSF’s education programs," funding "the best unsolicited ideas from academic researchers," and "support for cross-disciplinary research and interagency efforts."

CURTAILED: The Trump budget would defund the $124 million Manufacturing Extension Partnerships, which Mulvaney says was initially designed as a temporary funding mechanicsm but has sustained some projects for "literally decades." Industry Week reports that "Manufacturing USA, a network of nine manufacturing innovation institutes around the U.S. (with six more planned for the end of 2017) would see its budget cut by 70 percent to $15 million. The institutes focus on a cross-section of manufacturing innovation, from 3D printing in Youngstown, Ohio, to advanced functional fabrics in Cambridge, Mass."

TEXT AND CONTEXT: "The question for this Court, distilled to its essential form, is whether the Constitution . . . protects Plaintiffs’ right to challenge an Executive Order that in text speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination. . . . Congress granted the President broad power to deny entry to aliens, but that power . . . cannot go unchecked when, as here, the President wields it through an executive edict that stands to cause irreparable harm to individuals across this nation." - Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory, right, of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court ruled 10-3 that the administration can’t implement its travel ban until the conclusion of a legal challenge led by the International Refugee Assistance Project. The case is likely headed to the Supreme Court, observers say.


'INDIRECT' ATTENTION: Ohio University economist Richard Vedder, right photo, added fuel to a fire lit by the Trump administration under taxpayer-funded research overhead. In slashing the National Institutes of Health budget, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney contends that actual research could receive the same funding as now if NIH limited reimbursement for so-called indirect costs to 10 percent, as foundations do. Testifying before two House Science subcommittees at a hearing on overhead at NSF, Vedder said current federal policy is "seriously flawed," enouraging universities, particularly elite schools, "to pad their bureaucracies, and to have excessively fancy buildings." Not so, countered Duke's James Luther, who chairs the Council on Government Relations. Overhead is dictated by the cost of facilities for high-powered research, he said. What with that and the rising cost of compliance with new government regs, universities end up losing money on grants.  

A QUICK GOP 'OMNIBUS'? House Appropriations Chair Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) offered a subdued response to the Trump budget: "It is our job to analyze the request, go through each and every budget line, question every witness, and demand spending justifications on behalf of the taxpayers who are footing the bill. Only then can Congress put forward our own plan to fund the federal government." Committee member Tom Graves (R-Ga.), right, has other ideas: He's pushing for what CQ calls "an instant omnibus," wrapping up and passing all 12 spending bills by the time Congress begins its August recess. Supporters of the idea "emphasized the catchall package would be a conservative piece of legislation, rather than the compromise measures that are often hashed out in private by Republican and Democratic leaders."



The charts below, based on government budget documents, were developed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Find the AAAS analysis here.  






The rap against Chinese R&D used to be that its system didn't encourage innovation. But that seems to be changing, according to research presented this week at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. Since patents granted in China are of uncertain quality, researchers looked at patents filed abroad as "a good yardstick." Patent owners are unlikely to apply abroad unless they think their inventions have wide applications and risk being copied.     

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies


THREE PROJECTS OF INTEREST: The National Academies' Board on Science Education is examining:

  • "[C]current and anticipated future needs for engineering-literate PreK-12 educators in the United States and how these needs might be addressed." Three areas of inquiry: The Preparation of PreK-12 Engineering Educators; Professional Pathways for PreK-12 Engineering Educators; and The Role of Higher Education.
  • "[T]he goals, aspirations, challenges and successes of colleges and universities that serve a significant portion of our nation’s African American, Hispanic, Asian-American and Native American STEM graduates . . . In particular, what challenges are unique to MSIs (as a consequence of the demographics of the students they serve, their history of support and funding, and their special designation as Title III institutions), and how are those institutions working to address those challenges?"
  • [T]he evidence behind the assertion that educational programs that mutually integrate learning experiences in the humanities and STEM lead to improved educational and career outcomes for undergraduate and graduate students.



SIGN UP FOR NETI: There are still a few openings for the advanced National Effective Teaching Institute (NETI-2), which will be offered June 23-24, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Columbus, OH.  Drs. Susan Lord, Matt Ohland, and Michael Prince will lead each workshop. See the outline here. Topics to be covered are listed on the accompanying outlines. Participants for the NETI workshop will include 50 faculty members from all branches of engineering and engineering technology. The $1,050 registration fee covers organization and presentation costs, participant notebooks, breakfasts, lunches, and breaks. Attendees' institutions are expected to cover the participants' expenses for transportation, lodging, and one meal per day. If you have any administrative questions, please contact Heather Deale at ASEE headquarters via email (h.deale@asee.org).  For questions about the workshop content, please contact Dr. Michael Prince at prince@bucknell.edu



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. Mike Murphy, dean of the College of Engineering and Built Environment, Dublin Institute of Technology.  Click here for more information.

NEW PODCAST - The Play’s the Thing: Why were actors on the stage at the ASEE Engineering Deans Institute in April? 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.