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September 24, 2016



A stopgap funding measure put forward by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) drew immediate opposition from Democrats and hints of a presidential veto. With just a week to go before fiscal 2016 appropriations expire, the Office of Management and Budget "quietly began to discuss plans for a possible government shutdown," CQ reports, holding a conference call with government agencies. The GOP measure provides, among other items, $1.1 billion to combat the Zika virus, and $500 million for flood victims in Louisiana and other affected states, according to CQ. But it has no money to fix Flint, Michigan's troubled water system. That omission was one of "several" White House concerns cited by President Obama's spokesman, who said: "It's not at all clear to me he's prepared to sign this bill."

Photo from C-SPAN video.

LGBT RIGHTS ROIL DEFENSE BILL DEBATE: The sage grouse isn't the only threat to passage of a 2017 defense authorization bill, now before a conference committee, CQ's John Donnelly reports. A second sticking point is an amendment in the House-passed bill that critics say "would effectively overturn an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity." The amendment was introduced by Rep. Steve Russell, (R-Okla.), who says it is meant to protect religious liberty.

PARTISAN DIVIDE THREATENS ENERGY BILL: House-Senate conferees trying to bridge differences on major energy legislation may end up with no bill at all, says Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. CQ quotes him as saying, “The problem with the energy conference now is that there are so many disagreements between Democrats and Republicans." He himself has been pushing provisions to boost funding for state electric grid infrastructure improvements. A top Republican, Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, is less pessimistic than Pallone, but says, "We all know this won’t be ready for prime time until after the election.” 

COMING UP: A House subcommittee will examine the question, "Are We Losing the Space Race to China?" with several non-government experts. A second panel will take up: "Academic Research Regulatory Relief: A Review of New Recommendations."


Graphic by Jennifer Pocock: Source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NSF). To see a larger, interactive version click here


CLIMATE CHANGE AND NATIONAL SECURITY: Building on connections already identified, a new working group will "identify information and program gaps that limit consideration of climate change-related impacts in developing national security doctrine, policies, and plans. Descriptions of these gaps will be provided to Federal science agencies and the United States Intelligence Community to inform future research requirements and priorities, including collection priorities, on climate data, models, simulations, and projections," according to a presidential memorandum. National Academy of Sciences President Marcia McNutt says the academies will be "taking the lead in engaging the academic community in efforts to guide this initiative, and are well-positioned to tap the broad, multidisciplinary expertise of researchers across the nation."

NEW PENTAGON BOARD's TOP 10 TOPICS: The innovation board recruited by Defense Secretary Ash Carter appears close to "interim findings and recommendations" on 10 topics, according to a Federal Register notice: promoting innovative practices and culture in the conventional forces;  barriers to innovation and collaboration in the civilian workforce; barriers to information sharing and the processing, exploitation, dissemination, and interoperability of data; enabling workforce-driven innovation using crowdsourcing methodologies and techniques; the lack of adequate organic capability and capacity for software development and rapid prototyping of software solutions; approaches to increasing collaboration with entities outside the federal government; recommendations on how to improve the digital infrastructure that supports command and control; streamlining of rapid fielding processes, particularly for unmanned systems; the lack of a dedicated computer science core in the workforce; and  potential application of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, autonomy, and man-machine teaming.

BIOTECH REGULATORS' ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES: These are summarized in a proposed Update to the Coordinated Framework that aims to provide "appropriate oversight for all products of modern biotechnology." 

FORENSIC SCIENCES NEED STRENGTHENING: So concludes the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, which has found gaps in "the need for clarity about the scientific standards for the validity and reliability of forensic methods and . . .  the need to evaluate specific forensic methods to determine whether they have been scientifically established to be valid and reliable." PCAST calls on the Office of Science and Technology Policy to coordinate an R&D strategy that includes "major expansion and strengthening of the academic research community working on forensic sciences, including substantially increased funding for both research and training."

COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS: Five National Science Foundation directorates - Computer & Information Science & Engineering; Education & Human Resources; Engineering; Geosciences; and Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences - have joined in a Smart & Connected Communities (S&CC) solicitation. It seeks "strongly interdisciplinary, integrative research and research capacity-building activities that will improve understanding of smart and connected communities and lead to discoveries that enable sustainable change to enhance community functioning." 

FIND OUT IF YOU FIT . . . in NSF's Small Business Innovation Research / Small Business Technology Transfer programs at a September 30 webinar.  


MORE ON DONALD TRUMP AND SCIENCE: Besides the presidential contender's responses to sciencedebate.org's queries, the website FiveThirtyEight.com examines a number of his videotaped utterances. These are discussed by a panel that includes Deborah Stine of the Scott Institute for Energy Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University. 

DATA-BASED 'INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION': Participants at a Government Accountability Office forum "saw the newly revolutionized and still-evolving process of data and analytics innovation (DAI) as generating far-reaching new economic opportunities, including a new Industrial Revolution based on combining data-transmitting cyber systems and physical systems, resulting in cyber-physical systems—which have alternatively been termed the Industrial Internet, also the Internet of Things;
warned of an ongoing and potentially widening mismatch between the kinds of jobs that are or will be available and the skill levels of the U.S. labor force." Read the report.


GETTING THE MOST FROM RESEARCH CENTERS: A new National Academies report summarizes a symposium on ways "[t]o ensure that the [NSF-funded Engineering Research Centers] continue to be a source of innovation, economic development, and educational excellence." Among panelists' insights: Jean-Lou Chameau, the former CalTech president now at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, noted "the private sector’s increasing role in center formation," and "the goal of driving innovations and technology transfer have become the vision of these centers and essential components of their design." However, "it is getting harder to fund high-risk projects." Small, forward-thinking foundations "could become ideal partners." Olin College President Richard Miller said "the knowledge economy is transitioning to a maker economy, one that places value on what someone can do rather than on what they know." 

Check out other reports: 

Self-Consolidating Concrete for Cast-In-Place Bridge Components

Shared Mobility and the Transformation of Public Transit

Advancing Concepts and Models for Measuring Innovation

Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative

Extending Science: NASA's Space Science Mission Extensions and the Senior Review Process 


SAFE ZONE ALLY TRAINING WEBINAR SERIES – Level 2: Take part in creating a positive and inclusive environment for LGBTQ individuals in STEM by joining ASEE for three free Level 2 Safe Zone Ally Training webinars. Building upon the Level 1 webinars presented in Spring 2016, ASEE is offering a general two-hour Level 2 webinar (October 6), plus two one-hour “deep dives” on supporting transgender students and colleagues (October 27) and LGBTQ and engineering culture (December 6). Register today for all three – space is limited! Missed Level 1? View the slides and recording-on-demand here.

LIBERAL ARTS & ENGINEERING: The Teagle Foundation’s Liberal Arts and the Professions initiative aims to embed the liberal arts in undergraduate engineering education by forging curricular links between faculty in the disciplines and professional fields so students more fully appreciate the social, cultural, and ethical dimensions of their work. To be considered for a grant, please review Teagle’s application guidelines and submit a brief 3-5 page concept paper to proposals@teagle.org. If you have questions about the RFP, please contact Teagle program director Loni Bordoloi Pazich atbordoloi@teagle.org. See also: Liberal Arts and the Professions RFP: and Teagle Foundation Application Guidelines.

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS: The 2017 ASEE Annual Conference will include a cross-divisional session entitled, "Thinking Globally, Acting Locally: The Role of Engineering Education towards Attaining UN Sustainable Development Goals." The full Call for Papers can be found on the Conference website. focused on the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals.

PROCEEDINGS of ASEE's 2016 Annual Conference and International Forum are available online.

ALL MAY ATTEND: The Zone II Conference (Engineering Everywhere for Everyone) takes place March 2-5, 2017 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, All ASEE members are invited. It promises to be an amazing experience! Submit abstracts by September 16. Visit http://zone2.asee.org to begin the submission process and see what has been planned so far.

Prize-winning eGFI:  Jump-start the semester 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 aims to get teens fired up about engineering with engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers, eGFI aims to get teens fired up about engineering. Click here to purchase copies, For bulk purchases or other inquiries, contact eGFI@asee.org or call 202-331-3500.