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June 5, 2015



Amid repeated threats from the White House to veto appropriations bills that adhere to GOP budget caps, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) says Democrats will not vote to proceed to a defense spending bill later this year –"or any appropriations bill" – until Republicans meet with Democrats to hammer out a new budget deal. So reports CQ, which earlier quoted Barbara Mikulski, ranking Democrat on Appropriations, saying the same thing. Democrats want increases in domestic discretionary spending and oppose Republican efforts to circumvent the caps on defense by increasing the Overseas Contingency Operations budget, which is not subject to the caps. Absent a budget agreement, expect renewed talk of a government shutdown closer to when FY 2016 starts October 1.

WHITE HOUSE COMPLAINT: The latest spending bill to draw a veto threat is the Commerce, Justice, Science measure that passed the House 242-183 on June 3. The bill funds the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, among other agencies. (See the House report accompanying the legislation.) The White House contends the bill would lead to about 600 fewer NSF research grants, "affecting about 7,900 researchers, technicians, and students," hitting especially hard at geosciences and social, behavioral, and economic sciences; shortchange Earth science and space technology at NASA; and harm NIST programs for cyber-physical systems and bio- and other manufacturing right when a "historic resurgence" is taking hold. A Senate panel takes up its version of the bill next week.

BILL OF PARTICULARS: The Obama administration backed up its threat to veto the Senate defense authorization bill -- now on the floor -- with a 10-page list of objections. Among them: The bill would deny jobless benefits to veterans receiving "even a minimal amount of assistance through the Post 9/11 GI Bill, such as technology certification, credentialing, and licensing training."

SEE THE LIGHT: The Senate panel handling enery and water appropriations has put out its report. Regardless of what happens later this year on spending, the document shows what influential senators want to happen in energy. They cite the "critical role that light sources play in the nation’s innovation ecosystem," tucking in extra money for those programs. Also favored: "Innovative new materials are needed that catalyze the synthesis of ammonia without requiring an input of natural gas" in fertilizer manufacturing; and research and development on " valuable and innovative uses for carbon."  New commercial uses for captured carbon "could significantly offset the costs of capturing and sequestering carbon from our Nation’s coal-fired power plants." The committee is also "encouraged" by the work of the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, which aims for post-lithium ion technology to serve the grid and transportation.



Per Pupil Spending on Instruction and Support Services For U.S. Elementary & Secondary Public School Systems (2013). See how all 50 rank with this interactive graphic.

Source: Government Executive magazine and the U.S. Census Bureau.

General admistration


Pupil Support

School Administration

Instruction - Benefits

Instruction - Salaries & Wages


EAGER TO MAKE IT: The National Science Foundation says it's "uniquely positioned to leverage the burgeoning Maker Movement and the large network of Maker spaces." These offer new possibilities for formal and informal learning and innovative design thinking. Making could also increase retention, broaden participation in STEM, and empower citizen engineers. So NSF is encouraging proposals for Early Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) proposals with untested but potentially transformative research ideas or approaches. Learn more

BETTER LIVING THROUGH CHEMISTRY: NSF's interdisciplinary Sustainable Chemistry, Engineering, and Materials (SusChEM) program covers a wide range, including "replacement of rare, expensive, and/or toxic chemicals/materials with earth-abundant, inexpensive, and benign chemicals/materials; recycling of chemicals/materials that cannot be replaced," and a lot more. Check it out.

SEX AND THE SCREWWORM: The late Sen. William Proxmire awarded one of his derisive Golden Fleece awards to research into the mating habits of this agricultural pest. The work led to the ultimate eradication of the screwworm and saved the cattle industry some $20 billion. Jo Handelsman, associate director for science at the Office of Science and Technology Policy, cites this as one example of the important discoveries, often years down the road, that stem from basic research. Read her blog.

SCIENCE IN PINSTRIPES: The U.S. State Department could do a better job if it took full advantage of the nation's science and technology capabilities. So argues a new report by the National Research Council, which says Foggy Bottom should "continuously update its capabilities to keep abreast of S&T developments at home and abroad and be prepared to anticipate and respond promptly to S&T-related challenges on many fronts." Read more.

NASA AWARDS $11.25M TO UNIVERSITIES IN 15 STATES: Each is getting up to $750,000 under the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) "for research and development in areas such as remote sensing, nanotechnology, astrophysics and aeronautics." See the list.

UC DAVIS SETTLES FALSE CLAIMS CASE: A joint probe by NSF and Department of Energy inspectors general found that a PI at the university concealed information from DOE's Office of Science about neutron reflectivity experiments simultaneously supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The researcher "also described certain research tasks funded by the NSF and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in progress reports" to DOE and made misleading statements to an NSF program manager. UC Davis will pay $499,700. See the DOE IG's latest semi-annual report to Congress. 

U.S.-PAKISTAN PARTNERSHIP: USAID this year started funding  Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies (PCAS), supporting applied research, curriculum development, and academic exchanges between three universities in United States and four in Pakistan. This is just the latest such endeavor. USAID reports that since 2005, Pakistani and U.S. governments have awarded over 70 grants for Pakistani and U.S. scientists to work together "on ground-breaking science and technology cooperative research." During the same period, the Fulbright program has brought over 1,200 Pakistani students to earn master's and Ph.D.s. The Pakistan-U.S. Science and Technology Cooperation Program has funded 73 science and technology projects and linked 25 Pakistani universities and eight Pakistani research centers linked with 58 U.S. universities, the agency says.


ENOUGH WITH THE 'HAIR SHIRT': An ascetic attitude drives too many city, state, and even national approaches to climate change, and it's not working, writes Robert Atkinson in a report for the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and the Center for Clean Energy Innovation. "As long as clean energy technology costs more," people and companies will choose the dirty variety. "The climate challenge is first and foremost a technology problem, which cannot be solved without significantly better clean energy technologies." His presciption? Lots more federally funded R&D, including, among other things, tripling money for energy research at NSF; a $1 billion for ARPA-E; doubling funding for DOE's Energy Innovation Hubs, and pumping $2.5 billion a year into the Office of Energy Eiciency and Renewable Energy.



The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Center for Engineering Ethics and Society (CEES) invites nominations and/or submissions of ethics activities that prepare students for ethical practices, research, or leadership in engineering. Each selected exemplary activity will be recognized as an "NAE Exemplar in Engineering Ethics Education" in a NAE report, on the Online Ethics Center website, and in a letter from NAE president C. D. Mote, Jr. to both the educator(s) and the dean of engineering at the host or partner institution. The deadline for submissions is September 18, 2015, by 12 noon EDT. More information can be found at http://www.nae.edu/EthicsCallForSubmissions.aspx.