Facebook icon Twitter icon Forward icon

May 5, 2017



Rejecting cuts proposed late in the game by the Trump administration, Congress averted a shutdown by approving a bipartisan bill that funds the federal government through Sept. 30. President Trump signed it today. Overall, R&D did well - five percent above fiscal 2016 levels, according to calculations by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The process kept appropriators, led by (from right) Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Reps. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) and Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), firmly in the driver's seat. But the White House, stung by Democrats' boasts of success in the negotiations, will have more time to influence FY 2018 spending. Trump tweeted that a shutdown might be a good thing. Roll Call quoted Budget Director Mick Mulvaney as saying of Democrats: "They’re walking around acting like they pulled a fast one on the president . . . .And I just won’t stand for it!”


Pentagon research claimed a slice of the $21 billion more Congress voted for defense. The research, development, test, and evaluation account got nearly a billion more. Basic research gained increases in all three services and defense-wide. Favored programs included Basic Research Initiatives, University Research Initiatives, the Army's University and Industry Research Centers, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the National Defense Education Program, and the Manufacturing Technology Program. (While raising defense spending, Congress cast aside the notion of parity between defense and non-discretionary increases.) See the appropriations report and a committee summary

The Department of Energy's Office of Science got nearly $5.4 billion, including $24 million for the Batteries and Storage Hub and $15 million for the Fuels from Sunlight Hub. The  Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy survived with a $15 million increase, despite the administration's wish to eliminate it. The bill also sustained Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. See the appropriations report and a committee summary.

The National Institutes of Health was funded at $2 billion more than in FY 2016, with "specific increases for research related to Alzheimer’s disease, the brain, antibiotic resistance, and the Precision Medicine Initiative," House appropriators said. The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering received a $10 million bump. See the summary and appropriations report.

NASA received $368 million more than in 2016, including $175 million more for science, $25 million more for aeronautics, and $294 million more for exploration. 


The National Science Foundation received a mere $8.7 million more than in FY 2016. with almost that whole amount going to research equipment and facilities constrution. Education and Human Resources and operations and management each got substantially less than they had sought. See the summary and appropriations report.

See additional reports by the American Institute of Physics' FYI and ScienceInsider.



The five graphics below, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, illustrate appropriations for various federal research agencies. AAAS comments: "Taken together, these funding outcomes are notable for two big reasons. First, the spending caps in FY 2017 are slated for hardly any increase; even without much room to work with, legislators were able to overcome this constraint for many agencies. Perhaps more importantly, these decisions run directly counter to the Trump Administration’s spending preferences for the current year." 

Science & Tech Agencies and Offices in the FY 2017 Omnibus

FY 2017 R&D Appropriations by Character

DOD S&T in FY 2017 Appropriations

FY 2017 Energy Program Budgets

NASA Budgets in FY 2017 Appropriations

© 2017 AAAS


DOE LIFTS FREEZE - WITH A WARNING: The Department of Energy, which had reportedly stopped paying out grants in Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy and Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy programs, has now issued "clear guidance that it will honor all commitments for funds previously obligated for grants and cooperative agreements," according to a statement quoted by E&E News. The statement went on: "Moving forward, the Department will review all DOE financial assistance programs to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent in the most efficient and effective way possible in alignment with the administration's priorities," and begin "a new era of careful oversight over how and where it spends taxpayer money appropriated to the agency by Congress." E&E News also reported: "A memo obtained earlier this week stated that awards for small businesses were being delayed until Energy Secretary Rick Perry (at right) completed a review."

A LIGHT TOUCH: Baratunde "Bara" A. Cola, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech, has received the National Science Foundation's Waterman Award, which "recognizes outstanding researchers age 35 and under." He has "pioneered new engineering methods and materials to control light and heat in electronics at the nanoscale," NSF says in a news release. "In 2015, Cola and his team were the first to overcome more than 40 years of research challenges to create a device called an optical rectenna, which turns light into direct current more efficiently than today's technology. The device could lead to highly efficient solar cells with the potential to power new generations of cell phones, laptops, satellites and drones."

TUNE IN NEXT WEEK for the National Science Board's May 9 – 10 meeting, with presentations by Cola (above) as well as by 2017 Vannevar Bush awardee Rita Colwell, a former NSF director, and Distinguished Public Service Awardee James Abrahamson. The NSB will also discuss NSF’s Possible National Center for Optical-Infrared Astronomy and the Skilled Technical Workforce. See the agenda and register for the webcast.

NIH IMPOSES CAP ON GRANTS: In what Science calls "a major policy shift,"  the National Institutes of Health plans to cap the number of grants a single investigator can hold. An investigator can have the equivalent of three bread-and-butter NIH R01 grants. NSF's purpose is "to free up funding for early-career scientists and those struggling to keep their labs afloat." The caps could provide money for 1,600 new grants, Science reports


RISK FOR UNDOCUMENTED STUDENTS: The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that campus police officers across Texas "would have unfettered authority to check the immigration status of students who have been detained for minor violations such as rolling through a red light or drinking under age, under legislation the governor is expected to sign any day." Gov. Greg Abbott is said to be eager to sign it into law. 

NOT FANS: Purdue University faculty have come out against "last week's unorthodox acquisition of Kaplan University, passing a University Senate resolution calling the deal a violation of common-sense educational practice and respect for Purdue faculty," Inside Higher Ed reports. The resolution's wording "could catch the attention of Purdue’s accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission. HLC has to sign off on the acquisition before it can close, as do state and federal regulators."


NOW ONLINE: Click here to view a recording of the recent National Academy of Engineering-American Association of Engineering Societies convocation.

NEW VISION FOR ERCs: A National Academies committee "proposes a strategic new direction" for the National Science Foundation's Engineering Research Centers program "focused on tackling larger, grand-challenge-like problems" and "addressing a high-impact societal or technological need." How? By "adhering to the use of team-research and value-creation best practices, fewer administrative burdens, and greater investment and prestige to attract the superb, diverse talent required." Bold bets "on a small number of well-funded, prestigious centers focused on engineering solutions to society’s greatest challenges . . . will create excitement in the engineering community that will attract the best students, faculty, and industry partners." Read more

VIEW FROM ABOVE: The Space Studies Board “provides an independent, authoritative forum for information and advice on all aspects of space science and applications.” National Academies Press recently released its 2016 annual report of the Space Studies Board, which addresses every board activity for the year, from Congressional hearings to Cubesats. Read the report here.


FORTENBERRY TO SPEAK AT STEM POLICY EVENT:  ASEE Executive Director Norman Fortenberry will be among six speakers at a May 10 Capitol Hill event entitled "STEM Education 101:  Major Policy Issues for the 115th Congress." The event will highlight "K-12, higher education, CTE, informal and afterschool, and workforce issues." The invitation notes that "the best, highest-paying jobs of today are nearly all in the STEM fields and these jobs demand problem-solving, teamwork, creativity, and out- of -the -box thinking – all skills that are best cultivated through high quality learning opportunities in STEM."

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.