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                                   June 16, 2018



House appropriators would provide $91.2 billion for the Defense Department's Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation account, $161 million more than the administration requested for fiscal 2019, their report says. The RDT&E account includes basic and applied research at universities and in defense laboratories, as well as technology development by industry.

For universities, the picture is not as bright as it is this year. The Coalition for National Security Research, to which ASEE belongs, finds that most of its basic research priorities would get less money than in 2018. (See CNSR's updated funding chart.) Lewis-Burke Associates reports: "The basic research accounts (6.1) across the Services and Defense-Wide would see decreases, demonstrating continued prioritization of advanced technology development, prototyping, and accelerated fielding efforts." Click here for L-B's comprehensive rundown.  

Lawmakers provide more than the Pentagon sought for Army-funded University-Industry Research centers; the Navy's university research initiatives; defense-wide basic research initiatives; and historically black colleges and universities. They increased Army and Air Force applied research but trimmed Navy and Defense-wide applied research. They provide no more than requested for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency university partnerships and for the National Defense Education Program. 

One reason appropriators are less generous toward basic research may be that the Pentagon hasn't funded new projects fast enough. Their funding adjustments show enthusiasm for university research instrumentation, radar technology, anti-drone technology, and "biocoherent energy." In written comments, the lawmakers:

  • encourage the Army Research Lab "to create additional opportunities" for U.S. academic researchers.
  • support DoD's "close collaboration with industry and academia" in developing new digital manufacturing capabilities.
  • want the Army to assess the potential use of next-generation, high-capacity, and high-power batteries at remote outposts. 
  • back outreach through the Small Business Innovation Research Program to help firms win contracts - "with a focus on minority-owned and HUBZone businesses."
  • support the Army’s Materials in Extreme Dynamic Environments program, "which  expands research, education, and technology development efforts in protection materials."

MAKE WAY FOR 'GOLIATH': CQ reports that House GOP leaders have discussed "packaging the Labor-HHS-Education and Defense spending bills in an $850 billion-plus Goliath (that) would be designed to minimize defections on both sides of the aisle." The Labor-HHS bill, approved by an appropriations subcommittee, provides $38.3 billion for the National Institutes of Health, an increase of $1.25 billion above FY 2018, including a $29 million hike for the Brain Research through Application of Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative, See a summary. 

THE INNOVATION IMPERATIVE: This 2015 call to action by the heads of nine large U.S. corporations sought to spur Congress to "renew the federal commitment to scientific discovery" and improve STEM achievement, among other items. More than 500 industry, higher ed, science, and engineering groups endorsed the statement. Click here to see where the has found progress -- and where it hasn't..

SENATE APPROPRIATORS BOOST NSF AND NASA, SLASH NIST AND NOAA: The National Science Foundation would get $8.1 billion, $301 million above the FY2018 enacted level and $597 million more than in President Trump's budget. NASA would get $21.3 billion, $587 million above the FY2018 enacted level and $1.43 billion above the budget request. The National Institute of Standards and Technology would get $1.04 billion for NIST, $161 million below the FY2018 enacted level, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration $5.48 billion, a $426 million decrease cut from the current level. The Senate Appropriations Committee had more money to work with, but also had to devote nearly $3 billion to the census and a crime victims' fund.

The senators' report gives numerous instructions on how the money should be spent. They support NSF's 10 Big Ideas, but not at the expense of basic research. There's more than enough money "to  continue  basic  research  and  allow  NSF  to  position  the  United States  to  continue  as a  global  science  and  engineering  leader using the 10 Big Ideas framework." NSF "should  remain  committed" to pursuing "tremendous  leaps  in  computational  simulation  including  artificial  intelligence,  storage,  quantum  computing,  and data  analyses . . . ."  While praising Innovation Corps (I-Corps), the panel wants "greater  participation  in  the  program  from  academic   institutions   in   states   that   have   not   previously   received  awards." It also provides $15 million for the Historically Black Colleges and Universities [HBCUs] Excellence in Research  program, which addresses "NSF’s previously  troubling  track  record  of  only  providing  substantial  research funding to a small number of HBCUs."

MORE WITH LESS: Having cut NIST funding, appropriators nonetheless have a generous list of projects they want tackled or continued. These include a new $5 million public-private consortium to advance quantum science and engineering. Senators encourage NIST "to fund additional university  system-led state and regional alliances and partnerships to focus on meeting the demand for a trained cybersecurity workforce." The agency is directed "to partner and work directly with academic institutions  focused  on  computer  security  and  privacy, with expertise in research to develop secure medical technologies . . . medical  devices . . . medical  software systems," and in training future scientists and practitioners in  secure medical technologies.NIST should provide grants to academic institutions for R&D and workplace training on high-volume additive manufacturing of metals. It should also fund research on sports helmets and equipment designed to prevent brain injury, as well as research on recycled plastic "with  the  same  strength,  color,  odor,  and  malleability  of  new  plastic  products."

STEM OPPORTUNITIES: This new account at NASA, which Senate appropriators propose to fund at $110 million, "funds STEM education activities to educate and inspire our next generation of explorers and innovators." In other instructions, the space agency is encouraged "to partner with academic institutions that have strong capabilities in aviation, aerospace structures, and  materials testing and evaluation." 

Read Lewis-Burke Associates' analysis of  the bill. Also, the American Institute of Physics' FYI Bulletin weighs in.  

INCREASINGLY UNLIKELY: That seems to be the outlook for passage this year of House Republicans' version of a Higher Education Act reauthorization, Inside Higher Ed reports. "College groups, student organizations and veterans' representatives (have)  renewed pressure on lawmakers to withhold support" for the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act. (Among organizations that fault parts of the legislation is ASEE, which this week sent out an alert urging members to contact House members.) "No observers were ready to officially declare the bill dead without details from Republican leaders on support within the caucus," says Inside Higher Ed. Even if the bill fails, critics want to make sure that provisions they oppose won't reappear in some other legislation. 

TRUMP NOW BACKS GOP IMMIGRATION COMPROMISE: Fighting off Republican moderates' attempt to force a House vote on an immigration bill with strong Democratic support, House GOP leaders will present lawmakers next week with their own version, plus a bill sponsored by conservative Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Speaking Friday morning, President Trump said that while he was "looking at both" the Goodlatte bill and the more moderate bill proposed by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) "he would not sign Ryan’s so-called compromise bill because it lacked an emphasis on border security," Fox News reports. Later, however, spokesman Raj Shah said "“The President fully supports both the Goodlatte bill and the House leadership bill." 


HOW TO THRIVE IN THE TECH REVOLUTION: The National Science Foundation plans to fund proposals "focused on educational transformation" that leverage technology, computation and/or big data to develop, implement, and analyze educational interventions; proposals "focused on the science of teaching and learning"; and "planning grants, research coordination networks, and conference proposals." NSF encourages "original proposals for curricular innovations that cross boundaries, so that students gain the tools and knowledge needed to thrive in the technology revolution and become the creators/innovators of the future." Read the Dear Colleague letter.

OFFSHORE WIND CONSORTIUM: This $18.5 billion R&D project funded by the Department of Energy and run by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) "will bring together industry, academia, government and other stakeholders to advance offshore wind plant technologies, develop innovative methods for wind resource and site characterization, and develop advanced technology solutions for installation, operation, maintenance, and supply chain. The overall goal (is) "reducing the cost of offshore wind in the U.S." Learn more.


Source: Lewis-Burke Associates 

Source: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the University of Texas system. 

Source: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and Penn State University. See more below.


IT'S WIDESPREAD: 27 PERCENT of female engineering students reported being subjected to some form of sexual harassment from faculty or staff, according to a survey conducted by the University of Texas System. A National Academies report exploring the problem says when students experience sexual harassment, "the educational outcomes include declines in motivation to attend class, greater truancy, dropping classes, paying less attention in class, receiving lower grades, changing advisors, changing majors, and transferring to another educational institution, or dropping out." The report notes that "at the same time that so much energy and money is being invested in efforts to attract and retain women in science, engineering, and medical fields, it appears women are often bullied or harassed out of career pathways in these fields." The report suggests that "academic institutions should work to apply for awards from the emerging STEM Equity Achievement (SEA Change) program." Also: "Professional societies should accelerate their efforts to be viewed as organizations that are helping to create culture changes that reduce or prevent the occurrence of sexual harassment." Read the report. Check out a panel on the topic at ASEE's Annual Conference.


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ASEE AT 125 VIDEO CONTEST: One of the activities planned to mark ASEE‘s 125th anniversary is EEin25, the first-ever ASEE video contest. Undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral students may submit a 90-second video on where engineering education will be in 25 years at ASEE‘s 150th Anniversary in 2043. Click here to find out more. Click here to learn about other activities commemorating 125 Years at the Heart of Engineering Education.

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