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                          October 13, 2019                                 




After 31 years in Congress, Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.) announced she won't seek reelection in 2020. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) was the first to say that she will run for the powerful appropriations post, Politico reports. However, "the committee’s next top Democrat probably won’t be clear until late next year" after a closed-door vote by the Democrats' Steering and Policy panel. Other potential candidates include Reps. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, Sanford Bishop of Georgia and David Price of North Carolina. "Lowey's retirement is likely to set off a chain reaction of switches among the spending subcommittees," according to Politico. Home in the district, former Justice Department lawyer Mondaire Jones announced in July he would challenge Lowey in the Democratic primary. "Chelsea Clinton has been rumored as a possible contender for the seat."

ONE MORE RUN: Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.), current chair of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, says that after receiving "much pressure and encouragement," she will seek one final term in Congress. She was first elected to the House in 1992.

MONEY FOR SPACE EXPLORATION: "The fates of controversial [NASA] proposals to conduct a crewed lunar landing in 2024 and to land a probe on Jupiter’s moon Europa remain up in the air," the American Institute of Physics' FYI bulletin reports in a comprehensive analysis of House and Senate appropriations bills and accompanying reports. FYI says the Senate proposes "a 23 percent infusion to NASA’s human exploration activities in response to the agency’s supplemental budget request for its Artemis program, which aims to land astronauts on [Earth's] moon in 2024 . . . But even those resources would not match the amount NASA asked for to jumpstart the development of a crewed lunar lander." House appropriators "are still considering the matter."  



Medical breakthroughs in Delaware

NIH Director Francis Collins said the University of Delaware has a "vibrant research community." See the UD-led INBRE program, R&D agreement with the FDA, and more.



'CRISIS' OF SCIENTIFIC INTEGRITY: Two moderate Republicans, former Delaware Sen. Mike Castle and former New Jersey governor and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman (co-chair), are members of a New York University-sponsored task force expressing alarm about the "growing politicization of government science and research." As reported by the American Institute of Physics' FYI Bulletin, the task force states that while previous administrations "have infringed on scientific integrity, the report asserts the matter has reached a 'crisis point' within the Trump administration, 'with almost weekly violations of previously respected safeguards.' Among the numerous examples it cites are last month’s scandal over Hurricane Dorian forecasts." The panel wants Congress to "codify a host of new requirements for how federal agencies handle research and data, how appointed officials interact with researchers, and what qualifications appointees to scientific positions must have." See the report.

ARPA-E AND FUSION: The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy is interested in" transformative fusion R&D to help enable a grid -ready fusion demo" in about 20 years for an overnight capital cost (the cost of building a power plant overnight) of less than a few billion dollars. Potential programs are A. development of credible fusion concepts that may cost about $100 million for net gain and about $1 billion for a grid-ready demo, and B. catalyzing "enabling-technology solutions to common challenges of commercially motivated fusion concepts." See the presentation

UP TO $124 MILLION FOR AI RESEARCH: The National Science Foundation anticipates making nine to 14 awards totaling between $24 million and $124 million under the new multi-agency National Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes program. The institutes "will accelerate the development of transformational technologies" aligned with six themes: Trustworthy AI; Foundations of Machine Learning; AI-Driven Innovation in Agriculture and the Food System; AI-Augmented Learning; AI for Accelerating Molecular Synthesis and Manufacturing; and AI for Discovery in Physics. Planning grants are expected to be up to $500,000; institute grants, up to $20 million. The program is a joint effort of NSF, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture at USDA; the Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate; the Federal Highway Administration at USDOT, and Veterans Affairs. Multiple NSF directorates are involved, including four divisions within Engineering. The Engineering Education and Centers division encourages its grantees to look into the Augmented Learning theme. The institutes "are considerably less ambitious than those proposed" in "A 20-Year Community Roadmap for Artificial Intelligence Research in the US," says a Computing Community Consortium blog. Still, "they could represent a down-payment on building the research capacity the U.S. will need to remain competitive . . . ." 

NSF'S FIRST 10 MID-SCALE INFRASTRUCTURE AWARDS: The Renaissance Computing Institute at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill won the highest award--$13 million--in the National Science Foundation's initial mid-scale research infrastructure sweepstakes. Its project, called FABRIC (it's uclear what the initials stand for) "is a unique national research infrastructure to enable cutting-edge and exploratory research at-scale in computer networking, distributed computing systems, and applications," its abstract says."It is a platform on which researchers will experiment with new ideas that will become building blocks of the next generation Internet and address requirements for emerging science applications that depend on large-scale networking." See the other awards and abstracts here.  "An NSF official told FYI the agency anticipates issuing awards through the program every other year."

Qs & As ON BROADENING PARTICIPATION IN COMPUTING: Do I have to be a BPC expert or have a collaborator who is a BPC expert? How does a Pi demonstrate that s/he can execute the proposed BPC activity? Do I have to conduct new research on BPC as part of my BPC plan? Can mentoring (and hiring) students from underrepresented groups count as a BPC activity? NSF responds to these and other questions here

ENGINEERING ADVISORS: The NSF Engineering Advisory Committee, co-chaired by Darrell Pines, dean of engineering at the University of Maryland, and past ASEE president Sarah Rajala, meets October 23 and 24. The minutes from its spring 2019 meeting have not been posted, but useful background is available from minutes of the committee's meeting a year ago.

A REASON FOR DISPARATE FUNDING: National Institutes of Health researchers think they have found one reason why black scientists are significantly less likely than whites to get NIH grants, ScienceInsider reports. "Specifically, black applicants are more likely to propose approaches, such as community interventions, and topics, such as health disparities, adolescent health, and fertility, that receive less competitive scores from reviewers. And a proposal with a poorer score is less likely to be funded. The finding is already prompting discussion about whether that disparity is rooted in NIH's priorities—and whether those priorities should be rethought."

PRO-MALE BIAS? Women constitute 38 percent of applicants for NIH's Early Independence Award, "which allows awardees to skip a postdoc and start an independent lab immediately after a Ph.D," ScienceInsider reports. Yet women account for just 25 percent of awardees, and have been  underrepresented among EIA recipients in eight of the 9 years since the award was launched. “In aggregate over all the years, there has been a significant bias,” says biologist Kristin Knouse of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, a 2018 EIA winner. “There needs to be a systematic examination of where this awardee bias is arising.”


Source: National Science Board, Immigration and the S&E Workforce

Source: National Science Board, U.S. S&E Workforce: Relationship between Education and Occupation


VARIOUS 'PLATFORMS' ON THE HIGH SEAS: U.S. naval superiority in coming years "will require multiple platform types—consisting of large and small surface combatants and unmanned vehicles—that can collaborate and integrate into deployed capabilities. In this distributed and networked architecture, platforms will remain central to the operational and combat effectiveness of the Navy, but create demands for innovations such as those that will increase modularity, reconfigurability, and connectivity." See a National Academies report on the future of naval engineering.


FROM LAPTOPS TO LIFE-SAVING DEFIBRILLATORS: All manner of small devices are powered by lithium ion batteries, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences says in awarding the Nobel Prize for Chemistry to three researchers responsible for the breakthrough: John B. Goodenough, (at left) Cockrell Centennial Chair of Engineering at the University of Texas - Austin; M. Stanley Whittingham, a chemist who directs both the Institute for Materials Research and the Materials Science and Engineering program at  Binghamton University (SUNY); and Akira Yoshino of Asahi Kasei Corporation and Meijo University in Japan. Energy Secretary Rick Perry says: "Their work in batteries and energy storage will have a lasting effect on all of our lives as they drastically improve technology in everything from cellphones and laptops, to pacemakers, electric vehicles, and grid resiliency." Goodenough, a past member of ASEE who holds faculty positions in mechanical engineering and electrical and computer engineering, says his share of the prize "will go to my university to support the people who work there,” a Texas news station reports. See a videotaped interview. and a short profile of Goodenough in Prism.  



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