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                                                                  April 18, 2020  



The American Council on Education and 40 other groups urge that this sum be included in the next congressional spending package. It would be "equally divided between students and institutions" and allocated and distributed according to the same formula used in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, ACE says. Schools expect student need for financial aid to skyrocket, requiring an additional $12 billion. They also project that "enrollment for the next academic year will drop by15 percent, including a projected decline of 25 percent for international students, resulting in a revenue loss for institutions of $23 billion." The Association of Public and Land Grant Universities says in a letter: "Many institutions are providing significant refunds of expenses such as on-campus housing and meal plans. At the same time, institutions are incurring additional costs to move instruction online." The new requested sum would be in addition to the $14 billion that higher education received in the CARES Act.

IMPASSE CONTINUES OVER NEW AID BILL: Exactly what the next aid bill will contain remained in dispute, with Republicans--and a few Democrats--seeking merely a replenishment of small-business loan money, which officially ran out April 16, and Democratic leaders wanting aid to states localities and hospitals and broader access to the loans. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told MSNBC Friday that talks would continue "through the weekend." 

See the latest federal update from Lewis-Burke Associates.

STATES AND CITIES SLAMMED: "The global pandemic and accompanying economic crisis have knocked states and cities across the country back on their heels," the news website Vox reports. ​"States are hemorrhaging money to stand up medical systems and field unemployment claims while watching their revenue plummet. . . . Governors and state lawmakers, many of whom are faced with constitutional balanced budget requirements, are going to have to make big cuts fast, unless the federal government does more to step in." A Pew Trusts blog post says "states could face significant fiscal challenges and may have no choice but to revise their revenue forecasts and adjust their fiscal 2021 budgets accordingly." Two graphics below illustrate state revenue volatility and show how states were affected by the 2008-10 Great Recession.

FURLOUGHS IN ARIZONA, LAYOFFS IN PA.: Two reports indicate what public universities are facing: According to the Arizona Republic, "The University of Arizona plans to furlough some employees and cut salaries for others as it faces huge budget woes caused by COVID-19. The measures will begin May 11 and last through June 30, 2021, affecting a majority of the university's 15,000 employees. Lancaster Online in Pennsylvania reports: "Hundreds of employees at Millersville University and its 13 sister schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education are out of work – and pay – due to the coronavirus pandemic. . . . Colleges across the state are utilizing skeleton crews with minimal students remaining on campus." Elsewhere, schools have announced hiring freezes or are borrowing money. Missouri's governor announced a $61 million cut in four-year college funding, according to news reports.

A BIT LESS PRICEY: The gigantic spending bill formerly known as the $2.3 trillion CARES Act is now the $1.8 trillion CARES Act, based on a recalculation by the Congressional Budget Office. 

DISTRUST OF MODELS: "A vocal set of conservative critics in the United States have upped their attacks recently on the data modeling behind the novel coronavirus response, and they claim—despite scientific evidence to the contrary—that the flaws also prove the limits of climate change forecasts," E&E News reports. "Last week, Republicans on the House of Representatives Oversight and Reform Committee requested hearings into the models used by the government to craft the coronavirus response.The lead signatory on a letter demanding those hearings was Representative Chip Roy (R–TX), who previously has called for a 'vigorous assessment' of climate science." 


SHARING PROTOCOLS: A National Institutes of Health initiative aims to unify disparate efforts across the drug industry to respond to the coronavirus-related pandemic, CQ reports. "Pharmaceutical companies will collaborate across hundreds of COVID-19 clinical trials, the NIH says, by sharing 'master protocols' on how those clinical trials will work." The agency says the Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) partnership will develop a "framework for prioritizing vaccine and drug candidates, streamlining clinical trials, coordinating regulatory processes and/or leveraging assets among all partners." 

A DATE WITH THETA: The Department of Energy's Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) program provides the scientific community access to the nation’s fastest supercomputers at Argonne and Oak Ridge national laboratories. "The program aims to accelerate scientific discoveries and technological innovations by awarding, on a competitive basis, time on supercomputers to researchers with large-scale, computationally intensive projects that address 'grand challenges' in science and engineering." It's open to researchers from academia, industry, and government agencies. Proposals are due June 19. Learn more

AI FOR SCIENCE AND SCIENCE FOR AI: This the catch-phrase adopted by a working group of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB)examining DOE’s capabilities and future in artificial intelligence and machine learning. The group is calling for "an enterprise-wide capability to accelerate the use of AI for scientific discovery at scale while fostering fundamental advancements in AI –all within a secure architecture. . . . This includes the sciences associated with all aspects of the energy mission, the pure sciences, and the sciences that support DOE’s security mission. It also means hosting a national architecture and database that can be accessed by other elements of the USG in the service of their particular missions." Read the report.

LOOK BEYOND INVENTIONS: A second SEAB working group calls for expanding the DOE's Young Career Award Program, which traditionally focuses on young researchers for their “Inventions.” The DOE should include additional selection criteria to recognize the value of Innovation in addition to the value of Invention, the group says. Selection criteria for postdocs  "should be transparently valuing collaboration across the Lab sites and for transition to Industry," the group says. It holds up as examplars Katherine Banks, dean of engineering and vice chancellor of engineering and national laboratories at  Texas A&M and Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University, who "are changing culture and driving innovation by hiring new academic research talent that is both technically rigorous and also innovative."  There are a lot more recommendations, including a revamp of  the Small Business Innovation Research program and looking at recent Department of Defense R&D models. Read the report.

QUANTUM IN THE CLOUD: The National Science Foundations Computer Information Science and Engineering and Mathematical and Physical Sciences directorates plan to offer supplemental funding for active awards to enable use of quantum-computing cloud platforms at Amazon Web Services, IBM, and Microsoft Quantum. "NSF's supplemental funding will support graduate-student time to work on these platforms. In parallel, Amazon Web Services, IBM, and Microsoft Quantum make platform use available to recipients of these supplemental awards at no financial cost, pending a mutually agreeable arrangement between the principal investigators (PIs) and a given company."

IN CASE YOU MISSED the recent virtual meeting of the Engineering Directorate's Advisory Committee, here are the slides from the directorate's presentation. And here is Assistant Director Dawn Tilbury's presentation on industries of the future.


Source: Pew Trusts, Fiscal 50: State Trends and Analysis © Pew Trusts

For a comparison of state R&D, see National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Science and Engineering State Profiles

Source: American Association for the Advancement of Science, Federal R&D Budget Dashboard © AAAS


ALL THE RIGHT ANGLES: Virginia Tech has released architectural renderings of the first of several buildings at its Innovation Campus in northern Virginia. Lance Collins, incoming vice president and executive director of the campus, is quoted on the university website as saying the aim was "a place that provides the space and environment to foster collaboration and the creation of bold new ideas.” Plans for the campus were part of the state's pitch to attract Amazon's east coast headquarters. See more photos.

HIRING SQUEEZE: Karen Kelsky, a consultant and president of The Professor Is In, writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education: "Colleges and universities are adopting hiring freezes left and right, and taking different approaches to searches that were already in progress. Some institutions are allowing searches that were already authorized to be completed. Others are hitting 'pause' on all searches, regardless of what stage they were at, or rescinding job offers altogether. Some places seem to be honoring signed contracts of new hires but effectively nullifying ones that may have gone through every stage except for the final signature."


TESTING HAS ITS LIMITS: While saying a greater capacity to perform COVID-19 tests nationwide.is "sorely needed," a National Academies rapid expert consultation finds that widely used reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR)) "may be less sensitive in identifying the early phases of disease than computerized tomography (CT) scans of the chest, and other clinical and laboratory findings." See the report, prepared for the Office of Science and Technology Policy.



In an initiative to help fight Covid-19, the National Academy of Engineering is soliciting innovative engineering ideas "that could help ameliorate the virus itself and/or its collateral discontinuities, such as impacts on the supply chain and closure of schools." NAE is engaging the Grand Challenge Scholars Program and Frontiers of Engineering communities--and others--to join a brainstorming incubator on a Slack® platform and develop entries along four themes: security, quality of life, health and medicine, and sustainability and recovery. A Technical Screening Committee composed of Frontiers alumni will review and triage proposals. Those with merit will be sent to an Expert Review Committee, composed of NAE members and others. The Review committee will help advance proposals with stakeholders, such as local governments and industries, that are in a position to take action. Finally, a "manufacturing team will create how-to-build guides for approved projects while suggesting ways to construct devices and urgently deliver them where needed." Learn more.



Registering for the conference will allow you to:

Have the opportunity to see any presentation made by an author, distinguished lectures, or plenaries 24/7 during the week of the conference;
Attend Q&A sessions, so you can interact with the presenters;
Attend workshops, business meetings, and the different orientations that usually happen at the annual meeting;
Attend/participate in the recognition and highlighting of our national award winners, and our incoming fellows, and our outgoing and incoming board members; and
Participate in our interactive exhibit hall as well as sponsor/tech demos. There will be exclusive exhibit hall times to interact with sponsors and exhibitors.

Check the website for updates.

WORKING ONLINE WITH PROJECT TEAMS: Purdue University's William Oakes, a Fellow of ASEE and a co-recipient of the National Academy of Engineering's Gordon Prize, presented a webinar this week addressing the challenge of conducting project-based courses online. "While physical building with teams is not possible in an online and dispersed setting, productive learning and project progress is possible," he says. See the webinar, one of a series hosted by Krishna Vedula of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell and presented by the International Federation of Engineering Education Societies. The whole series can be found here​. The next one is "Online Classroom – Need of the Hour," with Keith R Fernandes of St Joseph Engineering College, Mangaluru, India. Register here.