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                                                         January 13, 2018         



With talks over immigration frozen, a government shutdown in a week's time is becoming more likely. The current stopgap spending measure expires January 19. Congress had been expected to enact a new continuing resolution lasting until mid-February, allowing work to continue on a two-year spending agreement. But the Washington Post reports that President Trump "appeared to have made the path to bipartisan compromise tougher with his Oval Office comments about immigrants from 'shithole countries.'"

GOP leaders acknowledge that negotiations over a two-year deal and immigration "have become inextricably linked because Democratic votes are needed to keep the government open. . . . Democrats are intent on using that leverage to force a solution" for hundreds of thousands of undocumented young people brought here as children.

Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), right, warned in a statement Friday: "We have seven days and the clock is ticking." Durbin has made a practice of telling the life stories of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries. On Thursday, he spoke to an apparently empty Senate chamber about Evelyn Valdez-Ward (center photo), a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Irvine, whose "research focuses on the effects of climate change . . . on the interactions between plants and their associated soil-microbes."

Immigration negotiations have involved not only DACA and border security but the Diversity Visa lottery program and family reunification, which critics call "chain migration."

HOUSE EYES BIG INCREASE FOR DEFENSE: CQ reports that House GOP budget negotiators are preparing the "biggest funding windfall" for the Pentagon since Congress imposed caps on discretionary spending in 2011. CQ's sources say "the lion’s share of a proposed overall increase of nearly $250 billion above the caps for two years — $72 billion in fiscal 2018, $80 billion in fiscal 2019 — would go to defense. Those numbers weren't final, however, since Democrats had not yet agreed to them." 

TRUMP STRATEGY SHOULD ADDRESS CLIMATE THREAT: That's the view of 106 lawmakers (including some Republicans) who signed a letter to the president decrying the failure of his National Security Strategy "to recognize climate change as a threat to the U.S," CQ reports. They wrote: “As global temperatures become more volatile, sea levels rise, and landscapes change, our military installations and our communities are increasingly at risk of devastation. It is imperative that the United States addresses this growing geopolitical threat.” See below for more on the strategy.

CHINA GAINING IN KEY R&D: Experts told the House Armed Services Committee this week "that Beijing's advances in Artificial Intelligence, cyber and space capabilities, and quantum computing could close the gap with the United States," CQ reports. Meanwhile, ASME's Capitol Update reports that witnesses at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing "testified that despite the U.S.’s status as a key energy producer, the nation is still falling behind China in many respects." Brookings's Dan Reicher, who is also executive director of Stanford's Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, "explained that China is currently the leader in clean energy, producing 70 percent of the world’s solar panels. China is also a leader in manufacturing and development of key energy technologies, and is increasing its capabilities in R&D and commercialization." (See also Great AI Leap Forward in the September, 2017 Prism.)


POLITICAL SCREENING OF INTERIOR GRANTS: The U.S. Interior Department is putting certain awards totalling "hundreds of millions of dollars" through a political review process to ensure they are in line with Trump administration priorities, according to a December 28 directive obtained by the Washington PostAn attachment to the directive details Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s “top ten priorities,” including “utilizing our natural resources,” “protecting our people and the border,” and “ensuring sovereignty means something.” The memo states: "Instances circumventing the secretarial priorities or the review process will cause greater scrutiny and will result in slowing down the approval process for all awards," the memo states.

TWO ACADEMIES' STUDIES HALTED: In a December 21, 2017 statement, the National Academies reported that Interior's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement had placed a stop-work order on a study​ "to review and update the bureau’s offshore oil and gas operations inspection program to enhance safety.  The stop-work order, dated Dec. 7, says that within 90 days the stop-work order will either be lifted and work on the study can resume, or the contract to perform the study will be terminated. . . . In August, a study on the potential health effects for people living near surface coal mining sites in Central Appalachia was stopped pending a review of contracts by DOI.  The National Academies have not received any update on the status of that review and the study remains on hold."

REPEAT OF 2018 BUDGET CUTS FEARED: Advocacy groups are warning that, while the Trump administration was unsuccessful in getting many of its proposed 2018 budget cuts through Congress, the White House is likely to include the same cuts in its 2019 request. These could include caps on overhead for grants. The Health and Human Services budget attempted to impose such caps on the National Institutes of Health, other grant agencies could be affected in 2019. A report due out next week from Novim, a decade-old group of scientists and engineers associated with the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, says the Trump budget cuts, if enacted, would "have significant impacts on U.S. capabilities, including dismantling programs that provide the scientific foundation for agencies to protect effectively the health, economic prosperity, and safety of Americans," by, among other things, "breaking the continuity and integrity of longstanding and future observations and research infrastructure needed for climate and environment modeling."

GOOD-NEWS, BAD-NEWS STRATEGY: On the plus side for engineering schools, the Trump National Security Strategy asserts: "We must defend our National Securiity Innovation Base  against competitors. The NSIB is the American network of knowledge, capabilities, and people—including academia, National Laboratories, and the private sector—that turns ideas into innovations, transforms discoveries into successful commercial products and companies, and protects and enhances the American way of life." The document also promises to "nurture a healthy innovation economy that collaborates with allies and partners, improves STEM education, draws on an advanced technical workforce, and invests in early-stage research and development (R&D)." A potential down side is the implied restriction on overseas talent: The U.S. "will review visa procedures to reduce economic theft by non-traditional intelligence collectors. We will consider restrictions on foreign STEM students from designated countries to ensure that intellectual property is not transferred to our competitors, while acknowledging the importance of recruiting the most advanced technical workforce to the United States." Bloomberg Law reports: "Increased scrutiny of visa applications, greater enforcement, and a rollback of Obama administration regulations, programs, and guidance are likely to dominate immigration policy in 2018."


Source: Pew Research Center, "Women and Men in STEM Often at Odds Over Workplace Equity."

"[A]mong those who majored in computers or computer science, women are less likely than men to be working in a computer occupation (38% vs 53%). Similarly, women who majored in engineering during their undergraduate studies are less likely than men to be working in engineering jobs (24% vs. 30%)." According to Newsweek, Pew also found that "black STEM workers were more likely than other workers to report that their race or ethnicity had made it harder for them to excel in their career, with 40 percent reporting that their race made it harder to succeed in their field. Only 31 percent of Asians, 19 percent of Hispanics and 5 percent of whites said the same.”

Source: Pew Research Center

Source: Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, "Industry Funding of University Research: Which States Lead?" ITIF notes: "Leading states generally have strong research universities and at least a moderately robust advanced-industry economy with firms that benefit from more industrially relevant university research. In addition, many of the leading states, such as Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, and Utah have long had robust state-supported technology-commercialization programs, such as the Georgia Research Alliance, which try to link industry and university research. . . . Strong biomedical programs are associated with higher shares of industry funding because the life sciences industry is heavily dependent on scientific discoveries and is willing to fund university researchers doing cutting-edge work."

Public Policy and Higher Ed

'EXTRAORDINARY . . . UNCERTAINTY', both budgetary and administrative, is in the cards for science agencies, "while scientific community leaders are grappling with fundamental issues relating to the conduct of science and its value. Looking further out, the 2018 election could shake up the political and policy landscape once again." Read Ten Stories to Watch by the American Institute of Physics' FYI newsletter.


TECH TRANSFER EVOLUTION: Universities "are moving beyond a revenue-driven, transactional technology transfer approach and integrating the efforts of technology management offices into the broader engagement activities of institutions. Universities are becoming active in regional and national innovation ecosystems, preparing students for today's disruption economy, and driving economic and social prosperity. In response, technology transfer must connect with institutions' work to be engaged in economic, community, and talent development." An upcoming National Academies event explores the trend.  Learn more and register.

EVOLVING WORKFORCE: "Fluid and complex career pathways create and are created by increasingly fluid and complex patterns in the acquisition of skills and training and the skills and training required in various jobs along the career pathway." a new Academies report says. "The diversity of the workforce has been increasing rapidly, requiring increased attention to factors that facilitate or impede entry into and retention of groups historically underrepresented in the science and engineering workforce." The report says the National Science Foundation's National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics "should develop for the surveys core questions and a more in-depth module on harassment and discrimination."


Engineering Education Summit at NIWeek 2018

Join fellow leaders in education, industry, and research to discuss impactful trends and best practices that are affecting how students learn and how we can best prepare them to tackle the engineering challenges of tomorrow.  The Engineering Education Summit at NIWeek 2018 in Austin, Texas is a unique event that brings together a global audience of educators and researchers, alongside engineers from leading companies. Interactive panels and sessions ensure that you can learn how new teaching methodologies are enabling the hands-on, active learning in areas such as wireless communications, IoT and mechatronics. Learn more about this event and see highlights from 2017.

GOLDEN GOOSE AWARD NOMINATIONS: "The Golden Goose Award honors federally funded research that may be odd, obscure or serendipitous but ends up having a major impact on society." You can nominate "colleagues, collaborators and role models" by following this link.  


The first-of-its-kind GEM-ASEE Doctoral Engineering Research Showcase, sponsored by The National GEM Consortium (GEM) and ASEE, will be held January 22-23, 2018, at the Mayflower Hotel, Washington, DC.  Doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows, and new faculty will display their leading-edge technical research and connect with potential agency sponsors and academic employers. Find out more. Watch a video.

GOFLY COMPETITION: In partnership with Boeing, ASEE is calling on the world’s greatest thinkers, designers, engineers, and builders to challenge themselves and change the future. Registration for the competition is now open and all details are available here

ASEE IS CO-HOSTING the First Annual CoNECD (Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity - pronounced “connected”) Conference next April 29 to May 1. It will be a forum on enhancing diversity and inclusion of underrepresented groups in engineering and computing. CoNECD will encompass many diverse groups, including those based on gender (including gender identity and gender expression), race and ethnicity, disability, veterans, LGBTQ+, 1st generation and socio-economic status. It's a collaboration of ASEE's Minorities in Engineering and Women in Engineering divisions and several outside groups. ASEE members can submit an abstract here (login required.) 

ASEE Board Reorganization - Feedback Needed

ASEE ED Norman Fortenberry presents the rationale for a proposed reorganization of the ASEE Board of Directors. Watch a video and  leave your feedback (ASEE member login required; Firefox works best.).

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