Facebook icon Twitter icon Forward icon


                                                          March 3, 2018         



Negotiators are aiming to complete work on a $1.2 trillion omnibus appropriations measure by March 23, when current government funding expires. But CQ reports that before they do, "they’ll need a deal on which policy issues, from guns and immigration to Russia’s election meddling, will ride alongside the spending package." The giant spending bill presents an opportunity for extending protections for so-called Dreamers - some 682,750 young undocumented immigrants who were shielded from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) wants to attach legislation he introduced with Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) that "would codify the DACA program for three years in return for $7.6 billion" for President Trump’s wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, according to CQ. The administration had ordered an end to DACA as of March 5, but federal judges in San Francisco and Brooklyn blocked the move. Early this week, the Supreme Court refused an administration request to bypass the appeals process, keeping DACA in place for the time being.

NOT HOW MUCH TO SPEND, BUT HOW: The  Pentagon and Congress are in sync on spending $716 billion on defense in the 2019 fiscal year, but Congress will have the final say on priorities. Even as appropriators try to nail down FY 2018  spending, they have their eye on next year. The House appropriations defense subcommittee will examine the Navy and Marine Corps budget request on Wednesday. 

ADVOCATES FOR R&D WEIGH IN: The Coalition for National Security Research, which represents a number of universites, is asking Congress to set funding for science and technology research above the level sought by the Pentagon. In particular, it notes that the administration's budget request would cut funding for Army and Navy University Research Initiatives, Army basic research programs overall, Army S&T, and the Defense-Wide Manufacturing S&T pogram - all programs that the coalition says have proven track records. The group urges Congress to increase funding for, among other programs, Multidisciplinary University Research Initiatives (MURI), Young Investigator Programs (YIP), National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowships, Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowships, the Minerva Research Initiative, and the Manufacturing Engineering Education Program (MEEP).

BEYOND 'CHECKING THE BOXES': When it comes to sexual harassment, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee "has found inconsistency in how different agencies deal with complaints and investigations, unclear policies and procedures that leave victims unsure of where to turn, and institutions more interested in checking the boxes of compliance rather than doing the right thing," Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), right, told a hearing this week by the research subcommittee, which she chairs. She went on to praise National Science Foundation Director France Córdova for "a strong statement to the science community about zero tolerance for harassment." Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), who chairs the full committee, said "a disturbing number of cases of inappropriate behavior and harassment of women in science occupations and studies have come to light." Watch the hearing.

PRO- AND CON-FUSION: Congress is split on continuing U.S. involvement in the 35-nation International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project in France, which will be the world's biggest research facility on fusion energy. ITER has now finished building half its infrastructure, and Director General Bernard Bigot says it's back on track after a series of difficulties, the Guardian reports. Bigot will be the lead-off witness at a hearing March 6 by the Energy Subcommittee of the House Science Committee. A National Academies report warns that shaky American participation means "the U.S. risks being left behind in the high-risk, high-reward pursuit of bountiful emissions-free energy" according to Physics Today.​ The hearing will examine U.S. participation in ITER "and address the current status of ITER engineering, construction, and management," the panel says.


DOUBLING DOWN ON SATELLITES: The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) says: "The renaissance of commercial space has led to the design of numerous (low-earth-orbit) constellations whose design and manufacturing methodologies potentially offer economies of scale previously unavailable." With its Blackjack program, the agency "is interested in leveraging these advances in order to demonstrate unique military utility." It's after low cost "payload approaches that enable revolutionary improvements in size, weight, power, and cost." A Proposer's Day is set for March 15. "Space is going to be one of my priorities,” Space News quotes DARPA Director Steven Walker as saying. See DARPA's FY 2019 budget justification here. Photo: Wikimedia ShareAlike 4.0 International

Explore other DARPA opportunities

'SIGNIFICANT VARIATIONS' IN NSF BUDGET: The American Institute of Physics' FYI finds that the National Science Foundation has adopted "a new cross-disciplinary funding model" to support the 10 Big Ideas advanced by Director France Córdova. Among the directorates, "there are significant variations, ranging from a 3.3 percent increase proposed for the Geosciences Directorate (GEO) to a 9.1 percent cut proposed for the Social, Behavioral, and Economics Sciences Directorate." Engineering, Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) would each get a 1 percent cut. Mathematical and Physical Sciences would be down by 1.3 percent. Polar programs get a 14 percent increase, and Integrative Activities would get a 28 percent hike. The overall budget, "essentially flat," would have been slashed by 29 percent if not for the bipartisan budget deal. "The total number of research awards is expected to decline slightly from 11,400 in fiscal year 2017 to 11,100. NSF anticipates this would lead to a small drop in its award success rate, from 23 to 22 percent," FYI reports.

AT ENERGY, BOOSTS FOR COMPUTING AND QUANTUM: The Department of Energy's flat $5.4 billion budget for the Office of Science contains "a large funding influx for Advanced Scientific Computing Research to accelerate DOE’s pursuit of exascale computing capabilities, which it identifies as a national imperative," FYI reports. Another top priority is quantum information science, which "would increase substantially across several programs to a combined level of $105 million." Biological and Environmental Research, Fusion Energy Sciences, and High Energy Physics would feel the brunt of cuts.

PRE-DOCTORAL FELLOWSHIPS AT NIBIB: The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering is participating in the National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Pre-doctoral Fellowship to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research. The fellowship supports research training of predoctoral students from underrepresented populations. These students "will obtain individualized, mentored research training from outstanding faculty sponsors while conducting well-defined research projects in scientific health-related fields." Learn more.

IS EPA CUTTING RESEARCH? Opponents of a merger of offices within the Environmental Protection Agency "argue that this move eliminates the EPA’s research arm," ASME's Capital Update reports. EPA "recently proposed combining the grants, contracts and administrative functions of the National Center for Environmental Research (NCER), part of the Office of Research and Development (ORD), with two other administrative grants-focused offices." EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman tells Newsweek: “In order to maintain the quality of EPA’s research, ORD career and political leaders are proposing management efficiencies to staff. ORD is proposing combining offices and functions into a new Office of Resource Management, including reorganizing staff to the labs and offices where their expertise is most effective.” One of NCER’s primary functions was administering grants and fellowship research on the effects of chemical exposure on humans.


Source for both graphics: National Science Board, 2018 Science and Engineering Indicators. Click here for an interactive version


A BATCH OF RECENT STUDIES on women and minorities in STEM has been collected on the NSF-backed Math and Science Partnership website, including: "Examining Recruitment and Retention Factors for Minority STEM Majors Through a Stereotype Threat Lens"; "Counterspaces for Women of Color in STEM Higher Education: Marginal and Central Spaces for Persistence and Success"; and "A Longitudinal Study of How Quality Mentorship and Research Experience Integrate Underrepresented Minorities into STEM Careers."


HIGHER EDUCATION ACT REAUTHORIZATION - Letter from ASEE President Bev Watford to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions: "Postsecondary education plays a leading role in the preparation of the engineering and engineering technology workforce, a driving force behind innovation and our economic development. . . . ASEE recognizes, along with the rest of the higher education community, that student financial aid is too complicated. Simplification of aid programs, however, should not lead to reduction of benefits to students. It is important that student aid options, particularly for graduate students, are maintained. Engineering education provides a proven pathway to the middle class and it is critical that this pathway continue to be accessible to students in need." Read the full letter

DEANS' SUPPORT SOUGHT FOR AN ADVANCED HIGH SCHOOL ENGINEERING COURSE: A committee of the Engineering Deans Council has been informed by the College Board and the National Science Foundation that in order for them to commit additional resources towards the possibility of launching an advanced high school course in engineering, the College Board would require a minimum of at least 100 Deans of Engineering signing an attestation by Friday, March 9 stating that they will work towards placement and credit somewhere in either their core or elective engineering curriculum, or in their General Education curriculum.

Read the letter to deans here.

ANNUAL SALARY SURVEY: Help ASEE create quality national benchmarks of engineering faculty salaries!
ASEE conducts an annual engineering faulty salary survey, and we need your school’s faculty salaries to create quality national benchmarks. The survey can be accessed at https://salarysurvey.asee.org. The survey will run until March 23, 2018. This online survey of tenured and tenure-track faculty is free of charge to participate. Schools that opt to pay $500 will receive access to our peer-group creation tool which allows schools to create aggregate salary reports based on groups of peer schools they select.  Please direct any questions to Brian Yoder at b.yoder@asee.org or 202-331-3535.

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. Registration is now open. Find out more.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE ACCELERATOR: ASEE's free monthly newsletter for undergraduate and graduate students has a wide array of resources: scholarship and internship/co-op listings, student news and essays, podcasts, professional development resources (e.g., advice on how to get an internship and how to make the most of it), and academic advice - plus entertaining engineering videos. Tell your students! Click here to subscribe. Click here to advertise. Send content to Jennifer Pocock at j.pocock@asee.org.

WE WENT FOR THE GOLD, BUT . . . Capitol Shorts came home with a Bronze award in the "daily or weekly communication" category of the 2017 Association Trends All-Media contest.


FIRE UP THE FUTURE WITH eGFI: Filled with engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers, the latest edition of ASEE's award-winning Engineering, Go For It is sure to get your students excited about learning - and doing - engineering!

Order Your Copies