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July 10, 2015



Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), left, and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) will lead "an innovation and competitiveness working group" to craft legislation charting a future course for federal science agencies. Both serve on Commerce, Science and Transportation, the chamber's leading committee in the two previous America COMPETES authorizations. Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) and Gardner write in The Hill that the working group "will invite representatives from academia, business, nonprofits and government agencies who all participate in U.S. R&D efforts to engage in discussions about how best to keep America competitive." They also want to learn how to strengthen the partnership between academia and the private sector to facilitate greater research commercialization and investments. They speak of "realistic and stable budget policies that will allow for more efficient long-term planning by the research community and other stakeholders." There's no announcement of hearings and the planned legislation does not have a name. The bipartisan effort is in contrast to the sharply partisan House divide on COMPETES reauthorization. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has already introduced a bipartisan bill reauthorizing COMPETES energy research for five years with annual increases. Gardner is a cosponsor.

WHITE-COLLAR MANUFACTURING: A recent Congressional Research Service report cites "negligible" job growth overall from the recent rise in manufacturing, but says "larger shares (of workers) are engaged in managerial and professional work." Increasing skill requirements mean "severely diminished opportunities for workers without education beyond high school." In the U.S. computer and electronic product manufacturing sector in 2014, "[s]ome 22% of the industry’s workers were in architecture and engineering occupations paying a median annual wage of $81,850, and another 13% were in computer and mathematical occupations with a median annual wage of $100,730." The report's introduction mentions a number of pending manufacturing bills in the current Congress.

MADE TO MEASURE: The custom patient-specific cranial implant shown above is an example of medical benefits from additive manufacturing. It "enables each part to be made specifically for the individual patient’s anatomy, which results in a better fit and an implant that is more structurally sound for a longer period of time . . . ." according to a Government Accountability Office report. based on a forum convened by GAO with help from the  National Academies. "Participants frequently mentioned the need for engineering and technical education programs to increase their focus on design education."  


Source: Presentation by Matt Hourihan of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers June 24, 2015.

Manufacturing Employment by Worker Education

Sources: Congressional Research Service, Job Creation in the Manufacturing Revival; Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey.


CLIMATE IS No. 1: The Obama Administration's R&D priorities list for FY 2017 gives top billing to advancing "the goals and objectives of the 2012-2021 U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) Strategic Plan, as well as the complementary science agenda that underpins the President's Climate Action Plan." Next come clean energy, earth observation, advanced manufacturing, and "Innovation in life sciences, biology, and neuroscience." Provided as a guide to agency budget preparers, the memo from the Office of Science and Technology Policy calls commercialization of federal R&D "one of the core responsibilities of each R&D supporting agency. Agency budget proposals should prioritize and highlight contributions to the Lab-to-Market Cross-Agency Priority Goal, such as entrepreneurial personnel exchanges, commercialization training, and other programs that have the potential to accelerate and improve the transfer of new technologies from the laboratory to the marketplace."

ON-SCREEN S-STEM: National Science Foundation program officers explain the new solicitation for Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics in pre-recorded and live webinars.

DATA UPDATES:  The National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NSF) has released a master government list of federally funded R&D centers and detailed statistical tables entitled Federal Funds for Research and Development: Fiscal Years 2013–15.

HELP WANTED: The Division for the Chemical, Biological, Environmental, and Transport Systems (CBET), within NSF's Engineering Director is looking for a program director.

CARE TO COMMENT? The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) is considering how best to support the development of biomedical technologies. Any interested party may weigh in. Learn more.

ENERGY WEBINARS: These include "Additive Technology: Rethinking of Building Design, Construction, and Recycling" on July 14, from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. EDT, and "How to Jumpstart Your Energy Startup with the SunShot Catalyst Prize Program" on July 16, from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. EDT.


POLITICAL CLIMATE:  A Pew Research Center survey finds a sharp political and generational divide among Americans on climate change. On the question of whether human activity causes global warming, 71 percent of Democrats and blue-learning Independants say yes, compared with 27 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning iindependents. There's a similar partisan split on clean energy. Also, 31 percent of those ages 65 and older say the Earth is warming due to human activity, compared with 60% of those ages 18 to 29.

A STEM 'FRENZY'? "Where the missile race was measured by numbers of warheads, now we hear of a race to award more diplomas," writes Andrew Hacker, who teaches political science and mathematics at Queens College (CUNY), reviewing a series of books on what he calls the fervor over STEM. "In viewing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as strategic weapons, we are constricting honored callings and narrowing national priorities, while the alleged needs for STEM workers are open to serious question."


NATURAL WONDERS: A National Academies report  cites remarkable benefits from advanced manufacturing of chemicals through biology. These processes "may help reduce toxic by-products, greenhouse gas emissions, and fossil fuel consumption in chemical production," while lowering costs and increasing speed, flexibility and production capacity. See also Identifying and Supporting Productive STEM Programs in Out-of-School Settings.


EAGER TO INCLUDE: Former ASEE Board member Stephanie Farrell, professor of chemical engineering at Rowan
University, is the principal PI on a $300,000 NSF EArly-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) project, "Promoting LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) Equality in Engineering through Virtual Communities of Practice." Using face-to-face and online training coupled with an online community of practice, the project aims to "build a network of LGBTQ-affirming faculty who are aware of strategies to foster an inclusive environment and are empowered to advance LGBTQ equality in their departments." Co-PIs are Rocio Chavela Guerra, ASEE's director of Education & Career Development; ASEE Board member Adrienne Minerick, professor of chemical engineering and an associate dean at Michigan Tech; and sociologists Tom Waidzunas (Temple University) and Erin Cech (Rice University).