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                                   June 10, 2019

This is a revised version of the June 8 issue. It includes an item on implementing a new law on career and technical education. Please see below under THE ADMINISTRATION AND RESEARCH AGENCIES. 



Democratic leaders want to pass several appropriations packages by the end of this month, CQ reports. Voting will start with floor consideration Wednesday of a nearly $1 trillion  measure to fund multiple departments and agencies, including the Pentagon, Department of Energy, and the National Institutes of Health. A group of progressive Democrats is seeking to remove the four-decade-old ban on use of Medicaid funds to pay for abortions. But even as Joe Biden suddenly came out in opposition to the ban--named for former Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.)--veteran Democrats show little inclination "to upend a long but uneasy truce on the issue," according to the Washington Post. The House Rules Committee, starting Monday, will consider which amendments can proceed to the floor. Read a House summary of the five-bill package.

SENATE HOLDS OFF: While House appropriators are expected to have passed all 12 annual spending bills by early in the coming week, senators are waiting for a bipartisan deal to raise spending caps imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act. Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), says negotiators will try to get together next week after White House officials return from a trip to the United Kingdom, according to CQ. In the meantime, observers say senators may proceed to write spending bills based on the current year's numbers. Failure to reach a deal could result in a government shutdown as fiscal 2020 begins October 1.

GOP SENATOR PRESSES RESEARCH OVERSIGHT: John Cornyn of Texas told a Finance Committee hearing he will introduce a bill next week to protect federally funded research from theft. Committee Chair Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) hasn't decided on next steps, but urges a "thorough vetting of the foreign affiliations of potential grantees," CQ says.The Health and Human Services inspector general is currently looking into 12 instances involving foreign influence on National Institutes of Health-funded investigators. Past cases cited by Grassley included a 2011 attempt by Chinese nationals to steal genetically modified corn seeds from an Iowa field, and charges leveled against Chinese researchers in 2013 for conspiring to steal technology developed with NIH grant. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)  warned against "overreach" and creating "barriers that turn away bright students or cut off lines of communication with scientists from other countries. That would do a lot more harm than good," according to ScienceInsider. Read Lewis-Burke Associates' coverage of the June 5 hearing.

DEFENSE PANEL BACKS SECURITY ROUNDTABLE: A summary by the House Armed Services Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee calls for funding to convene "a National Science, Technology, and Security Roundtable through the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine in order to facilitate dialogue and formulate solutions related to protecting U.S. critical technology and national security information while simultaneously preserving civil liberties and an open science and technology research environment." The recommendation is included in the subcommittee's portion of the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. The idea of a roundtable has been proposed in bipartisan legislation by Reps. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) and Mikey SherriIt (D-N.J.).  Their bill also includes "an interagency working group to coordinate activities and develop policy guidance to protect federally funded research and development from foreign interference." The subcommittee's report says "impacted entities, such as academia and the Defense Industrial Base, must be part of the Department's efforts to develop solutions. The committee further believes that privacy and civil liberties, as well as an open research environment, must not be compromised by efforts to protect information."        

TOO LITTLE FOR R&D: The Armed Services Emerging Threats panel, which has jurisdiction over R&D accounts, complains that Pentagon planners "for many years mandated only a base of zero percent real growth in the annual S&T [science and technology] budget. The fiscal year 2020 budget request for S&T was only 2.7 percent of the Department of Defense's base budget request." Adjusted for inflation, it was only 1 percent higher than the fiscal year 2019 budget request. "The committee is concerned that the lack of growth negatively impacts the ability of the Department to keep pace with the real-world cost increases in the S&T ecosystem, such as the ability to attract highly specialized technical labor like scientists and engineers with advanced degrees and Ph.D.'s, and maintain a technological edge."

AN AI EDUCATION STRATEGY: The Emerging Threats subcommittee wants the Pentagon to identify "the key aspects, applications, and challenges associated with artificial intelligence that can be developed into an educational curriculum for military service members who utilize the technology" and develop "an implementation plan" for the curriculum. The panel calls for "a plan to diversify and strengthen the Department's science, technology, research, and engineering workforce," and a master plan "to modernize the workforce and capabilities of its science and technology reinvention laboratories. It also says a senior official should be given responsibility for "the direction of research and development of next generation software and software intensive systems." 

HYPERSONIC STRESS: The Pentagon has expanded hypersonic wind tunnel and testing facilities, "specifically at Arnold Air Force Base Engineering Development Center and the joint-investment at several universities, including Purdue, Notre Dame, and Texas A&M." But the House subcommittee says "current facilities will be stressed to provide the level of testing needed." In addition to the high demand for testing infrastructure, "the U.S. currently lacks the workforce with sufficient knowledge and experience in hypersonic materials manufacturing and testing to develop these next generation systems."

GET RID OF COPPER WIRE: The House panel says Integrated photonics, the use of light for applications traditionally addressed through electronics, is used in a wide range of areas including telecommunications; 5G cell towers; cell phones; military laser-based radars; data communications; sensing; and could be used to replace heavy coaxial cabling in aircraft with fiber optic cables that are significantly smaller and lighter."

The full Armed Services Committee with consider the FY 2020 authorization bill June 12. Watch it here.



The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, enacted in 2018, goes into effect July 1, 2019. Known as Perkins V, it brings changes to the $1.2 billion annual federal investment in career and technical education, providing opportunities to improve CTE and more flexibility for states to meet the unique needs of their learners, educators, and employers. Faculty, chairs, and deans have an opportunity to build useful bridges to secondary and postsecondary career and technical education programs by providing input to the development of each state’s CTE plan. The law offers a chance to strengthen the pathways linking engineering technician, engineering technology, and engineering programs. ASEE members can learn more about the Perkins legislation here. State CTE contacts can be found here.

COST-SHARING WAIVED: The Department of Energy's applied energy offices recently released over $200 million in funding for research and development, Lewis-Burke Associates reports: 
• $79 million from the Bioenergy Technologies Office;
• $33.5 million for Advanced Building Construction with Energy Efficient Technologies and Practices; and
$89 million from the Advanced Manufacturing Office
These solicitations "include new focus areas or increased participation for universities and are some of the last major FY 2019 DOE funding opportunities." They are also "the first to apply the cost-share waiver for universities and non-profit organizations" enacted last year. "The purpose of this new policy is to allow institutions and organizations that have innovative research and technology ideas but have not been able to meet the cost-share requirements to apply for applied energy funding opportunities.  However, Lewis-Burke recommends that universities still provide as close to 20 percent cost-share as possible to increase the likelihood of success."  

STUDY IN CUBA? SI: The U.S. government put new restrictions on Americans’ travel to Cuba, but study abroad and faculty research will still be permitted, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports. "Study-abroad and exchange programs run by colleges, as well as travel to Cuba for professional meetings or research, will still be allowed, under a special license from the Treasury Department."

RAPID RESPONSE: To promote "an accelerated community response," the National Science Foundation has advanced to November 5, 2019 its request for Innovative High-Performance Computing proposals. NSF seeks providers of advanced cyberinfrastructure (CI) capabilities and/or services in production operations "to support the full range of computational- and data-intensive research across all of science and engineering." Out of $30 million, "subject to the availability of funds," it is anticipated that 1-2 awards will be made in Category I at up to $10 million per award for up to five years and up to 1-2 awards in Category II at up to $5 million per award for up to five years.

AUTONOMOUS TECHNOLOGIES RESEARCH: The Air Force Research Laboratory's Autonomy Research Collaboration Network (ARCNet), "facilitates collaborative research and development related to autonomous technologies," according to Lewis-Burke Associates.. "ARCNet Consortium membership is open to academia, large and small businesses, start-ups, and all of AFRL.ARCNet, based at Ohio University’s Russ Research Center and administered by non-profit SP Global Institute (SPGI), serves as a conduit for communication between potential research partners." Find out how to join. AFRL also seeks "research to help revolutionize computational capabilities with greater sophistication, autonomy, intelligence, and assurance that assist Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) and cyber applications and size, weight and power (SWaP) constrained platforms," L-B says. See the solicitation.

WARDING OFF MOSQUITOES: The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency says the reason some people are more attractive to mosquitoes than others is that "human skin-associated microbes interact with metabolites from the body and influence the volatile molecules of each individual." A research program "seeks to develop advanced data analytics and microbiome modulation tools for engineering skin microbiomes and provide new options for the readiness and resiliency of military personnel." See a more complete explanation here, and other DARPA opportunities here



Here and below are stats from the report for FY 2017 on the National Science Foundation's Merit Review process. The funding rate for competitively reviewed full proposals has remained between 22% and 24% since 2010. In FY 2017 they ranged from 19% in Engineering to 32% in Geosciences. The rate for research proposals from early-career PIs was 18%, compared to 22% for other PIs. Over 2015-17 three-year period, the average number of research proposals submitted to obtain an award was 2.4.


CHINA TO STUDENTS: BE VIGILANT - The nation's  education ministry on Monday urged students and scholars planning to visit the United States "to more carefully evaluate the associated risks," Reuters reports. State television "quoted the ministry as saying rejections of visa applications by Chinese nationals had increased." Image at left: a screen grab from "Empresses of China’s Forbidden City, 1644–1912" exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution's Freer-Sackler Gallery. 

RESULTS OF INDUSTRIAL AND TECHNICAL ESPIONAGE: A report prepared for the Center for a New American Security says "illicit transfers of cutting-edge technology, reverse engineering, and civil-military fusion have enabled the Chinese to field advanced technical capabilities much faster than U.S. intelligence agencies originally expected." It notes "a marked increase in Chinese research into developing neural network-enabled hypersonic missile systems. . . Chinese military thinkers believe AI likely will be the key to surpassing the U.S. military as the world’s most capable armed force, and along a faster timeline than first envisioned in the late 1990s."

STICKING WITH HUAWEI: The Financial Times reports  that Google executives hope to secure an exemption from the Trump administration's ban on U.S. companies'  business with Huawei. "Google in particular is concerned it would not be allowed to update its Android operating system on Huawei’s smartphones, which it argues would prompt the Chinese company to develop its own version of the software." Facebook "will no longer allow its app to be pre-installed on Huawei phones," the Hill reports

'UNIVERSITIES ARE IN A BIND': So reports the Chronicle of Higher Education: "One of the tenets of American higher education is that collaboration among the best minds will yield progress in science and technology, and China is America's top collaborator in published scientific research. Campuses are loath to jeopardize that relationship, fearing the loss of talent, money, and future discoveries if walls are built up too high. There have been charges of theft, but it’s not entirely clear to college leaders how big the problem is. The uncertainty has bred mistrust and suspicion. Swaths of U.S. researchers of Chinese descent feel unfairly targeted."  

BIAS AGAINST WOMEN AND MINORITIES IN SCIENCE: Researchers asked bology and physics professors from eight large, public, U.S. research universities to read "one of eight identical curriculum vitae (CVs) depicting a hypothetical doctoral graduate applying for a post-doctoral position . . . and rate them for competence, hireability, and likeability. The candidate’s name on the CV was used to manipulate race (Asian, Black, Latinx, and White) and gender (female or male)." Faculty in physics showed "a gender bias favoring the male candidates as more competent and more hirable," and rated Asian and White candidates as more competent and hirable than Black and Latinx candidates. Faculty in biology rated Asian candidates as more competent and hirable than Black candidates, and as more hireable than Latinx candidates." Black women and Latinx women and men candidates were rated the lowest in hireability compared to all others by physics faculty. See Inside Higher Ed's report.   

ON TRACK TO LEAD GEORGIA TECH: Angel Cabrera, now president of George Mason University, is the sole finalist for the presidency of the Atlanta school, according to an announcement by the University System of Georgia board of regents. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer and electrical engineering at Universidad Politécnica of Madrid. Winning a Fulbright scholarship, he earned a master’s degree and Ph.D. in cognitive psychology at Georgia Tech. Cabrera would leave the Northern Virginia school as it expands in anticipation of Amazon HQ2.



Department Chairs' Best Practices

Register for the 2019 Chairs Conclave–taking place June 16th in Tampa, FL–to connect with department chairs and learn the best practices of successful chairs. Topics covered include leadership skills, department culture, faculty evaluations, and entrepreneurship for chairs. The Chairs Conclave is an exclusive forum for engineering and engineering technology department chairs to exchange ideas, talk through challenges, and build working relationships. Learn more and register today–seating is limited–at https://chairsconclave.asee.org.

STILL TIME TO REGISTER for ASEE's 126th Annual Conference, June 15 - 19, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. The conference features more than 400 technical sessions, with peer-reviewed papers spanning all disciplines of engineering education. Click here to register.

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