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                                                                 May 9, 2020  



National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow (on right) is in no hurry to engage with congressional Democrats on a new coronavirus relief package. CQ quotes him as saying, "We've kind of paused as far as formal negotiations go. Let's have a look at what the latest round produces. You need a month or so to evaluate that,” Some officials in both parties advocate stretching the dollars already appropriated by giving states the flexibility to replace lost revenue with federal aid. Now the money can only be used for pandemic-related costs. “I think the general consensus is, make the money in the pipeline more flexible and take a pause,” Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said after the Senate GOP lunch Wednesday. Paul Merski, the Independent Community Bankers of America vice president for congressional relations, says he doubts Congress will move fast on another bill,

CONTENTIOUS ITEMS PILE UP: House Democratic leaders are puting together a new package that's likely to exceed $1 trillion. But negotiators will have to work through a thicket of divisive issues to win final passage. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a Wednesday call with reporters that the next House coronavirus relief bill would be focused on “testing, tracing, treatment and isolation,” the Washington Post reports. A recent House Democratic memo identified a need for a “public comprehensive testing plan” with firm benchmarks and timelines for test frequency, supply availability and laboratory capacity, as well as a mandate to require public reporting on all testing results." Pelosi has also called for more aid to state and local governments and wants tweaks to the previously passed Paycheck Protection Program to extend the length of the loans beyond eight weeks, relax the rules on forgiveness, and add a set-aside for the smallest businesses. Democrats are also discussi8ng an extension of jobless benefits and food stamps. The White House wants payroll tax cuts "and some kind of liability restrictions, COVID-19 liability restrictions for businesses," Kudlow said. He "also highlighted proposals to promote restaurant and travel spending, as well as allowing businesses to quickly write off their expenses as they reopen," according to CQ.

RESEARCH UNIVERSITIES' WISH LIST: The Association of American Universities is calling on Congress to provide $26 billion more to the major research agencies--National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, Department of Defense Science & Technology programs, NASA, USDA, NOAA, National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Institute for Education Sciences, and others. The money would cover: requests for research grant and contract supplements (i.e., cost extensions) arising from COVID-19 related impact; emergency relief to sustain research support personnel and base operating costs for core research facilities and user-funded research services until the facilities can reopen and research activities can return to pre-pandemic activity levels; and additional graduate student and postdoc fellowships, traineeships, and research assistantships for up to two years. The group also seeks regulatory and audit flexibility for researchers during the pandemic period and for a year afterwards.

Sponsored Content

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'IT'S GOING TO BE A WILD RIDE':  So predicts Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, of the shark-tank-style competition under way to develop rapid, inexpensive tests for COVID-19. Recent stimulus legislation provided $1.5 billion for the effort. Of that amount, $500 million went to the National Institute of Biomedical  Imaging and Bioengineering "to  accelerate  research,  development,  and  implementation  of  point  of  care  and  other  rapid  testing  related  to  coronavirus" and $1 billion to Collins's office  "to  develop,  validate,  improve,  and  implement  testing  and  associated  technologies;  to  accelerate  research,  development,  and  implementation  of  point  of  care  and  other  rapid  testing;  and  for  partnerships  with  governmental  and  non-governmental  entities."  Testifying before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Collins said an  expert review team has identified 20 "applications that are ready to move into that first phase of intense scrutiny." Roll Call reports: "Finalists will be matched with business and manufacturing partners, with a goal of distributing millions of new rapid tests by the end of summer or early fall." Read more in Roll Call;  and STAT and on the agency website 

NSB: BOLSTER PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES: The National Science Board's Vision 2030 says public research universities "face distinct challenges as they strive to provide affordable, quality education to a broad range of students, perform two-thirds of academic R&D, and contribute to local economies." The board urges "a new federal program for public post-secondary education institutions that would prepare STEM-capable Americans in every state and encourage partnerships between state and local governments, educational institutions, and industries." It says post-secondary education, from skilled technical programs to PhDs, must be made more affordable and accessible.

The board delivers a ringing reaffirmation of the importance of international scientific collaboration and of the U.S. remaining "a beacon" for global talent. It seeks to "ensure NSF’s participation as a reliable partner in international research collaborations to address global challenges and opportunities and build, operate, and maintain large-scale infrastructure"; enhance the NSF Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE) to ensure it is well positioned to maintain awareness of the global S&E landscape and contribute to NSF’s strategic planning; develop and expand NSF’s strategies and partnerships to grow international collaborations, attract global talent, and create international education and training opportunities. The NSB seeks to encourage Congress and the Administration "to ensure that the U.S. is welcoming to the best science and engineering talent from around the globe. This includes having clear and consistent visa policies and sustaining efforts to retain U.S.-educated scientists and engineers."

CATALYSTS OF RESEARCH BREAKTHROUGHS: That's what Industry-University Cooperative Research Centers (IUCRCs) are all about, the National Science Foundation says in a new solicitation. "IUCRCs help industry partners and government agencies connect directly and efficiently with university researchers to achieve three primary objectives: 1) Conduct high-impact research to meet shared and critical industrial needs in companies of all sizes; 2) Enhance U.S. global leadership in driving innovative technology development, and 3) Identify, mentor and develop a diverse, highly skilled science and engineering workforce." Learn moreSee FAQs; Join a webinar.

TWO ENGINEERS LEAD NSB: Ellen Ochoa, electrical engineer, astronaut. and retired director of NASA's Johnson Space Center, who also served on the Vision 2030 task force, was elected chair. Victor McCrary, vice president for research and graduate programs at the University of the District of Columbia, who served  on NSB's Skilled Technical Workforce task force, is vice chair. A chemist, he earned a master's in engineering and technology management.

$3.7 MILLION PAYBACK: Rice University returned that sum to NSF to resolve claims that it "engaged in a pattern and practice of improperly charging" the agency, the U.S. attorney's office in Houston says. "Rice allegedly budgeted for graduate student stipends in its research grant proposals but then used a portion of the money to pay the students to perform teaching duties unrelated to the NSF awards." A spokesman for the school told the student newspaper: "“Rice University strongly believes it complied with the law and with the relevant federal rules in all respects regarding this dispute." 



In 1996, U.S. researchers most frequently co-authored papers with researchers in Europe and Japan.In 2018, these connections have grown – as shown by the width of the lines, with the size of the circles denoting the relative number of publications. As of 2018, China had emerged as the single most frequent partner with the U.S. in research collaboration. Source: NSB, “Publications Output: U.S. Trends and International Comparisons,” Science & Engineering Indicators 2020

Source: Screenshot from presentation by Joanne Tornow, NSF assistant director for biological sciences (upper right), to the National Science Board on Rapid Response Research dealing with COVID-19.


Source: Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (https://pandemic.oversight.gov)



A PERILOUS PERIOD: Institutions of higher education that lack a financial cushion will struggle to survive, the New York Times reports. "Looming ahead is an even bigger problem, one that will last for years after the pandemic itself is over. The severe economic contraction is pummeling state tax revenues. Moody’s Analytics projects a 20 percent decline in state receipts next fiscal year. If historical patterns repeat, public college and university budgets will be slashed, sending tuition and student loan debt skyward. Some institutions will be so starved of funding that they will effectively cease to be 'public' at all. Others will have a greatly diminished ability to help students learn. Many colleges never fully recovered from the Great Recession." See also: The Coming COVID-19 Higher Ed Disaster; Under Covid-19, University Budgets Like We’ve Never Seen Before; and, from earlier, The Great Recession Was Bad for Higher Education. Coronavirus Could Be WorseImage: Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky - Shipwreck on Stormy Seas/Wikimedia

PLANS FOR THE FALL: The Chronicle of Higher Education is keeping track of campuses that have announced their intentions. 

See the Chronicle of Higher Education update


ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH: The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado will host the 2020 US Frontiers of Engineering symposium September 14-16. Topics: Food for Thought: The AgRevolution Shaping What We (Will) Eat; Next-generation Energy Systems Integration; Engineering Innovation in Women’s Health; Plastics: Pollutions Challenges and Innovations. See a list of participants.

SYSTEMS THINKING ABOUT FOOD: A National Academies workshop looked at the future of food production,distribution, and consumption. One example: lab-grown meat. The cost of a hamburger grown from cow stem cells in a lab has dropped from  $332,000 in 2013 to about $50 today, Cellular agriculture technology "has the potential to create meat as a food product that is distinct from agriculture and offers major ecological benefits, but . . . the impacts on labor and land use are unknown." Read the report.


WEBINAR: Studying and Adapting to Real-time Impacts of COVID-19 on Engineering Education

May 19 at 1 PM, ET: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a sudden and significant impact on almost all aspects of daily life for instructors and students in higher education. Tune in for a free webinar to learn how the University of Georgia is using a novel research method to capture engineering faculty, staff, and student experiences, provide real-time and actionable insights, and harness lessons learned. Sign up: https://bit.ly/2SEbvQ2

WEBINAR: Problem-based Megaprojects: Complex problem-solving competences and interdisciplinarity in higher education. This IFEES-GEDC-IUCEE global webinar by Anette Kolmos and Lykke Brogaard Berte of Aalborg University, Denmark was conducted May 6. Look for it in the IFEES Webinar library. http://www.ifees.net/webinars/


Registering for the June 22-26 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.