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April 8, 2017



Setting aside political rancor over healthcare and the Supreme Court, appropriators seem intent on avoiding a government shutdown when current funding expires April 28. CQ quotes Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), at left, as saying the House and Senate committees "have been working together on a bipartisan basis to come up with a package . . . . And we are optimistic we'll be able to work all that out and meet the deadline at the end of the month.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi likewise "is optimistic an agreement will be reached" despite more than 100 disagreements that still must be resolved by appropriators. The result could be an omnibus, incorporating appropriations bills, a cromnibus (some appropriations bills and the rest a continuation of existing law), "or another short-term CR buying lawmakers more time to reach a deal or complete consideration of a full package," according to CQ. The extent of White House involvement is unclear. McConnell said Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) was negotiating with the White House, but later backed off when Schumer's office disputed that. Current funding levels for R&D  are in this table from the Association of American Universities.

KEY GOP LAWMAKERS REJECT CUTS TO NIH: Sen.  Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) who chair, respectively, the Senate and House appropriations panels that fund the National Institutes of Health, "will push instead for Congress to increase the institutes’ annual $32 billion budget," McClatchy reports​. President Trump had sought to slash $1.2 billion in NIH research grants for the remainder of 2017 and asked for a 19 percent decrease in the agency's budget for next year. “We can give you other places to cut,” Cole is quoted as saying. AAU's Weekly Wrap-up, meanwhile reports that a bipartisan group of 164 House members has asked appropriators for $8 billion for the National Science Foundation in FY18. "The letter was led by Reps. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) and David McKinley (R-WV), who also issued a press release."

INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN MOVES AHEAD: Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao says the administration may release infrastructure legislation as soon as May, the Bond Buyer reports. President Trump promises "a very major infrastructure bill of a trillion dollars, perhaps even more." His economic adviser, Gary Cohn, tells business leaders the plan will adopt “the broadest interpretation of infrastructure,” including modernizing the air traffic control system to a GPS-based model and updating the country’s “old, antiquated” power grid, according to the Washington Post

WEATHER OUTLOOK: Legislation awaiting President Trump's signature calls for a wide range of research and new technology - including advanced radar and high-performance computing - to enable better weather forecasting and alerts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with special attention to "high-impact events." According to a summary: "The bill provides for technology transfers between the National Weather Service and private sector weather companies and universities to improve forecasting." Thirty percent  of R&D funds would go toward collaborations with "the non-federal weather research community, which includes institutions of higher education, private entities, and nongovernmental organizations . . . through competitive grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements."

FLOODS, DROUGHTS, AND STORM SURGES were cited by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) as he opened an appropriations subcommittee hearing on the need for better forecasting of water-related hazards and events, the American Institute of Physics' FYI reports. Read Alexis Wolfe's account. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) plans a hearing April 10 in West Palm Beach on extreme weather and coastal flooding. See also A Watershed Approach to Mitigating Stormwater Impacts.

'TROUBLING RECENT TRENDS': Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) sees signs that  "efforts are underway in Washington to delete huge volumes of scientific data, slash funding for R&D, and alter American immigration policy in a way that puts our leadership and our values at risk." Congress should respond by protecting "a vast amount of data critical to business, local governments, and more, from the National Weather Service to the Census"; by securing "long-term, sustained federal investments for R&D"; and by pushing back against "discriminatory bans and come together to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill that makes it easier for innovators to invent and invest here." Read his post on Scientific American's blog


R&D Budget Comparison: Reagan and Trump

Matt Hourihan, budget expert at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, writes that "there’s a strong argument to be made that the first Trump Administration budget is the toughest of the post-Apollo era for science and technology, even with substantial information gaps still to be filled in."



LAB-TO-MARKET SPOTLIGHT: Shorya Awtar, associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan, will bring the story of FlexDex, a hand-held mechanical instrument for complex, minimally invasive surgical procedures, to the April 18-19 meeting of the Engineering Directorate Advisory Committee at the National Science Foundation. Awtar co-founded FlexDex LLC to commercialize the device with support from NSF's Small Business Innovative Research program. See the rest of the committee's agenda and minutes of its fall, 2016 meeting. 

CAREER AWARDS BY THE NUMBERS: Of $229 million awarded across NSF in FY 2017, the Engineering Directorate provided $78 million (34 percent). CAREER awardees "hail from 88 institutions across 34 U.S. states." At least 32 percent are women, 10 percent from underrepresented groups. Fifty two percent of awardees are new principal investigators, 17 percent from Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) states, Learn more.

ROBOTICS EXPERT TO LEAD ENGINEERING DIRECTORATE: Dawn Tilbury, professor of mechanical engineering and former associate dean for research at the University of Michigan's College of Engineering, will become assistant director for engineering at the National Science Foundation in June. "A professor at U-M since 1995, in both mechanical and electrical engineering, Tilbury has a background in systems and control engineering. She is the inaugural chair of the Robotics Steering Committee at U-M, and has identified and capitalized on opportunities to advance robotics research at the university," the university reports


RUTGERS TAPS DUTTA: Purdue University Provost Debasish Dutta, left, has been named chancellor of Rutgers University's flagship New Brunswick (N.J.) campus. He will take up the post July 1. Dutta chairs Prism's editorial advisory board.

WOLFE IS ABET PRESIDENT-ELECT: ABET's Board of Directors has elected Mary Leigh Wolfe as its 2017-2018 president-elect. She is professor and head of the department of Biological Systems Engineering (BSE) at Virginia Tech and the 2015-2016 president of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE). Learn more.

The 2017-18 American Council on Education Fellows include Zsuzsa Balogh, professor and program coordinator, Department of Engineering and Engineering Technology at Metropolitan State University of Denver, and Lynn Andrea Stein, professor of computer and cognitive science and special adviser to the provost at Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering.


STEPHANIE FARRELL IS ASEE's 2017-18 PRESIDENT-ELECT: Professor of chemical engineering and chair of experiential engineering education at Rowan University, Farrell is a Fellow of ASEE and has received the Society's Robert G. Quinn Award and National Outstanding Teaching Award.  She was a 2014-2015 Fulbright Scholar in Engineering Education at the Dublin Institute of Technology. Before joining Rowan, she was a faculty member at Louisiana Tech University.

THE SIXTH ANNUAL ASEE INTERNATIONAL FORUM will be held on Wednesday, June 28th, 2017 on the final day of ASEE’s Annual Conference in Columbus, OH. The International Forum brings together engineering professionals from academia and industry from around the globe who are engaged in novel engineering education initiatives to share information on successful models, experiences and best practices. The keynote speaker will be Dr. Martin E. Vigild, president of the European Society for Engineering Education. Click here for more information.

THE SECOND ANNUAL CHAIRS CONCLAVE at the 2017 ASEE Annual Conference. The ASEE Chairs Conclave, held in conjunction with the ASEE Annual Conference, is an exclusive forum for engineering and engineering technology chairs to exchange ideas, talk through challenges, and build working relationships. This year’s Conclave, on June 25, 2017, is focused on supporting faculty success. Topics addressed include: a) developing leadership skills, b) conducting research evaluations, c) having difficult conversations, and d) acclimating new faculty. Don’t miss out on this unique professional development and networking opportunity. Registration for this full-day event is $200. More detailed information can be found here.

PRISM PODCASTS: Click here to listen.

Prize-winning eGFI:  Get teens fired up about engineering with eGFI (Engineering, Go For It), ASEE's magazine for middle and high school students. Winner of the APEX Grand Award for Publication Excellence, eGFI combines engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers. Click here to purchase copies, For bulk purchases or other inquiries, contact eGFI@asee.org or call 202-331-3500.