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                                   August 31, 2019




As Congress contemplates the next reauthorization of the National Science Foundation, suggestions of what the measure should contain are beginning to flow in. A report by the Center for Data Innovation at the Information Technology and Information Foundation, for instance, urges Congress to create a competitive artificial intelligence fellowship program through NSF that would fund 1,000 students to earn AI-related doctorates, and authorize a program of competitive awards for up to 1,000 AI researchers, conditional on their remaining in academia for five years. Other steps may not require Congressional action: NSF should "provide grants to colleges and universities to increase their enrollment in computer science courses," and "fund an AI research hub that curates and translates non-English AI research to make it accessible to U.S. researchers."

BIOTECH BATTLE: Generic drugs that fight infection increasingly come from China. This could pose a dire health threat should imports be curtailed, according to testimony before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has  supported the development of advanced manufacturing technology to produce the active ingredients in a number of essential medcines. R&D costs make it unlikely that U.S. generic drugmakers would follow suit. But if the feds support it, a "robust and resilient manufacturing base" might emerge, says witness Rosemary Gibson, senior adviser at the Hastings Center, a think tank specializing in medical topics. Another witness, Mark Kazmierczak from the research firm Gryphon Scientific, says China is not expected to threaten the U.S. biotech advantage in the short term, but "a sustained increase in technology investment by the federal government will help to ensure our continued dominance in this field."


STOPGAP FUNDING COULD LAST MONTHS: Congress won't have completed the appropriations process by October 1, the start of fiscal 2020. So a continuing resolution, funding the government at current levels, will be needed to avoid a shutdown. But for how long? House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has suggested it last until November 22, The Hill reports. But a Democratic aide expects a shortterm spending bill will be needed "likely into early December or potentially late November. One date floated was Dec. 6." The Senate Appropriations Committee, which has yet to pass any of the 12 spending bills, is expected to take them up starting September 12. 


LESS LOAN FORGIVENESS: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has finalized rules that make it more difficult for federal student loan borrowers to cancel their debt on the grounds that their college defrauded them, Bloomberg reports. The decision scales back "an Obama-era policy aimed at abuses by for-profit colleges. The rules . . . set a more stringent standard for when the Education Department will wipe out the debt of borrowers who claim they were misled or deceived by their respective colleges." College affordability is a key concern in reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. But getting a bill done "faces a number of obstacles," both on substance and finding the time to pass a bill, Bloomberg reported before Congress began its August recess. Image: YouTube, Education Week

TIME TO RECONNECT: The Pentagon must try harder to engage private companies and academia, reestablishing ties that have frayed in the era of internet technologies, argues Lt. Gen. John N.T. "Jack" Shanahan, right, director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center. CQ quotes him as saying, “If we don’t find a way to strengthen those bonds then I’d say we have the real risk of not moving as fast as China.” Shanahan says he's spending a lot of time "thinking about the ethical employment of artificial intelligence. . . . We take it very seriously.” 

ENTHUSED ABOUT FUSION: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will provide $50 million to U.S. universities, private industry and national laboratories for research projects in fusion energy and plasma science. Of the total, "$30 million will go to 10 U.S. multi-institutional research teams to support fusion energy research at international facilities. The main focus of the fusion energy research is sustaining high-temperature plasmas for long durations within superconducting tokamak facilities." Another $20.2 million "will fund the creation of new centers and facilities supporting research on low-temperature plasmas." See the winners.

'TOUGH ERRORS ARE NO MATCH': That's the confident title of a project to optimize the quantum compiler for noise resilience. Led by Dave Clader, (right photo) an experimental and computational physics group supervisor at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, it's one of a number of quantum projects that will share $60 million from the Energy Department. The effort is aimed at accelerating progress in quantum computing and "boosting the range of quantum-based communications." A member of Clader's TEAM (the acronym of his project's name) is Xiaodi Wu (above left), an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Maryland, College Park. Besides being a fellow at the Joint Center for Quantum Information and Computer Science, Wu teaches Introduction to Quantum Information Processing. A website video shows the topic's fun side, but his students will realize "a significant amount of effort is expected." See the other DOE awardees.


Expenditure on Research Undertaken by the Higher Education Sector, by Source of Funding (2016) 

Gross Domestic Expenditure on R&D (2016)

Source: OECD, Benchmarking Higher Education System Performance © 2019 OECD

Source: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Climate Change, Desertification, Land Degradation, Sustainable Land Management, Food Security, and Greenhouse gas fluxes in Terrestrial Ecosystems (Approved draft summary). Legend: Purple: Very high probability of severe impacts/ risks and the presence of significant irreversibility or the persistence of climate-related hazards, combined with limited ability to adapt due to the nature of the hazard or impacts/risks.Red: Significant and widespread impacts/risks.Yellow: Impacts/risks are detectable and attributable to climate change with at least medium confidence. White: Impacts/risks are undetectable.


SECRETS OF STEM SUCCESS AT HBCUs: It starts with "an institutional commitment to the education of black students," writes Donna Riley, who heads Purdue University's school of engineering education. Historically black colleges and universities "do not anxiously perseverate over math preparation, test scores, and other dubious meritocratic measures. Instead, faculty and administrators offer educational experiences tailored to students’ needs" and, among other things, "believing in students even when they might not believe in themselves." Reviewing a new book by Marybeth Gasman and Thai-Huy Nguyen, Riley muses: "I could not help but wonder what more HBCUs and their students might accomplish if they were equitably resourced, and what the appropriate moral correction might be for [predominantly white institutions] that have benefited from decades of privilege."

INNOVATION IN THE HEARTLAND: America needs to "distribute the benefits of growth more broadly," argue Jonathan Gruber and Simon Johnson. Away from the East and West Coasts are "dozens of other cities throughout the United States that meet the conditions for creating a new technology hub. These are cities that have the preconditions for success—a large pool of skilled workers, high-quality universities, and a low cost of living—and where people desperately want more jobs at good wages. But they are places that are losing out today because they do not have enough scientific infrastructure to become new centers of innovation, nor do they have the base of venture capital that can turn new ideas into profitable companies."


CHENNAI BECKONS; The Global Student Forum will be held November 12-16 in Chennai, India, concurrent with the World Engineering Education Forum. 


ASEE is seeking applications and nominations for the position of Editor‐in‐Chief for the journal Advances in Engineering Education. The anticipated start date for this volunteer position is July 1, 2020, with applications due this fall. Learn more here.



How can you build your college’s female leadership pool? On Sept. 11 at 11:00 AM, ET, University of Michigan’s Alec Gallimore (Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering) and Jennifer Linderman (Director of the ADVANCE Program) will explore four key approaches used at Michigan Engineering to build the female leadership pool, where women now occupy half of the top faculty-leadership roles. Don’t miss out – register today at http://bit.ly/30y42Ub

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