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                                     April 8, 2018

(This Capitol Shorts corrects a mistake in the issue sent yesterday.)



Amid threats of a U.S.-China trade war and probes into Russian meddling in U.S. elections, a House Science, Space, and Technology subcommittee plans a hearing Wednesday entitled, "Scholars or Spies: Foreign Plots Targeting America’s Research and Development." The purpose is "to explore foreign nations’ exploitation of U.S. academic institutions for the purpose of accessing and engaging in the exfiltration of valuable science and technology . . . research and development" and what can be done to prevent or mitigate it "without stifling collaborative research activities within the academic sector." 

A 'CREDIT POSITIVE' FOR COLLEGES: The recently enacted omnibus spending bill should mean increased federal student aid and research funding for the higher education sector, Lewis-Burke Associates reports in an April 4 newsletter, citing the credit-rating agency Moody's. Meanwhile, "35 organizations representing student veterans have come out against" House legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. The measure has cleared a House committee, but seems increasingly unlikely to be taken up by the full House this year. The groups say the bill fails to protect students from “predatory and fraudulent practices most commonly employed by proprietary institutions.”

UP AGAINST 'STEEP ODDS': That's the outlook for the proposed Constitutional amendment calling for a balanced budget, which the House plans to vote on in the coming week. CQ points out that "two-thirds of each chamber is needed" to approve it, and then "it would still need to be ratified by three-fourths of the states." The last time the House took up such an amendment was in 2011, when lawmakers voted 261-165 in favor of a resolution by the same author, Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte (R-Va.), who chairs the Judiciary Committee. He's retiring at the end of the current term.


'READY TO BREAK GROUND': Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, self-driving trucks, and possibly commercial space travel could be funded as "transformative" projects under President Trump's infrastructure proposal. Derek Kan, left, undersecretary for policy at the Transportation Department, outlined the proposal in March at the Brookings Institution. Hamada Zahawi, nonresident fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School, blogs that the $20 billion Transformative Projects Program "has the potential to foster stronger financial cooperation between the private and public sectors, create processing efficiencies, and increase innovation for service-related infrastructural projects." Congress doesn't appear interested, at least not right away. The Hill reports: "Republicans are openly questioning whether action on (the infrastructure initiative) is likely, while their leaders are moving on to other priorities." 

WORKFORCE AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION: Trump's infrastructure plan would "expand Pell grant eligibility" to "pay for short-term programs that lead to a credential or certification in an in-demand field"; "make reforms to the (Career and Technical Education) program to ensure that more students in . . . secondary and postsecondary institutions have access to  . . . practical knowledge and skills needed in today’s technology-driven economy" and "make federal Work Study program reforms to better distribute aid to schools and students who can most benefit," including through apprenticeships.

SHARED DATA: The the National Science Foundation's Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure seeks "solutions (that) accelerate the dissemination and use of fundamental research results in the form of data that will advance the frontiers of knowledge and help sustain the Nation's prosperity." It encourages "proposals for conferences" and for Early-Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) for high-risk/high-reward innovative concepts and pilot projects that yield new fundamental research discoveries from existing NSF-funded data or that ultimately result in deployment of ambitious, sustainable socio-technical infrastructure resources and capabilities that enhance and accelerate new discoveries from existing NSF-funded data." Learn more

$169 MILLION IN PENTAGON RESEARCH AWARDS: The Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative program funds basic research at academic institutions for up to five years, subject to satisfactory progress and the availability of funds. See the winning projects and researchers.

. . . AND $53 MILLION FOR EQUIPMENT: The money will go to 175 university researchers at 91 institutions in 36 states through the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program. "DURIP augments research capabilities at universities conducting cutting edge research for DoD, through the procurement of state-of-the-art equipment." See the winners.

'A RESILIENCE PENALTY': A recent Department of Energy report suggests that the country is a long way from being able to rely on renewable-generated electricity during extreme weather. The study "examines the cold weather event now known as the Bomb Cyclone that blanketed much of the eastern half of the United States from Dec 27, 2017 through Jan 8, 2018." It finds that fossil and nuclear energy plants, combined, provided 89 percent of electricity during peak demand; coal provided the most resilient form of generation . . . ; natural gas price spikes, increased demand, and pipeline constraints led to significant fuel oil burn in the U.S. Northeast; and "[r]enewables imposed a resilience penalty on the system as output decreased as demand increased." It says: "Underestimation of coal and nuclear retirements could give rise to reliability concerns and an inability to meet projected electricity demand." The study is cited by ASME's Capitol Update.


Source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NSF)


STEM STRATEGIC PLAN PREVIEW: Expanding work-based learning opportunities, early education STEM learning, and more trans-disciplinary efforts within STEM are among highlights of the soon-to-be-released five-year federal Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Strategic Plan, according to Jeff Weld, left, senior policy adviser and assistant director for STEM Education in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Weld gave the closing keynote at this week's U.S. News & World Report STEM Solutions: Workforce of Tomorrow Conference. Lewis-Burke Associates reports that topics covered at the gathering included partnerships at the local, state, and federal level and efforts to increase participation of underrepresented groups in STEM fields; competency-based education; cooperative education and other forms of experiential-based learning; design thinking; earn-and-learn programs; advanced manufacturing; and initiatives to build and maintain STEM ecosystems. "One solution . . . for retaining women in the field" was  re-entry programs designed to recruit individuals who have taken a break. Participants and speakers included NSF Director France Córdova, Northeastern University President Joseph Aoun, Renetta Tull, an associate vice provost at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, and Gregory Washington, engineering dean at the University of California-Irvine.

SEVEN NEXT BIG THINGS: To the five historical technology-powered waves that drove productivity growth -- the steam engine; iron; steel and electricity; electromechanical and chemical technologies; and information and communication technology -- will be added a sixth wave, says the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. ​Seven technologies that look likely to form this wave are artificial intelligence; the Internet of Things; blockchain; autonomous devices; robotics; new materials; and convergence. "While these technologies are already in the marketplace, they are generally both too expensive and not powerful enough to drive economy-wide productivity."

FROM A MARCH TO A MOVEMENT: "What began last year as a primal scream against newly elected U.S. President Donald Trump and his policies shows signs of becoming a movement," Jeff Murvis reports in Science about the March for Science in Washington and elsewhere. "This year’s second worldwide event, set for 14 April, will likely feature fewer sites and smaller crowds. But the passion remains, transforming a single day of grassroots mass protest into sustained global expressions of support for science."

NEW DEAN AT NYU: Jelena Kovačević has been named dean of New York University's Tandon School of Engineering, effective August 15, 2018. She is currently a professor and head of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Carnegie Mellon. She previously spent more than a decade at Bell Labs. Kovačević joins three other women engineering deans at major institutions in New York City: Mary Cunningham Boyce at Columbia, Gilda Barabino at the City College of New York and Nida Anid at the New York Institute of Technology. (Note: An early version of this issue, sent April 7, omitted Boyce's name.)


ASEE IS CO-HOSTING the First Annual CoNECD (Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity - pronounced “connected”) Conference April 29 to May 2. It will be a forum on enhancing diversity and inclusion of underrepresented groups in engineering and computing. CoNECD will encompass many diverse groups, including those based on gender (including gender identity and gender expression), race and ethnicity, disability, veterans, LGBTQ+, 1st generation and socio-economic status. It's a collaboration of ASEE's Minorities in Engineering and Women in Engineering divisions and several outside groups. Registration is now open. Find out more.

LETTER SUPPORTING SCHOLARLY RESEARCH ON DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION IN STEM: Over the past year, there has been a proliferation of targeted attacks on scholarly work that addresses diversity and inclusion in STEM education, including work in engineering education specifically. Many of these attacks have appeared on conservative outlets and in broader alt-right media and social media networks. When specific faculty members are targeted, they and their colleagues are often subject to harassing and threatening calls, emails, tweets, and more. ASEE supports our members and all academic researchers in the face of these attacks on academic freedom. Read the full statement here.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE ACCELERATOR: ASEE's free monthly newsletter for undergraduate and graduate students has a wide array of resources: scholarship and internship/co-op listings, student news and essays, podcasts, professional development resources (e.g., advice on how to get an internship and how to make the most of it), and academic advice - plus entertaining engineering videos. Tell your students! Click here to subscribe. Send content to Jennifer Pocock at j.pocock@asee.org.

FIRE UP THE FUTURE WITH eGFI: Filled with engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers, the latest edition of ASEE's award-winning Engineering, Go For It is sure to get your students excited about learning - and doing - engineering!

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