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October 28, 2017



Rep. Tom Cole (R–OK), who chairs the panel in charge of National Institutes of Health spending, "wants President Donald Trump’s administration and fellow Republicans to drop the notion of capping overhead costs" at the agency, Jeff Mervis reports in ScienceInsider. Cole has already inserted language into a 2018 spending bill that would block White House plans to limit university indirect rates to 10 percent. But he's "worried that policymakers wanting to trim federal spending will see indirect costs . . . as an irresistible target. To rebuff those efforts, Cole held a hearing that allowed the biomedical research community—and lawmakers from both parties—to defend the 75-year-old practice against perceived attacks." Witnesses included Kelvin K. Droegemeier, vice president for research at the University of Oklahoma and former vice chair of the National Science Board. He noted: "Faculty tend to view direct costs as the only real costs of research, with F&A ('facilities and administration,' another term for overhead) . . . as an unnecessary subsidy to the university or not rigorously determined." He contended that "less F&A would actually mean that the university could not afford to conduct even as much research as it currently does."

Source: Kelvin Droegemeier prepared testimony

'SEQUESTER' CAPS STILL INTACT:  House deficit hawks swallowed hard this week and accepted a Senate budget resolution that would add as much as $1.5 trillion to federal deficits over a decade. They did so in support of the GOP's overriding goal of a tax overhaul that would, among other things, cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. The budget, however, does nothing to ease recent years' constraints on domestic spending. As Lewis-Burke Associates reports: "Of most relevance to the university and research community, the budget resolution keeps FY 2018 defense and non-defense discretionary spending caps imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011 unless adjusted by a future bipartisan budget deal.  Under the caps, total discretionary funding for FY 2018 would be $5 billion below FY 2017 enacted levels."

L-B's Budget Update continues: "The House Appropriations Committee FY 2018 spending bills currently exceed the caps by $72 billion in defense spending.  The Senate Appropriations Committee FY 2018 spending bills currently exceed defense caps by $2 billion and non-defense caps by $3 billion."

"Congressional leaders have begun preliminary discussions with the Trump Administration on a budget deal to lift both defense and non-defense discretionary spending caps," L-B goes on. "It is unlikely that Congress and the Trump Administration can reach a bipartisan agreement and complete FY 2018 appropriations bills before December 8, when the current Continuing Resolution (CR) funding the government expires, but there is still an expectation that Congress will be able to pass a final FY 2018 appropriations bill by early next year.  Another short-term CR will likely be required."

SUPPORT FOR A 'NATIONAL QUANTUM INITIATIVE': A joint hearing by two House Science subcommittees showed "bipartisan support to sustain and increase federal investments in quantum research and development to maintain U.S. leadership," reports Lewis-Burke Associates. "Subcommittee Members also made clear there was support for a National Quantum Initiative to coordinate research and development efforts across federal agencies and establish partnerships between universities, private industry, and National Laboratories to develop novel quantum applications and commercialize quantum technologies." The hearing "highlighted two central needs: supporting the workforce pipeline necessary for growing the nascent U.S. quantum industry and facilitating the translation of breakthroughs in basic quantum research into applications." A Defense Science Board task force is looking into quantum applications, including the "possibility of using quantum technologies in more application areas such as land, sea, and sub surface applications."


FUTURE OF ERCs: How to implement the National Academy of Engineering’s recommendations for National Science Foundation-backed Engineering Research Centers is generating more questions than answers. On building the centers around grand challenges, one option proposed by NAE, members of NSF’s Engineering Directorate Advisory Committee asked: Which ones – the NAE’s? The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals? NSF’s? According to our partners at Lewis-Burke Associates, the committee debated a number of report recommendations, including whether ERC teams should be self-formed by researchers and industry or be pulled together by NSF. More discussion is expected next week when center reps assemble for their biennial meeting. NSF has time to digest various views: It won’t issue its next ERC request for proposals until September, 2018.

SUPPORT STAFF: Look for Intelligent Cognitive Assistants – “platforms which augment human capabilities” – to potentially become a major NSF Engineering-led initiative, based on discussions by the Advisory Committee. Participants at an earlier interdisciplinary workshop “reached a consensus around the concept of Intelligent Cognitive Assistants that complement, rather than replace, human capabilities. These must respond and change flexibly to changing environmental and usage conditions, consider the human life course in their application, facilitate ‘natural’ interactions involving ‘common sense’ toolkits and intuitive interfaces, and ultimately cultivate trust in relations between humans and machines.”

DEMAND FOR ACCOUNTABILITY: Having spurred the NSF INCLUDES program (Inclusion Across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science) the Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering (CEOSE) wants to make sure that resulting projects deliver results. In its most recent report to Congress, CEOSE says it “wants to ensure that investigators, higher education institutions, and NSF do what they propose to accomplish regarding broadening participation and that the strategies employed are proven and effective.” Engineering Advisory Committee chair Louis Martin-Vega, recently vice chair of CEOSE, and member Gilda Barabino are intent on seeing that the report doesn’t sit on a shelf.

NSF, AIR FORCE TEAM UP ON MICROSTRUCTURES: NSF's Division of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI), in collaboration with the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), "seeks research proposals for multidisciplinary teams with the potential to transform fundamental understanding of structural materials through the quantitative representation of microstructures." Learn more.

TRUMP: TAX CUTS AID MINORITY BUSINESSES: "The Trump Administration is committed to creating a business climate in which minority business enterprises can thrive and expand," the White House says. "Minority-owned businesses are a bedrock of the American economy and will be a critical component in the country's new period of economic revival. The Unified Framework, supported by President Trump, cuts taxes and lowers the cost of tax compliance to unleash the potential of all businesses." 

INTERNAL 'ACCELERATOR' FOR DOD? NextGov reports that during "the fifth public meeting of the Defense Innovation Board—an advisory committee established under Defense Secretary Ash Carter and populated by (Alphabet's Eric) Schmidt, LinkedIn Founder Reid Hoffman, astronomer and television host Neil deGrasse Tyson, and others—the group recommended that the Pentagon consider an internal technology accelerator, among other suggestions."


Increases in R&D Spending by U.S., Other Nations, 2002-2012

3 graphics from a presentation by Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, entitled A New Era in U.S. R&D Policy? Explaining the Decline In U.S. Government R&D Intensity.  


FOUNDATIONS BACKING PRO-SCIENCE GROUPS: Inside Philanthropy reports that ScienceCounts formed in late 2014 with a mission to reenergize public enthusiasm for science in order to ensure federal backing. "The organization’s first initiative was a 2015 benchmark study, which yielded the stat that three out of four people believe sources like the private sector and philanthropy could replace shortfalls in government science funding." It has raised a little over $1 million so far for its next phase of research. Philanthropic backing is coming from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Simons, Packard, Moore, Lyda Hill, Rita Allen and Kavli foundations. Corporate funders include Elsevier and Johnson & Johnson. Meanwhile, the same publication reports that "Eric and Wendy Schmidt have kicked off a $100 million effort with an emphasis on interdisciplinary research, starting with a postdoc fellowship . . . giving $100,000 to each fellow to study a field outside their core research, along with a series of advanced courses and networking programs."


IT'S ALIVE: As regenerative medicine becomes more mainstream, biomedical engineers must find a way to scale up and distribute the therapies. In June, the Forum on Regenerative Medicine convened to discuss the “challenges, opportunities, and best practices associated with defining and measuring the quality of cell and tissue products and raw materials” in manufacturing these medicines. Navigating the Manufacturing Process and Ensuring the Quality of Regenerative Medicine Therapies is the result of this forum. Read the report here.



ASEE is offering two two-week courses in the spring of 2018 for researchers and innovators who want to take their STEM education vision to the next level. The application period is now open.  For more information click here.

GOFLY COMPETITION: In partnership with Boeing, ASEE is calling on the world’s greatest thinkers, designers, engineers, and builders to challenge themselves and change the future. Registration for the competition is now open and all details are available here

ASEE IS CO-HOSTING the First Annual CoNECD (Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity - pronounced “connected”) Conference next April 29 to May 1. 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. ASEE members can submit an abstract here (login required.) 

ASEE Board Reorganization - Feedback Needed

ASEE ED Norman Fortenberry presents rationale on a proposed reorganization of the ASEE Board of Directors. Watch a video and  leave your feedback (ASEE member login required; Firefox works best.).

THE ACCELERATOR RETURNS: Beginning this month, ASEE's free monthly newsletter for undergraduate and graduate students will resume publication with 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 sign up. Click here to advertise. Send content to Jennifer Pocock at j.pocock@asee.org.


The Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program (NREIP) provides an opportunity for college students to participate in research at a Department of Navy laboratory during the summer. The online application process closes on October 31, 2017. Learn more here.

NOMINATE A YOUNG SUPERSTAR: Prism magazine plans a repeat of its widely read "20 Under 40" issue, highlighting especially talented engineering and engineering technology teachers and researchers. Please send your nominations and a brief description of the nominees' achievements to m.matthews@asee.org with "20 under 40" in the message line. Note: Choices will be based on both accomplishments and variety.

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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