Facebook icon Twitter icon Forward icon

August 13, 2016



The Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity, based at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) "requests information about current and future states of cybersecurity in the digital economy." The 12-member panel is midway through five field hearings - it will be in Minneapolis August 23 - and is due to make detailed recommendations to President Obama in December on ways to strengthen cybersecurity in public and private spheres. These could be important. The group is chaired by Obama's former National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon and includes University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Pat Gallagher (former NIST director); Annie Anton, chair of the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech; Samuel J. Palmisano, former CEO of IBM, and Peter Lee, corporate VP, Microsoft Research. See the RFI.

IN PRAISE OF PRIZES: A new White House report touts the benefits of federal agency competitions spurred by the 2010 reauthorization of America COMPETES. Last year's most significant was NASA's Astronaut Email Challenge, aimed at enabling International Space Station email to handle large attachments. Engineering students might like a contest soon to be launched by the Interior Department's Bureau of Reclamation. The bureau wants to stop rodents from "burrowing into earthen embankments of dams, canals, and levees." Embankment failures, it notes, "can cause property damage, loss of life, and interrupt crucial deliveries of water in the West and across the nation." Baiting and trapping are shortterm fixes. Needed are "cost-effective, longterm solutions." 

EARTHWORKS: "The goal of the Integrated Earth Systems (IES) program is to investigate the interplay among the continental, terrestrial, and interior systems of the planet," a National Science Foundation solicitation states, offering "an opportunity for collaborative, multidisciplinary research into the operation, dynamics, and complexity of Earth systems that encompass the core of the Earth through the surface."  Learn more.


EQUITY ABROAD AND AT HOME: "The international scientific community is coming together intentionally to acknowledge and tackle gender equity," NSF Director France Córdova writes in a recent issue of Science. Participants at the Next Einstein Forum in Africa "all were hungry for change and fighting for equality. A resulting declaration committed to prioritizing the enrollment of women in STEM programs at the tertiary and postgraduate levels in Africa." The Global Research Council "agreed to a statement of actions that countries could implement to further gender equity in STEM fields, including gender considerations in research design and analysis." And the United States? "Women now earn about half of all science and engineering bachelor's degrees, yet they account for only 30 percent of the U.S. science and engineering workforce. In some STEM fields, such as mechanical engineering, the percentage of women is in the single digits."

DIVERSITY IN NSF GRANTS: The agency's latest merit-review report says that while fewer proposals are received from women than men (26.1 percent in FY 2015), "the success rate for female PIs is slightly higher than that for male PIs. . . [T]here has been a relatively steady, if slow, rate of increase in the proportion of proposals that are submitted by women and a corresponding upward trend in the proportion of awards that are made to women. . . . Among racial and ethnic groups that submitted more than 1,000 proposals in FY 2015, the success rate is highest for the groups White (26%) and Hispanic or Latino (24%). It is lowest for Asian (20%) and Black/African American (21%)." Several graphics from the report appear in the Databytes section below.

NOT FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS: One chart in the data-packed merit-review report lists the top reasons NSF returned full proposals without review in FY 2015: They were, in order: "Not responsive to solicitation, program announcement, or Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide"; "Format problem"; "Does not contain a required section"; and "Received past deadline."

IDEAS KEEP COMING: The Energy Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) says its Innovative Development in Energy-Related Applied Science (IDEAS) program is a success and will be renewed annually, so long as money is available. The program "provides a continuing opportunity for the rapid support of early-stage applied research to explore innovative new concepts with the potential for transformational and disruptive changes in energy technology. IDEAS awards are intended to be flexible and may take the form of analyses or exploratory research that provides the agency with information useful for the subsequent development of focused technology programs." Learn more.  

IMPROVED CANCER SCREENING: Experts in implementation science, bioinformatics, and health information technology may be suitable for PROSPR (Population-based Research Optimizing Screening through Personalized Regimens) research center funding, says the National Institutes of Health. The program seeks to enhance understanding of screening as "a complex process involving multiple steps that may affect screening quality and outcomes."  Find out more.


Research Proposals and Success Rates, FY 2012 – FY 2015, by Years Since
Highest Degree and by Gender

Source of all three graphics: National Science Foundation Merit Review Report for FY 2015

Average Number of Months of Salary for Single- & Multi-PI Research Grants

Research Projects with Single PIs (SPI) & Multiple PIs (MPI), by Number


A DOWNBEAT NOTE FROM GOP LEADER: Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday "that his party's chance of maintaining control of the Senate in 2016 are 'very dicey' and he could not be sure of his status as the majority leader next year," Roll Call reports. "McConnell did not specifically mention Republican nominee Donald Trump's drag on down-ballot races at the meeting with a Louisville-area civic group in his home state, according to The Associated Press, but he chided Trump's campaign tactics and said he hopes Trump 'settles down and follows the script.'"

ENGINEERS PRESS MANUFACTURING R&D: The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) is gathering signatures on a letter backing a provision in the Senate version of the defense authorization bill for a Manufacturing Universities Grant Program. Proponents say the provision would help universities strengthen their engineering programs and, in turn, the nation's manufacturing base. 


20 QUESTIONS: A group seeking to raise the profile of science, engineering, health, and the environment in the current political race would like to see a debate on these topics. "Since that almost certainly won't happen (it didn't in 2008 or 2012, either), the organizers have put together 20 questions they are asking candidates to address in writing," the Washington Post reports. The group includes some prominent engineering academics. See the list of questions, and ScienceInsider's account.

The Association of American Univerisities, meanwhile, is calling on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump "to promote policies that foster innovation, enhance college affordability, attract and retain top international talent, and make the federal investments in research and higher education more efficient." 

'DROPOUT FACTORIES': That's what too many public colleges have become, says a group called Third Way. It bases its charge on an analysis of Department of Education’s College Scorecard data showing that "at many of these institutions, first-time, full-time students are not graduating, a large number are unable to earn wages higher than the typical high school graduate, and many cannot pay back the loans they’ve taken out." See its report.

'SMART WOMEN, SMART POWER' is the title of a webcast series by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. Its guest Sept. 7 will be Ellen Kullman, a mechanical engineer and former CEO of DuPont. She was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2015 for "leadership in the business growth and transformation of a global science and engineering company." You'll need to register.



The Fall 2016 Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference will be held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY on October 21-22, 2016.
The deadline for abstract submissions has been extended to September 1, 2016. 
Please see the conference website for more information:

Look for ABET Alerts on the ASEE website. 

PROCEEDINGS of ASEE's 2016 Annual Conference and International Forum are available online.

eGFI Summer Reading: Is your school hosting an engineering camp, bridge program, or professional development session for K-12 teachers this summer? Jump-start the learning with eGFI (Engineering, Go For It), ASEE's award-winning magazine for middle and high school students. Filled with engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers, eGFI aims to get teens fired up about engineering. To purchase copies, go to http://store.asee.org/  For bulk purchases or other inquiries, contact eGFI@asee.org or call 202-331-3500.