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                                October 20, 2018



Release of similar red-ink figures by the Treasury and Congressional Budget Office coincided with negotiations between the Office of Management and Budget and federal agencies over the fiscal 2020 budget. Congress rejected OMB Director Mick Mulvaney's proposed cuts to domestic discretionary spending in the past, but he hasn't given up, saying that "this fiscal picture is a blunt warning to Congress of the dire consequences of irresponsible and unnecessary spending.” The Trump administration is instructing departments to cut five percent. This would amount to $62 billion in reductions from the current year's enacted levels. But CQ reports that the White House may be contemplating much deeper cuts. "[I]f recent history is any guide, the reductions may not come from current spending, but from already depressed fiscal 2020 levels previously laid out in the (administration's) February budget request." In that case, President Trump's fiscal 2020 nondefense discretionary budget would show "a whopping $152 billion, or 25 percent, cut from the fiscal 2019 cap."

CONVERGENCE, INCLUSION, AND SOCIETAL IMPACT: These are the priorities spelled out in the long-awaited Gen-4 Engineering Research Centers solicitation from the National Science Foundation. The agency anticipates spending $14 million in the current fiscal year on four awards, each lasting five years. Letters of intent are due November 30, 2018 and the full proposals are due July 12, 2019. Awardees would get $3.5 million the first year, with the amount rising to $6 million by years 3, 4, and 5. Gen-4 reflects recommendations in a National Academies study "as well as other sources," NSF says. Click here for an explanation of convergence. "[P]participation from members of groups traditionally underrepresented in engineering as well as diverse scientific and other perspectives is required," the soliciation says. "ERCs enable society to be more resilient, productive, and safe. . . . [N]ew strategies, concepts, ideas and/or re-organizations may be needed to shore-up, extend, or strengthen society." 

NOT TOO BIG, NOT TOO SMALL: NSF should commit itself to long-term support for mid-scale research infrastructure, a new report urges. Mid-scale is defined as costing $10 million to $70 million. An agency request for information drew $3 billion worth of "high-impact ideas" for such projects.

AI STRATEGY: The government is updating its 2016 artificial intelligence strategic plan "to reflect current priorities".and requests "input from all interested parties." The comment period ends October 26. See the Federal Register notice.

HIGH RISK, HIGH POTENTIAL: That's the kind of research funded as part of NSF's Emerging Frontiers of Research and Innovation program. These ideas "cannot be pursued by one researcher or within one field of expertise. They are 'frontier' because they not only push the limits of knowledge of one field, but are actually at the convergence of multiple fields." Before sending out an FY 2020 EFRI solicitation, NSF is conducting a survey to gather topic ideas. 

BIG IDEAS 2.0: Assuming that its Big Ideas theme has staying power, NSF is soliciting suggestions for the 2026 edition. They will be judged on their potential societal and scientific impacts, excitement, ambition and scope, originality, partnership potential, timeliness, whether they go beyond existing NSF programs, and quality of the presentation. Learn more.

WORK-BASED LEARNING: The Department of Labor has indicated interest in working with institutions of higher education, in particular four-year institutions, Lewis-Burke Associates reports. A webinar Nov. 1, entitled Apprenticeships and Higher Education, "will be an opportunity to learn more about DOL initiatives, resources, and opportunities.  Information about how institutions can encourage work-based learning opportunities, including apprenticeships, will be provided.  Participants will also have the opportunity to ask questions." Find out more.

CLIMATE SKEPTICS MAY ADVISE EPA: "Finalists for the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Science Advisory Board include researchers who reject mainstream climate science and who have fought against environmental regulations for years," E&E News reports. Besides big oil company scientists, the list includes "a researcher who argues that more carbon dioxide is good for the planet." 

NEXT SOLAR DECATHLON: Since 2002, this Department of Energy competition has "involved more than 150 collegiate teams (in) designing and building energy-efficient, solar-powered houses, (and) established a worldwide reputation as a successful educational program and workforce development opportunity for thousands of students," DOE says. See a competition guide for the next decathlon, which spans 2019 and 2020 and lets teams  participate in the Design Challenge or the Build Challenge. (In 2019, decathlons will take place in Hungary, Colombia, and Morocco.) 


'RELENTLESS PRAGMATIST': Science magazine's Jeff Mervis profiles Methodist minister-turned-data scientist Mel Hall, a centrist Democrat seeking to unseat three-term Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), a member of the Ways and Means Committee. Hall would appear to be a longshot. Walorski won her past two races by more than 20 percentage points. Her district went for President Trump in 2016. 


If current laws generally remained unchanged, federal debt held by the public would grow sharply over the next 30 years, reaching unprecedented levels.

Spending would increase, as a percentage of GDP, for interest on the government’s debt, the major health care programs, and Social Security. That spending growth would be partially offset by declining spending for other programs.

Congressional Budget Office, The 2018 Long-term Budget Outlook in 25 Slides


GLOBAL COOLING: Three years after a study concluded that two prominently mentioned climate intervention strategies were "not ready for wide-scale deploymen," the National Academies wants to take a closer look at one of them. It's "forming a new committee to develop a research agenda and research governance approaches for climate-intervention strategies that reflect sunlight to cool Earth." To date. it notes in a press release, "the federal government has no detailed research agenda for this field of study -- sometimes referred to as solar geoengineering -- and, even though some teams from the U.S. and other countries are moving forward with their own experiments, there is no agreed-upon protocol to govern such research." Learn more

CARBON REMOVAL: The National Academies is about to come out with "a detailed research and development agenda needed to assess the benefits, risks, and sustainable scale potential for carbon dioxide removal and sequestration approaches; and increase their commercial viability." Negative emissions technologies (NETs) "have been identified as an important part of the portfolio of responses to climate change." Learn about an upcoming webcast


NEW WEBINAR: Ask Better Questions with the Question Formulation Technique - Tune in Dec. 5 at 1:00 PM, ET for a free webinar with the Right Question Institute to learn how the Question Formulation Technique can help researchers create better research questions and help faculty teach students to develop their question formulation skills. Register now

ADVANCED BLOCKCHAIN LIVE: A Two-Part Virtual Event from IEEE - As blockchain technology rapidly expands into nearly every industry, professionals require training that goes beyond the basic blockchain definitions and theories. Explore technical differentiation, benefits and enterprise-level use cases of blockchain in-depth in two interactive, 1-hour sessions on Dec. 4 and 5. Save $50 on your registration with promo code 18ABASEE.Register and save your spot

ASEE AT 125 VIDEO CONTEST: One of the activities planned to mark ASEE‘s 125th anniversary is EEin25, the first-ever ASEE video contest. Undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral students may submit a 90-second video on where engineering education will be in 25 years at ASEE‘s 150th Anniversary in 2043. Click here to find out more. Click here to learn about other activities commemorating 125 Years at the Heart of Engineering Education.

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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