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                                                         December 21, 2019       

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Both measures cleared Congress with strong bipartisan support, reflecting a need by Washington to demonstrate a continued capacity to govern. President Trump's signature on the two packages of spending bills,-- one for national security, the other for domestic programs and foreign aid -- prevented a government shutdown. He also signed the 59th consecutive annual defense authorization act. In general, guns-vs.-butter disputes were resolved by spending more, resulting in a $1.4 trillion tab. In one exception, Congress gave Trump less than he had sought for a border wall, but also allowed him to shift Pentagon money to pay for it. Lawmakers also approved "a slew of tax cuts, extending expiring and expired tax breaks and eliminating other taxes," bringing the total cost  to more than $1.8 trillion, the Hill reports. According to Reuters, the Congressional Budget Office "projects annual budget deficits averaging $1.2 trillion over the next decade." 

HYPERSONICS AND UNMANNED SHIPS: An explanatory statement accompanying the defense appropriation says it provides $100 million for the Joint Hypersonics Transition Office "to develop and implement an integrated science and technology roadmap for hypersonics and to establish a university consortium for hypersonics research and workforce development to support Department efforts to expedite testing, evaluation, and acquisition of hypersonic weapons systems." The bill also provides $209 million for "two Large Unmanned Surface Vessels (LUSV s)."

SUPPORT FOR JASON STUDY: As part of an assessment of  current risks and threats to research integrity, appropriators direct the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy "to also incorporate and apply the findings of the National Science Foundation JASON study to better protect the merit review system and for grantee institutions to maintain balance between openness and security of scientific research."

I-CORPS AND MSI's: NSF's Innovation Corps has become a durable institution. For FY 2020, Congress is providing $5 million more than last year while urging the agency "to facilitate greater participation in the program from academic institutions in states that have not previously received awards." Within NSF, lawmakers also direct $75 million to Advanced Technological Education; $35 million to the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program; $47.5 million to the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation; $15 million to Tribal Colleges and Universities; $67 million to Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarships; and $45 million to Hispanic-serving Institutions. They want to see "capacity building at institutions of higher education that typically do not receive high levels of NSF funding."

A SEVENTH FORCE? The newly enacted National Defense Authorization Act "asks the Defense Department to assess 'the potential costs, benefits, and value, if any, of establishing a cyber force as a separate uniformed service,'" CQ reports. A cyber force would become the seventh branch of the armed services. The Government Accountability Office says that the Pentagon's $1.66 trillion worth of planned weaponry could be rendered useless by adversary hackers.

END TO THE MEDICAL DEVICE TAX: The 2.3% tax on medical device sales, part of the Affordable Care Act, has been on hiatus since the beginning of 2016, but was due to go back into force at the end of this year, Forbes reports. But the FY 2020 spending bill repeals it altogether.


All numbers above are in thousands. Source: CQ


ELECTRICAL ENGINEER TAPPED AS NEXT NSF DIRECTOR: President Trump intends to nominate Arizona State University chief innovation officer Sethuraman Panchanathan as the next director of the National Science Foundation. Current NSF Director France Córdova, whose six-year term  ends in March, called Panchanathan "a bold, energizing presence on the National Science Board." NSB Chair Diane Souvaine says he has been key to ASU's "growth and emergence as an innovator in higher education, especially in terms of partnerships and entrepreneurship" and calls him "the best kind of disruptor." He holds a Ph.D. in electrical.and computer engineering from the University of Ottawa. See his 80-plus-page CV. Image: YouTube, "Arizona Horizon." 

U.S. RELATIVE STRENGTH IN RESEARCH SLIPS: The United States remains highly influential in research, as measured by citations in science and engineering publications, according to a new installment of the National Science Board's Science and Engineerng Indicators. While China still lags the United States and EU countries.in impact, it "has increased rapidly in the last decade from a small base." China’s rate of research output has grown almost twice as fast as the world’s annual average for the last 10 years. As measured by journal articles, "the United States, the EU, and Japan [are] more specialized in health sciences and China and India [are] more specialized in engineering." See graphics below.

MANUFACTURING ENGINEERING: Seven institutions will share a total of $32 Million in Manufacturing Engineering Education grants from the Pentagon: Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), Knoxville, Tenn.;  Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT), Detroit, Mich.; MIT (for a Virtual Manufacturing Lab); Monroe Community College,  Rochester, N.Y.; the Society of Manufacturing Engineers; University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley; and Virginia Tech. Learn about their projects.  

DOE OFFERS $40 MILLION FOR SBIRs: The Small Business Innovation Research and Technology Transfer grants would support projects in critical materials, energy storage, grid integration, water security, cybersecurity, and the circular economy.. Learn more


Source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. Click here for a larger interactive version showing numbers. 

Source: NCSES. Click here for a larger, interactive version showing numbers. 


BLOOD DELIVERY BY DRONE:  This was developed in Rwanda by Zipline, an automated logistics company that designs, manufacturers, and operates drones as a service. The country had many unpaved roads and two rainy seasons, which made ground travel difficult. By now, Zipline’s aerial delivery service has become routine. It has made thousands of deliveries and has flown more than 500,000 kilometers. This was one example offered at a National Academies workshop on global health innovation. See the report. 


TECHNOLOGY AND PUBLIC PURPOSE: Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs has launched the the Technology and Public Purpose (TAPP) Fellowship -- "a unique and valuable opportunity for practitioners in technology, policy, and civil society to research ways to maximize the societal benefits, and minimize the harms, of emerging technologies."  Learn more

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