Facebook icon Twitter icon Forward icon

                                                               March 7, 2020  



The supplemental appropriation quickly passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump calls for more than $3 billion for research and development of "of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics to prevent or treat the effects of coronavirus," according to a House summary. Of that total, more than $2 billion will go to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, "prioritizing platform-based technologies with U.S.-based manufacturing capabilities"; $826 million for the National Institutes of Health to support basic research and development of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics; and $300 million in contingency funding. In addition, $61 million will go to the Food and Drug Administration "to facilitate the development and review . . . of medical countermeasures, devices, therapies, and vaccines."

The money will enable FDA to "build on its efforts to strengthen the U.S. medical product manufacturing sector by supporting efforts to foster more investment and innovation in advanced manufacturing methods for drugs, devices, vaccines, and other therapies." R&D already under way includes use of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Summit supercomputer to identify potential treatments and Argonne National Lab's Photon Source to develop detailed images.

Noting the impact on education, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), whose state has been particularly hard hit, told Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at an appropriations hearing that "the administration's response so far has, I have to tell you, not inspired confidence." DeVos said a working group at the department has been in frequent contact with the Centers for Disease Control and other agencies leading the reponse. Her department has released guidance for higher education on the "multiple different flexibilities that we will be open to and . .. ensure happen."

EDUCATION CUTS UNLIKELY: "Similar to prior years," the Trump administration's budget request "proposes drastic cuts to several student aid and education research programs at the U.S. Department of Education (ED).  However, Congress is expected to continue the trend of rejecting most of the proposed budget cuts through the annual appropriations process." Indeed, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who chairs the subcommittee that funds the department, told a hearing that Congress is "unlikely to accept limitations to large-fund formula grants that support after-school programs, STEM education, school safety, teacher professional development, TRIO [for disadvantaged students] and campus-based programs like federal work study." Adopting a similar stance on proposed $3.2 billion in cuts to the Department of Energy, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who chairs the Energy and Water appropriations subcommittee, said ""that may be what the administration has suggested but that's not what the Congress will do."

STILL A CHANCE FOR THE HIGHER ED ACT? Apparently Sen. Alexander thinks so. Inside Higher Ed reports that "in little-noticed remarks" before a group of community college trustees, the Tennessee senator said "he wants to have a bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act passed by his committee by the end of March." 

COMING UP - PENTAGON R&D HEARING: The House Armed Services subcommittee hearing March 11 is entitled "Reviewing Department of Defense Science and Technology Strategy, Policy, and Programs for FY2021: Maintaining a Robust Ecosystem for Our Technological Edge." Witnesses are William Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics; Michael Griffin, defense undersecretary for research and engineering; Bruce D. Jette, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology; and James F. Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development & acquisition. 

COPING WITH CLIMATE: The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis will issue recommended congressional actions later in March, Lewis-Burke Associates reports. The panel has solicited input from the scientific and academic communities, but faces a divided Congress and administration opposition. "[I]it remains to be seen how much members of Congress will feel to pressure from the public to adopt any of the recommendations."


$30 MILLION FOR FUSION RESEARCH: Of that amount, the Department of Energy says $17 million is for "research focused specifically on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) approaches for prediction of key plasma phenomena, management of facility operations, and accelerated discovery through data science, among other topics. An additional $13 million under a separate funding opportunity will be devoted to fundamental fusion theory research, including computer modeling and simulation, focused on factors affecting the behavior of hot plasmas confined by magnetic fields in fusion reactors."  Learn more. 

RESEARCH SECURITY CHIEF: The National Science Foundation has tapped Rebecca Spyke Keiser as chief of research security strategy and policy "as part of its continuing effort to ensure the security of federally funded research while maintaining an open international collaboration." Creation of the new position comes in response to recommendations in a study by the JASON advisory group, which "was clear that the U.S. science community faces threats to its longstanding position of openness and transparency of research and its results," Director France Córdova said. Read more on this topic.

FUTURE MANUFACTURING: The National Science Foundation is offering various types of awards, one of them up to $2 million per year for five years, for "fundamental research and education of a future workforce that will enable . . . manufacturing that either does not exist today or exists only at such small scales that it is not viable. Future Manufacturing will require the design and deployment of diverse new technologies for synthesis and sensing, and new algorithms for manufacturing new materials, chemicals, devices, components and systems. It will require new advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning, new cyber infrastructure, new approaches for mathematical and computational modeling, new dynamics and control methodologies, new ways to integrate systems biology, synthetic biology and bioprocessing, and new ways to influence the economy, workforce, human behavior, and society." Find out more

PROGRAM OFFICER SOUGHT: The National Science Foundation's Division of Undergraduate Education is seeking a permanent program officer for K12 science or engineering education research. Applications close March 20. Find out more and apply.

COMPELLING RESEARCH VISIONS: The National Science Foundation's Directorate for Engineering is asking the engineering research community to establish an Engineering Research Visioning Alliance (ERVA) that the directorate will support "to facilitate the articulation of compelling research visions that align with national and global challenges. This organization will be charged with obtaining and integrating input from all stakeholders with interest in engineering research, including academia, industry, societies, government agencies and the public." See the RFP. Establishment of such an organization was the reason behind a summit hosted last year by ASEE. See a summary of the gathering.

HELP WITH NSF's NEW WEBSITE: The agency is looking for volunteers to participate in the design process. We’re currently hoping to talk with researchers and students who have searched for funding opportunities on NSF.gov. Sign up here.

DARPA BIOTECH SUMMIT: The June 3-4 event in Chicago will be sponsored by tbe Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Biological Technologies Office. See the agency's Facebook announcement. More information is promised at this site in future.  Read about a Department of Defense BioIndustrial Manufacturing Innovation Institute proposer's day. 


Gross domestic expenditures on R&D, by the United States, the EU, and selected other countries: 1990–2017

Source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. Click here for an interactive version with more detail. 

Americans' views of science, by education level: 2018

Source: NCSES. Click here for an interactive version with more detail. 


GAPS IN FACEBOOK'S POLITICAL AD TRANSPARENCY: Three researchers at NYU's Tandon School of Engineering report discovering "several  weaknesses  that  enable  a  malicious  advertiser to avoid accurate disclosure of their   political ads" on Facebook. Laura Edelson and Damon McCoy (left), together with Tobias Lauinger (not shown) found the gaps in a security analysis  of  Facebook’s  U.S. Ad  Library, Their clustering-based method "identified  16  clusters  of  likely  inauthentic  communities  that  spent  a total  of  over  $4 million on  political  advertising." They also propose solutions. See their paper. Also see coverage in the Washington Post.

ENGINEERING ACADEMIC ARRESTED: Anming Hu, an associate professor at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering, faces three counts of wire fraud and three counts of making false statements, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice. He allegedly hid his employment at Beijing University of Technology's Institute of Laser Engineering when he sought funding from NASA.

AUTHORSHIP GENDER DISPARITIES: A study published by Elsevier reports: "Women now comprise a greater share of science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and medicine graduates than ever before, and there is increased focus and energy on balanced participation, factoring gender into research and research on gender itself. Yet, our latest findings indicate that disparities still linger, with slower growth of articles published by women, higher numbers of women leaving research and understudied research areas. This report also highlights that women are not participating in collaboration networks at the same level as men, potentially impacting their career progression. On average, men have more co-authors than women, with a tendency to collaborate with those of the same gender across the subject areas and regions studied." See the report. 



Promising Practices for DEI Project Evaluation - 
March 10 at 1 PM, ET: Demystify DEI evaluation! Join us to develop your capacity to work with evaluators on DEI projects and discover best practices for developing evaluation language, working with evaluators, and interpreting results. Learn more and register at http://bit.ly/30kW6qk.

Storytelling to Advance Research and Teaching - 
April 9 at 1 PM, ET: What’s your story? Tune in to learn how storytelling techniques can be used to propel your research and teaching, helping you communicate research impacts, write proposals, share best teaching practices, and teach difficult concepts. Learn more and register at http://bit.ly/3c99jba.

THE 2020 COLLABORATIVE NETWORK FOR ENGINEERING AND COMPUTING DIVERSITY (CoNECD) CONFERENCE: The vision of the CoNECD (pronounced “connected”) Conference is to provide a forum for exploring current research and practices to enhance diversity and inclusion of all underrepresented populations in the engineering and computing professions including gender identity and expression, race and ethnicity, disability, veterans, LGBTQ+, first generation and socio-economic status. Marriott Crystal Gateway, Crystal City, Va., April 19–22, 2020. Click here to make a reservation.

TRAILBLAZING FACULTY OF THE FUTURE: That's the title of a May 20-22 workshop at Purdue University for minority senior Ph.D.s or post-docs interested in academic careers. The keynote speaker will be Medal of Science winner Richard Tapia. Key topics include: a Teaching Workshop, How to Negotiate a Startup, Proposal Writing with program managers from ONR, NSF, NIH. Purdue department heads may invite some attendees for seminars or interviews. The application deadline is March 27. See the event website.

NSBE DEANS ROUNDTABLE: The 46th Annual National Society of Black Engineers Convention in San Antonio, Tex. is a few weeks away! Seats are available for the Dean and Minority Engineering Programs (MEP) Strategic Roundtable March 27 from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in the Henry B. González  Convention Center. In preparation for your arrival, please RSVP using this link by March 4, 2020. Upon completing the RSVP, you will receive an email with event details and instructions for receiving complimentary Convention registration.

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!

Order Your Copies