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                                 January 5, 2018



With a partial government shutdown headed into its third week, a group of senior administration officials, led by Vice President Pence and including White House adviser Jared Kushner and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, is meeting with congressional staffers today in a bid to resolve the standoff. But President Trump and congressional Democrats remain at odds over the core issue: $5.6 billion to fund a border wall. Trump said the shutdown could last months or even years, although "I don't think it will." He also suggested he could invoke a national emergency to erect the wall without congressional approval. Newly elected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday, "We're not doing the wall. Does anybody have any doubt that we're not doing the wall?" Today's meeting was to start at 11 a.m.

MAJOR RESEARCH AGENCIES SHUT: The National Science Foundation, NASA, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Homeland Security Department's science and technology branch, and Department of the Interior, home of the U.S. Geological Survey, remain closed, holding up research reviews and awards. Many websites are not being updated. See agency contingency plans here. The American Institute of Physics' FYI bulletin reports: "Most science agency employees conduct 'non-excepted' activities and have been furloughed. They are not permitted to conduct any government-related work, even on a volunteer basis. . . . One major consequence of the furloughs is that most government scientists will be unable to attend upcoming scientific community meetings."

STILL UP AND RUNNING: Funding agencies whose appropriations have already been enacted are operating as usual. These include all Defense Department and armed services research arms as well as the Department of Energy and National Institutes of Health.

FEELING THE IMPACT: Several news reports describe the effect of the shutdown on academic research. “Time typically spent refining the science of the proposal is now spent wondering about deadlines, submission protocol and technicalities,” Douglas Holmes, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Boston University, is quoted as telling Time magazine. He wants to study soft robots that would help surgeons perform minimally invasive procedures. Forbes contributor J. Marshall Shepherd, director of the University of Georgia’s Atmospheric Sciences Program, describes the impact on students. The Coalition for National Science Funding, a Washington, D.C. advocacy group supporting NSF, is collecting "examples of how the government shutdown is affecting NSF-funded research and programs. If your university or scientific society have examples that you would like to share with us, please send your examples to Amy Scott (amy_scott@aau.edu), Erin Heath (eheath@aaas.org), and Andre Porter (aporter@asbmb.org) , , , by Tuesday, January 8th."

DACA NOT MENTIONED: Senior Democrats, in particular Pelosi and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) have in the past gone to the mat to protect young undocumented immigrants, including students, threatened with deportation by the expiration of former President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive order. One possible solution to the shutdown standoff advanced by, among others, former House Speaker New Gingrich, would restore DACA and fund Trump's wall. But House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters that DACA was not discussed during Trump's meeting with congressional leaders Friday,according to Roll Call. Durbin told The Hill, “We’re not going to jump back in that until there’s a pretty clear public commitment from the president.” DACA is still in force while Trump's move to end it is before the courts. 

CHINA'S 'NON-TRADITIONAL ESPIONAGE': Bipartisan concern was evident at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the topic. Lewis-Burke Associates reports that it covered Beijing's "exploitation of government-funded research, foreign talent recruitment programs, evasion of export control regulations, Confucius Institutes, international students, and cybersecurity. . . . Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) referenced a National Institutes of Health letter about grantees not disclosing foreign connections . . . and 'researchers violating the terms of their government grants in favor of a foreign government.'  Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) 'observed that China is placing scientists at top U.S. research universities and national labs and commented that Chinese foreign nationals make up 25 percent of all U.S. graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. 'The U.S. simply cannot tolerate theft of American IP,' she said." At a hearing of the House Armed Services HASC Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, "Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY) said she was 'deeply concerned' about the U.S. lagging behind in (artificial intelligence), and other subcommittee members asked what was being done to prevent technology espionage by China," according to Lewis-Burke.

GOP NEWCOMERS ON ARMED SERVICES: "In one of the biggest committee shakeups of the new Congress," five freshman Republican senators will join the Senate Armed Services panel, CQ reports: Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Martha McSally of Arizona, Rick Scott of Florida, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Josh Hawley of Missouri. They replace departing members Ted Cruz of Texas, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott of South Carolina.

TRUMP SIGNS NATIONAL QUANTUM INITIATIVE: AIP's FYI reports that the new law "creates a multiagency program spanning the National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Science Foundation, and Department of Energy. As part of the initiative, NSF and DOE will each establish between two and five competitively awarded research centers."


OSTP DIRECTOR CONFIRMED: At the close of the 115th Congress, the Senate confirmed, by voice vote, meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier as director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The emeritus professor and former vice president for research at the University of Oklahoma  is also a former vice chair of the National Science Board "and has long been active on national research policy. U.S. academic leaders are hopeful that he will provide them with the type of access to White House science policymaking that has been absent since Trump took office," Science reports. Also  confirmed was Daniel Simmons as head of the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. However, FYI reports that the Senate did not take up nominees to lead DOE's Office of Science, Office of Nuclear Energy, and Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy, nor the nominee to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Pending nominations that were not confirmed will now be automatically returned to the White House and will have to be resubmitted in order to receive further consideration."

NEW EXPORT CURBS IN STORE FOR 'EMERGING' TECHNOLOGIES: The Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security is in the process of developing new export restrictions on a number of technologies with national security implications. Public comments will be accepted until January 10 to help BIS "determine whether there are specific emerging technologies that are important to the national security of the United States for which effective controls can be implemented that avoid negatively impacting U.S. leadership in the science, technology, engineering, and manufacturing sectors." An Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule-making lists 14 "representative general categories":

Biotechnology; Artificial intelligence and machine learning technology; Position, navigation and timing technology; Microprocessor technology; Advanced computing technology; Data analytics technology; Quantum information and sensing technology; Logistics technology; Additive manufacturing (e.g., 3D printing); Robotics; Brain-computer interfaces; Hypersonics; Advanced materials; Advanced surveillance technologies.

See an analysis by the prominent Washington law firm Akin Gump. Various other law firms offer assessments of the BIS plan on the Mondaq website. Focusing on AI, the New York Times reports: "Tech companies, academics and policymakers" are urging "a light hand with artificial intelligence export rules . . . Their argument has three main points: Restrictions could harm companies in the United States and help international competitors. They could stifle technology improvements. And they may not make much of a difference. . . . [T]he government is unlikely to bar companies and universities from publishing fundamental artificial intelligence research. But it could establish controls that restrict foreign access to that information. . . . Rules that prevent foreign nationals from working on certain technologies in the United States could also push researchers and companies into other countries."

ADVANCING THE STATE OF THE ART: The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will host an Artificial Intelligence Colloquium "to inform the public of the range of DARPA research programs focused on advancing the state of the art" as part of the agency's AI Next effort. It's set for March 6-7, 2019, 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM (EST) at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center, 5000 Seminary Road, Alexandria, VA 22311. REGISTRATION DEADLINE: 5:00 PM EST on February 20, 2019, or when capacity is reached. DARPA will provide opportunities for sidebar meetings between selected AIC attendees and DARPA program managers (PMs) to discuss mutual research interests. AIC attendees will have the opportunity during the registration process to submit an abstract for sidebar consideration. Registered attendees may return to their registration record at a later date to submit up to two abstracts. The deadline for submitting abstracts is 5:00 PM EST on January 11, 2019. Meanwhile, the Defense Innovation Board has scheduled at public meeting for Jan. 18 at Georgetown University to "deliberate on artificial intelligence principles for defense, 5G viability and capability, and will provide an update on the Software Acquisition and Practices (SWAP) study. The DIB will also receive a briefing on DoD's latest implementation activities related to DIB recommendations."

HYPERSONICS PROPOSERS DAY: The Defense Sciences Office is holding a meeting and webcast "to provide information to potential proposers on the objectives of the new Materials Architectures and Characterization for Hypersonics (MACH) program. MACH seeks to develop new materials and designs for cooling the hot leading edges of hypersonic vehicles traveling more than five times the speed of sound." Find out more.

ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH: The Department of Energy’s Atmospheric System Research program is "accepting research grant applications for observational, data analysis, and/or modeling studies that use observations supported by the Climate and Environmental Sciences Division (CESD), including the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) scientific user facility and the ASR program to improve understanding and model representation of aerosol processes at ARM sites; warm boundary-layer atmospheric processes; convective cloud processes; and Southern Ocean cloud and aerosol processes." Learn more

DEEP LEARNING: A request for information by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) solicits input on machine learning with a focus on deep learning.  Responses to the RFI will inform IARPA’s future approach to machine and deep learning efforts and provide researchers with an opportunity to advertise their capabilities and ability to contribute to IARPA’s mission. Learn more



Although the National Science Foundation is closed, an interactive graphic is available on the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics website.


Source: National Academies Press, Understanding the Educational and Career Pathways of Engineers


EDUCATORS MUST KEEP UP:  A new report from the National Academies asserts that "U.S. engineering education must continuously adapt both to advances in science and technology fields—especially computing and data science, which provide tools that engineers in all disciplines must learn to use—and to the changing needs of industry, society, and workers themselves."  The report points out: "The disciplinary foundations of engineering are expanding with the growing influence and incorporation of computing, the life sciences, the social and behavioral sciences, business management concepts and skills, and entrepreneurship." Also: "Advances in understanding of how people learn engineering, corresponding evidence-based innovations in pedagogy and technological tools for the education of engineers, and the digital fluency of incoming generations of students are all creating new needs and opportunities for engineering education to adapt. These curricular changes both improve graduates’ professional and lifelong learning skills and attract more women and underrepresented minorities to the field."



The 2019 Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity (CoNECD) conference will be held April 14–17, 2019, at the Marriott Crystal Gateway in Crystal City, Va. (future site of Amazon’s HQ2). ASEE members qualify for a discount.
Click here to register

Two-Part Webinar on Teaching Metacognition — February 2019
How do you teach metacognition to help improve student learning? Join us for a two-part webinar event. Patrick Cunningham (Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology) and Holly Matusovich (Virginia Tech) offer insights and actionable strategies for talking to and teaching students about metacognitive development. Registration is free for ASEE members! Learn more and register


Check out scores of listings geared to engineering educators on ASEE’s Classifieds Website.

THE ASEE Zone 1 Conference will convene April 11-13, 2019 at the Conference & Event Center in Niagara Falls, NY. The conference will be held in partnership with the New York Cyber Security and Engineering Technology Association, and organized by The University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. Co-hosts include the St. Lawrence Section, Middle Atlantic Section, and Northeast Section of the ASEE. The conference will feature current and future trends in engineering and engineering technology education, with topics including, but not limited to, innovation, leadership, entrepreneurship, and the internet of things.The deadline for all paper or presentation abstracts, workshop proposals, or abstracts for student posters or lightning talks has been extended to January 15, 2019. Register here.  

NOMINATE A COLLEAGUE: The ASEE awards are the Society’s way to publicly recognize excellent work in our field of engineering and engineering technology education, research and practice. ASEE is now accepting nominations for 2019 ASEE Awards. The award winners will be recognized at the 2019 ASEE Annual Conference and Expo in Tampa, Florida in June. Nominators must be ASEE members though membership is not required to be nominated for an award. To submit a nomination, log-in at www.asee.org and click on “Award Nominations.” The deadline to submit all nomination materials is January 15, 2019.

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