Facebook icon Twitter icon Forward icon

July 30, 2016



In a report charting a course for research and development in  Quantum Information Science, the White House notes that it will take more than physics. The field "requires and will continue to require a diverse range of skills and expertise," including "[c]omputer science and applied mathematics . . . [e]lectrical engineering and systems engineering . . . and process engineering." A blog post by the Office of Science and Technology Policy says QIS, "working at the intersection of quantum phenomena with information science—provides unique and exciting opportunities in sensing, metrology, navigation, communications, fundamental physics, simulation, new paradigms in computing, and a host of other areas." Another report, on the National Strategic Computing Initiative, maps what the blog says are two concurrent paths to future high-performance computing systems: "technologies that accelerate traditional digital computing after the limits of current semiconductor technologies are reached; and a range of new computing paradigms—including quantum computing—to address problems beyond the scope of traditional high performance computing." See related reports from the Department of Energy on the "Quantum Frontier" and the National Science Foundation. 

CYBER 'FORCE MULTIPLIER': A White House promotion of contests as a way to generate enthusiasm, skills, and diversity in cybersecurity singles out the University of Central Florida's third straight national championship. "Over 200 UCF students have joined Hack@UCF, promoting awareness and exposing far more students to the possibilities of a cybersecurity vocation than can be supported by the team alone. Hack@UCF holds workshops and tutorials about vulnerabilities, training the next generation of cyber-defense team members. This may be the greatest secret about cybersecurity competitions — they are a force multiplier."

LEVERAGING THE BRAIN: The Obama administration's BRAIN Initiative "has already catalyzed more than $1.5 billion in public and private funds," the White House says. Altogether more than $500 million has come from private sources, including "Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Allen Institute for Brain Science, the Kavli Foundation, the Simons Foundation, GE, GlaxoSmithKline, members of the National Photonics Initiative, as well as patient advocacy organizations and universities." The administration wants to add the Department of Energy to agencies already brain-focused: DARPA, NSF, IARPA, FDA, and NIH.

WATER AND SUN: A Department of Energy report "finds that with continued technology advancements, innovative market mechanisms, and a focus on environmental sustainability," U.S. hydropower could grow from 101 to nearly 50 gigawatts of combined electricity generation and storage capacity by 2050. Only 3 percent of dams currently generate electricity. DOE's Water Power Program plans to spend $9.8 million for up to 12 projects to develop development of low-head, modular designs that can reduce infrastructure and construction costs and operate flexibly over a range of flow conditions at existing dams. See the announcement.

Meanwhile, DOE has announced that it's funding 16 solar projects to the tune of $11 million. They're "intended to develop innovative, early-stage solutions in both photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar power."

EXPLORING THE ARCTIC COASTS: "As sea ice retreats, and the area of open water and the sea surface temperature increase, Arctic coastal communities are becoming more vulnerable to increasing ocean surface wave heights, storm surges, inundation, and erosion accelerated by warming and thawing of permafrost," a White House summary says. The administration has put out a research plan for public comment. "As a research topic, this is a rich area at the confluence of social, engineering, and natural science," the plan says.


Graphic by Jennifer Pocock. To see a larger, more readable version, click here


BUDGET REALITY CHECK: If current tax and spending laws remain as is, "the United States would face steadily increasing federal budget deficits and debt over the next 30 years," says the Congressional Budget Office in a recent report.  As the CBO graphic below starkly illustrates, debt will climb to 141 percent of GDP in 2046 - "exceeding the historical peak of 106 percent that occurred just after World War II. The prospect of such large debt poses substantial risks for the nation and presents policymakers with significant challenges."

A VEEP CANDIDATE'S MILD DISSENT: CQ notes that Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Hillary Clinton's running mate, thinks Senate Armed Services Chair John McCain (R-Ariz.) was a bit too hasty in proposing to adjust some Pentagon top jobs. As passed by the GOP-led Senate, the FY 2017 defense authorization revives the position of Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, who would be chief acquisition officer, chief technology officer, and principal adviser on scientific, technological and acquisition matters. The move responds to worries that "the U.S. military was falling behind technologically," according to the committee's report. The position was held in the past "by leaders such as (physicist) Harold Brown and (engineer and mathematician) William Perry." But Kaine, noting the absence of any study calling for the changes, writes in the "additional views" section of the report: "I am just not sure whether these changes are the right ones or not." He goes on to ask: "Will the new Under-Secretary for Research and Engineering make the Department’s acquisition process run more efficiently?" Footnote: Brown and Perry served as defense secretaries in Democratic administrations.


"And I believe in science!
I believe climate change is real and that we can save our planet while creating millions of good-paying, clean-energy jobs. . . . In my first 100 days, we will work with both parties to pass the biggest investment in new, good-paying jobs since World War II. Jobs in manufacturing, clean energy, technology and innovation, small business and infrastructure. If we invest in infrastructure now, we'll not only create jobs today, but lay the foundation for the jobs of the future. And we will also transform the way we prepare our young people for those jobs. . . . Bernie Sanders and I will work together to make college tuition free for the middle class and debt free for all. . . . We will also liberate millions of people who already have student debt." - Hillary Clinton's acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia, as provided by the Washington Post.


ENCRYPTION KEEPERS: Data security is among the most important issues faced by the government. In June 2016, the National Academies held a workshop exploring the landscape of data encryption. “Participants at this workshop discussed potential encryption strategies that would enable access to plaintext information by law enforcement or national security agencies with appropriate authority.” The talks were mostly about technical issues, but also ranged into broad policy questions. Preview the Report.


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

HIGHER ED AND SUSTAINABILITY: A new primer, "Sustainable Development Primer for Higher Education Presidents, Chancellors, Trustees and Senior Leaders," describes the sustainability-related, crucial roles and tasks for presidents, trustees, and senior leadership and explains how sustainability is a robust national trend in higher education. The primer is from the Higher Education Associations Sustainability Consortium (HEASC), a network of associations committed to advancing sustainability within the entire system of higher education.

SEEKING BIDS: The deadline for presentation of bids to host the 2018 World Engineering Education Forum-Global Engineering Deans Council (WEEF/GEDC 2018) has been extended to September 1, 2016. Contact Hans Hoyer, Secretary General, IFEES (http://www.ifees.net); Executive Secretary, GEDC (www.gedcouncil.org) Here's a link to this year's event in Seoul.

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.