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                         November 9, 2019                             




Congress is likely to extend stopgap funding to Dec. 13 or Dec. 20, "a decision that may finally propel the appropriations process forward," CQ reports. Senate Appropriations Chair Richard  Shelby, R-Ala., (far right photo) said he had a "positive discussion" with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland on Thursday. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said, "We're seeing some positive signs that we can get the process back on track." But leaders and the White House "agree they'll need another three to four weeks to wrap up negotiations." The biggest hurdle remains how to divvy up discretionary funds under the July budget caps agreement (PL 116-37) that outlines a ceiling of $632 billion in nondefense appropriations. In a letter, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. (near right) said the House will consider a continuing resolution to extend temporary funding levels during the week of Nov. 18. The current stopgap measure expires Nov. 21.

PENTAGON WARNS AGAINST PROLONGED IMPASSE: Each of the armed services has put together a fact sheet detailing the impact of a six-month and a year-long continuing resolution. See documents from the Army, Navy, and Air Force

NATURE AND CLIMATE: Members of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis "were generally extremely interested in the use of nature as a solution for the climate crisis and learning more about the co-benefits of resiliency," Lewis-Burke reports.  Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) highlighted her bill, Bolstering Long-Term Understanding and Exploration of the Great Lakes, Oceans, Bays, and Estuaries (BLUE GLOBE) Act which focuses on ocean research. Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.) touted the Climate Risk Disclosure Act of 2019, which requires public companies to disclose information about climate-related risks.

LOWEST CATEGORY OF R&D: Since World War II, the environment and natural resources have consistently come in last in federal R&D spending, CQ reports, citing the Congressional Research Service. "If you look at long-term research and development trends by category, defense is always the largest, by a factor of about five, followed by health, space and general science."

POLITICAL FOOTBALL: "Minority-serving colleges and universities are looking on helplessly" as funding for their science, engineering and math programs gets "bogged down in the Senate morass," the New York Times reports. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has blocked the House-passed $255 million measure and "demanded progress on rewriting parts of the Higher Education Act instead." The resulting stalemate "has left minority-serving institutions and their six million students preparing for the worst. Funding officially ran out Sept. 30 with the end of the last fiscal year, and while the Education Department has assured them that money will continue to flow through this school year, education leaders are already looking for cuts. Planning for the next school year has all but stopped." Diverse: Issues in Higher Education reports that Sens. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) are making a renewed push for the U.S. Senate to pass the bipartisan bill, Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education (FUTURE) Act. Alexander, meanwhile, has introduced the FAFSA Simplification Act of 2019. In the House, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson introduced the MSI STEM Achievement Act.

In a policy update, Lewis-Burke Associates explains details of the College Affordability Act, which recently passed in the Education and Labor Committee.


JCORE SUMMIT: The Office of Science and Technology Policy hosted an invitation-only summit this week centered on its Joint Committee on the Research Environment (JCORE). Multiple tweets emerged from OSTP and a few guests, but information so far is sparse. Tobin Smith, a vice president at the Association of American Universities called it "a valuable forum which brought together reps from federal agencies, universities & other stakeholders to discuss meaningful ways to work together to advance #USResearch." OSTP promises a report. JCORE's four subcommittees concentrate on reducing administrative burdens; rigor and Integrity; research security; and safe and inclusive research environments. See Jeff Mervis's preview in ScienceInsider.  

UNEASE OVER DISCLOSURE REQUIREMENTS: In an effort to find people suspected of stealing sensitive research information or intellectual property, federal agencies "are working to better enforce policies requiring that grantees disclose all significant sources of support they receive from foreign institutions," reports the American Institute of Physics's FYI bulletin. "Agency officials stress they are targeting a relatively small number of individuals acting in bad faith and that they are working closely with research institutions to craft better safeguards. However, their actions have created confusion within the scientific community about what policies are in place and what changes are on the table. Moreover, as the number of firings and arrests associated with the security push rises, so too have allegations that Chinese and Chinese American scientists are being subjected to discrimination."

AI AND FOOD PRODUCTION: The National Science Foundation "has just released a new solicitation for Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research Institutes, for which one of the major thrusts is AI-Driven Innovation in Agriculture and the Food System, and the agency is preparing to release its new Coastlines and People (CoPE) opportunity this spring," Lewis-Burke reports in its latest environmental policy newsletter. NSF  will be able to continue implementing these new programs "even as the likelihood of operating under another continuing resolution (CR) increases."

PLASTIC AND THE FIVE 'R's: Opportunities to remanufacture, refurbish, repair, reuse, and recycle used consumer products over a product’s life cycle can reduce the energy required to manufacture key materials and improve overall manufacturing energy efficiency. So says the U.S. Department of Energy in announcing "a $12 million funding opportunity for new projects to support research and development (R&D) and education and workforce development."  DOE’s Reducing EMbodied Energy and Decreasing Emissions (REMADE) Manufacturing Institute "will fund approximately 12 to 18 exploratory and full R&D projects aligned with REMADE’s research focus areas, as well as four to eight education and workforce development projects." Find out more.

ECOSYSTEM PROCESSES: DOE plans to spend $10 million on coupling observational and experimental research with model development. ”Research under this initiative will focus on such topics such as the interactions between soils and vegetation, atmospheric fluxes over wetlands and coastal systems, and the complex processes taking place within integrated watersheds.  By combining experiment, observation, and model development, teams of scientists will seek to unravel these complex processes and improve the ability of models to represent them." Learn more.

QUANTUM SILOS: "QIS [quantum information science] research is often conducted within institutional boundaries with little coordination," the Congressional Research Service reports. "The creation of cross-cutting teams with diverse expertise is seen by many as vital to success. Many observers and researchers contend that partnerships that encourage such collaboration will lead to greater progress than working alone." The report adds: "Scientists and industry representatives contend that current academic education and workforce training programs are insufficient for continued progress in QIS R&D, which requires a diverse, cross-cutting range of skills and expertise that varies from one application to another." See a CRS rundown of federal quantum initiatives.  

PEER REVIEW PRIMER: The senior program manager of the Department of Education's Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program encourages faculty members to participate as peer reviewers to get a better sense of the program before applying, Lewis-Burke Associates reports. See a PowerPoint that explains the process. 



Source: Changes and Choices: Advice on future frameworks for international collaboration on research and innovation, commissioned by the UK Minister of State for Universities,Science, Research and Innovation 



Source: Association of American Universities' 2019 Campus Climate Survey. Altogether, 181,752 students completed the survey out of a total student sample size of 830,936. Respondents included 108,221 undergraduates, 73,531 graduate students and professionals. There were 95,975 respondents from private institutions and 85,777 respondents from public institutions. TGQN stands for self-identified transgender, queer, or non-binary individuals. 

Source: The National Survey of College Graduates (NSCG), conducted by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics within the National Science Foundation, provides data on the characteristics of the nation’s college graduates, with a focus on those in the science and engineering workforce. (The full chart has more age categories.)



FOREIGN-GIFT REPORTING: "The American Council on Education and 29 other higher-education associations sent a letter this week to the U.S. Department of Education that raises concerns about new reporting guidelines for universities that receive foreign contracts or gifts," the Chronicle of Higher Education reports. "The groups say that the proposed information-collection requirements go beyond the scope of the law governing funds colleges receive from foreign sources. They argue that the procedure, as proposed, is unclear, risks disclosure of intellectual property and proprietary information, and could impose a significant burden in cost and time on institutions."

ALARMING DROPOUT RATE: The number of students who leave college without a degree or certificate "is much higher than experts previously believed," according to the Hechinger Report, which cites new findings from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. "In December 2013, there were 29 million people with some college education but no degree. That number jumped to 36 million by December of 2018. . . . These data alarm the experts, considering all the messaging about the need for postsecondary education."


IMPROVED FLOOD PREDICTION: A National Academies report recommends "a new generation of flood maps and visualizations to communicate flood risk in urban areas." Analyses "need to incorporate urban components, such as the capacity of stormwater systems, as well as the small topographic variations and local drainage and building patterns that drive the granular nature of urban flood impacts." Also: "A greater investment in research is needed to understand and develop interventions to mitigate the social impacts of urban flooding." Read the report.


ELEVATOR ELOQUENCE: See a video of the 2019 NSF Engineering Research Centers' Perfect Pitch Competition and try to guess the winner.


Dec. 2019 Webinar – Insights from NSF GOLD on Increasing Underrepresented Minority Recruitment and Retention: Tune in for a free webinar on Dec. 10 at 1:00 PM, ET, during which GeoDES and Sparks for Change teams supported by NSF GOLD (GEO Opportunities for Leadership in Diversity) will share insights and lessons learned from their innovative professional development projects developed to increase the engagement, recruitment, and retention of URM faculty in the sciences. Register now: http://bit.ly/31nQjPL

NOMINATE A ROLE MODEL . . . or a colleague for a 2020 Golden Goose Award.​ The prize "honors federally funded researchers whose work may sound silly, odd, obscure, wasteful of taxpayer funding, or serendipitous, but has had a major, if not unintended, positive impact on society." This year, nominators of selected awardees will be recognized and receive travel support to attend the September 2020 GGA luncheon and award ceremony. Find out more.


ASEE is seeking applications and nominations for the position of Editor‐in‐Chief for the journal Advances in Engineering Education. The anticipated start date for this volunteer position is July 1, 2020, with applications due this fall. Learn more here.

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