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                                 November 17, 2018

Note to readers: Capitol Shorts will not be published next week. Happy Thanksgiving. 



A partial government shutdown looms December 7 unless the lame-duck Congress can reach a deal that satisfies President Trump's demand for a border wall. So far, Trump has signed five FY 2019 appropriations bills. Four more are in conference,and three haven't  been passed by either chamber. Those three include the Commerce, Justice, Science spending bill, which funds the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Bloomberg quotes Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as saying after meeting with Trump Thursday: "We talked about border security and how to resolve all this, and we’re optimistic we have a way forward." Asked what that is, he replied: “I’ll tell you when we get it." According to CQ, Congress could opt for another continuing resolution or a hybrid package that moves some final decisions to calendar 2019. Trump wants $5 billion for the wall: the Senate has offered $1.6 billion. The Hill quotes Trump as saying today: “This would be a very good time to do a shutdown." NSF has issued its "Plan for Operations During a Funding Hiatus." 

IN SYNC ON SCIENCE: Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), has emerged as a potential challenger to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who hopes to become speaker in the next Congress. While able to tap discontent with her party's aging top ranks, Fudge has failed to win over key members of the Congressional Black Caucus, of which she's a former chair, Politico reports. Pelosi, meanwhile has drawn support from "leaders of some of the nation’s most prominent liberal organizations and unions," according to CQ. Both women are champions of research funding: In 2009, Science's Jeff Mervis wrote that "as far as most U.S. scientists are concerned, Pelosi can do no wrong as the leader of congressional Democrats." In September of this year, Fudge told WKYC, an NBC affiliate in Cleveland: "I think right now, we're at a place in the history of this country where we're disinvesting in research. If you look at the budgets for NSF and NIH, you see that we're not really where we should be on the cutting edge."


PENTAGON URGED TO TAP OUTSIDE SOURCES OF INNOVATION: The congressionally authorized Commission on the National Defense Strategy for the United States says the Defense Department "should broaden its efforts to find and incorporate new technologies developed commercially by the private sector. Established organizations like the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), as well as the newer Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) and Defense Innovation Board, are focused on this task. The government R&D labs, University Affiliated Research Centers (UARCs), and Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs) can play a greater role as well."  The commission notes a trend of "more innovation taking place outside of the government in our commercial sector, universities, and R&D labs."

PROTECTING U.S. TECHNOLOGY: The strategy commission says the government "must give serious consideration to questions such as whether it should increase investment to preserve and strengthen industries that produce vital technology and components, and whether some selective economic disintegration with U.S. rivals—namely China—may be necessary to ensure that America is not dependent on those rivals for critical components of key systems and platforms."  

DOE OFFERING BROAD EPSCoR GRANTS: The $20 million available to states eligible for Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research grants could fund  "early stage research and development for a wide range of topical areas" across the Department of Energy, including the Office of Science and a number of technololgy offices. Find out more.

12 SBIR-STTR R&D TOPICS: Small Business Innovation Research and Technology Transfer grants to fund "more than 100 new projects, totaling approximately $20 million" are offered by a number of Department of Energy technology offices. Learn more.

62 PROJECTS WIN AWARDS . . . as part of DOE's Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) program. See the winners

SOCIAL CHALLENGES OF AI: The National Science Foundation and the Partnership on AI "will jointly support high-risk, high-reward research at the intersection of the social and technical dimensions of AI. Priority will be given to collaborative projects that integrate computer/computational science with the social, behavioral, and economic sciences." The aim of these EArly-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGERs) is "to understand the social challenges arising from AI technology and enable scientific contributions to overcome them." Read the Dear Colleague letter.

'SWEEPING' NEW TITLE IX RULES ON ASSAULTS: Drawing "both applause and anger," Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed enhanced legal protections for students accused of sexual assault and harassment, NPR and other media report. "Instead of requiring only a 'preponderance of the evidence,' as the Obama administration had directed, schools could demand 'clear and convincing evidence.'" DeVos decried "a 'failed' and 'shameful' system that has been unfair to accused students." The new regs guarantee students' right to cross-examine each other--discouraged under Obama. But they would bar "student-to-student confrontations, requiring instead that questions be asked by a third party, such as the accused student's attorney."


Growing Unease Among International Students About the U.S. 

"Percent of respondents reporting negative and positive impacts of the U.S. social and political climate." Source: Julie Baer, Institute of  International Education, International Student Enrollment Hot Topics Survey (November 2018)

The institute reports a 1.5 percent drop in new enrollments in the fall of 2018, compared with a 6.6 percent drop in the fall of 2017 and a 3.3 percent drop in the fall of 2016. 

. . . and Among Institutions about Future Recruitment

"[M]any institutions note increased concerns for the Fall 2019 cohort of international students. Approximately 80.7 percent of institutions report worries about future enrollment from Asian countries outside of China and India (+8 percentage points), 80.2 percent have concerns about China (+9 percentage points), and 71.8 percent cite apprehensions about India (+4 percentage points)."


CHINA'S PURSUIT OF BIOTECHNOLOGY: Beijing "is  investing  significant  resources  into  boosting Chinese innovative capacity in biotechnology and genomic sequencing," states the latest annual report of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. "China  appears  to  be  particularly  competitive" with respect to CRISPR. Its gains in genetic editing and genomic sequencing "may  help  them  become  more  competitive  in agricultural research as CRISPR technology is applied to developing new crop strains." Chinese success isn't entirely their own doing, the report asserts: "U.S.  agricultural  biotechnology  firms  have  been  the  target  of Chinese  corporate  espionage,  and  U.S.-developed  GMOs  appear to  be  grown  in  China  without  authorization  despite  Chinese  laws banning their cultivation."

MILITARY ADVANCES: The security commission report says Chinese R&D is progressing in a range ot technology. These include hypersonic  weapons, with China having "conducted  20  times  more hypersonic  missile  technology  tests  than  the  United  States"; unmanned vehicles, demonstrating "a  record-breaking  formation  of  1,374  rotary-wing unmanned  aerial  vehicles  in  Xi’an"; electromagnetic  railguns; counterspace  weapons;  and  unmanned  and  artificial  intelligence-equipped  weapons. "Beijing  views  these  potentially  disruptive  defense  technologies  (yet  to  be  fully  developed  and deployed  by  the  PLA,  the  United  States,  or  other  leading  powers) as  areas  in  which  it  can  exploit  U.S.  weaknesses."


AGENT ORANGE AND DISEASE: In Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 11, a National Academies panel concludes there is "sufficient evidence of an association between exposure to at least one of the chemicals of interest and hypertension. . . . The committee also concludes that there is sufficient evidence of an association between exposure and monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, a clinically silent condition that is a precurser to the cancer multiple myeloma."

See also: Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center.



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