Facebook icon Twitter icon Forward icon

November 11, 2016



Washington's equivalent of Kremlinologists are trying to discern Donald Trump's approach to technology, education, energy, and science based on key appointees to his transition team and past statements. A clue emerged today with word that venture capitalist Peter Thiel, Facebook board member and Silicon Valley maverick, would join the transition team. "Thiel, 49, has publicly decried foreign wars, high debt and inefficient spending on defense, trade, health care and student debt" and is likely to make government waste a top priority, Bloomberg reports.

Less well-known names on a six-pronged transition organization chart published by Politico include energy adviser Mike McKenna, president of MWR Strategies, who has worked for  the Energy and Transportation departments and also lobbied for Dow Chemical, Koch Industries, Southern, GDF Suez and TECO Energy. Also in the mix, according to the Washington Post, is Myron Ebell, head of energy and environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who "has been a skeptic about climate change and has called many mainstream climate studies false."  

HIKE IN DEFENSE SPENDING: That "could be one of this election's biggest winners," reports Defense One, with the GOP controlling both houses of Congress and a Republican in the White House. The Dallas News says "Lockheed Martin already is meeting with the President-elect's transition team about the (F-35 Lightning II) stealth fighter and other programs." Defense News cautions that Trump "would have to surmount GOP fiscal hawks with an aversion to deficit spending and Democrats who want parity for defense and non-defense spending."

ANGST AND ACCEPTANCE: Scientific American, Nature, and other outlets report worry - particularly among environmentalists and climate scientists in light of Trump's stated intention of scrapping the Paris accords. "Another complaint is that Trump’s strict anti-immigration views could have a chilling effect on American science in general. Kevin Wilson, director of public policy and media relations at the American Society for Cell Biology, told Nature he thought the result would decrease scientist interest in coming to America for research." 

Congratulating Trump, Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education, said she joined "more than 4,000 college and university presidents and other higher education leaders across the country in wishing President-elect Trump well . . . . The entire higher education community looks forward to working with the Trump administration on key issues such as expanding access to educational opportunity, increasing levels of attainment and supporting cutting-edge research and innovation." See what is known so far about Trump's education plans.

FIRST 100 DAYS: Politico reports it has an internal transition team document, according to which, the new administration "will drop out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal with 11 other countries, and 100 days after that it could withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) unless certain demands are met." 

OUTLIER TURNED OUT TO BE RIGHT: Almost alone among pre-election polls, the University of Southern California's Daybreak survey gave Donald Trump the edge. It's unusual approach "asked respondents to rate, on a scale from 0 to 100, their chance of voting for Trump, Clinton or some other candidate. The poll also asked people to use the same 0-100 scale to rate their likelihood of voting. . . . By asking people to give a probability, the poll avoided forcing voters into making a decision before they were truly ready. As a result, it may have more accurately captured the ambiguity many people felt about their choice," reports the LA Times, which published the survey. "[T]he poll correctly detected Trump’s appeal to a key bloc of voters: conservative whites who had sat out the 2012 election but intended to vote this year."


HUMAN-ROBOT TEAMWORK: Called NRI 2.0, the 2017 National Robotics Initiative is broader in scope and aims, says the National Science Foundation. "In particular, the NRI-2.0 program expands the co-robot theme in terms of the scale and variety of collaborative interactions that are the focus of this program – important new themes of the NRI-2.0 program include collaborative teams of humans and robots, easily customized and personalized robots, and infrastructure to lower the barriers to entry into the field of co-robots." There are two classes of projects: "Foundational projects will range from $350,000 to $750,000 in total costs for up to three years. Integrative projects will range from $500,000 to $1,500,000 in total costs for up to four years." Some 40 to 70 awards are anticipated per year. Total funding: $30 million to $45 million.

SEEING RED: Letters of intent are due December 9 for REvolutionizing engineering and computer science Departments (IUSE/PFE: RED), intended to enable "engineering and computer science departments to lead the nation by successfully achieving significant sustainable changes necessary to overcome longstanding issues in their undergraduate programs and educate inclusive communities of engineering and computer science students ..." Learn more.

A BIRD IN HAND: Virginia Tech has one of five winning U.S.-Israeli collaborations in the Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Energy program between the Department of Energy and Israel’s Ministry of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources and the Israel Innovation Authority. VT is teaming up with Waves Audio Ltd. in Tel Aviv to "develop an innovative electrostatic speaker using a nanoscale active membrane based on graphene, achieving significant energy savings." The Technion has a joint project with Pajarito Powder, LLC (Albuquerque, N.M.) to "develop lower cost catalysts for energy storage and energy generation devices, used to level intermittent renewable sources or for back-up applications."

PICTURING THE BRAIN: The National Institute of NIBIB alerts  investigators of two new BRAIN Initiative FY17 opportunities: Development of Next Generation Human Brain Imaging Tools and Technologies: Stage 2 (U01) "aims to support full development of entirely new or next generation noninvasive human brain imaging tools and methods that will lead to transformative advances in our understanding of the human brain." Proof of Concept Development of Early Stage Next Generation Human Brain Imaging (R01) "aims to support early stage development of entirely new and novel noninvasive human brain imaging technologies and methods that will lead to transformative advances in our understanding of the human brain."


Graphic by Jennifer Pocock; Source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NSF). Click here to see a larger version.


APPROPRIATIONS CONTENDERS: Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey (far right photo) is likely to succeed Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) as chair of the House Appropriations Committee, CQ reports. If so, he'll have his hands full. Although with a slightly smaller majority, the GOP will "skew more conservative" in the House. "Republicans will revel in opportunities to pursue spending and policy priorities through appropriations bills." In the Senate, Thad Cochran will continue as Appropriations chair. Patty Murray of Washington, (right photo) is one of several Democrats on a shortlist to succeed retiring Barbara Mikulski of Maryland as ranking member. Also on the list are Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Dianne Feinstein of California.

A LAME DUCK ENERGY BILL? Industry groups indicated it’s too early to tell the fate of the measure, as Republican and Democratic leaders are still processing the election results, CQ reports. Before the election, a struggle was anticipated in reconciling House and Senate versions of this major piece of legislation. There's pressure from left and right to "punt the bill to the next Congress. . . .The conservative-leaning Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, an unrestricted super PAC that is at the heart of the Koch donor network, has called on lawmakers to consider no legislation in the lame duck."  


AGE AND RESEARCH IMPACT: They don't appear to be related, accoridng to findings reported in Ars Technica. "The highest-impact work can occur anywhere in the sequence of publications with equal probability regardless of discipline, career length, career time period, number of authors, and assigned contributions of authors. Further analysis revealed that growth in average impact during a career in science can be attributed to growing productivity and that ability or excellence do not influence how impact evolves over time." 

WOMEN VETS LEAD IN ENTREPRENEURSHIP: The Census Bureau reports that between 2007 and 2012, the number of veteran-owned businesses rose by 74,074, or 3.0 percent, to reach 2.5 million. "Women were solely responsible for this overall increase in the number of veteran-owned firms. In a span of only five years, the number of female veteran-owned firms approximately quadrupled, from 97,114, or 4.0 percent of all veteran-owned firms, to 383,302, or 15.2 percent." 


NEW EDITOR TAPPED: Sarah M. Ryan, a professor in the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering at Iowa State, is the new editor in chief of the Engineering Economist, a journal published jointly by the Institute of Industrial Engineers' Engineering Economy Division and ASEE's Engineering Economy Division.

REPORT FROM SEOUL: ASEE Executive Director Norman Fortenberry addressed a President’s Roundtable at the World Education Engineering Forum on the topic “Engineering Education as a Driver of Economic Development.” He spoke about the role of university research in U.S. government innovation policy, NSF’s I-Corps program and the Chilean Engineer of 2030 program. 

SAFE ZONE ALLY TRAINING WEBINAR SERIES – Level 2: Take part in creating a positive and inclusive environment for LGBTQ individuals in STEM by joining ASEE for three free Level 2 Safe Zone Ally Training webinars. Building upon the Level 1 webinars presented in Spring 2016, ASEE is offering a  one-hour “deep dive” on LGBTQ and engineering culture December 6. Register today. Missed Level 1? View the slides and recording-on-demand here.

CALL FOR PARTICIPATION: WORKSHOP ON BUILDING RESEARCH CAPACITY FOR STEM FACULTY DEVELOPMENT: Building Research Capacity for STEM Faculty Development is an NSF-sponsored working conference that brings together experts from around the country to develop a national research agenda focused on faculty development in the STEM disciplines. February 16-18, 2017 at Clemson University. Apply here

Prize-winning eGFI:  Get teens fired up about engineering with eGFI (Engineering, Go For It), ASEE's magazine for middle and high school students. Winner of the APEX Grand Award for Publication Excellence, eGFI combines engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers. Click here to purchase copies, For bulk purchases or other inquiries, contact eGFI@asee.org or call 202-331-3500.