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October 30, 2015



In a stunning break from Washington gridlock, Congress passed, and President Obama says he'll sign, a two-year budget deal with a 5.2 percent hike in FY 2016 discretionary spending and a suspension of the debt limit until March 2017. The agreement was negotiated between the White House and outgoing Speaker John Boehner. House leaders brought it to the floor with the support of just a fraction of the GOP caucus. House and Senate appropriators will now work the higher budget numbers into an omnibus appropriations bill that pulls together 12 individual spending measures from each chamber. An omnibus - or, failing that, a continuing resolution - must be enacted by Dec. 11 to avoid a government shutdown.

HOW GOOD FOR R&D? Budget analysts at the American Association for the Advancement of Science say the deal "should be a boon to federal science agencies." The research community, nonetheless, is urging appropriators "to make strong investments in America’s innovation ecosystem one of your highest priorities by increasing federal research funding by at least 5.2 percent." That's the increase called for in the budget deal for all discretionary spending. Coincidentally, it's also the increase sought by President Obama's FY 2016 budget for the National Science Foundation, as the American Institute of Physics' Michael Henry notes.

SPEED BUMPS AHEAD: Stung by their inability to block the budget deal, conservatives may try to attach poison-pill provisions to an omnibus -- affecting Planned Parenthood or carbon emissions regulations, for instance. Reuters expects "a spirited fight." But CQ reports: "One of (Speaker Paul) Ryan’s biggest selling points to colleagues was that he would restore 'regular order' to the appropriations process."

WHITHER THE DEFENSE BILL? With the two-year budget deal, the main reason Obama vetoed the defense authorization bill -- extra defense funding through the Overseas Contingency Operations account -- is now moot. The difference between the White House and Congress is now a mere $5 billion. But some in the House may nevertheless seek to override the veto instead of acting on a new bill, the Washington Post reports. Another idea is to attach a revised authorization measure to an omnibus. CQ reports this is "certainly possible but could be unwieldy."



(Figures in $billions)

Source: American Association for the Advancement of Science


A TROVE OF RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES: The Department of Energy's second Quadrennial Technology Review offers numerous avenues for both fundamental and applied research, says Franklyn (Lynn) Orr, left, the Stanford chemical engineer now serving as undersecretary for science and energy. Examples range from the small modular nuclear reactors, which we may see in the 2020s, to efforts to make solar and wind more efficient and to secure the smart grid, which will become more vulnerable to hacking as more "tendrils" extend to users. Building efficiency and additive manufacturing (using one-third the energy of conventional machining) are promising areas. "We need to invest across the spectrum," Orr told the Energy Sciences Coalition this week. "We need all the tools we have, and we need some more."

BEFORE THE STORM: Space weather -- variations in the space environment between the sun and Earth -- "can disrupt the technology that forms the backbone of this country’s economic vitality and national security, including satellite and airline operations, communications networks, navigation systems, and the electric power grid," warns a new White House report. The administration's strategy calls for establishing benchmarks for space-weather events; enhanced response and recovery capabilities; improved protection and mitigation efforts; assessment, modeling, and prediction of impacts on critical infrastructure; advanced understanding and forecasting; and increased international cooperation.

NEXT-GEN COMPUTERS: A workshop jointly sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Semiconductor Research Corporation grappled with the challenge of energy-saving yet faster computers. Its report says: "Research teams should address interdisciplinary research issues essential to the demonstration of new device concepts and associated architectures'; "Many promising research paths remain relatively unexplored"; "While appropriate circuits and higher level architectures should be explored and co-developed along with any new device concept, certain novel device concepts may demand greater emphasis on higher-level architecture." 

NSF GRANTS CONFERENCE TO BE WEBCAST: When: November 2, 2015 8:30 AM  to November 3, 2015 4:00 PM. Conference plenary sessions will also be recorded for on-demand viewing once the conference has concluded. Registration "is required and currently available at http://www.tvworldwide.com/events/nsf/151102/" Conference plenary sessions will also be recorded for on-demand viewing once the conference has concluded.


'A MIND SHIFT IN STUDENTS OF COLOR': That's the impact the National Society of Black Engineers hopes to achieve with its drive "to have the U.S. produce 10,000 African-American bachelor’s degree recipients in engineering annually, by 2025, up from the current number of 3,620." The “Be 1 of 10,000” campaign includes outreach to African-American 7th graders, aiming to have 150,000 of these youths "envision themselves as engineers and pledge to achieve academic excellence in subjects such as algebra, chemistry and physics, which are at the base of an engineering education. The Society will then provide online and other resources to help those students achieve their goals."


RESEARCH ASSOCIATES: The National Research Council's Research Associateship Program "is accepting applications for competitive awards in 2016 for postdoctoral, senior, and graduate research in U.S. federal laboratories and affiliated institutions. Submission deadline is Feb. 1, 2016." The program aims "to promote excellence in scientific and technological research conducted by the U.S. government." Learn more



Session Requests Are Open:
• Sunday Workshop and Distinguished Lecture Applications are also available between September 1st and November 2, 2015. •
Author's Kits are Available:
• The 2016 Annual Conference Author's Kit -- available on the website -- contains extremely important information regarding the submission process as well as all relevant deadline dates.

eGFI IS HERE: Help inspire the next generation of innovators with the all-new 6th edition of ASEE's prize-winning magazine for middle and high school students: eGFI (Engineering, Go For It). Filled with engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers, eGFI aims to get teens fired up about learning - and doing - 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.

ASME ADVANCED MANUFACTURING FELLOWSHIP . . . at America Makes, the additive manufacturing center in Youngstown, Ohio. The ASME Fellow will provide leadership and support in one of the key pillars of America Makes- Workforce and Educational Outreach. Learn more.