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                                   March 10, 2018



Lawmakers are “on track” to unveil the fiscal year 2018 omnibus appropriations conference report sometime during the week of March 12-16, a spokeswoman for the House Appropriations Committee tells Defense Daily. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., says action on the spending package, which would combine all 12 appropriations bills into one and fund the government through September 30, is "possible" next week. But CQ reports "hurdles still remain as lawmakers try to draft a sprawling bipartisan bill. . . . Family planning is one issue that's causing a hiccup," because of a provision in the Senate Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill.

APPROPRIATIONS GAVEL PASSES: Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), one of the longest-serving members of Congress, plans to retire once he sees the fiscal 2018 appropriations cycle through to completion - most likely April 1. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) who at 83 is three years older than Cochran, is expected to become the next chair of the committee, which shares control of the government's checkbook with its House counterpart. Shelby "signaled Tuesday he also may claim the defense subcommittee," according to CQ. That's "a coveted spot that has a heightened profile given the substantial increase in military funding available over the next two years." Cochran, who cited poor health for his decision, joins an already long list of retiring GOP committee chairmen, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.).

THE '4 PERCENT REAL-GROWTH' MANTRA: The Energy Sciences Coalition, which mostly advocates in behalf of research funding at the Department of Energy's Office of Science, has set a target for fiscal 2019 of 4 percent real growth above what Senate appropriators have pegged for the current fiscal year. This increase would raise the Office of Science to $5.85 billion. Sister coaltions that advocate for the National Science Foundation and Defense research agencies have adopted similar targets. The Trump administration has proposed what CQ calls "drastic clean energy and advanced energy research cuts" for the Energy Department, including elimination of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.

DEFENSE RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: Rear Adm. David Hahn, right, chief of Naval Research will appear before a House Armed Services subcommittee Wednesday in a "review and assessment" of the Defense Department's proposed budget for science and technology. Alongside Hahn, who holds a mechanical engineering degree from the Naval Academy, will be Tom Russell, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Research and Technology, Jeff Stanley, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for Science, Technology, and Engineering, and Steve Walker, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. See below for three graphics on Pentagon S&T. Here's some background on Russell's vision for Army research. DARPA's "culture of risk-taking and tolerance for failure . . . has led experts, some members of Congress, and others" to view the agency "as a model for innovation both inside and outside of the federal government," the Congressional Research Service says. Flickr photo

HIGHER ED ACT's 'UNCERTAIN PATH': The reauthorization bill authored by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) "could potentially receive a vote in the next few weeks" on the House floor, Lewis-Burke Associates' Higher Education Policy Newsletter reports. But enthusiasm for the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act seems well under control. "While opposition by Democrats is all but guaranteed, there has been quiet pushback to the bill by some Republicans concerned with the bill’s provisions and the process by which it was drafted.  Recent analysis performed by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that the PROSPER Act would reduce federal spending on education by $15 billion over a 10-year period. This is largely due to the bill’s proposals to make student loan repayment options less generous for students, eliminate subsidized loans, and eliminate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program." In addition the U.S. Department of Education's inspector general has expressed concern over "elimination of accountability measures particularly for proprietary institutions, and the potential increased risk to students and taxpayers."


NSF OPENS PREP COMPETITION FOR NEXT-GEN ERCs: The National Science Foundation's venerable Engineering Research Centers program "is placing greater emphasis on research that leads to societal impact, including convergent approaches, engaging stakeholder communities, and strengthening team formation," NSF says in announcing a planning grant competition. It "is designed to foster and facilitate the engineering community’s thinking about how to form convergent research collaborations. To participate in the upcoming ERC competition, one is not required to submit a planning grant proposal nor to receive a planning grant." The solicitation follows an NSF-commissioned study by the National Academies, "A New Vision for Center-based Engineering Research," and response to the study by the Engineering Directorate's advisory committee and by current ERC grantees at a meeting late last fall. NSF's announcement cites the Academies' call for "a deliberate, early-stage process for the development and formation of the best research teams to tackle complex, high-impact societal problems using the Team Science best practices."Photo credit: Yoky Matsuoka, University of Washington 

BIG DATA STRATEGY: The National Institutes of Health is seeking reaction to its draft Strategic Plan for Data Science, which NIH describes as "the interdisciplinary field of inquiry in which quantitative and analytical approaches, processes, and systems are developed and used to extract knowledge and insights from increasingly large and/or complex sets of data." The agency seeks responses on the "appropriateness of the goals of the plan and of the strategies and implementation tactics proposed to achieve them; opportunities for NIH to partner in achieving these goals; additional concepts that should be included in the plan; performance measures and milestones that could be used to gauge the success of elements of the plan and inform course corrections"; or another relevant topic. Learn more. 

ALTOGETHER NOW: "Scientists and engineers from all disciplines are encouraged to participate" in the joint NSF-NIH Smart and Connected Health program. The agencies plan to fund multi-disciplinary teams spanning 2 to 4 years at up to $300,000 per year. The purpose is "development of technologies, analytics and models supporting next generation health and medical research through high-risk, high-reward advances in computer and information science, engineering and technology, behavior, cognition, robotics and imaging. Collaborations between academic, industry, and other organizations are strongly encouraged to establish better linkages between fundamental science, medicine and healthcare practice and technology development, deployment and use." Find out more.

PELL GRANT CHANGES AND CUTS are among features of the Education Department's FY 2019 budget request. Lewis-Burke Associates reports that ED "would maintain the total maximum individual Pell Grant award at $5,920, with no inflationary increases for the 2019-2020 school year, and proposes to expand Pell Grants to high-quality, short-term programs. Similar to last year’s budget request, the FY 2019 budget request would dramatically reduce or eliminate several signature federal student aid programs and benefits, including a complete elimination of the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) program, subsidized undergraduate loans, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)." In addition, the budget request "proposes the elimination of numerous discretionary grant programs, including Title VI International Education and Foreign Language Studies, Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), and Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) programs. To date, Congress has consistently funded these grant programs."

DOE REVIEW CAUSED 'UNCERTAINTY': Given that the Trump administration wants to eliminate the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, the damage caused by DOE's review of ARPA-E grants last year doesn't seem all that severe. The Government Accountability Office says that in May, 2017, "DOE began a review of all its new financial assistance awards—including those from ARPA-E. During the review, DOE delayed new ARPA-E awards and provided limited information to those who had been selected but were still negotiating the terms of their awards. While nearly all ARPA-E financial assistance was eventually approved, the delay created uncertainty for 10 project teams we interviewed, which affected their project timelines and hiring."


Source for all 3 graphics: A presentation on the defense budget and R&D funding by Todd Harrison, who directs the Aerospace Security Project and defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, a Washington think tank, to the Coalition for National Security Research. To see the rest of his presentation, click here.


FARNAM JAHANIAN IS CARNEGIE MELLON's 10th PRESIDENT: The Iranian-born computer scientist, previously the university's provost, had been serving as interim president since July 2017 following the departure of Subra Suresh. An expert in cybersecurity, he cofounded the Internet security company Arbor Networks. Jahanian led the National Science Foundation Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) from 2011 to 2014. Suresh is now president of Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University. See Pittsburgh media accounts. Photo: CMU

MOODY'S TURNS BEARISH ON HIGHER ED: Lewis-Burke Associates reports: "Higher education observers are warning about fiscal challenges affecting higher education. Moody’s Investors Service revised their 2018 outlook for the higher education sector from stable to negative in a report released this winter. Moody’s projects that growth in operating revenues will continue to decline, while growth in expenses will remain steady or even increase due to rising labor costs. Causes of the forecasted decline in operating revenue growth include stagnating high school graduation numbers, tuition freezes at public institutions, and growing tuition discount rates at some institutions, among other factors. The recent overhaul of the U.S. tax code is also projected to impact alumni giving to institutions."


HIGHER EDUCATION ACT REAUTHORIZATION - Letter from ASEE President Bev Watford to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions: "Postsecondary education plays a leading role in the preparation of the engineering and engineering technology workforce, a driving force behind innovation and our economic development. . . . ASEE recognizes, along with the rest of the higher education community, that student financial aid is too complicated. Simplification of aid programs, however, should not lead to reduction of benefits to students. It is important that student aid options, particularly for graduate students, are maintained. Engineering education provides a proven pathway to the middle class and it is critical that this pathway continue to be accessible to students in need." Read the full letter

P-12 ENGINEERING: The 2nd Annual Advancing Excellence in P-12 Engineering Education (AEEE) symposium will be held May 29-31, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. The symposium, and larger AEEE project, seek to (a) promote collaboration to pursue a vision/direction for P-12 Engineering Education, and (b) develop a coherent content framework for scaffolding the teaching of engineering and design at the high school level. After hearing from national leaders, symposium participants will work in breakout groups to review and refine the Progressions of Learning in Engineering and recommend culturally-relevant engineering instructional vignettes and activities. Please register before March 13. Additional details are available at https://www.iteea.org/Activities/2142/AEEE_P12/130242/130249.aspx

DEANS' SUPPORT SOUGHT FOR AN ADVANCED HIGH SCHOOL ENGINEERING COURSE: A committee of the Engineering Deans Council has been informed by the College Board and the National Science Foundation that in order for them to commit additional resources towards the possibility of launching an advanced high school course in engineering, the College Board would require a minimum of at least 100 Deans of Engineering signing an attestation by Friday, March 9 stating that they will work towards placement and credit somewhere in either their core or elective engineering curriculum, or in their General Education curriculum.

Read the letter to deans here.

ANNUAL SALARY SURVEY: Help ASEE create quality national benchmarks of engineering faculty salaries!
ASEE conducts an annual engineering faulty salary survey, and we need your school’s faculty salaries to create quality national benchmarks. The survey can be accessed at https://salarysurvey.asee.org. The survey will run until March 23, 2018. This online survey of tenured and tenure-track faculty is free of charge to participate. Schools that opt to pay $500 will receive access to our peer-group creation tool which allows schools to create aggregate salary reports based on groups of peer schools they select.  Please direct any questions to Brian Yoder at b.yoder@asee.org or 202-331-3535.

ASEE IS CO-HOSTING the First Annual CoNECD (Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity - pronounced “connected”) Conference April 29 to May 1. It will be a forum on enhancing diversity and inclusion of underrepresented groups in engineering and computing. CoNECD will encompass many diverse groups, including those based on gender (including gender identity and gender expression), race and ethnicity, disability, veterans, LGBTQ+, 1st generation and socio-economic status. It's a collaboration of ASEE's Minorities in Engineering and Women in Engineering divisions and several outside groups. Registration is now open. Find out more.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE ACCELERATOR: ASEE's free monthly newsletter for undergraduate and graduate students has a wide array of resources: scholarship and internship/co-op listings, student news and essays, podcasts, professional development resources (e.g., advice on how to get an internship and how to make the most of it), and academic advice - plus entertaining engineering videos. Tell your students! Click here to subscribe. Click here to advertise. Send content to Jennifer Pocock at j.pocock@asee.org.

FIRE UP THE FUTURE WITH eGFI: Filled with engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers, the latest edition of ASEE's award-winning Engineering, Go For It is sure to get your students excited about learning - and doing - engineering!

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