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May 20, 2017



Leaks of purported Trump administration budget figures show cuts of up to 11 percent at the National Science Foundation and  70 percent at the Energy Department's renewables program. These come on top of reductions already proposed in the March budget blueprint released by Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, left. That document called for cuts of 18 percent at the National Institutes of Health, 16 percent at DOE's Office of Science, and elimination of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy and NASA's Office of Education, among other programs. Lawmakers of both parties have lined up in support of threatened research budgets in advance of next week's White House budget release. While the proposed cuts are not expected to fly with appropriators, they represent the White House's opening position in a negotiation that ultimately could bring a presidential veto and a government shutdown.

DON'T BLAME SCIENCE: "Governing is about setting priorities, and the federal debt is not the result of Congress overspending on science  and energy  research each  year," six GOP senators tell President Trump. While ostensibly supporting just DOE research, their letter contains passages that seemingly apply to all science agencies: "It's hard to think of an important technological advancement since World War II that has not involved at least some form of government-sponsored research," they write. The letter was signed by Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska (right photo), Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine, Cory Gardner of Colorado, and Mike Rounds of South Dakota.

BACKING FOR NIH, NASA, NSF: Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who chairs the House appropriations panel that funds the National Institutes of Health, says he's “disappointed” with Trump’s proposed 18 percent cut to the agency and "very proud" of the $2 billion increase he helped secure for fiscal 2017, ScienceInsider reports. Meanwhile, 30 senators, led by Democrats Tim Kaine of Virginia and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, signed a letter supporting NASA's Office of Education. They cite in particular the Space Grant College and Fellowship Program and the Minority University Research and Education Project, And 29 Democratic senators, led by Ed Markey of Massachusetts, have written to appropriators seeking at least $8 billion for the National Science Foundation.

NIH is reaffirming its intent "to impose a general limit of three major grants per researcher, persuaded by data linking quantity to declining effectiveness," the Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

TURNABOUT ON ARPA-E: The Department of Energy has found projects it likes at the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy and is releasing previously approved grant money. "The projects moving forward are part of ARPA-E’s Next-Generation Energy Technologies for Connected and Autonomous On-Road Vehicles (NEXTCAR) and Renewable Energy to Fuels Through Utilization of Energy-Dense Liquids (REFUEL) programs. Additional awardees are expected to move forward in the coming weeks," DOE announced this week. That's good news for, among other institutions, Purdue University, which has been awarded $5 million to lead development of high-efficiency systems for heavy diesel trucks (photo). DOE says it's releasing the funds following a review of all existing awards "to ensure that each award applied good governance principles consistent with the new administration’s policy directives."

'CHILLING EFFECT': The Association of American Universities and five other higher education groups say proposed State Department steps to scrutinize visa applicants "can raise significant privacy concerns," send "a message to the global community that all international visitors may be viewed with suspicion," and "inadvertently choke our nation’s pipeline of international students and scholars." Their statement says the department plans to collect social media identifiers (handles) and username information and impose other burdensom and difficult- to-meet requirements.


OVERHEAD OVERSIGHT: Two House Science subcommittees plan a hearing May 24 "to examine the overhead costs for conducting federal taxpayer-funded research at universities and non-profit research institutions, including how the National Science Foundation and other federal research agencies negotiate and monitor indirect costs (facilities and administrative costs), and hear recommendations for improving efficiency and transparency." The Trump administration has questioned whether grant money should go toward operations and facilities. NSF's director of Institution and Award Support, Dale Bell, will be among the witnesses. Foundation Director France Córdova was on the Hill this past week for the annual exhibition put on by the Coalition for National Science Funding. She chatted briefly with ASEE's Rocio Chavela (center in photo) and Patti Curtis of the Museum of Science, Boston (right). 



The table at left, taken from R&D Magazine's 2017 Global R&D Funding Forecast, shows little change between 2015 and 2017 in the share of research spending by region. The double-digit annual investment increases by China, which drove global growth for a decade, proved to be "basically unsustainable." Still, China's yearly spending growth is double that of the United States and still growing. . 

©R&D Magazine, 2017 Global R&D Funding Forecast


Source: Government Accountability Office


INSUFFICIENT TRAINING: The United States is not adequately developing and sustaining a workforce with the skills needed to compete, says a National Academies report on the "skilled technical workforce." The term refers to "a range of occupations that require a high level of knowledge in a technical domain," but don't necessarily require a bachelor's degree for entry. "Unlike most other advanced economies, the United States lacks formal mechanisms that require governments, educators, labor representatives, and employers to coordinate on workforce development policies and practices at the national level." However, "evidence suggests that integration of academic education, technical training, and hands-on work experience improves outcomes and return on investment for students in secondary and postsecondary education and for skilled technical workers in different career stages."


SIGN UP FOR NETI: There are still a few openings for the advanced National Effective Teaching Institute (NETI-2), which will be offered June 23-24, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Columbus, OH.  Drs. Susan Lord, Matt Ohland, and Michael Prince will lead each workshop. See the outline here. Topics to be covered are listed on the accompanying outlines. Participants for the NETI workshop will include 50 faculty members from all branches of engineering and engineering technology. The $1,050 registration fee covers organization and presentation costs, participant notebooks, breakfasts, lunches, and breaks. Attendees' institutions are expected to cover the participants' expenses for transportation, lodging, and one meal per day. If you have any administrative questions, please contact Heather Deale at ASEE headquarters via email (h.deale@asee.org).  For questions about the workshop content, please contact Dr. Michael Prince at prince@bucknell.edu



THE SIXTH ANNUAL ASEE INTERNATIONAL FORUM will be held on Wednesday, June 28th, 2017 on the final day of ASEE’s Annual Conference in Columbus, OH. The International Forum brings together engineering professionals from academia and industry from around the globe who are engaged in novel engineering education initiatives to share information on successful models, experiences and best practices. The keynote speaker will be Dr. Mike Murphy, dean of the College of Engineering and Built Environment, Dublin Institute of Technology.  Click here for more information.

NEW PODCAST - The Play’s the Thing: Why were actors on the stage at the ASEE Engineering Deans Institute in April? Click here to listen.

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.