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                         November 2, 2019                             




The Senate passed, 84-9, its first four fiscal 2020 appropriations bills Thursday: Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science (containing funds for the National Science Foundation, NASA, and National Institute of Standards and Technology), Interior-Environment, and Transportation-HUD. But CQ quotes a House Appropriations Committee spokesman as saying no House-Senate conference can occur without agreement on how the overall discretionary budget is allocated among agencies. And this won't happen until Senate Republicans "drop their demands to fund a border wall by cutting education.” Democrats blocked floor consideration of a Defense and Labor-HHS-Education spending package. As a result, says CQ, "momentum is expected to continue at a snail’s pace." Photo: Brumidi Corridors, U.S. Capitol (Architect of the Capitol)

See an appropriations update by Lewis-Burke Associates

SENATORS EYE 2-YEAR BUDGET CYCLE: Senate Budget Chairman Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse  (D-R.I.) propose "shifting the budget resolution to a two-year cycle" but retaining annual passage of spending bills. The measure, Enzi's office says, would require "detailed spending and revenue plans to better inform budget development," up-to-date information from the Congressional Budget Office, and a debt-to-GDP ratio goal. The bill would also require support from at least 60 senators to alter a budget once it has passed. 

SMART CITY REVOLUTION: From picking up early signs of a flu epidemic to creating pathways to STEM education in every neighborhood, this revolution offers more than automated vehicles and sensors on infrastructure, important as these are. The core enabling tecnhologies are captured in the AI Stack (left), as Raj Rajkumar, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon, explained at a House Science, Space, and Technology Committee field hearing. But he noted that "smart city innovation is dependent upon continued advances in the ability to compute at the 'edge,' which refers to the ability to process certain functions at the device level rather than across the system or in the cloud . . . hardware improvements and lower-cost sensing networks, the ability to train machine-learning algorithms on less data [and] continued advances in human/machine teaming." Few research efforts have focused on how the transformation of transportation may affect disandvantaged communities, said Wayne State's Tierra  Bills, an assistant professor of civil  and  environmental  engineering. "[W}e  risk excluding  those  with  the  greatest  transportation  needs  from  the  vast  benefits  of  smarter transportation technologies, and potentially reinforcing patterns of decline and underemployment."


A MATERIALS DIRECTORATE? That's what a National Science Foundation committee of visitors is proposing. The COV cites a National Academies decadal survey warning that U.S. leadership in materials science is in jeopardy due to the scale of investment by countries in Europe and East Asia, the American Institute of Physics reports in its FYI bulletin. Currently, the field resides in one of five divisions within the Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) Directorate. The division's budget "has increased, on average, by only 2.5% per year over the last 18 years, a factor that has barely kept pace with inflation. As a result, the COV found that many worthy and innovative proposals cannot be supported due to lack of funds and that necessary investments in infrastructure are being delayed . . . negatively  impacting workforce development  and  US competitiveness." 

TO-DO LIST FOR PCAST: Dario Gil, a member of the newly revived President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, is keen on "promoting scientific inquiry and its value to policymakers, ensuring that researchers have the computational tools they need in an era of big data, retraining the U.S. workforce to be more technically literate, and updating a partnership between the federal government, academia, and industry spelled out by Vannevar Bush at the end of World War II," Jeff Mervis reports in ScienceInsider. The IBM research director "also thinks the government must strike the right balance between protecting national security and fostering international scientific collaboration with the rest of the world, using 'a scalpel' instead of 'a blanket policy' to monitor and prevent undue foreign influences on U.S. research."

TESTING SELF-DRIVING VEHICLES: "Attendees agreed that simulation, test track, and on-road testing may all be necessary for the development of self-driving technology. Some suggested that a minimum set of requirements and guidelines could be established," according to a report of a workshop held by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The workshop considered a range of safety issues.

HANDS ACROSS THE POND: Streamlined collaboration is available between NSF engineering grantees and their United Kingdom counterparts. Proposers choose either NSF or Britain's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to serve as the "lead" agency to review their proposal. "The non-lead agency will honor the rigor of the review process and the decision of the lead agency." Learn more.

HIGH-PERFORMANCE COMPUTING, MANUFACTURING, AND MATERIALS: ASME's Capitol Update reports that the Department of Energy plans to offer a funding opportunity intended to pair DOE National Laboratory scientists with industry partners to apply high performance computing (HPC) technology and improve energy utilization in the manufacturing sector and accelerate industry discovery, design, and development of materials in energy technologies. It appears that "U.S. universities in partnership with a U.S. manufacturer" can be eligible. Learn more.



Source: National Science Board, Science & Engineering Indicators International S&E Higher Education. Clicking on the link will bring up an interactive version with more detail.


Source: Congressional Budget Office.


LATE ADOPTERS: Easy-to-program, dexterous, and relatively affordable robots could enable automation of a range of functions in agriculture, manufacturing, and services. Yet "all are generally too expensive and ineffective to be widely adopted enough to drive higher rates of economy-wide productivity growth," says a report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. Industry 4.0 technologies "do not appear to have been adopted on a large scale," with most manufacturers in developed nations appearing to be in the very early stages of adoption. Nonetheless, at least six technologies look like candidates to comprise the next innovation wave: the Internet of Things, advanced robotics, blockchain, new materials, autonomous devices, and artificial intelligence. "Perhaps artificial intelligence and robotics are the most important."

A MODEL LATINO PROGRAM: Excelencia in Education, which promotes the preparation of Latinx students for the high-skilled workplace, has named the AIMS2 program at California State University, Northridge as the 2019 Example of Excelencia in baccalaureate programs. AIMS2 is led by S.K. Ramesh, professor of electrical and computer engineering, along with faculty and staff from CSUN’s College of Engineering and Computer Science and College of Education.


SCIENCE OF MENTORSHIP: "Addressing the underrepresentation of major segments of the nation’s population requires a multipronged approach involving an ecosystem of participants, including institutional leadership, department chairs, program leaders, mentors, mentees, and professional associations. Mentorship will likely constitute a significant component of the complex solutions required," states a new report from the National Academies. "Given that effective mentoring relationships for individuals across career stages can strongly support mentee success in STEMM fields, creating a culture of inclusive excellence must include providing access to effective mentoring for all students." See the report.

WOMEN POSTDOCS: In collaboration with L’Oréal USA, the National Academies will host a gathering focused on supporting postdoctoral women in STEM.


NOMINATE A ROLE MODEL . . . or a colleague for a 2020 Golden Goose Award.​ The prize "honors federally funded researchers whose work may sound silly, odd, obscure, wasteful of taxpayer funding, or serendipitous, but has had a major, if not unintended, positive impact on society." This year, nominators of selected awardees will be recognized and receive travel support to attend the September 2020 GGA luncheon and award ceremony. Find out more.


ASEE is seeking applications and nominations for the position of Editor‐in‐Chief for the journal Advances in Engineering Education. The anticipated start date for this volunteer position is July 1, 2020, with applications due this fall. Learn more here.

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