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                                 February 2, 2019



"[t]the speed and adaptation of new technology will continue to drive the world in which we live in ways we have yet to fully understand," National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, shown with CIA Director Gina Haspel, told Congress this week. The intelligence community's Worldwide Threat Assessment says U.S. adversaries are "investing heavily" in artificial intelligence, communication technologies, biotechnology, and materials sciences. "AI-enhanced systems are likely to be trusted with increasing levels of autonomy and decisionmaking, presenting the world with a host of economic, military, ethical, and privacy challenges. Furthermore, interactions between multiple advanced AI systems could lead to unexpected outcomes that increase the risk of economic miscalculation or battlefield surprise. . . . Rapid advances in biotechnology, including gene editing, synthetic biology, and neuroscience, . . . introduce risks, such as the potential for adversaries to develop novel biological warfare agents, threaten food security, and enhance or degrade human performance. . . . A global resurgence in materials science and manufacturing technology is likely to enable advanced states to create materials with novel properties and engineer structures not previously possible, while placing high-end manufacturing capabilities within reach of small groups and individuals."

WARNING ON CHINA: "We assess that China’s intelligence services will exploit the openness of American society, especially academia and the scientific community, using a variety of means," the intelligence agencies say.

APPROPRIATORS' HIGH-PRESSURE WEEK AHEAD: With no sign of bending by President Trump or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on a border wall, a conference committee led by House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) is trying to come up with a border security plan that bridges gaps both concrete and semantic. "Congress has until Feb. 15 to pass a bill for Trump to sign before the latest continuing resolution . . .  expires," CQ reports. "And an agreement needs to be ready by Feb. 8 to allow time for it to be drafted into bill text and moved through both chambers, Pelosi said." House Democrats' outline  for Homeland Security funding appeared to move them further from the president. 

KICKING THE CAN: ASME's Capitol Update reports that If a new agreement is not reached by February 15, there is the possibility that Congress and the White House will agree to a further extension rather than another shutdown.

UNIVERSITIES SEEK FULL-YEAR FUNDING: In a statement, the Association of American Universities urges Congress to "fully fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year and provide research investments like those supported in the last Congress, boosting federal support for the National Science Foundation, NASA, USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, and the National Endowments for the Humanities." The group also implores Congress "to take long-overdue action to permanently protect (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA) registrants from deportation," saying "it’s unconscionable to keep them in the shadows any longer."

SHUTDOWN'S IMPACT ON R&D: "As science agencies reboot after the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, it is becoming clear that it will take them months to recover," reports the American Institute of Physics' FYI bulletin. Separately, Space.com says the shutdown "temporarily halted development work on many NASA missions, as well as outside projects that depend on grant money from NASA and/or other government agencies,This could have serious financial consequences down the road." Administrator Jim Bridenstine said:  "We didn't have a mass exodus — I think, had this gone on longer, we would have — but we did lose people, onesies and twosies across the agency and here at headquarters," he added.

BILLIONS WON'T BE RECOVERED: The Congressional Budget Office "estimates that the five-week shutdown delayed approximately $18 billion in federal discretionary spending for compensation and purchases of goods and services and suspended some federal services. . . . Although most of the real GDP lost during the fourth quarter of 2018 and the first quarter
of 2019 will eventually be recovered, CBO estimates that about $3 billion will not be. That amount equals 0.02 percent of projected annual GDP in 2019."

MAKING WAVES: Rep Elaine Luria (D-Va.), left,"one of a sizable group of women new to Congress who ran for office for the first time," spent 20 years as a Navy surface warfare officer and nuclear engineer, CQ reports, adding: "In the final week of the government shutdown, Luria sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, along with 29 other Democrats, in an effort to secure a deal to reopen federal agencies. The letter asked for a vote on President Donald Trump’s border wall funding request." Read more about her in the February Prism.

A NEW VOICE ON CLIMATE CHANGE: Another congressional newcomer, Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.), brings a background in biochemical engineering and clean energy. Given a seat on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, he says: "In the last Congress, I believe my colleagues on the other side of the aisle embraced a fetishization of ignorance when it came to climate change and facts. That must end. . . . My mission on the committee is not only to implement meaningful long overdue change on issues such as climate change but also to make decisions based on facts."

INNOVATION IN NUCLEAR POWER: Congressional discussion of advanced nuclear reactors is under way, according to the American Institute of Physics' FYI bulletin. It cites a hearing chaired by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn., who said accelerating development of advanced reactors is the "most promising way to assure a nuclear industry for America’s future." The single biggest obstacle is cost.

THE RACE TO 5G: An upcoming Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing "will focus on key steps to maintain U.S. global leadership in next-generation communications technology, spectrum needs to accelerate deployment, and new applications and services consumers can expect with 5G deployments. The hearing will also examine current efforts to modernize infrastructure siting policies and the security of 5G networks." The Brookings Institution's Nicol Turner Lee, citing a study by CTIA, which represents the wireless industry, writes: "China and South Korea are poised to outpace the U.S. in 5G deployment." A report by the Eurasia Group says China aims to deploy a commercial-scale 5G network in 2020. The news site Quartz notes: "The upgrade to 5G telecom networks promises to unleash fast, ubiquitous data connections among all sorts of devices. The opportunities for self-driving cars and the like are immense—and so are the risks of mass surveillance." The Justice Department this week brought an indictment against officials of Huawei, a leading company in China's 5G drive. 


EQUITY, INCLUSION, AND-OR ETHICS: Research on these topics in STEM can be approached in various ways, the National Science Foundation says, including fundamental theoretical constructs; the implications of changes in the academic professions, such as reductions in the numbers of full-time, tenure track and tenured faculty, and increases in part-time, contingent, term, adjunct, and teaching- or research- only faculty; and research on "how people recognize, reason about, experience and respond to issues of equity, inclusion, and/or ethics in STEM academic workplaces and academic professions." Learn more. NSF also "invites proposals on the development, application, and extension of formal models and methodologies for STEM learning research, research synthesis (including meta-analysis and meta-synthesis), and evaluation." Learn more

LETTERS OF INTENT are due February 8 for NSF's Mid-scale Research Infrastructure Program. The effort "is aimed at transforming scientific and engineering research fields as well as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education research fields by making available new capabilities, while simultaneously training early-career researchers in the development, design, and construction of cutting-edge infrastructure." Learn more.

INTEROPERABLE HEALTH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, and its ability to improve health care transitions, will be the subject of a funding opportunity from the National Institutes of Health. Find out more.

Read a short, informative story on Bruce J. Tromberg, the new head of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB).

COAL-FIRED POWER PLANT PERFORMANCE: The Department of Energy has $38 million available for projects that will improve current technologies pertaining to the overall performance, reliability, and flexibility of coal-fired power plants in the U.S. Learn more. DOE also has announced $40 million in available funding for Grid Modernization Initiative (GMI). Find out more.

WHAT'S APP WITH THE PHONES? NSF's Office of the Inspector General has looked into compliance with the agency's policy on mobile phones. The policy states that "only applications necessary to conduct agency business may be installed on NSF-provided devices.” The IG says, "We found apps on some devices that may violate NSF’s personal use policies. For example, some users had auction apps, games that could constitute gambling, or apps that could be used for personal gain. We also searched for apps that could indicate use of the device by unauthorized persons and found children’s entertainment apps. . . .We found apps that do not appear necessary to conduct agency business, including media streaming apps, music streaming apps, and popular games played on mobile devices." Read the report.


Source: Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community.

Sources: Congressional Research Service; Center for American Women and Politics, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University. Data for the 115th Congress are for the beginning of the Congress.


HOW ENDOWMENT INCOME IS USED: The National Association of College and University Business Officers reports that "[o]n average, 49 percent of withdrawals were applied to student scholarship and financial aid programs, 16 percent to academic programs, 10 percent to faculty positions, and 7 percent for campus operations. The remaining 18 percent falls under a category covering all other purposes." according to an Association of American Universities newsletterInside Higher Ed adds: "[I]n general, institutions with larger endowments tended to report dedicating lower percentages of their endowment spending to financial aid than those with smaller endowments. But those wealthier institutions still spend more on financial aid when measured in dollars, because their endowments generate so much more money."

WHAT WORKS IN K-12? Persistent problems beset the U.S. Department of Education in assessing results from the billions it spends on programs to improve K-12, the Government Accountability Office says. "[S]ome program grant files were missing descriptions of what grantees achieved." The department "lacks assurance that some state-submitted data are accurate. . . .A lack of qualified staff has impacted monitoring, and Education hasn’t updated hiring plans in years. . . . Measuring long-term outcomes can be difficult."


EDGY TECHNOLOGY AND IDEALISM both took the stage at the National Academy of Engineering's 2018 US Frontiers of Engineering Symposium. At the annual event, "100 of this country’s best and brightest early-career engineers—from academia, industry, and government and a variety of engineering disciplines—learn from their peers about pioneering work in different areas of engineering." Last year's topics dealt with quantum computing, resilient infrastructure, theranostics, and engineering in the face of conflict and disaster. In a talk on "Engineering for the People," Arizona State University's Darshan Mukesh Arvinda Karwat reminded his audience that "while people, politicians, and governments talk about doing something, they do not have the skills to actually do it. Engineers do. This is where engineers and engineering hold power." Read the report.



The 2019 Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity (CoNECD) conference will be held April 14–17, 2019, at the Marriott Crystal Gateway in Crystal City, Va. (future site of Amazon’s HQ2). ASEE members qualify for a discount.
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Connect with Department Chairs at the ASEE Annual Conference
Learn the best practices of successful department chairs on June 16th at the 2019 Chairs Conclave in Tampa, FL. Designed by chairs, for chairs, the Chairs Conclave is an exclusive forum for engineering and engineering technology department chairs to exchange ideas and experiences, talk through challenges, and build working relationships. Learn more and register today – seating is limited – at https://chairsconclave.asee.org.

Two-Part Webinar on Teaching Metacognition — February 2019
How do you teach metacognition to help improve student learning? Join us for a two-part webinar event. Patrick Cunningham (Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology) and Holly Matusovich (Virginia Tech) offer insights and actionable strategies for talking to and teaching students about metacognitive development. Registration is free for ASEE members! Learn more and register


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