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                                                           January 27, 2018         



National Science Foundation Director France Córdova and Walter Copan, director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, are scheduled to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday at a hearing entitled “One Year Later: The American Innovation and Competitiveness Act." That law is the latest version of the landmark 2007 America COMPETES Act calling for a substantial increase over time in federal research spending. The hearing comes midway through the latest stopgap funding measure, which ended last weekend's brief government shutdown but expires Feb. 8, and two weeks before President Trump unveils his fiscal 2019 budget on Feb. 12. Apart from a $716 billion request for defense - 7 percent above the FY 2018 Pentagon budget - as reported by the Washington Post, few details of the administration's budget have emerged. As Congress struggles to reach a budget deal for the current year and wriggle out of spending caps imposed in 2011, some 2000 organizations are insisting on parity between defense and non-defense discretionary spending.

ENERGY RESEARCH - WHAT NOW? The undersecretaries for science and energy at the Department of Energy will be quizzed at a hearing by the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Tuesday on the department's proposed management reorganization and its impact on "civilian research, development, demonstration, and commercial application programs," as well as "the administration’s goals and future funding priorities at the department."

AN AMERICAN ADVANTAGE: Some U.S. manufacturing plants contain "thousands, or maybe even tens of thousands of machines," says Georgia Tech mechanical engineering professor Thomas Kurfess, who served in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Obama administration. The ability to monitor all those machines is one way the Internet of Things can benefit manufacturing, he told the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "This requires significant infrastructure within plants and between plants" that is "readily available in the U.S. and provides us with a significant advantage over less developed parts of the world." While the IoT will generate new and higher paying jobs, people who fill those jobs "will need to be continuously trained in the latest and state-of-the-art technologies." Read his testimony and an account of the hearing by ASME's Capitol Update

SENATE BID TO EXPAND SKILLED-WORKER VISAS: CNN reports that Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) are proposing "to increase the annual quota of H-1B visas from 65,000 to 85,000." The H-1B, a favorite of tech firms, is valid for three years, and can be renewed for another three years. The Hatch-Flake "Immigration Innovation Act, or I-Squared . . . legislation would also provide work authorization for spouses and children of H-1B visa holders."

CLIMATE PRAGMATISM: Where can you find GOP moderates these days? One place is the Climate Solutions Caucus, described by CQ as "the bipartisan House caucus dedicated to addressing climate change." The group "bolstered its ranks Friday with the addition of Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the former Energy and Commerce chairman who now heads the panel's Energy Subcommittee. 'When it comes to climate change we must take an economically realistic and pragmatic approach,' Upton said in a statement."  "Joining the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus is a tremendous opportunity to work across the aisle towards those goals."

HIGHER ED ACT - WHERE THE PARTIES SPLIT: As the Senate Health Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee works to craft a bipartisan Higher Education Act reauthorization, "GOP senators, led by committee chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) . . . have called for substantial changes to the way students apply for financial aid and the structure of the federal aid system, as well as restrictions on the programs that receive those funds," Inside Higher Ed reports. Democrats, led by Patty Murray (Wash.) "have signaled general agreement with Republican goals, but with important caveats. Streamline grants and loans, yes, but only if the total amount of aid is preserved. Support innovation, too, but only if quality protections are put in place for students and taxpayers." A House version, backed only by Republicans, has cleared committee and awaits action on the floor. See a House bill analysis and section by section summary

SUPREMACY IN HIGH-TECH DEFENSE: The nation needs "new and aggressive investment in and accelerated development of autonomous systems, artificial intelligence and machine learning, space protection and defense, electronic warfare, hypersonics, advanced computing, strategic weapons, and nuclear command and control," Mike Griffin, aerospace engineer and former NASA administrator, told the Senate Armed Services Committee Jan. 18. By voice vote Jan. 23, the panel cleared Griffin's nomination as under secretary of defense for research and engineering and that of William Roper to be Air Force assistant secretary for acquisition. Both men "stressed the need for the Department of Defense to improve its ability to transition projects rapidly from R&D into successful acquisition programs," the American Institute of Physics's FYI reports. (Photo: Griffin testifying in 2016 before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.)


RESTORING CONNECTIONS: When defense budgets tightened in recent years, Air Force R&D "lost a lot of our connections to the wider scientific enterprise," says Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. That's going to change. In March, officials conducting a year-long review of science and technology strategy will travel to the University of Nebraska for the first of 14 public discussions. The review, which will also include some 30 face-to-face meetings, aims to "engage the most exceptional scientists and engineers in the country," says Wilson, former president of the South Dakota School of Mines.

ENGINEERING ED - MANUFACTURING: The Office of Naval Research intends to make awards totalling $5.4 million as part of a new congressionally authorized manufacturing engineering education program. Three awards are expected, each getting up to $600,000 a year for up to three years. See the announcement. "Proposed efforts should develop and enhance curricula and programs to effectively develop skills sets needed for students to operate in multidisciplinary design and manufacturing environments, including those for which manufacturing schema are informed by computational tools for modeling and simulation."

ACTIVE LEARNING: A second ONR announcement "explicitly encourages projects that improve the capacity of education systems and communities to create impactful STEM educational experiences for students and workers.  Submissions are encouraged to consider including active learning approaches and incorporating 21st century skill development. Projects must aim to increase student and worker engagement in STEM and enhance people with needed Naval STEM capabilities."

A SPUR TO INNOVATION IN SOLAR is the aim of the Department of Energy's American-Made Challenge, which "combines existing world-leading capabilities with an entrepreneurial engine to accelerate ahead of international competitors. It will leverage the 3D printing and small batch manufacturing facilities that exist across the country to speed up innovation cycles through rapid prototyping and iteration." Welcome to compete are "entrepreneurs, technologists, software and hardware developers, incubators and accelerators, and investors." 

THE WAY FORWARD FOR IMAGING R&D: The multi-agency National Science and Technology Council (yes - it's still there) has produced a Roadmap for Medical Imaging Research and Development. Recommendations include: "Standardize image acquisition and storage"; "Apply advanced computation and machine learning to medical imaging";  and "Accelerate the development and translation of new, high-value imaging techniques."

CROSS-FIRE OVER DREAMERS: A White House proposal for protecting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries immediately drew opposition from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) but is unlikely to appeal to some conservatives. CQ reports: "Senior administration officials who briefed reporters on Thursday said the package calls for legalizing more than double the nearly 700,000 Dreamers now enrolled in (DACA), which Trump is seeking to end on March 5. There would be a 10- to 12-year pathway to citizenship, with requirements for work, education and 'good moral character,' according to a fact sheet."


Source: National Science Board, 2018 S&E Indicators

Public Policy and Higher Ed

FOREIGN EQUITIES helped drive substantial gains in university endowments in FY 2017, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers. "Non-U.S. equities, which produced (2016's) lowest return, an average of -7.8 percent, generated (2017's) highest return, at 20.2 percent. U.S. equities followed, returning 17.6 percent, a substantial increase from (the previous year's) -0.2 percent return. Alternative strategies turned in a 7.8 percent return versus -1.4 percent in FY2016.

IMPROVING ACCREDITATION: A Government Accountability Office report outlines "[p]otential approaches to improve the U.S. accreditation system's oversight of academic quality." These  range from "modifying accreditors' and (the Department of Education's) current roles to restructuring the current system."


GOLDEN GOOSE AWARD NOMINATIONS: "The Golden Goose Award honors federally funded research that may be odd, obscure or serendipitous but ends up having a major impact on society." You can nominate "colleagues, collaborators and role models" by following this link.  

NREWC/ASEE is searching for a candidate to support a three-year proposal focused on investigating and characterizing chemical, thermodynamic and physical characteristics of laboratory prepared and actual bilgewater samples. The purpose of this work is to advance the current understanding of bilgewater emulsion stabilization to guide wastewater treatment research and develop preventative solutions. Therefore, the candidate must have experience in colloidal and emulsion systems. This can include applicable research in Chemistry, Biology, Food Science, Chemical Engineering, Materials Science or other related fields. Please visit nrewc.asee.org/current_opportunities for the complete job description.

ASEE IS CO-HOSTING the First Annual CoNECD (Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity - pronounced “connected”) Conference next 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. ASEE members can submit an abstract here (login required.) 

ASEE Board Reorganization - Feedback Needed

ASEE ED Norman Fortenberry presents the rationale for a proposed reorganization of the ASEE Board of Directors. Watch a video and  leave your feedback (ASEE member login required; Firefox works best.).

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