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March 31, 2017



Discussing National Institute of Health grants at a hearing this week, Tom Price, Health and Human Services secretary, told House appropriators that "30 percent of those moneys go for the facility, may go for administration, may go for all sorts of things at the university or study center, research center, that dont have to deal with the specific research being done." Citing David Kennedy of the Council on Governmental Relations, the Chronicle of Higher Education's Paul Basken writes that "state institutions probably would suffer first and hardest . . . because they would have virtually no ability to cover lab costs with outside resources." The Chronicle cites NIH Director Frances Collins as saying that even now, indirect cost payments don't fully cover the facilities and administrative expenditures incurred by universities. Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee put out a detailed critique of the administration's proposed 2018 cuts.

NSF SLATED FOR FY 2017 CUTS: The National Science Foundation wasn't specifically addressed in the Trump administration's "skinny" FY 2018 budget. Nor was the National Institute of Standards and Technology, apart from the Manufacturing Extension Partnership. But they're not off the budget-cutters' radar, as the administration's FY 2017 budget document, obtained by Politico, shows. For the remainder of the current fiscal year, NSF would lose $350 million. "This level will reduce the number of grants awarded in the second half of FY17," the document states. NIST's Scientific and Technical Research and Services would lose $40 million - requiring NIST to "prioritize its core metrology mission, scaling back on research initiatives that go beyond the core focus of the agency." Manufacturing USA/Industrial Technology Services would lose $10 million. The remainder would "allow NIST to maintain its first awarded manufacturing institute, but will prevent NIST from awarding an additional institute in FY17. NIST's priority under Manufacturing USA will remain the coordination of existing institutes as well as the successful stand-up of its first manufacturing institute."

D.O.E. CAN 'ABSORB' FY 17 CUTS: So states the Trump administration's budget document obtained by Politico. "ARPA-E . . . typically does not obligate a large portion of its appropriation until the following fiscal year," it states; Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy can decrease R&D grant awards; Fossil Energy Research and Development "could utilize $240 million in prior year balances" and cut back on grant awards; Nuclear Energy could decrease "funding for later stage R&D in fuel cycle, reactor, and crosscutting technologies";  the Office of Science could "could absorb a reduction from the annualized CR level, primarily by delaying or not awarding grants to universities that would otherwise be obligated late in the fiscal year." 

DEAD ON ARRIVAL? That's Forbes magazine contributor Charles Tiefer's take on Trump's 2017 budget. Plus, Federal News Radio reports: "Budget experts have predicted the president’s supplemental would have a difficult time earning enough votes in the Senate and would put a burden on some civilian agencies in the last five months of the fiscal year." This view seems to be supported by comments from appropriators of both parties, who had mostly completed work on spending bills but were waiting to give President Trump a chance to weigh in. But these comments seem to assume neither the House Freedom Caucus nor the White House is prepared to play hardball over spending when current funding expires April 28.

Read an account by the American Institute of Physics' Will Thomas of the House Science Committee's hearing on climate science.


Graphic by Jennifer Pocock. Source: Trump administration FY 2017 budget document obtained by Politico. Click here for a larger version.


NSF Science & Engineering State Profiles

Click here for an interactive version of the map below that allows users to find state-by-state data on federal obligations for research by agency; science, engineering, and health doctorates in the workforce, income, population, and  other measures. Source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. 


OUTWARD BOUND: NASA is funding two university-led research institutes to develop "technologies critical to extending human presence deeper into our solar system":

The Center for the Utilization of Biological Engineering in Space (CUBES) looks to a time when long-duration mission crews manufacture the products they need. It's led by Adam Arkin of Berkeley in partnership with Utah State University, the University of California, Davis, Stanford University, and industrial partners Autodesk and Physical Sciences, Inc. 

The Institute for Ultra-Strong Composites by Computational Design (US-COMP) aims to develop "materials for the manufacturing of next-generation transit vehicles, habitats, power systems . . . (that) need to be lighter and stronger than those currently used in even the most advanced systems. It comprises 22 faculty members led by Gregory Odegard of Michigan Tech, in partnership with Florida State, University of Utah, MIT, Florida A&M, Johns Hopkins, Georgia Tech, University of Minnesota, Penn State, University of Colorado and Virginia Commonwealth University. Industrial partners include Nanocomp Technologies and Solvay, with the U.S. Air Force Research Lab as a collaborator. (Thanks to ASME's Capitol Update). 

BODY PARTS: National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration "intend to publish a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for competitive revisions that will support clinical research studies aimed at furthering the field of regenerative medicine (RM) using adult stem cells. A competing revision is a request for an increase in support in a current budget period for expansion of the project's approved scope or research protocol." Learn more.

EAGER FOR SIMULATED DATA: The National Science Foundation and Department of Homeland Security intend to fund "EArly-Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) proposals as well as supplements to existing relevant NSF awards from the Directorate for Engineering and the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering in support of research to develop and make available simulated and synthetic data on interdependent critical infrastructures." Simulated data are derived from actual data on infrastructure design and/or operations. Synthetic data are produced from first principles, without access to real data. Learn more

ALL TOGETHER NOW: Four research opportunities that incorporate convergence - one of the National Science Foundation's 10 Big Ideas - are summarized in a Dear Colleague letter: Harnessing the Data Revolution for 21st Century Science and Engineering (HDR); Navigating the New Arctic (NNA); The Quantum Leap: Leading the Next Quantum Revolution (QL); and Work at the Human-Technology Frontier: Shaping the Future (HTF); 

Nominations are due April 7 for the National Medal of Science and National Medal of Technology and Innovation.


'HUNDREDS OF COMPANIES ARE LINING UP' to build President Trump's border wall, writes aerospace engineer Darshan Karwat in Slate, and that's not a good thing. Karwat, an assistant professor in Arizona State University’s Polytechnic School and the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, asks "how much of (these companies') decision-making process will discuss the ethics of being involved with building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico?" Engineers, he goes on, "have a moral responsibility to understand the context of their work," and "cannot and should not view the wall as a singular engineering project. Instead, they should think of the social and political implications of the barriers that already exist between the U.S. and Mexico, and they should evaluate the social, political, and humanitarian implications in the context of another wall born of divisive politics."


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. Martin E. Vigild, president of the European Society for Engineering Education. Click here for more information.

THE SECOND ANNUAL CHAIRS CONCLAVE at the 2017 ASEE Annual Conference. The ASEE Chairs Conclave, held in conjunction with the ASEE Annual Conference, is an exclusive forum for engineering and engineering technology chairs to exchange ideas, talk through challenges, and build working relationships. This year’s Conclave, on June 25, 2017, is focused on supporting faculty success. Topics addressed include: a) developing leadership skills, b) conducting research evaluations, c) having difficult conversations, and d) acclimating new faculty. Don’t miss out on this unique professional development and networking opportunity. Registration for this full-day event is $200. More detailed information can be found here.

PRISM PODCASTS: Listen to the podcasts here.

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.