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                          October 19, 2019                                 




President Trump "is not interested in signing other domestic spending bills until there is agreement on the border wall," the Washington Post reports, citing an unnamed senior official. "Funding for many federal agencies expires Nov. 21, and an impasse would lead to a sizable government shutdown, bigger in scope than what happened less than one year ago." House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) holds out hope for a compromise: “We are not going to fund the wall,” the Post quotes her as saying. But she adds: “Let me just say that the appropriations process can do extraordinary things.” Presumably, Congress could pass another stopgap to keep the government open past November. The Fiscal Times cites Chris Kreuger of the Cowen Washington Research Group as telling clients in a note Thursday: “Government shutdown on November 21 goes from plausible to probable.”

Against that uncertain backdrop, CQ reports that the full Senate could consider two House-passed spending packages in the coming week. The first includes the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriation, funding the National Science Foundation, NASA, the National Institute of Standards, and other research agencies, as well as Agriculture, Interior-Environment, Military Construction-VA and Transportation-HUD. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) says the second contains defense funds "that our Armed Forces and commanders need, especially in this dangerous time, and considering current events," as well as "resources for other priorities such as the opioid epidemic."

DEMOCRATS' HIGHER ED BILL EXPECTED TO STALL: The College Affordability Act  introduced by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), who chairs the House Education and Labor Committee, "is unlikely to gain any traction in the Republican-controlled Senate or from the Trump administration, which released its own proposal to reauthorize the Higher Education Act in March," the Chronicle of Higher Education reports. The bill has 24 Democratic co-sponsors. See the full text.

ROBOTS AND URBAN FARMS: The Senate Appropriations Committee encourages the development of agricultural robots, according to Lewis-Burke Associates, which produced the chart above. In a report accompanying the committee's Agriculture spending bill, the panel also directs the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to consider developing community-wide urban agriculture projects that address food deserts across the country, L-B says. The appropriators failed to fund the new Agriculture Advanced Research and Development Authority (AGARDA), which was authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill.

U.S. LAGGING IN AQUACULTURE: Appropriators are concerned that "inefficient  production  technologies  hinder  the  ability  of  the  domestic  aquaculture  industry  to  compete  on  a  global  scale," noting that "less  than  one  percent  of  worldwide  production  comes from U.S. producers." The panel supports "development  and  demonstration  of  an  integrated  aquaculture  system  that  would  contain  at  one  site  a  highly  competitive  and  sustainable  system  having  a  low  environmental  footprint  and  be  primarily  self-contained."



Driving clean energy forward

A first-of-its-kind law empowers people to use vehicle-to-grid technology — invented at the University of Delaware — to provide power back to the electric grid.


A CALL FOR COMMUNITY-BASED RESEARCH: While finding a lot praise in the National Science Foundation's efforts to broaden participation, the Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering (CEOSE) has some ideas for improvement. "Developing community-based research initiatives that are carried out with community members with a focus on local scientific problems is a promising strategy to help achieve the interrelated goals of full inclusion, better S&E and a better society," the committee says in its latest biennial report to Congress. The panel also wants to see acceptance of the propositions that "[s]ignificant societal problems cannot be solved without the unfettered full inclusion of underrepresented populations"; and that "full inclusion . . . will result in better, more innovative and transformative S&E,as well as a better, more decent and just society."

NEURODIVERGENT INDIVIDUALS, such as those with dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, executive function disorder or autism, can bring "unique abilities" and help "solve intractable problems in  different  ways." CEOSE says "new  opportunities  must  be  provided  to  help  the  nation  increase  its  use  of  diverse  communities  to  help  solve  highly  complex,  real-world  problems."

ACTION ON HARASSMENT: Among steps by NSF that CEOSE notes with approval is the "clear message . . . that the foundation does not tolerate sexual harassment within the agency or at awardee organizations, field sites or anywhere NSF-funded science and education are conducted." NSF now requires as well that it be notified of any administrative action "relating to a harassment or sexual assault finding or investigation." CEOSE cites the 2018 National Academies report and says National Academy of Sciences President Marcia McNutt "described the magnitude of the problem and the need for meaningful change."

ON ADVISERS' MINDS: Gilda Barabino, engineering dean at the City College of New York, served on the Academies panel and CEOSE, and is a member of NSF's Engineering Advisory Committee. She will lead a "Discussion on Stopping Harassment" at the AdCom's upcoming meeting. The agenda also includes "Engineering Visioning Summit and Beyond" with Deborah Crawford, vice president for research at George Mason, and Lance Davis, senior adviser at the National Academy of Engineering. They co-chaired the July summit, hosted by ASEE. Past ASEE president Sarah Rajala will lead a discussion on visioning.  

TIT FOR TAT: The U.S. State Department is now requiring that it be notified by Chinese diplomats in this country of all official meetings with representatives of state, local, and municipal governments; all official visits to educational institutions (public or private); and all official visits to research institutions (public or private), including national laboratories. U.S. officials say the move comes in response to restrictions placed on Americans posted to China. There, U.S. diplomats are forced to seek permission for the same kinds of visits and are often denied. The State Department expects about 50 notifications a week from the Chinese. Neither the notice in the Federal Register nor a background briefing says how much detail the notifications must contain--whether, for instance, U.S. officials want to know not only what campuses the Chinese plan to visit but with whom they'll be meeting during those visits.

'MILITARY-CIVIL FUSION': The same day as the backgrounder, David Stilwell, assistant secretary of state for East Asia, told Congress about Chinese President Xi Jinping's "ambitious national strategy to break down all barriers between the civilian and military technological spheres by 'fusing' the defense and civilian industrial bases." The strategy "prioritizes developing or acquiring advanced technology that is useful militarily," either for army modernization or surveillance and repression. "The acquisition of technology needed for military-civil fusion occurs both via legitimate means, such as joint research and development with foreign firms or collaboration with foreign universities, but also via illicit means, through theft and espionage." See additional State Department commentary and the FBI bulletin China: The Risk to Academia

WOMEN'S WORK: It was billed as the first spacewalk by an all-female team, although zero gravity appears from this NASA video to involve more floating and grabbing than actual walking. Astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch spent seven hours and 17 minutes outside the International Space Station Friday replacing a power controller and making history. Koch has a bachelor's and master's in electrical engineering from North Carolina State; Meir earned B.A. in biology at Brown, an M.S. in space studies from the International Space University, and a Ph.D. in marine Marine Biology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The first woman to perform a (solo) spacewalk was Soviet cosmonaut Svetlana Yevgenyevna Savitskaya in 1984.

PROMOTION AT ENERGY: Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, a Louisiana native and University of Maryland graduate who has served on Capitol Hill, in the executive branch, and in the private sector, is President Trump's choice to replace Secretary Rick Perry, who will leave office at the end of this year. As staff director for the House Energy and Commerce Committee from 2003 to 2004, Brouillette helped craft  the Energy Policy Act of 2005. He also worked for Ford and was a member of Louisiana's State Mineral and Energy Board.  


Source: Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering bIennial report to Congress

Source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NSF) Business R&D Performance in the United States Reached $400 Billion in 2017, a 6.8% Increase from 2016. "The U.S. federal government was the chief source of external funding for R&D (also referred to as R&D paid for by others) across all industries. Of the $61 billion paid for by others, the federal government accounted for $24 billion, most of which came from the Department of Defense ($17 billion)."


WOODIE FLOWERS, 1943-2019: The MIT mechanical engineering professor, an influential proponent of hands-on engineering education at the college and K-12 levels, died October 11 at age 75. He “was instrumental in shaping MIT’s hands-on approach to engineering design education,” the university reports. He collaborated with Dean Kamen in developing the FIRST Robotics competition. An ASEE member for three decades, Flowers in 2015 accepted the Society's President's Award on behalf of FIRST. See MIT's obituary.


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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