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                          September 7, 2019                                 




A shortterm continuing resolution is expected to keep the government open well into November, if not beyond. In the meantime, House and Senate appropriators and the White House must negotiate their way through a thicket of funding and policy disputes to enact fiscal 2020 spending bills. CQ has pored over bills already passed by the House and found "dozens of contentious issues that will test congressional leaders' commitment to the July budget caps agreement." Some affect research agencies:

The Commerce-Justice-Science measure, which funds the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology, NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, contains divisive provisions on legal representation for immigrants, federal prisoner detention, and sanctuary cities. 

The House and White House are at odds over the amount slated for Defense Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.The House bill would provide 2.9 percent, or $3 billion, less than the administration request. In Energy, the House wants to spend $3 billion more than the White House seeks for applied research, grant 16 percent above current levels for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which the administration wants to kill, and provide 25 percent above the White House request for the Office of Science.

The House would increase National Institutes of Health funding to $41.1 billion, putting the agency $6.9 billion over the White House budget. The House bill also prevents the agency from setting a cap on research overhead costs, something the White House has sought. In the Department of Labor bill, a fight looms over apprenticeships. "The Trump administration has pushed to expand the uses of DOL grants for apprenticeship programs to what it calls 'industry-recognized' apprenticeships, in sectors such as information technology, advanced manufacturing and health care," CQ reports. House Democrats want to stick with registered apprenticeships, which are favored by unions. 

STOPGAP STICKING POINTS: The House will vote on a continuing resolution the week of Sept. 16, according to Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.). "It’s not yet clear whether the GOP-controlled Senate and White House will go along" with the House plan for it to run until late November. "A proposed 'anomalies' list submitted by White House officials for adjustments to the CR . . . assumed a mid-December end date," Roll call reports. Adds Politico: It's also "unclear whether Senate Republicans are willing to accept a stopgap measure" that does "not include a single additional dollar" for President Trump’s border wall, which is likely to be the administration’s top priority in the funding talks." 


UNPRECEDENTED KNOWLEDGE, EXTRAORDINARY THREATS: A new memo outlining White House research priorities for the 2021 fiscal year proclaims a "second bold era" in science and technology--the first having been the decades of government-supported research and discovery following World War II. Today's is "characterized by unprecedented knowledge, access to data and computing resources, ubiquitous and instant communication, and technologies that allow us to peer into the inner workings of atomic particles as well as the vastness of the universe." The memo also cites "threats which must be confronted thoughtfully and effectively . . . striking a balance between the openness of our research ecosystem and the protection of our ideas and research outcomes.” Threats include "extreme terrestrial events, cyber and electromagnetic pulse attacks, and exploitation of supply chain vulnerabilities."

The document, issued jointly by the Office of Science and Technology Policy and Office of Management and Budget, represents "the most comprehensive statement to date" from OSTP Director Kelvin Droegemeier (left), Science reports​. Lewis-Burke Associates says: "New areas of emphasis include exploring, mapping, and characterizing the oceans to better understand economic opportunities and changes to the ocean system; building resilient supply chains for critical minerals; modelling and understanding earth system predictability; and advancing biotechnology to support the American Bioeconomy (and) a willingness by the administration to engage on earth and environmental sciences research." Read Lewis-Burke's policy brief. Also see an interview with Droegemeier by the American Institute of Physics' FYI Bulletin.  Image: AAAS-YouTube

AN END TO PERPETUAL PLASTIC: The National Science Foundation seeks "a scientific foundation for viable interdisciplinary solutions for the capture, management, and elimination of end-of-use plastics." This will require "transformative strategies for capture and sorting, efficient chemical and/or biological degradation and valorization, and integration of new approaches within existing plastics manufacturing and recycling frameworks." This is the second of two goals in the 2020 Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation program. The first is distributed chemical manufacturing research . . . enabling the development of modular process plants."

SMALL AND INTENSE: The smaller the business, the higher its R&D in relation to total sales, says NSF. An Infobrief reports that in 2016, "microbusinesses" with one to four employees "made up more than one-half (56%) of all U.S. employer businesses (and) performed $4.8 billion of R&D in the United States."

STAYING NUMBER 1 IN AI? The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, created under this year's National Defense Authorization Act and chaired by former Alphabet Inc. Chairman Eric Schmidt, has  "created four working groups whose assessments will form the basis of the Commission’s ultimate recommendations," Lewis-Burke reports. The groups will focus on: Maintaining U.S. Global Leadership in AI Research; Maintaining Global Leadership in AI National Security Applications; Preparing Our Citizens for an AI Future; and International Competitiveness and Cooperation in AI. Special projects address public-private partnerships in AI, ethical and responsible AI for national security applications, and managing data to support AI. See the commission's report

NEW AI CENTER: The Department of Energy's Artificial Intelligence and Technology Office "will accelerate the delivery of AI-enabled capabilities, scale the department-wide development and impact of AI, and synchronize AI activities to advance the agency’s core missions, expand partnerships, and support American AI Leadership." Learn more.

QUANTUM ADVISERS: Under an August 30 presidential executive order, the Department of Energy will administer the National Quantum Initiative Advisory Committee, comprising the OSTP director (or a designee) and 22 experts, chosen by the secretary of energy, from industry, academia, federal laboratories, and other federal agencies. The committee is required under the 2018 National Quantum Initiative Act, which establishes a structured, multi-agency effort to advance quantum information science and associated technologies.

GRAD STUDENTS CONVERGE: DOE's Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) program "supports supplemental awards to outstanding U.S. graduate students to conduct part of their graduate thesis research at a DOE national laboratory/facility in collaboration with a DOE laboratory scientist for a period of 3 to 12 consecutive months." Priority research areas include "convergence" topics that cross disciplines. Find out more here and here.

SYMBIOTIC DESIGN: The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has launched a Symbiotic Design for Cyber Physical Systems program. Lewis-Burke reports that it "seeks to integrate machine learning into the cyber physical systems design process for military-relevant systems." See the announcement.  


Source: This is a screenshot of an interactive graphic contained in Higher Education in Science and Engineering, one of two reports issued by the National Science Board as part of Science and Engineering Indicators 2020. The second report is Elementary and Secondary Mathematics and Science Education. "Indicators is changing from a single report released every two years to a set of disaggregated and streamlined reports published on a rolling basis."


STATE FLAGSHIP SCHOOLS PRICED OUT OF REACH: That's the message of a new study by the Institute for Higher Education Policy, which finds: "Over  the  last  three  decades, the share of state grants per [fulltime] student that are need-based has fallen  from  91  percent  to  only 76  percent.  Furthermore,  only 18 percent of students in the bottom income quartile received institutional need-based grants while attending public four-year universities." It says many state-funded financial aid programs have reduced their commitment to need-based aid, "awarding at least some of their grants and scholarships based on test scores or other measures of academic preparation. The result is that many high-income students receive state financial aid—while structural inequities in the K-12 and college preparatory systems mean that low-income students are less likely to qualify."

SURVEILLANCE-FREE ZONE? Under the headline, "No, I won’t start spying on my foreign-born students," Columbia President Lee Bollinger writes in the Washington Post that "law enforcement and intelligence agencies . . . are encouraging U.S. academics and administrators to develop more robust protocols for monitoring foreign-born students and visiting scholars — particularly if they are ethnically Chinese." Such policing thrusts economic and political concerns "into fierce conflict with First Amendment freedoms." A more effective approach would be "to expand the number of green cards awarded to foreign-born graduates of our great colleges and universities." Meanwhile, Science reports​ that in response to growing concern in Australia "about foreign influence at universities, cyberspying, and a perceived erosion of freedom of speech on campuses," the country’s education minister tapped a task force to develop “best-practice guidelines for dealing with foreign interference.”


BETTER MATH PREP: Elizabeth Zachry Rutschow, left, a senior research associate at MDRC (formerly Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation), was among speakers at a National Academies workshop that "explored how to best support all students in postsecondary mathematics, with particular attention to students who are unsuccessful in developmental mathematics and with an eye toward issues of access to promising reforms and equitable learning environments." Howard Gobstein of the Association of Public & Land-grant Universities, said math remains a barrier to degree completion for many students, particularly students of color. Zachry Rutschow cited promising results from instructional practices that are "intended to build all students’ conceptual knowledge through active learning, contextualized problem solving, and student-led solution methods." Read the report.


CHENNAI BECKONS; September 30 is the deadline to  submit abstracts for WEEF-GSF 2019, the joint meeting of the World Engineering Education Foruim (WEEF) and the Global Student Forum (GSF), in Chennai, India. The November 13-16 event is billed as "the largest engineering education gathering in the world."


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.



How can you build your college’s female leadership pool? On Sept. 11 at 11:00 AM, ET, University of Michigan’s Alec Gallimore (Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering) and Jennifer Linderman (Director of the ADVANCE Program) will explore four key approaches used at Michigan Engineering to build the female leadership pool, where women now occupy half of the top faculty-leadership roles. Don’t miss out – register today at http://bit.ly/30y42Ub

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