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                                                         December 14, 2019       




House and Senate appropriators, with White House support, agreed on a $1.37 trillion spending package covering all federal agencies. CQ reports that the deal will be written into legislation this weekend. Votes will come next week, just before the current stopgap measure is due to expire, thus averting a government shutdown. They may occur in several "minibus" packages. A bipartisan time agreement will be needed in the Senate. "We’re ready to sign this spending bill," White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told reporters. Resolving one of the most contentious issues, the pact--worked out by Senate appropriations chair Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and his House counterpart, Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.)--provides $1.4 billion for border barrier construction, That's "identical to fiscal 2019 but less than the $5 billion the White House sought," CQ says.

DEFENSE BILL CLEARS HOUSE: The $738 billion measure agreed to by House and Senate conferees passed the House 377-48. If the GOP-controlled Senate follows suit, Congress will maintain its 58-year record of passing the defense authorization bill annually. That's likely, since only six Republicans opposed it in the House.

TRADE-OFFS: Here are points of interest in the House-Senate conference report on the FY 20 defense authorization bill.:

Minority-serving Institutions: One provision lets the Pentagon "establish incentives to encourage higher education institutions to collaborate with minority institutions in support of defense-related research and education." A second provision calls for "an independent study of defense research at historically black colleges and universities and other minority institutions, which will include recommendations on the development of incentives to encourage research and educational collaborations."

Rapid Contracts: The bill expands the technical areas eligible for rapid contracting to include rapid prototyping, infrastructure resilience, and hypersonics while directing the armed services to facilitate expedited access to university technical expertise.

Quantum R&D: The measure specifies organizations to be consulted in developing a research and investment plan for quantum science centers and calls for "a taxonomy of quantum science activities."

China and AI: Defense committees want detailed briefings on the comparative capabilities of China in artificial intelligence, including areas where the United States should invest to gain technical superiority. 

Scrutiny of Allies: Lawmakers appear to be concerned not just about China and Russia acquiring U.S. technology directly, but about friends of the U.S. helping them do so. They want a briefing on "whether any current cooperative defense technology programs of the Department of Defense increase the risk of technology transfer to the People’s Republic of China or the Russian Federation; [and] what actions the Department of Defense has taken to mitigate the risk of technology transfer to the People’s Republic of China or the Russian Federation."

'Foreign Malign Influence Operations': These would be studied as part of the university research programs of the Department of Defense.

STEM Diversity: The Pentagon is told to assess critical skill sets needed for emerging and future warfighter technologies, analyze representation of minorities and women and geographic diversity in the current research and engineering workforce, and develop and implement a plan to diversify and strengthen the Department's science, technology, research, and engineering workforce. The conferees urge "decisive action to replace STEM personnel as they retire to ensure that the military does not suffer a skills and knowledge gap."

Fellowships: The bill gives the Defense Department discretion to establish a technology and national security fellowship for individuals who possess an associate, undergraduate or graduate degree that focuses on science, technology, engineering, or mathematics coursework.



In recommendations likely to bring relief to academic researchers, an outside advisory group with strong national security ties agrees with the National Science Foundation on the importance of continued international collaboration. America's main defense against foreign influence, "especially that involving rewards, deception, and coercion," is disclosure, the JASON group says. Foreign scholars at U.S. host institutions, "should disclose any reporting requirements required by their fellowships or other conditions their home country attaches to their permission to study or work abroad," as well as income or rewards.and non-disclosure requirements. U.S. faculty and research staff should, at a minimum, tell their employers about all positions and affiliations, including foreign positions and affiliations, as well as foreign compensation and research support. In the case of foreign research support or participation in a talent program, the full contract of the program should be disclosed to the granting agency or university. Failure to disclose must "be treated as a violation of research integrity and should be investigated and adjudicated in the same way as, for example, falsification of data or plagiarism." See the report and hear a Q&A between NSF and reporters. Image: Wikimedia, Jason returning with the Golden Fleece.  

'STRIKING' ENROLLMENT NUMBERS: Back in 1995, the JASON report says, there were nearly equal numbers of U.S. and international full-time computer science graduate students in the United States. "Between 1995 and 2015, the number of U.S students increased by 45% (8,627 to 12,539), while the number of international students soared by 480% (7,883 to 45,970). During the same period, the number of U.S. graduate students in electrical engineering (EE) actually decreased by 17%, while the number of foreign students rose 270%." 

ACTIONS BY CHINA'S GOVERNMENT AND INSTITUTIONS: "JASON reviewed classified and open-source evidence suggesting that there are problems with respect to research transparency, lack of reciprocity in collaborations and consortia, and reporting of commitments and potential conflicts of interest, related to these actions." 

DATA SCIENCE AND MANUFACTURING: The National Science Foundation's Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI) "invites current grantees to request supplemental funds to expand the breadth of their current activities through exploration and implementation of data science approaches. This may include the addition of a new collaborator, student, or postdoctoral researcher; expansion of the activities of currently funded awards to include new data-driven approaches to address the current award scope; additional training of participants in data science methods; community-building activities to enhance current research programs; or other approaches and activities." Find out more.

S-STEM CONTINUES: NSF's Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) program "addresses the need for a high quality STEM workforce . . . and for the increased success of low-income academically talented students with demonstrated financial need who are pursuing associate, baccalaureate, or graduate degrees." The program provides awards to Institutions of Higher Education to fund scholarships and to advance the adaptation, implementation, and study of effective evidence-based curricular and co-curricular activities that support recruitment, retention, transfer student success, academic/career pathways, and graduation in STEM. Learn more.

IMMUNO-ENGINEERING POSTDOC: The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) is seeking candidates for a Post-Doctoral Fellow position in the Intramural Research Program, in the Section on Immuno-Engineering. This position will work at the intersection of immunology and engineering to analyze biological responses to medical device implantation and develop new technologies to promote device integration and tissue regeneration. Find out more.

CHINA BENDS ON TECH TRANSFER: A Trump administration fact sheet on this week's U.S.-China trade agreement says: "For the first time in any trade agreement, China has agreed to end its long-standing practice of forcing or pressuring foreign companies to transfer their technology to Chinese companies as a condition for obtaining market access, administrative approvals, or receiving advantages from the government. China also commits to provide transparency, fairness, and due process in administrative proceedings and to have technology transfer and licensing take place on market terms. Separately, China further commits to refrain from directing or supporting outbound investments aimed at acquiring foreign technology pursuant to industrial plans that create distortion." See the administration fact sheet.


Source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. Click here for a larger interactive version showing numbers. 

Source: NCSES. Click here for a larger, interactive version with more detail.

Source: NCSES - "State government agency expenditures for research and develop-ment totaled $2.5 billion in FY 2018, an increase of 3% from FY 2017 (table 1). Health-related R&D expenditures were $1.1 billion, continuing to constitute the largest share (44%) of all state govern-ment agencies’ R&D. Energy-related R&D expenditures increased 29% between FY 2017 and FY 2018, reaching $397 million." Higher education institutions drew 57% of all extramural funding.


THE NINE-DASH LINE: The map at right depicts China's claim to the South China Sea. If the dashes were connected, they would envelope islands claimed by other nations in the region. An international tribunal in 2016  ruled against the line..Still, papers by Chinese researchers, "often co-authored with Western collaborators, have been illustrated" with such maps, reports Times Higher Education, which found nine-dash-line representations in nine journal articles by Chinese researchers--five with co-authors from outside China. None of the papers had to do with maritime issues; topics included bamboo, butterflies and Tibetan vegetation. (ASEE's PIC chairs have been informed about the controversy and will notify program chairs.) For more on this subject, see a report by the Congressional Research Service. 

CLIMATE COMPELS COLLABORATION: Academic disciplines and government agencies often remain isolated from each other, and neither is particularly good at working with the private sector, write the authors of "Adapt or Perish" in Foreign Affairs. Resilence in the face of climate change "will require unprecedented levels of collaboration among different kinds of experts and across different kinds of organizations. For example, public health officials will have to partner with geospatial analysts and biologists to anticipate how climate change may shift the geographic spread of mosquito-borne diseases, such as dengue and Zika. Corporate risk managers will need to work with engineers to figure out how to protect industrial facilities from new weather extremes. And military planners will have to learn from climate modelers how to secure bases and supply chains."


GROUNDWATER AND GLOBAL SECURITY:  "Many countries may already be experiencing water stress that could be exacerbated by groundwater withdrawals." As the environment plays an ever more important role in international security questions, the U.S. intelligence community needs to understand what's happening below-ground as well as on the surface in key parts of the world. "Remotely sensed data, in particular, can be utilized in regions where it may be especially difficult to obtain in situ measurements," a National Academies workshop is told. Read the report.

5-G. IoT. MATERIALS, AND MANUFACTURING: The recent EU-US Frontiers of Engineering symposium explored cutting-edge developments in these four areas. Check out the presentations.  


NOMINATION DEADLINE TOMORROW: The Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring Program honors individuals and organizations that have contributed outstanding efforts in mentoring, and have enhanced the participation of individuals (including persons with disabilities) who might not otherwise have considered or had access to opportunities in STEM disciplines and professions. Anyone may nominate exceptional individuals and organizations, or mentors may apply directly. Award recipients receive a certificate signed by the president, a paid trip to Washington, D.C., and a $10,000 award. Nomination Deadline: Dec. 15. Application Deadline: Jan. 15, 2020. Learn more

MINI-MEMOIRS: Available for purchase and as a free pdf, this book, published by the International Federation of Engineering Education Societies (IFEES) and the Global Engineering Deans Council (GEDC),.offers a series of first-person accounts written by prominent women engineers and engineering educators around the world. Find it here.

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