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                                                                May 23, 2020  



A bill introduced by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) would change NSF's name and more than double its funding through 2025 to advance selected research aims and prevent global competitors from achieving technological primacy. The new National Science and Technology Foundation would create a super directorate headed by a deputy director (the others are led by assistant directors), which would focus initially on: 

  • artificial intelligence and machine learning;
  • high performance computing, semiconductors, and advanced computer hardware;
  • quantum computing and information systems;
  • robotics, automation, and advanced manufacturing;
  • natural or anthropogenic disaster prevention;
  • advanced communications technology;
  • biotechnology, genomics, and synthetic biology
  • cybersecurity, data storage, and data management technologies;
  • advanced energy; and
  • materials science, engineering, and exploration  relevant  to  the other key technology focus areas.

Schumer's bipartisan Endless Frontier Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), above--a champion of NSF's I-Corps program--recalls Vannevar Bush's 1945 report "Science--the Endless Frontier," which inspired the establishment of the National Science Foundation and the next seven decades of federally funded research. Intended to drive both research and commercialization, the bill anticipates universities joining regional lab-to-market hubs, "The country that wins the race in key technologies . . . will be the superpower of the future," the measure's findings say.

The outlook for the bill--introduced when the top global science priority is a COVID-19 remedy and vaccihe--is uncertain, but it was referred to the pro-science Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. The bill may come up June 3, when the HELP panel holds a confirmation hearing for NSF Director nominee Sethuraman "Panch" Panchanathan, left.

Read the bill text.by clicking here and searching for "Schumer."

LIABILITY RELIEF FOR HIGHER ED? Lewis-Burke Associates reports growing interest in providing some type of liability relief to institutions of higher education in a future COVID relief package. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee, recently remarked that proposals to extend liability protection for various business sectors should include higher education and that liability protection will be a priority in a future COVID relief bill. 

Sponsored Content

With classrooms everywhere going remote, it’s no surprise that professors, lab managers, and researchers are having to change their teaching game plans, and having to do so quickly. Luckily, Digilent’s Analog Discovery 2 and Analog Discovery Studio make that transition much easier for those in Academia. Small, portable form factors and the easily navigable WaveForms software make these two instruments an educator’s dream. Each of the products boasts 13 popular test and measurement tools in a single device, and are already used in electric engineering courses in 70+ universities around the world. Currently, Digilent is shipping the individual devices directly to students – helping to share the burden by eliminating the need for the professor to distribute them manually. As an additional support to the academic community that Digilent was founded on in these tough times, they are offering special academic pricing on almost their entire scope catalog, meaning that professors will be able to stretch their budget to go even further. Digilent also offers free guides to get started and other helpful documentation in their Resource Center for each tool.


WHAT THE MAY 27 SPACE-X FLIGHT MEANS: U.S.. astronauts Robert L. Behnken and Douglas G. Hurley are scheduled to lift off Wednesday from the Kennedy Space Center, headed for the International Space Station. If successful, their mission "will mark the first time in nine years that American astronauts will launch into space from American soil. . . . For SpaceX, it’s another step on their road to Mars, but more generally, it demonstrates that spaceflight need not be reserved for only the most powerful of states," writes Wendy Whitman Cobb of the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies.

QUANTUM CONCEPTS FOR HIGH SCHOOL: A National Science Foundation virtual workshop, held over three weeks, identified "concepts that could, with additional supporting resources, help prepare secondary school  students  to engage  with (quantum information science) and provide possible  pathways  for  broader  public engagement." This document elaborates on nine concepts. The authors write: "The Key Concepts are not intended to be an introductory guide to quantum information science, but rather provide a framework for future expansion and adaptation for students at different levels in computer science, mathematics, physics, and chemistry courses." Learn more.

UPDATE ON NSF PROCEDURES: Lewis-Burke Associates reports that the 2020 NSF Proposal and Award Policy and Procedures Guide will go into effect as planned on June 1. "However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NSF is delaying until October 1 implementation of the new requirement to use NSF-approved formats for the biographical sketch and current and pending support sections of proposals. Other new requirements and changes will continue to go into effect June 1."

SOME SUPPORT POSSIBLE FOR INTERNATIONAL AND DACA STUDENTS: Earlier guidance from the U.S. Department of Education said only Title IV-eligible students could receive emergency grants under the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), part of the CARES Act. This precluded international students and DACA students, among others. But that restriction does not apply to HEERF institutional funds, Lewis-Burke Associates has learned. New guidance issued this week says an institution "can use its HEERF institutional funds to support non-Title IV eligible students, though not in the form of direct emergency grants," L-B says. See the new guidance. Also: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has posted guidance institutions of higher education as schools move to reopen. 

62 PH.D. STUDENTS WIN DOE GRANTS: The Department of Energy's Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) Program funds Ph.D. students to conduct part of their thesis research at a DOE laboratory in collaboration with a DOE scientist. It's open to students in physics, chemistry, material sciences, biology (non-medical), mathematics, engineering, computer or computational sciences, or specific areas of environmental sciences that are aligned with the mission of the Office of Science. This year's winners come from 50 schools. See the list.

WHY WE NEED ISOTOPE PRODUCTION: Back in March, the Department of Energy offered up to $16 million over two years for research and development on production of critical isotopes--variations of each of the elements on the periodic table--that are "otherwise unavailable or in short supply for U.S. science, medicine, and industry." These are useful for, among other things, generating electricity for deep space probes. "Our real competition lately has been Russia," Chris Fall, director of the Office of Science, tells the Federal News Network. See the rest of the interview. 

DECATHLON DELAYED: The Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon Build Challenge, originally set for June 2020, is now scheduled for April 16-18, 2021 at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, where it will “coincide with the Solar Decathlon 2021 Design Challenge competition.”  The Decathlon challeges teams of college students to design and build efficient and innovative solar-powered structures.  powered by renewable energy.” See the announcement



McKinsey & Co. conducted a survey of 2,094 US-based high school seniors, focusing on "1,459 students who are currently considering a full-time bachelor’s degree program. This group included 276 (19 percent) black or African American students and 393 (27 percent) Hispanic or Latinx students." The survey paid particular attention attention to "differences across demographic groups on various college-readiness and remote-learning-readiness factors, with implications for student success." The graphics below are from the report.   

Source: "COVID-19 and US higher education enrollment: Preparing leaders for fall" © 2020 McKinsey & Co. 



CAUGHT IN DOJ's CHINA PROBE: Simon Ang, a University of Arkansas professor of electrical engineering and director of the High Density Electronics Center, has been charged with one count of wire fraud. The Justice Department alleges he failed to disclose his affiliation with China’s talent programs, including the Thousand Talents Program. He also allegedly failed to inform both the university and NASA of his relationship with the Chinese government and three Chinese companies, causing the school to submit false documentation to NASA for $512,000 in grants. The charges against Ang and Qing Wang, former professor of molecular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, show "the continued primacy of the DOJ’s China Initiative across multiple federal agencies," according to an analysis by the K&L Gates law firm. See the New York Times coverage. Image:Justice Department facade

PLANS FOR THE FALL: The Chronicle of Higher Education is keeping track of campuses that have announced their intentions. 

See the Chronicle of Higher Education update


DRUG MANUFACTURING - A LOOK AHEAD: "Global pandemics and the increasing severity and frequency of natural disasters have highlighted the vulnerabilities of drug supply chains and have underscored the need to modernize pharmaceutical manufacturing," a National Academies workshop brief says. The workshop "provided a venue for discussing potential technologies that are on the horizon in the next 5–10 years in the pharmaceutical industry." Image: Wikimedia


'CLARIFY YOUR REMARKS': ASEE President Stephanie Adams delivered a quick retort to Purdue President Mitch Daniels's disparaging comments about an engineering faculty member. Alice Pawley, an assoicate professor of engineering education, had been quoted as saying "I don't want to think about face-to-face teaching" until there's a coronavirus vaccine. On CNN, Daniels said, "I'll just say that's a very tiny minority view, and frankly not from the most scientifically credible corner of our very STEM-based campus." Adams's letter, released via Twitter, asked if he meant, among other things, to "cast aspersions" on the renowned college of engineering.

WEBINAR: Problem-based Megaprojects: Complex problem-solving competences and interdisciplinarity in higher education. This IFEES-GEDC-IUCEE global webinar by Anette Kolmos and Lykke Brogaard Berte of Aalborg University, Denmark was conducted May 6. Look for it in the IFEES Webinar library. http://www.ifees.net/webinars/


Registering for the June 22-26 conference will allow you to:

Have the opportunity to see any presentation made by an author, distinguished lectures, or plenaries 24/7 during the week of the conference;
Attend Q&A sessions, so you can interact with the presenters;
Attend workshops, business meetings, and the different orientations that usually happen at the annual meeting;
Attend/participate in the recognition and highlighting of our national award winners, and our incoming fellows, and our outgoing and incoming board members; and
Participate in our interactive exhibit hall as well as sponsor/tech demos. There will be exclusive exhibit hall times to interact with sponsors and exhibitors.

Check the website for updates.