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                                                         February 22, 2020  



The United States had "half a million job openings related to cybersecurity" last month, meaning "nearly one in three cybersecurity jobs go unfilled," Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Mich.) said in opening a hearing of the House Science Research and Technology Subcommittee. The panel heard from, among others, Tennessee Tech computer science professor Ambareen Siraj (near right). Her testimony offered a comprehensive review of Tennessee cyber education, which she said could be a national model, as well as the benefits and burdens of current federal programs. She urged more funding for scholarships, such as the Department of Defense Cyber Scholarship Program (CySP) and the National Science Foundation's CyberCorps Scholarship for Service. The service requirement should be adjusted to allow recipients to prepare to teach at public universities, she said. In K-12, "cybersecurity  should  be  integrated with computer  science education."  Sonya Miller of IBM (right) called for changes in Pell grants and other financial aid so part-time students and mid-career professionals can acquire new skills, and use of work-study funds for off-campus internships. "Student aid should support the attainment of degrees and the attainment of industry recognized credentials and licenses."  

IN THE HOTSEAT: Kelvin Droegemeier, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the president's science adviser, is the sole witness listed for a February 27 House hearing, "A Review of the Administration’s Federal Research and Development Budget Proposal for Fiscal Year 2021." Research overall took a hit, but ScienceInsider's Jeff Mervis, writing about the National Science Foundation, sees ways the agency can avoid the sting while supporting the Trump administration's priorities.  

TOUGH CHOICES AHEAD: "House appropriators plan to start subcommittee markups for fiscal 2021 spending bills on April 21," CQ reports. A week later, the full Appropriations Committee is expected to allocate how much each subcommittee can use of the $1.4 trillion in discretionary spending allowed under last year's budget deal. All told, they will have only about $5 billion more than in FY 2020 for all defense and nondefense discretionary spending. Lewis-Burke Associates reports that "a continuing resolution extending past the November elections will likely be needed to avoid a government shutdown and extend government operations at FY 2020 funding levels to buy time to pass final bills."

POWER PLAYS: Both the House and Senate are moving ahead with bipartisan legislation calling for more research on energy storage. The Senate Energy and Commerce Committee cleared the Better Energy Storage Technology (BEST) Act--introduced by Susan Collins (R-Maine) but merged with other measures. In the House, two Illinois Democrats, Bill Foster, a physicist, and engineer Sean Casten have bills pending, as does Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.). See how five bills fared before the Science Committee February 12. While the Trump White House champions fossil fuels, including coal, the Department of Energy has launched the Energy Storage Grand Challenge, and its goal is to develop "a secure domestic manufacturing supply chain that is independent of foreign sources of critical materials by 2030," E&E News reports.

A NEW ROUND FOR DACA? Congress has largely held off from considering changes to or expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) as it awaits a Supreme Court ruling on a legal challenge to the program. But Lewis-Burke Associates says a decision may spur lawmakers to act. The Trump Administration is likely to continue exercising administrative authority in the meantime, affecting students and faculty.


ETHICS AND AI: "The Defense Department will soon adopt a detailed set of rules to govern how it develops and uses artificial intelligence," Defense One reports. It is expected to follow closely a draft issued last October by the Defense Innovation Board. Its guiding principles are that AI use must be responsible, equitable, traceable, reliable, and governable. 

ROBOTS AND THE URBAN UNDERGROUND: IEEE Spectrum has an update on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's SubT Challenge.

WEIGH IN ON OPEN ACCESS: The Office of Science and Technology Policy has issued a request for information (RFI) on “approaches for ensuring broad public access to the peer-reviewed scholarly publications, data, and code that result from federally funded scientific research.” Director Kelvin Droegemeier says he wants to hear from "as many voices of the research community" as possible before a White House policy becomes final, E&E News reports. "He said a range of opinions will 'remain at the forefront in our ongoing work.'" But the process is moving fairly quickly. The public comment period ends March 16. Open access threatens publishers dependent on subscriptions and fees for revenue. Their alternative is to increase processing charges to researchers. See coverage by AIP's FYI Bulletin.

$100 MILLION FOR APPRENTICESHIPS: The U.S. Department of Labor is awarding grants to 28 public-private partnerships through the Apprenticeship: Closing the Skills Gap grant program. "These grants will support large-scale expansions of apprenticeship in industries including advanced manufacturing, healthcare and information technology," the agency says.  See the list of awardees.

AN ENGINEERING DEAN IN FOGGY BOTTOM: Mung Chiang, dean of engineering at Purdue, where he is also a professor of electrical and computer engineering, is spending this year as science and technology adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Lewis-Burke Associates reports that Chiang "will advise State Department leadership on global technology initiatives including artificial intelligence, 5G, energy infrastructure, cybersecurity for autonomous systems, and trusted microelectronic chips." Read the rest of L-B's international policy newsletter here.

FIVE-YEAR GRANTS FOR SOLAR-FUELS R&D: The Department of Energy plans "to provide up to $100 million over five years for research on artificial photosynthesis for the production of fuels from sunlight. The funding will support the establishment of one large or possibly two smaller DOE Energy Innovation Hubs—integrated multidisciplinary, multi-institutional research teams aimed at accelerating the fundamental scientific breakthroughs needed to enable solar fuel production." Applicants "are asked to focus on research priorities identified by the Roundtable on Liquid Solar Fuels held in August 2019 by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences within DOE’s Office of Science." See the funding opportunity.

NEW VECTORS, PLATFORMS, AND METHODS: These tools are needed for plant genetic modification to realize the full potential of synthetic biology, the National Science Foundation says. Real-world applications are possible "in engineering metabolic pathways, advancing agriculture and contributing to solutions that solve environmental problems." NSF is welcoming synbio proposals for basic research, tool development, and applications; and proposals that emphasize the potential outcomes with benefits to society. Learn more.


Source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, U.S. S&E Workforce. Click here for a more detailed look.


Source: NCSES - click here for more detail.


NON-MILITARY TOOLS: The Center for a New American Security, in what it says is a comprehensive approach to competition with China in the Indo-Pacific region, offers nearly 100 recommendations, including: "Fund and support rigorous education and academic research in blockchain technology To compete with China, which has directed central bank resources toward digital currency and blockchain research, the United States should cultivate professionals entering the job market who can understand, develop, and innovate using blockchain payment infrastructure." And, "Ramp up youth exchanges and establish additional Fulbright Universities in the Indo-Pacific." Large youth populations in the region will come to play a central role in shaping the region’s future. The State Department’s Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) and other cross-sectoral initiatives "have proved successful models." See the report.

CONTRIBUTIONS OF FOREIGN-BORN SCIENTISTS: The American Association for the Advancement of Science seeks to highlight these in a new endeavor, Science Beyond Borders. AAAS notes that national security concerns combined with inflammatory rhetoric and recent changes to immigration policies have led some international students and scientists to feel stigmatized and concerned about their future. It hopes to "engage diverse stakeholders to address these challenges."

RECEDING HORIZON: The Trump administration is warning Europe "that it may reject an offer for the US to join the EU’s next big research program," according to the website Sciencebusiness.net. Constance Arvis, director of the State Department’s Office of Science and Technology, said that EU-US cooperation in research “is not where we would like it to be” and that the terms the commission has offered for joining its program “give us pause.”

MEGA-UNIVERSITIES: They seem to have found a way to play the game that many colleges are losing, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education, and "could one day lay claim to a significant share of the nation’s new college students. Much as Amazon and Walmart now stand as the templates for the retail business, mega-universities in many ways reflect a shift in what Americans seek in a college degree: something practical, convenient, and inexpensive."


NEW NAE MEMBERS: Jayathi Murthy, dean of engineering at UCLA, and Reginald DesRoches, recently named provost of Rice University, are among 87 newly elected members of the National Academy of Engineering. Murthy, dean since 2016, was cited for "the development of unstructured solution-adaptive finite volume methods for heat, mass, and momentum transport." DesRoches, Rice's dean of engineering since 2017, was cited for "research and design of resilient infrastructure systems to mitigate damage from natural disasters and other extreme conditions." Read about his work in Haiti and elsewhere.

Among others elected: Charles Lieber, Harvard nanoscience pioneer, who holds a joint appointment in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The Feb. 6 NAE announcement came just days after his arrest on fraud charges as part of the U.S. Justice Department's China Initiative. Lieber, also a member of the National Academies of Sciences and of Medicine, was cited by the NAE for "contributions at the intersection of nanoelectronics, materials design, and neuroscience."

BEHIND THE CURVE: Teacher training and preparation for K-12 engineering are woefully lacking, according to a new report from the National Academies. In the decade since an Academies panel first proposed a new framework for K-12 science education, engineering has emerged as a critical component of STEM. Today, nearly 80 percent of states and the District of Columbia have either adopted or adapted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) that emerged from that proposal and integrate engineering design and practices with crosscutting science concepts. Yet teacher training has not kept up. Needed, the report says, are formal accreditation guidelines for K–12 engineering educator preparation programs. Several recommendations are made for new efforts by ASEE, among other organizations.  Read more here.


THE 2020 COLLABORATIVE NETWORK FOR ENGINEERING AND COMPUTING DIVERSITY (CoNECD) CONFERENCE: The vision of the CoNECD (pronounced “connected”) Conference is to provide a forum for exploring current research and practices to enhance diversity and inclusion of all underrepresented populations in the engineering and computing professions including gender identity and expression, race and ethnicity, disability, veterans, LGBTQ+, first generation and socio-economic status. Marriott Crystal Gateway, Crystal City, Va., April 19–22, 2020. Click here to make a reservation.

WEBINAR: Demystifying Evaluation – Promising Practices to Maximize Your DEI Efforts: Evaluation is critical for diversity, equity, & inclusion (DEI) focused projects. On March 10 at 1 PM, ET, join us for a free webinar that will help develop the capacity of researchers to work with evaluators on their DEI projects. Led by Liz Litzler and Cara Margherio (University of Washington Center for Evaluation & Research for STEM Equity), this webinar will share promising practices for working with evaluators, developing program evaluation language using a logic model, & interpreting evaluation results. This webinar is free for ASEE members & non-members. Click here for full details.

FIRE UP THE FUTURE WITH eGFI: Filled with engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers, the latest edition of ASEE's award-winning Engineering, Go For It is sure to get your students excited about learning - and doing - engineering!

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