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October 14, 2016



"Longterm investments in AI research" is first among the seven strategies in a newly released document. Research categories include advancing data-focused methodologies for knowledge discovery; enhancing the perceptual capabilities of AI systems; understanding theoretical capabilities and limitations of AI; pursuing research on general-purpose artificial intelligence; developing scalable AI systems; fostering research on human-like AI; and developing more capable and reliable robots.

Other AI strategies: Develop effective methods for human-AI collaboration; understand and address the ethical, legal, and societal implications of AI; ensure the safety and security of AI systems; develop shared public datasets and environments for AI training and testing; measure and evaluate AI technologies through standards and benchmarks; and better understand the national AI R&D workforce needs. Read the report.  The plan "assumes that some important areas of research are unlikely to receive sufficient investment by industry . . . (and) that the demand for AI expertise will continue to grow within industry, academia, and government, leading to public and private workforce pressures."

PITTSBURGH 'PAGEANT': President Obama used the occasion of the Frontiers Conference at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University to announce new grants for brain research, precision medicine, smart cities, and other priorities. The event, NBC observed, was "typical of the administration’s approach to promoting its agenda, with controlled-access, web-streamed pageants showcasing hand-picked winners of federal funding." Speakers included Andrew Moore, CMU dean of computer science; Costa Samaras, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering (CMU); Fei-Fei Li, director of Stanford's Artificial Intelligence Lab, Heather Hava, a Ph.D. aerospace candidate at the University of Colorado, Boulder; and Peidong Yang, a professor and energy specialist at Berkeley. 

YIPPIE! The Air Force Office of Scientific Research's Young Investigator Research Program (YIP) has awarded $20.8 million to 58 scientists and engineers from 41 research institutions and small businesses. See the list of winners.

NSF DEADLINES LOOM: Letters of intent or full proposals are due soon for a number of National Science Foundation programs. They include Nano-Biosensing; Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation; Partnerships for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity; and many more. See the list.

CRISP RESILIENCE: NSF's Critical Resilient Interdependent Infrastructure Systems and Processes (CRISP) seeks to "enhance the understanding, design and operation of interdependent critical infrastructure systems and processes that provide essential goods and services despite disruptions and failures from any cause, natural, technological or malicious, and to provide opportunities to innovate in ICIs to enrich society with new goods and services." The focus of a new CRISP solicitation "is not only the mitigation of failure, but also the engineering of the recovery processes to leverage the positive infrastructure interdependencies and minimize the negative ones." 

'IRREVERSIBLE' OPENING TO CUBA: Further easing anti-Cuba sanctions, the Obama administration approved joint medical research - both noncommercial and commercial - between Americans and Cubans. New rules also expand authorization for grants, scholarships, and awards to Cuba or Cuban nationals related to scientific research and religious activities. See the fact sheet. In a statement, President Obama called the changes a "comprehensive and whole-of-government approach to promote engagement with the Cuban government and people, and make our opening to Cuba irreversible."


Federal R&D Budget Dashboard

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has come out with "an interactive tool for exploring long-term federal funding trends within the context of the broader budget. The dashboard allows users to examine basic federal spending data by agency and/or by character of work over multiple decades in total dollars, as a share of the budget, and as a share of the U.S. economy." See an interactive version of the graphic below. Read the dashboard gude.

Source: AAAS

Journal articles cited at least once, mentioning “deep learning” or “deep neural network,” by nation. Source: National Artificial Intelligence Strategic Plan




KEEPING NASA STABLE: Historically, new administrations have brought "significant directional changes," job losses, and mission cancellations to NASA, Space News reports. The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation sought to assure stability at the agency in recently passing  the NASA Transition Authorization Act.  The measure gives solid support to the Mars mission, which "should provide opportunities to gather knowledge and demonstrate technologies that address the challenges of future human expeditions," sets 2021 as the year of Orion’s first crewed mission, and suggests that Europa, Jupiter's moon, "may provide a habitable environment."

DEFICIT LOWER THAN PROJECTED: Fiscal 2016 ended with a $587 billion federal deficit $28 billion below that forecast in the president’s budget request, CQ reports. "However, the White House said year-end data also show the deficit for fiscal 2016 was up $148 billion from fiscal 2015, when it was $439 billion." As a percentage of gross domestic product, the red ink was  "equal to the average of the past 40 years."

BUDGET SAGES Alice Rivlin (Clinton administration) and and Josh Bolten (George W. Bush) agree that the federal budget process was in need of major changes, according to CQ, but differ on approach. Bolten argued for the next administration to “seize the moment” for a two-year budget cycle while lawmakers appear open to such changes. Rivlin favors two-year budgets, but cautioned: “I can’t think of anything worse for a beginning relationship with Congress than for an administration to say, here’s the way we think you ought to change your budget process."


DOCUMENTED DISPARITY: The graphic above is from "Closed Doors: Black and Latino Students Are Excluded from Top Public Universities," by the liberal Center for American Progress. The report urges policymakers, institutional leaders, and communities "to work together to make sure more underrepresented minority students—particularly black and Latino students—attend top public colleges with strong academic outcomes." Students need effective counseling, financial support and access to on-campus support, the center says.


ENGINEER AND SLAM POET Nehemiah Mabry won the $25,000 top prize in the National Academy of Engineering's Engineering for You Video Contest 3 (E4U3). His video, “Future Cities With Intelligent Infrastructure” also won the $5,000 People's Choice prize. Clara Stoesser and Rachel Andrade won the Tertiary Education Category for “Systems Engineering and the Refugee Crisis.” See all the winning videos

DAY AT THE BEACH: A computer simulation developed by researchers from Princeton, Rutgers, and Woods Hole estimates that the frequency of Sandy-scale coastal floods could increase by as much as 17 times by 2100. See the article in the Academies' Proceedings. Protecting coastal regions was one of the mega-engineering topics at the October 9 and 10 National Academy of Engineering meeting. 

STUDENT BUSINESS PLAN COMPETITION: In preparation for the third Global Grand Challenges Summit, organizers have launched a Student Day business plan competition in which student teams develop a plan for a start-up based on an idea related to the National Academy of Engineering's Grand Challenges. The deadline for Student Day business plan proposals is October 24, 2016. The Student Day will precede the official opening of the summit, which will be held July 18–20, 2017, in Washington DC. Hosted by the NAE, it is being jointly organized by the NAE, the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and the Royal Academy of Engineering.


SEEING RED: Are you developing an NSF RED (Revolutionizing Engineering Departments) proposal? 
Join these free webinar conferences:  Wednesday, October 19, 12:00-2:00 pm PST – “What is Revolutionary?”  Thursday, October 20, 12:00-1:30pm PST –“Assembling a winning RED team.”  Friday  October 21, 10:30-12:00 pm PST – “Change Model Required.” To register, go to https://academicchange.org/

SAFE ZONE ALLY TRAINING WEBINAR SERIES – Level 2: Take part in creating a positive and inclusive environment for LGBTQ individuals in STEM by joining ASEE for three free Level 2 Safe Zone Ally Training webinars. Building upon the Level 1 webinars presented in Spring 2016, ASEE is offering two one-hour “deep dives” on supporting transgender students and colleagues (October 27) and LGBTQ and engineering culture (December 6). Register today. Missed Level 1? View the slides and recording-on-demand here.

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS: The 2017 ASEE Annual Conference will include a cross-divisional session entitled, "Thinking Globally, Acting Locally: The Role of Engineering Education towards Attaining UN Sustainable Development Goals." The full Call for Papers can be found on the Conference website. 

NORTHEAST ENGINEERING GRADUATE STUDENT RECRUITING Mini-Symposium, hosted by Tufts University, October 28, 2016, noon-5 p.m. Searching for the right engineering graduate program? Looking to recruit high-quality graduate students? Register here.

CALL FOR PARTICIPATION: WORKSHOP ON BUILDING RESEARCH CAPACITY FOR STEM FACULTY DEVELOPMENT: Building Research Capacity for STEM Faculty Development is an NSF-sponsored working conference that brings together experts from around the country to develop a national research agenda focused on faculty development in the STEM disciplines. February 16-18, 2017 at Clemson University. Apply here

Prize-winning eGFI:  Jump-start the semester with eGFI (Engineering, Go For It), ASEE's magazine for middle and high school students. Winner of the APEX Grand Award for Publication Excellence, eGFI aims to get teens fired up about engineering with engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers, eGFI aims to get teens fired up about engineering. Click here to purchase copies, For bulk purchases or other inquiries, contact eGFI@asee.org or call 202-331-3500.