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                                   June 9, 2018



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The Senate Armed Services Committee wants the Pentagon "to establish a streamlined process . . . to identify areas of rapid technological change and indicate the need for immediate investment." A report accompanying the pending fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act says the panel also seeks to expand the department's missions to include space, infrastructure resilience, and photonics. This would allow for "one or more multi-institution task order contracts, consortia, cooperative agreements, or other arrangements with universities that do not have similar existing constructs to facilitate expedited access to university technical expertise in support of Department of Defense mission areas. The extension to mission areas would allow for more connections between universities and the Department of Defense in priority technologies." The panel expects "increased access to the technical expertise resident in the Nation’s universities to help address the technical, engineering, and management challenges facing the Department." The full Senate is set to take up the bill next week, with Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), right, standing in for Chairman John McCain. 

TECH TRANSFER INTERMEDIARIES: Launched as a pilot project in 1995, the Science and Technology Reinvention Laboratories designation now applies to some 15 labs. STRLs have brought about  "significant basic and developmental research, much of it in collaboration with academia and the private sector," the Armed Services Committee report says. The Senate NDAA would let STRLs form "partnership intermediary agreements" with nonprofits or state and local government organizations "to enable research and technology development cooperation to promote innovation to support defense missions." PIAs facilitate "a wide range of licensing and other technology transfer initiatives" for innovation that springs from partnerships with small businesses and universities.

EXPAND 3-D MANUFACTURING: The Senate Armed Services Committee thinks additive manufacturing could "greatly improve the defense industrial base’s ability to respond to military readiness demands when original equipment manufacturers are unable to meet or to fabricate obsolete parts that are no longer manufactured." A NDAA provision would establish three demonstration projects "to develop military and quality assurance standards as quickly as possible and leverage current manufacturing institutes to conduct research in the validation of quality standards for additive manufactured parts."

QUANTUM R&D: The NDAA would authorize a defense quantum information science and technology research and development program "aimed at ensuring that the U.S. military is able to most effectively leverage" this emerging field. Quantum science "shows the promise of: (1) Producing computers that will exceed the capabilities of all known traditional computers; (2) Enabling communication systems that enhance cryptography and the speed of communications; and (3) Developing measurement devices and sensors with heretofore unachievable precision and sensitivity"--all of which has significant commercial as well as military potential. The provision calls for coordination of quantum research within DoD and "robust interagency collaboration," for instance with the Department of Energy and National Institute of Standards and Technology.

UNIVERSITY TALENT, AI, AND MATERIALS: NDAA provisions would allow "expedited access to talent and expertise at academic institutions" and also "focus and coordinate" DoD efforts on artificial intelligence. The Senate panel is also enthusiastic about human factors engineering and improvement of materials for aerospace and defense. In addition, the committee "recognizes the work done by the Critical Materials Institute (CMI) to focus on technologies that make better use of rare earth materials and eliminate the need for rare earth materials that are subject to supply disruptions."

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND TBI: Traumatic brain injury can put service members "at high risk for long-term negative consequences to brain health, including the development of chronic neuro-degenerative disease," the Senate panel says. But the cause is not limited to repeated blasts and blast injuries. "Survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) are at increased risk of traumatic brain injuries (TBI), but these injuries often go undiagnosed, which can lead to serious short- and long-term health problems. Currently, there are few research studies available on the relationship between IPV and TBI."

PROMISING HYPERSONIC TECHNOLOGIES: The Armed Services panel identifies two: the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept and Tactical Boost Glide. Both are joint efforts of the Air Force and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). A Prism piece by Charles Q. Choi offers some useful background.

Click here for an updated spending chart compiled by the Coalition for National Security Research. 

HOUSE APPROPRIATORS INCREASE DEFENSE R&D: In a summary, the committee says the bill contains $92.4 billion – $91.2 billion for base requirements ($2.9 billion above fiscal 2018 levels) and $1.2 billion for war requirements – "for research, development, testing, and evaluation of new defense systems and technologies. . . . [T]his funding will support research and development of: the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; space security programs; nuclear force modernization; continuation of the JSTARS recapitalization program; the Ohio-class submarine replacement; Future Vertical Lift; the Israeli Cooperative Programs; and other important research and development activities, including those within the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)." The full  committee will review the bill and add amendments at a markup Wednesday, June 13.

SENATE APPROPRIATORS TAKE UP SCIENCE SPENDING: A subcommittee will mark up the FY2019 Commerce, Justice, Science spending bill on Tuesday, June 12. Listen to an audio feed of the meeting. 

FIRST HOUSE 'MINIBUS' INCLUDES ENERGY R&D: The 235-179 mostly party-line vote came June 8 on a roughly $147 billion fiscal 2019 spending package that includes the Energy-Water, Legislative Branch and Military Construction-VA measures, CQ reports. Democrats opposed so-called poison-pill policy riders in the Energy-Water bill "as well as funding priorities that skewed federal dollars away from alternative energy research and nuclear nonproliferation efforts." Senators "are likely to substitute a more bipartisan version." Read the House appropriators' report on the Energy-Water bill and the Office of Management and Budget's statement opposing what the White House considers excess spending. OMB also calls once again for eliminating the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy. Congress continues to keep the agency alive.

IGNORING TRUMP: "In their fiscal year 2019 spending bills, House and Senate appropriators again reject the Trump administration’s proposal for deep cuts to the Department of Energy’s applied energy R&D programs, and they state their opposition to its policy of focusing support on “early-stage” research." So reports the American Institute of Physics' FYI bulletin.

A MORE RESILIENT GRID: A House subcommittee hearing spotlighted the work of, among others, engineering researchers at Texas Tech University in developing the next-generation smart grid. One beneficiary would be Puerto Rico, still struggling to recover from the devastating impact of hurricane Maria. Catch up on the hearing. More on resilience below.

See a recent presentation to the Energy Sciences Coalition by DOE's Sharlene Weatherwax, associate director for biological and environmental research.

'House Does Not Plan to Provide Gun Research Funding': This totally unsurprising CQ headline is newsworthy because it portends a "bitter flashpoint" as the Appropriations Committee considers spending for the National Institutes of Health. 

DACA DEAL ELUDES HOUSE GOP: The Hill reports that Republican lawmakers huddled once more June 8 on protection for young undocumented immigrants, "but several negotiators suggested the sides are no closer to an agreement." Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), right, "a centrist immigration reformer,  accused the conservatives of increasing their demands at the 11th hour." He and other moderates have joined with Democrats in a petition to force a floor vote on four immigration measures, including a path to citizenship for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients. 


NSF ENGINEERING DROPS DEADLINES: This "important change," effective August 15, applies to "unsolicited proposals to all core programs in the Divisions of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems (CBET), Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI), Electrical, Communications and Cyber Systems (ECCS), and Engineering Education and Centers (EEC)," says a Dear Colleague letter from Dawn Tilbury, right, assistant director for engineering at the National Science Foundation. "By accepting proposals at any time, ENG is affording the opportunity for PIs to think more creatively, build strong collaborations, converse with Program Directors and carefully prepare proposals with the potential to make significant research contributions to engineering. It is our hope that the elimination of deadlines will reduce the burden on institutions and the community." See responses to Frequently Asked Questions

SEVEN PLAGIARIZED PAGES in a 15-page proposal by a department chair were uncovered by NSF's Office of Inspector General. "The PI . . . said he had cut and pasted literature into his proposals without proper citation or annotation. We reviewed two other submitted NSF proposals for plagiarism, and found copied text in both." In another case described in the OIG's most recent report to Congress, "[a] former graduate student fabricated and falsified the results of his NSF-supported research that appeared in two papers, his dissertation, a draft manuscript, a patent, and proposals submitted to another agency. The data was first called into question shortly before his dissertation defense. Despite not being able to produce the original data, the school allowed him to graduate without resolving the matter." In a third case, a PI blamed his students for copied text. The university "found no evidence the PI’s students were responsible . . . . Nevertheless, the university did not make a finding because, contrary to its own policy, it applied a higher standard of proof than preponderance of the evidence."

AN OPEN STORAGE NETWORK, funded with $1.8 million from the National Science Foundation, will "multiply the impact of previous and current NSF investments and anchor comprehensive data infrastructure that will be vital to the future of our nation's scientific and engineering enterprise," says Erwin Gianchandani, acting assistant director of the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate. The project is led by Alex Szalay of Johns Hopkins University. See the announcement. 

OMB's REVAMP OF AGENCIES: The Office of Management and Budget"s "long-awaited plans to reorganize the federal government . . . could be available for public scrutiny later this month," Government Executive reports


Graphic by Jennifer Pocock. Source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. Click here for an interactive version with more information.  


A 'PRECIPITOUS DROP' IN INTERNATIONAL APPLICANTS to U.S. doctoral programs in physics is reported by the American Institute of Physics. "[T]he number . . .  fell by an average of 12 percent from 2017 to 2018.The findings follow reports of drops in international student applications and first-time enrollment at other U.S. graduate programs, including STEM programs. While there may not be a single explanation for the declines, a recent report from an international education organization notes some educational institutions have cited recent immigration policy changes and the current U.S. political environment with respect to international visitors as contributing factors. Another factor cited was increased global competition for international students." 


MIND, PEOPLE, AND CULTURE: A workshop report by the National Academies cites, among others, University of Maryland civil engineer Gerald Galloway, Jr., who "emphasized the tendency to focus on infrastructure resilience because it is easy to conceptualize the resilience of something tangible; either the bridge is working or it is not. He also noted the increased importance of green infrastructure in building resilience, particularly in terms of the role it can play to mitigate flooding in cities. A second theme he emphasized was the need for a 'culture of resilience'  Eduardo Martinez of the UPS Foundation called resilience a 'state of mind' while Paul Nicolas of Microsoft stated that resilience comes out of 'people and culture.'"


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ASEE AT 125 VIDEO CONTEST: One of the activities planned to mark ASEE‘s 125th anniversary is EEin25, the first-ever ASEE video contest. Undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral students may submit a 90-second video on where engineering education will be in 25 years at ASEE‘s 150th Anniversary in 2043. Click here to find out more. Click here to learn about other activities commemorating 125 Years at the Heart of Engineering Education.

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