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August 11, 2017



The measure would include the four-bill "security minibus" appropriations measure that the House passed in July plus the eight remaining fiscal 2018 spending bills, CQ reports. The minibus includes Defense, Energy, and money for President Trump's border wall. "With enough support from conservatives, appropriators, defense hawks and others, the 12-bill package could be passed without a significant number of Democratic votes." Passing all 12 bills "would not necessarily help avert a partial government shutdown when current fiscal 2017 appropriations expire at midnight on Sept. 30. The legislation is likely dead on arrival in the Senate, where Democratic support is needed to advance appropriations because of Senate filibuster rules," CQ writes. Both chambers are due to reconvene Sept. 5.


GAPS IN RESEARCH INTEGRITY TRAINING: By law, the National Science Foundation is supposed to require that institutions receiving grants train their undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers about the responsible conduct of research (RCR). NSF's Office of Inspector General (OIG) checked out 48 institutions and found that 11 - 23 percent - did not have an RCR plan or a designated person to make sure that the required participants took the training. Eight of the 11 developed a plan after being contacted by the OIG. In a report, the OIG says: "The lack of guidance from NSF as to what constitutes 'appropriate training' means that NSF cannot guarantee that the instruction provided in response to the RCR training requirement meets a minimum level of quality"; "Some institutions are engaged in promising practices or using techniques that are worthy of being shared with the broader community"; "No institutions are conducting risk assessments, despite the fact that NSF’s FAQ says that they should"; "Requiring RCR training only for participants supported by NSF can have negative consequences"; and, "Although faculty play a critical role in the research enterprise and constitute a significant percentage of research misconduct subjects, only 15 percent of the plans we reviewed require faculty to take RCR training." The OIG findings are among topics for discussion at the National Science Board's meeting next week.

NEW APPROACHES TO GRADUATE EDUCATION: NSF has awarded $4.8 million for 10 projects that will "pilot, test and validate innovative and potentially transformative ways to teach science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in graduate education" and address "diversity, career pathways and transferable skillsets." The projects "all evaluate approaches that could be scaled for use at other institutions nationally." See the titles, principal investigators and sponsor institutions. NSF anticipates making 4-6 Innovations in Graduate Education awards in fiscal 2018.

PETITIONERS SEEK RETURN OF NIH GRANT CAPS: The Scientist reports that an online petition asks the National Institutes of Health to reconsider its decision to move away from the Grant Support Index (GSI), a point system intended to spread grant money among more scientists and limit the sums given to established and well-funded investigators. "Critics claimed that the study used to support the GSI, which established a connection between increasing NIH funding and lab productivity, was flawed." Petitioners say abandonment of the GSI policy "suggests that a small number of powerful scientists can drive key policy decisions, to the detriment of the community and to the efficiency of the enterprise." 

NEXT-GEN BRAIN IMAGING: The National Institutes of Health wants researchers "with expertise and insights" in noninvasive human brain imaging technologies to come up with projects for a new round of funding in the Development of Next Generation Human Brain Imaging Tools and Technologies program. "If developed, such technologies would enable imaging and measuring brain processes in ways that are currently unachievable, thereby acquiring fundamental novel insight about how the human brain is organized and functions." 


Source of graphics above and immediately below: U.S. Global Change Research Program Climate Science Special Report Fifth-Order Draft June 28, 2017

This draft was published online August 7 by the New York Times, which writes: "A final draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. The report was completed this year and is part of the National Climate Assessment, which is congressionally mandated every four years." See a National Academies review of a draft of the report and, related, "2016 Weather Report: Extreme and Anything But Normal.

Wind Energy Projects Across the U.S.

Source: American Wind Energy Association.Click here for an interactive version.

Shrinking U.S. Share of Global R&D

Source: John F. Sargent Jr., Global Research and Development Expenditures: Fact Sheet, Congressional Research Service (published online by the Federation of American Scientists) PPP stands for Purchasing Power Parity.


OLD THINKING ABOUT MANUFACTURING: A study by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute​ finds that fewer than 3 in 10 Americans surveyed are likely to encourage their children to pursue a manufacturing career and less than half "believe manufacturing jobs are interesting, rewarding, clean, safe, stable, and secure." Yet those surveyed "have overwhelmingly optimistic views" about what manufacturing will look like in the future - clean and safe, innovative, and requiring high-tech skills. What gives? The study says "[s]ome of the public’s perceptions and worries could not be further from reality." In fact, "many manufacturing jobs have become high-tech and innovative, with manufacturers requiring new levels of technical and problem-solving skills from workers." The next 10 years "are expected to witness many job openings in manufacturing, especially in high-skilled and high-tech manufacturing occupations, as well as leadership positions." Image taken from the cover of "A look ahead: How modern manufacturers can create positive perceptions with the US public."

A HURDLE CLEARED: Purdue University announced that its proposed acquisition of Kaplan University has been approved by the the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. Inside Higher Ed reports: "The U.S. Department of Education and the Higher Learning Commission, which is the regional accreditor for both universities, also are reviewing the arrangement."


UNPREPARED FOR DISASTER: A National Academies panel reports that "historically there has been a general lack of preparedness as an organized effort" by biomedical research facilities and believes "we have a long way to go to optimize the resilience of the academic biomedical research community." Despite the community's "already having experienced several significant disasters, there is a large gap today between the community’s existing level of preparedness and what the community will require to optimally recover from disasters." 

LOOKING FOR EXEMPLARS: A National Academies panel wants to identify programs at minority serving institutions "that have demonstrated strong evidence of success in producing quality STEM graduates, including those models that involve partnerships with other local institutions of higher education, the private sector, or government agencies, and those that model exemplary curricula and lab experiences?" The panel will also seek to pinpoint "the key challenges, obstacles, and opportunities facing MSIs" and find out what public policy interventions are needed and which ones "may inhibit these efforts." See presentations from its most recent meeing. 


NOMINATE A YOUNG SUPERSTAR: Prism magazine plans a repeat of its widely read "20 Under 40" issue, highlighting especially talented engineering and engineering technology teachers and researchers. Please send your nominations and a brief description of the nominees' achievements to m.matthews@asee.org with "20 under 40" in the message line. Note: Choices will be based on both accomplishments and variety.

STUDENT COLUMNIST SOUGHT: Prism's current millennial voice, Mel Chua, has earned a Ph.D. and so is no longer a student. She leaves big shoes to fill. We're looking for an engineering student who writes with skill, flair, and attitude, and who can back up a point of view with evidence. We pay a modest honorarium. Students should send a resume and writing samples to m.matthews@asee.org.

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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