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                          October 5, 2019                                 




In both the Senate and House, efforts to reauthorize the Higher Education Act have turned partisan, making passage in the current Congress unlikely, Lewis-Burke Associates reports. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chair of the Senate Health Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, is trying to jumpstart stalled bipartisan negotiations by introducing the Student Aid Improvement Act of 2019. But a piecemeal approach holds little appeal for  ranking Democrat Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who insists on a comprehensive reauthorization. L-B expects  House Education and Labor Chair Bobby Scott (D-Va.) to roll out a comprehensive HEA reauthorization "largely based on his Aim Higher legislation" from the previous Congress. This, however, "will likely only receive support from House Democrats."

PRESSING THE CASE FOR MSIs: A bill sponsored by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.) aims to improve the quality of undergraduate STEM education and enhance the research capacity at the nation’s historically black, minority-serving, and tribal colleges and universities. Johnson, chair of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, has also reintroduced the STEM Opportunities Act (see committee report), which seeks to to ensure that "federal  science  agencies  and  institutions  of  higher  education  receiving  federal  research  and  development  funding  are  fully  engaging  the entire talent pool of the United States."

A COUPLE OF IMPERFECTIONS: Advocates for federal research funding are appreciative, overall, of the defense appropriators' work in both the Senate and House. But they have some ideas for how a conference committee ought to resolve differences between the two spending bills. Neither the Senate nor House bill funds Defense S&T accounts at FY 2019 enacted levels. At a minimum, university representatives want conferees to adopt the Senate number of $15.6 billion. They also say the Senate bill would cut university research initiatives--the Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) and Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP)--by nearly $30 million, and hope the final bill goes with the higher House figure. (See a detailed chart, and an informative presentation on Pentagon R&D funding--both courtesy of the Coalition for National Security Research.) 



Addressing the critical need for greater innovation, competitiveness

University of Delaware President Dennis Assanis has been named to the new National Commission on Innovation and Competitiveness Frontiers, an initiative of the Council on Competitiveness.


PERRY REPORTED READY TO LEAVE DOE: Although his spokesperson denies it, Energy Secretary Rick Perry (left) is preparing to step down at the end of November, according to a report by Politico that has been picked up by other news outlets. Now embroiled in the Ukraine matter, he's one of the longest-serving Trump administration cabinet secretaries. While generally espousing the White House line on energy, he has allowed the department's vast research establishment to operate pretty much as Congress has demanded. His deputy, Louisianan Dan Brouillette, who would likely succeed Perry at least initially, is a former staffer to ex-Rep. Billy Tauzin, (R-La.), and worked at DOE on congressional affairs during the George W. Bush administration. CQ reports that he "has not broken with Perry on any significant DOE policies."

TWO SHADES OF RED: The National Science Foundation has announced an updated solicitation for the Revolutionizing Engineering Departments (RED) program, and it includes two tracks: (i) Innovation, and (ii) Adaptation and Implementation (A&I). "The goal of the RED program is to catalyze revolutionary, not incrementally reformist, changes to the education of the next generation of engineers. Revolutionary means radically, suddenly, or completely new; producing fundamental, structural change; or going outside of or beyond existing norms and principles." For more information  and deadline, see solicitation NSF 19-614. and register for an informational webinar on October 10. The webinar will be recorded and available for review on the program webpage. Researchers are encouraged to contact Program Director Edward Berger (eberger@nsf.gov) before committing to write a proposal.

LAB-TO-MARKET CHALLENGES: The National Academies' Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable recently hosted a webinar with Jesus Soriano, program director of NSF's Partnerships for Innovation program to discuss the challenges faced by academic institutions when trying to commercialize the output of federally funded research. PFI "offers researchers from all disciplines of science and engineering the opportunity to perform translational research and technology development, catalyze partnerships and accelerate the transition of discoveries from the laboratory to the marketplace for societal benefit." Listen to the webinar recording and see the presenter's slides.

NOW IN BOOKLET FORM: NSF's Education and Human Resources directorate has produced a pdf on programs aimed at broadening participation in STEM fields. The portfolio "includes over 20 EHR programs and funding opportunities [that] range from capacity building, research centers, partnerships, and alliances to the use of co-funding or supplements to existing awards in the core research programs. The NSF broadening participation portfolio is divided into three categories: focused programs, emphasis programs, and dear colleague letters." 

FORWARD THINKING: The Army Futures Command "may seek proposals from leading universities to create a “hub” to lead Army extramural efforts, similar to the Army AI Task Force established at Carnegie Mellon University and the Army’s hypersonics test facility at Texas A&M," Lewis-Burke reports in its Defense Policy Newsletter. Senior scientists have indicated the Army should lead basic research investments "in quantum, AR/VR, artificial intelligence (AI)-infused cybersecurity, and engineering biology. For applied research, the scientists believe the Army should invest in AR/VR and synthetic biology while collaborating with other services and agencies on research in quantum, cyber, and hypersonics." Congress wants to boost AFC’s engagement with academia on S&T, Lewis-Burke says, citing Senate appropriators' addition of the Catalyst program to the Army’s basic research account. The program "would embed soldiers at 18 universities to help craft research questions and proposals that produce applied research proposals better aligned with Army interests." 

INNOVATION 'COMBUSTION CHAMBER': The Navy plans to "expand collaboration with academia and industry by setting up five regional offices, or 'Tech Bridges,' around the country near several of the Navy’s warfare centers," Lewis-Burke reports. The Tech Bridges have the objective to “connect, reinforce and sustain acceleration ecosystems in off-base locations.'" L-B quotes James “Hondo” Geurts, assistant secretary for research, development, and acquisition, as saying the offices will serve as “a gathering spot, a combustion chamber for innovation, idea, and thought” in locations where innovation is already happening. 

CONTEMPLATING THE OTHER SIDE'S SCARY IDEAS: "Our role is to make sure we equip our team with the best we can and how to counter what the adversary may use, especially if they don’t play by the same rules we do, using something like altered DNA to change human beings to have enhanced abilities, which is not someplace we’re going to go. But that becomes a pretty daunting and huge challenge to counter," Rear Adm. David Hahn tells the Defense Media Network in a Q&A. "We’re paying more attention to that due to the huge potential that has arisen. You can think of some pretty scary things we have to work through to determine, (a), is it possible, and (b), how do we counter it."

EXPORT CONTROLS AND EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES: Lawyers at Debevoise & Plimpton have penned an update on the Department of Commerce's Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM). "Nearly 250 foreign and domestic corporations, industry associations, advocacy groups, and educational institutions submitted comments. A consensus of many of the principal commenting parties urged DOC to reject a broad brush approach to defining 'emerging technologies' because that could negatively affect U.S. technological innovation and global competitiveness. Moreover, they noted, most of the ANPRM's 'representative' technologies – such as AI, ML, biotechnology and additive manufacturing – have already been in widespread, commercial use for years, so they are hardly 'emerging' and should not be subject to export controls." The writers say "the ANPRM signals DOC's desire to take an expansive look at many important U.S. technologies, including AI, ML, additive manufacturing, robotics, and quantum computing." 


Educational Attainment of 25-34 year-olds (2018)

Source: Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, Education at a Glance 2019

Distribution of 25-34 year-olds with tertiary education, by level of tertiary education (2018)

Share of tertiary-education women as a percentage of the share of tertiary-educated men, by age group (2018)

25-34 year-olds, 55-64 year-olds, and 25-64 year-olds


BIOMEDICAL PIONEERS HONORED: The National Academy of Engineering's 2019 Simon Ramo Founders Award will be presented to Cato Thomas Laurencin, left photo, “for fundamental, critical, and groundbreaking scientific advances in the engineering of tissues, guiding technology and science policy, and promoting diversity and excellence in science.” A leader in biomaterials, nanotechnology, stem cell science, drug delivery systems, and regenerative engineering. Laurencin is University Professor at the University of Connecticut, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, materials science and engineering, and biomedical engineering; endowed professor of orthopaedic surgery; and chief executive officer of the Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering. NAE's Arthur M. Bueche Award will be presented to Roderic Ivan Pettigrew, right photo, "for leadership at the [National Institutes of Health] and for academic and industrial convergence research and education, resulting in innovations that have improved global health care.” Pettigrew is CEO of Engineering Health (EnHealth) and executive dean for Engineering Medicine (EnMed) at Texas A&M and Houston Methodist Hospital. He was founding director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB). Read Prism's profile of Laurencin here, and of Pettigrew here. The awards will be presented tomorrow at NAE's annual meeting.  



RESTORING THE PROMISE: The Institute for College Access & Success offers some ideas to make higher education more equitable and available. Deliver new federal funding to states to increase overall investment in public higher education; such funding will be contingent on a state maintenance of effort (MOE) provision to ensure that new federal dollars invested in states do not supplant other forms of higher education funding and financial aid. Provide increased support to states during economic downturns to promote adequate, stable funding for public higher education across economic cycles. Make new funds contingent on states assessing and developing strategies to combat funding inequities across schools serving different student populations. Read the report.

TRAVEL POLICIES' IMPACT: President Donald Trump's modified ban on travel to the U.S. from certain predominantly Muslim countries and cutbacks on entry of refugees "have proven highly effective at keeping Muslims out of the country," CQ says, citing a new report by the Migration Policy Institute. Meanwhile, American universities are starting to see steep declines in students from China, the Associated Press reports. "Several universities have reported drops of one-fifth or more this fall in the number of new students from China. , , , At Bentley University in Massachusetts, the number of new Chinese graduate students arriving on campus dropped from 110 last fall to 70 this time." Xiong Xiong, an electrical engineering student at Beijing Jiaotong University, hopes to pursue graduate study in the United States, but he's "concerned about complications with the visa process and plans to apply also to schools in Britain." 



ASEE is seeking applications and nominations for the position of Editor‐in‐Chief for the journal Advances in Engineering Education. The anticipated start date for this volunteer position is July 1, 2020, with applications due this fall. Learn more here.

AiCHE INSTITUTE FOR SUSTAINABILITY CONFERENCE: TOPICS - Impact of Climate Change on the Food-Energy-Water (FEW) Nexus; FEW Nexus Data and the Data Science Community; Policy for the Resilience of FEW Impacts; Innovative Solutions; Transforming Urban Infrastructure to Support Food Scarcity; Forecasting Energy Needs for Increasing Populations; Hydrofracking and Its Impacts on the FEW Nexus; Food Waste as an Energy Source in Urban Environments

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