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                                   June 2, 2018



Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) says the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which he chairs, won't produce legislation to reauthorize the 1965 law, the Washington Post reports. Democrats on the panel "want to wait until next year to see if they’re in better shape politically," he says. Democrats have a chance to gain a Senate majority in the November elections. An aide to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), center photo, HELP's ranking member, insists she still wants to produce a bipartisan bill -- but "not simply exchange partisan drafts and call it a day.” Alexander's House counterpart, Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, is pressing GOP leaders to allow a vote on her version of the higher ed revamp. But that measure may be dead on arrival in the Senate, the Post says. "The Congressional Budget Office said college students would lose $15 billion in federal student aid over the next decade" if the Foxx bill became law. 

See ASEE's written testimony, prepared with help from Lewis-Burke Associates, on fiscal 2019 funding for the Department of Education and National Institutes of Health.  

NON-TRADITIONAL FARMS: House members are calling for an expanded U.S. Department of Agriculture role "in support  of  the  emerging industries of vertical farming, urban agriculture, aquaponics, and alternative forms of agriculture in American cities and surrounding communities." A report accompanying the chamber's FY 2019 spending bill covering USDA says: "These non-traditional methods of agricultural production have the potential to reduce the use of water and  pesticides, improve yields for particular crops, serve lower  income populations, and provide year round crops at the local  level. USDA should consider intramural and extramural  research (to advance) technologies in this field." Some engineering researchers are already at work on this, as a recent Prism story explains. Senate appropriators offer more general support for urban agriculture, citing a variety of social, health, and environmental benefits.

SLIGHT BOOST FOR AG RESEARCH: Overall, Senate appropriators would provide $2.73 billion for research conducted by the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The panel's summary says: "This amount includes $405 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, a $5 million increase over FY2018.  Formula research funding for land-grant universities is maintained at FY2018 enacted levels. The bill also rejects proposed extramural research project terminations and laboratory closures included in the budget request."

FOREIGN INVADERS: House and Senate appropriators share concerns that seedstock to support aquaculture in the Gulf  of  Mexico will come from foreign aquaculture producers even though domestic sources are available. 

TOO LITTLE SUPPORT: Agriculture extension service resources don't "reach minority, socially disadvantaged, and tribal  communities in proportion to their participation in the agricultural  sector," senators say. All institutions that receive such funding "should seek to ensure" that these groups get an equitable percentage of the work. House appropriators, meanwhile, want the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to develop a working group that includes leadership from land grant institutions and come up with "an actionable plan aimed at  increasing the number of minorities entering into the agricultural workforce." The plan should include creating partnerships for feeder programs into graduate studies "to foster the career pipeline."   

DRONES AND SMART INFRASTRUCTURE: House appropriators would grant the U.S. Department of Transportation more money for research and development "to accelerate the safe integration of (unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS) into the national airspace." The panel also "encourages the Department  to prioritize" and engage with the research community on smart  infrastructure that "incorporates advanced sensor and other smart technologies." See the report.


NEW CURBS ON CHINESE GRAD STUDENTS: The Associated Press reports that the Trump administration plans to limit Chinese graduate students to one-year visas if they are studying in fields like robotics, aviation, and high-tech manufacturing. Certain Chinese citizens will also need special clearance from multiple U.S. agencies if they work as researchers or managers at companies listed by the Commerce Department as those requiring higher scrutiny. Reuters calls the move part of "a strategy to prevent intellectual property theft by U.S. rivals." The Obama administration had extended student visas from one year to five years. The new policy, which goes into effect June 11, "would have a chilling effect on our ability to attract international students from all countries," Ted Mitchell, the president of the American Council on Education, says in a statement cited by Inside Higher Ed. "These students have been critical to research that supports U.S. economic growth and fuels innovation."

A NORTH STAR: That's what Jeff Weld, assistant director for STEM education at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, would like to deliver in the administration's upcoming STEM strategic plan. So far, he's met with scores of stakeholders, including ASEE, read voraciously, and is inviting comments on a two-page outline.

COMFORT ZONE: "Since his confirmation as NASA administrator, Jim Bridenstine has expressed broad support for the agency’s scientific culture and missions, and has said his views on climate change now align with the scientific consensus. He also has advocated new approaches to designing missions to manage costs and increase nimbleness." Read the full story by the American Institute of Physics' FYI.


STARTUP CULTURE IS NOW MAINSTREAM: No longer the domain of institutions like Stanford, MIT and of engineering and computer science departments, startup culture is spreading its influence to non-research universities and throughout the undergraduate curriculum and college experience. So contends University of California, San Diego sociologist Daniel Davis. "As it becomes institutionalized in university structures, it is sure to have long-lasting effects on society as a whole." Read his Kauffman Foundation research series paper. Photo: Jason Koski, Cornell

TACKLING BIG SOCIETAL PROBLEMS is the mission of Horizon Europe, the European Union's $116.8 billion research and innovation funding plan for the 2021-27 period, reports David Parkes of AAAS. While the program, successor to Horizon 2020, takes a mission-oriented approach, specific research directions are still under discussion. The budget blueprint "has initially drawn lukewarm reactions from European research associations, which hoped for more ambitious spending targets," Parkes writes.


SYSTEMIC CHANGE is needed for the U.S. graduate STEM education system to build on its "substantial strengths" while meeting "the evolving needs of its students, the scientific enterprise, and the nation," the National Acadmies states in a new report. "The value placed on educating students at the master’s level must be increased. The mind-set that seems to be most valued for preparing students at the Ph.D. level for academic research careers must be readjusted to recognize that some of the best students will not pursue academic research but will enter careers in other sectors, such as industry or government."

A CRITICAL LINK: That's the role for undergraduate teaching "in  offering more data science exposure to students and expanding the supply of data science talent," says an Academies report. "It is imperative that educators, administrators, and students begin today to consider how to best prepare for and keep pace with this data-driven era of tomorrow." Read the report.


The Journal of Engineering Education (JEE) editorial team is considering changes to our strategic plan, processes for publishing articles, and formats for articles. We would like to gather input from members of the engineering education community to help better inform these decisions. Please complete this survey to provide your feedback. The survey is short and should take no more than 10 minutes to complete.

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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