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October 10, 2015



Calls from members of the House GOP for a reluctant Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to run for speaker "have been snowballing" following collapse of the shortlived bid by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), CQ reports. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who had challenged McCarthy, said he would drop his own bid if Ryan got in the race. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), also eyeing a run for speaker, hinted the same thing. Filling the leadership vacuum, according to CQ, will "leave little room for planning or maneuvering on fiscal issues," with a debt-limit deadline of Nov. 5 and government funding due to expire Dec. 11.

SHRINKING DEFICIT: While longterm entitlement spending (Medicare, Social Security, and pensions) remains a concern as baby boomers age, retire, and pay less in taxes, the rationale for budget austerity in the short term is losing ground. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the FY 2015 deficit at $435 billion. This is "the smallest deficit recorded since 2007," $48 billion below the 2014 deficit, and "slightly below the average experienced over the past 50 years" as a proportion of GDP.

OBAMA SIGNS STEM EDUCATION ACT: The measure would provide no new or additional spending, according to ASME's summary. However, it expands STEM programs to include computer science, backs merit-reviewed informal STEM education, and lets teachers seeking master's degrees apply for NSF Noyce Master Teacher fellowships. Read this account by the American Institute of Physics' Michael Henry.

A CALL FOR STABLE NASA BUDGETS: Daniel Dumbacher, left, professor of engineering practice of aeronautics and astronautics at Purdue, was one of two witnesses Friday at a House Space subcommittee hearing entitled "Deep Space Exploration: Examining the Impact of the President’s Budget." A longtime NASA administrator, he said: "Budget stability is the major issue in executing these programs." Panel Chairman Brian Babin (R-Tex.) maintained that the Obama administration has pushed NASA in the opposite direction. "Even though Congress consistently rejects the administration’s proposed cuts year-after-year, the proposed cuts still have a negative impact on the programs." Democrats on the panel faulted the 2011 Budget Control Act.

JUSTIFYING RESEARCH: The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee this week approved a measure requiring the National Science Foundation to include in each public announcement of a grant award "a non-technical explanation of the project’s scientific merits and how it serves the national interest." The bill, H.R. 3293, which codifies NSF procedural changes made after strong pressure from Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) was co-sponsored by Democrats Daniel Lipinski of Illinois and Alan Grayson of Florida. But ranking Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas dismissed it as another of the GOP's efforts "to impose a layer of political review on NSF’s gold-standard merit-review system." Science's Jeff Mervis calls it "the latest twist in a bitter fight between many House Republicans and the U.S. scientific establishment."

EARMARKING ENDOWMENTS: "House Ways and Means Committee member Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) said he has a legislative proposal in the offing to mandate a certain percentage payout from university endowment investment income toward student aid," the Association of American Universities reports. "Failure to comply would result in substantial financial and other penalties. He discussed his proposal broadly in a recent newsletter to his constituents.


Graphic by Jennifer Pocock. To see a larger, more readable version, click here.


RENEWED CLASH ON ENERGY PRIORITIES: Backed by congressional Democrats, the Obama administration has vowed to veto any appropriations bill that adheres to sequester-level caps imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act and called for a bipartisan deal raising the caps on both defense and nondefense spending. But the White House has added reasons to oppose the Senate's Energy and Water appropriation, which was backed in committee by Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.): It cites underfunding of Department of Energy programs, including: the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's "development and commercialization of clean energy technologies including wind energy and advanced manufacturing capabilities," and R&D involving universities and national labs; "transformational technologies" at  the the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E); "critical activities supporting a secure, reliable, and modernized electricity grid"; and R&D throughout the Office of Science. At the same time, the bill provides too much for nuclear energy and fossil energy research and development, the White House says.

PIPELINE SAFETY RESEARCH: Eleven universities will share $2 million from the Department of Transportation "to research new ideas and technologies that will improve the safety of the nation's energy transportation pipelines." See the list.

THREE WAYS TO ADVANCE: The National Science Foundation's durable Increasing the Participation and Advancement of Women in Academic Science and Engineering Careers (ADVANCE) has three tracks: Institutional Transformation, "meant to produce large-scale comprehensive change";  Institutional Transformation Catalyst, "meant either to conduct self-assessment or to implement unique strategies"; and  Partnerships for Learning and Adaptation Networks, "meant to provide a larger scale environment for adapting, implementing and creating knowledge about the effectiveness of a particular strategy for change." See the proposal due dates.

'FRONTIERS' WEBINAR: NSF's Office of Emerging Frontiers and Multidisciplinary Activities (EFMA) will host a webinar to discuss the FY 2016 solicitation for the Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation program (EFRI): October 19, 2015, from 1:00 to 3:00 pm Eastern.


AAU TAPS FORMER MICHIGAN PRESIDENT: Mary Sue Coleman, who led the University of Michigan for 12 years before retiring in 2014, will become president of the Association of American Universities on June 1, 2016, succeeding Hunter Rawlings. She co-chairs the Lincoln Project, an American Academy of Arts & Sciences initiative to support public research universities. The project published Public Research Universities: Why They Matter.

CONSTRUCTION CHALLENGE: A British firm, Construction Industry Solutions Ltd., is offering unusual prizes in a Grand Challenge seeking a "big but viable technology-based idea that will significantly reduce energy consumption": a spot in a part time executive postgraduate course at the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership; Singularity University's seven-day executive program; two three-month paid internships with Bouygues UK, another construction company; and a chance for winning ideas to be taken up in Bouygoes' R&D. Recent grads, construction industry managers, technologists, and professionals may apply.


MORE DIVERSE MEMBERSHIP AND MORE EFFECTIVE ADVISING are two of the six five-year goals spelled out by National Academy of Engineering President Dan Mote. He notes a sharp decline over the years in NAE business membership, "challenging our connection to the business and industry sectors," and notes: "the fractions of women and underrepresented minorities among our new members also remain too small." He also says "a stronger connection between the academies and policymakers, a more assertive commitment to engaging sponsors and stakeholders following completion of studies, and engagement of the NAE membership in the dissemination of advice may lead to more effective advising."

See the winners in NAE's Engineering for You video contest.



 Abstract Submissions Deadline Rapidly Approaching:
• The deadline to submit your abstract is October 19, 2015.
Calls for Papers are Available:
• The Call for Papers for the various divisions are available on our website at http://www.asee.org/conferences-and-events/conferences/annual-conference/2016/papers-management/call-for-papers

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