March 2, 2012

DON'T GET YOUR HOPES UP: Rep. Daniel Lipinski of Illinois, left, ranking Democrat on the research and education subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology panel, found much to like about the National Science Foundation's FY 2013 budget request: Innovation Corps, which he called "potentially game-changing," an increased focus on advanced manufacturing, and cybersecurity research. But he told Director Subra Suresh during this week's budget hearing it is "unlikely Congress will be able to match your request (for a 5 percent hike) when we eventually pass a budget." He also chided the Obama administration for continuing to cling to a doubling of the NSF budget over time, as called for in America COMPETES. "I urge everyone to be realistic about doubling the NSF budget and focus instead on a sustainable, predictable path of growth." Ignoring Washington's fiscal "reality," Lipinski  warned, "is not particularly helpful to the agency or the scientific community."

Maryland Republican Andy Harris, left, was more blunt: "I'm tired of government people coming up here saying an increase of five percent is a tough choice."

'ABYSMAL': The treatment accorded Suresh and Ray Bowen, mellifluous chairman of the National Science Board, was courtly compared with what Energy Secretary Steven Chu faced before the Science committee. He got the full force of the GOP's campaign to pin high gasoline prices on the administration's  clean-energy push. Rep. Paul Broun (R, Ga.) called Chu's record "abysmal," and asked the Nobel laureate what grade he deserved. Chu replied "A-minus," noting everyone can do better. Broun gave him "a D-minus or an F." See below for information on the DOE-sponsored Energy Efficient Buildings Hub.

LEADERSHIP 'GIVEN UP': Also given a rough time on the Hill was presidential science adviser John Holdren. In what Jeffrey Mervis of Science called an "unusually sharp exchange" between two Democrats, Rep. Adam Schiff of California berated Holdren for the administration's decision to pull out of two martian missions planned by the European Space Agency. "We are at the point where we have given up our leadership in manned space flight, and now we are about to give up our leadership in planetary science," Schiff said during a hearing before an appropriations subcommittee.

RETIRING: Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.




STATES CUT ENGINEERING: Beneath the headline, "Where the Jobs Are, the Training May Not Be," the New York Times reports that state colleges in Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, Colorado, Michigan, Florida and Texas have "eliminated entire engineering and computer science departments."

UNIVERSITY ADVISERS: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has formed an Academic Advisory Council of university presidents and others. A statement says the group, chaired by University of Maryland President Wallace Loh, will "provide advice and recommendations on issues related to student and recent graduate recruitment; international students; academic research; campus and community resiliency, security, and preparedness; and faculty exchanges."

'REGULATORY OVERREACH': That's how a number of prominent higher education groups characterize the credit-hour definition and state authorization regulations that the U.S. Department of Education put into effect last July. The groups say these regs will result in "federal interference in campus-based decisions in which the faculty play a central role," and curtail student access to high-quality education opportunities. They're backing repeal legislation, H.R. 2117, sponsored by GOP Reps. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, chair of a higher ed subcommittee, and John Kline of Minnesota, chair of the full Education and Workforce committee.

SPOTLIGHT ON GEORGIA TECH: Tom Kalil, policy chief at the Office of Science and Technology Policy, praises the school's Invention Studio and in particular the 50 undergraduate engineers who are members of its Makers Club.


PCAST LOOKS AT CHINA: The President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology will hear March 9 from political scientist Richard Suttmeier of the University of Oregon and Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. They'll  speak on "China and U.S. Competitiveness." PCAST will also get updates on nanotechnology research, the "Future of the U.S. Science and Technology Research Enterprise," drug development and technology and innovation at the Department of Agriculture.

WRONG DIAGNOSIS? Vice President Joe Biden says Chinese are "not innovating," because "It's impossible to think different in a country where you can't speak freely (and) where orthodoxy reigns." That's not quite what Stanford researchers Jian Bai Li and Charles E. Eesley found. They studied companies that sprang from a project in which China hopes to turn key universities into "creative platforms" where scientists, engineers, business people and policymakers join to devise solutions to problems. The emerging entrepreneurs were plenty innovative, forming companies that invested heavily in R&D. Trouble was, the project "did not necessarily make them better businessmen." It was entirely possible for them to invest too much in innovation and "focus too much on creating new technology" at the expense of profits. The researchers conclude there is such a thing as too much innovation for entrepreneurs.  


CALLING ALL ENGINEERS: Hank Foley, vice president for research at Penn State, is principal investigator for the Department of Energy Hub for Energy Efficient Buildings, a $125 million, five-year project aiming for a drastic reduction in energy use in buildings. The challenge is big and multifaceted, and Foley hopes to encourage a "tsunami" of engineering creativity from all disciplines. He's open to new collaborations starting with the second year of the project.



STILL NOT READY: When Bank of America Chairman Chad Holliday, left, addresses the Engineering Research Council's annual conference on Monday, he's unlikely to be totally forthcoming on one topic: the future of American research universities. Holliday chairs a prestigious National Research Council panel examining the question. But more than a year since its last official meeting, the panel's long-awaited report is not quite complete. It is, however, in the review stage. 


ASEE NAMES NEW JEE EDITOR: The new editor of the Journal of Engineering Education is Michael Loui, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He succeeds Jack Lohmann, vice provost and professor at Georgia Tech. Lohmann steps down April 1. Between then and Loui's assumption of the post this summer, Jeff Froyd, research professor at Texas A&M and senior associate editor of JEE, will be interim editor. Louie, an IEEE fellow, is executive editor of College Teaching.

KEEP ABREAST of ASEE's recently launched Retention Project by clicking here for updates.

REGISTRATION IS OPEN for the March 23-24 St. Lawrence Section Conference of ASEE, hosted by Clarkson Clarkson University.

APRIL 14 IS THE DEADLINE for early registration for ASEE's Northeast Section Conference at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Find out more about the conference here

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EDITOR: Mark Matthews; CONTRIBUTORS: Jaimie Schock, David Mitchell, William E. Kelly, Thomas K. Grose