March 16, 2012

Sponsored By NCEES: The FE & FS exams are transitioning to computer-based testing. All faculty are invited to attend a free informational webinar.


GOP's SEQUESTER CHALLENGE: House Republicans are expected to release a budget next week.  Reports indicate it could both call for lower spending than in allowed by last year's Budget Control Act and exempt defense from the sequester due to take effect next January. Government Executive reports it may delay the first year of defense cuts in the sequester and achieve savings through federal workforce cuts. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, left, also wants entitlement cuts on the table.

House Democrats will come out with a plan based on the president's budget. The White House insists a sequester should be avoided only through a deal that includes both taxes and spending cuts. Senate Democratic leaders don't plan on producing a budget not plan to move an FY13 budget resolution, in part because the BCA already has set the discretionary spending level. The Association of American Universities' Weekly Wrapup, citing the National Journal, says the House GOP and Democratic moves will lay down "philosophical markers" to influence spending negotiations. These are unlikely to get serious until after the election. See Ryan's trailer.

NOT SO FAST: House appropriators are refusing to let NASA shut down its cooperation with the European Space Agency on Mars exploration, at least not right away. NASA wanted to reprogram money in the current fiscal year. But subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf (R-Va.) said the agency's plan "represents a significant deviation" from the robotic explorer plan OK'd by Congress and needs to be examined rigorously. Read the account in Aviation Week.

NIST BUDGET 'SIMPLY UNREALISTIC:' So declared Rep. Ben Quayle (R, Ariz.) when the National Institute of Standards and Technology's chief, Patrick Gallagher, appeared before Quayle's subcommittee to defend his agency's 14.1 percent budget increase. The administration sees NIST as key to its overall $2.2 billion advanced manufacturing effort. The American Institute of Physics covered the hearing. 



Top 2 charts from the Chronicle of Higher Education

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MANUFACTURING INNOVATION NETWORK: President's Obama's budget seeks $1 billion to set up a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation that would allow industry to share best practices. In the short term, the White House plans to launch a pilot institute using  $45 million from existing funds within the Departments of Defense, Energy, and Commerce, as well as the National Science Foundation. Creation of the institute will follow a competitive application process. 


NO TRIUMPHALISM HERE: Just 42 percent of Americans think the United States will still be leading the world in science and technology by 2020. This comes from Research!America, a health-research organization, which sponsored a national poll by JZ Analytics. As to which nation people think will overtake the U.S., 26 percent say China, 23 percent say India.

HOW COUNTRIES STACK UP: For an indepth look at global R&D and how America fares in comparison with other countries, check out this report released by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. It's available through the Social Science Research Network.

FUNDING FLATTENS OUT: Following a decline in state and local support for higher education, 2011 saw a slight uptick, from $87.2 billion in 2010 to $87.5 billion. That's still a drop from the $88.8 billion provided in 2008. And since enrollment grew last year, the total means less support per student. See the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association's 85-page report.

'SUPER BRANDS:' That's how the Times Higher Education supplement describes the six top schools in its global reputational classification. The six are, in order, Harvard, MIT, Cambridge, Stanford, Berkeley, and Oxford. Their global reputations far exceed those of the next tier, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education.

EUROPE SEEKS R&D BOOST: Funding for the European Research Council would nearly double, to 13 billion euros, under the European Commission's Horizon 2020 plan to boost spending on research and innovation. The overall 80-billion-euro plan is being pushed despite austerity measures undertaken in a number of countries, according to University World News. 

CALL FOR NOMINATIONS . . . for the National Medal of Science and National Medal of Technology and Innovation must be submitted by March 31. Learn more

EMPLOYER EDUCATION ASSISTANCE: Republican Sam Johnson of Texas and Democrat Richard Neal of Massachusetts, have introduced legislation to make Section 127 of the Internal Review Code permanent. The section lets an employee exclude from income up to $5,250 of employer assistance in paying for courses at the associate, undergraduate, and graduate levels. The Coalition to Preserve Employer Provided Education Assistance  is trying to build grass-roots support for the bill, H.R. 4137.


RESEARCH OBJECTIVITY: The National Institutes of Health is offering an online tutorial to explain its revised policies on avoiding conflicts of interest and other financial complications involving grant recipients. Learn more.

LABS AND EQUIPMENT: National Science Foundation deputy director Cora Marrett, far left, below, and National Science Board member Jose Marie Griffiths, second from left, were quizzed by the House Science, Space, and Technology subcommittee on how NSF pays to build and run research facilities. House and Senate appropriators have said they're "concerned about how NSF and its grantees are defining, estimating and managing construction funding, particularly contingency funds."


RESEARCH INTEGRITY: A new National Research Council committee has launched a new study exploring this question from a number of different angles, including the roles of government, research institutions, universities, and journals in promoting responsible practices. The first meeting is March 18, and the panel will hear from, among others, NSF inspector general Allison Lerner.

MATTER and MATERIALS: Another panel expects to come out in the next few months with a report on how condensed matter and materials research addresses societal needs in sustainability, health, and climate change.

PENTAGON'S STEM WORKFORCE: An Academies panel co-chaired by Norman Augustine and Dan Mote held a workshop to examine future DoD STEM workforce needs. Read its report.



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 University.

ASEE's NORTHEAST SECTION holds its conference April 27 and 28 at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. See the program and register

K-12 WORKSHOP: Registration has just opened for ASEE's ninth annual K-12 workshop, occurring June 9, 2012, just before the ASEE Annual Conference in San Antonio.  

GET YOUR COPY! The 5th edition of eGFI (Engineering, Go For It), ASEE's inspiring magazine for K-12 students. The new edition presents readers with a multifaceted picture of engineering by offering briefs on different engineering disciplines; first-hand accounts from engineering students, teachers, and professionals; and tips on how to prepare for, finance, and succeed in pursuing an education in engineering. Since its launch in 2003, eGFI has reached more than 1.7 million readers. To inquire about sponsorship or to place advance orders, contact Grace Hill (; 202-350-5760 or


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